Class act

Springfield Symphony Orchestra rocks the ‘Classics’

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Conductor Peter Wilson will direct the 72-piece Springfield Symphony Orchestra; photo: John Hazlett

Some things stand the test of time. Some things become tried and true. Over time, such things tend to be referred to as “classics.” According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a “classic” can be defined as “a standard of excellence” or “of recognized value.” That certainly appears to be what the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has planned for this coming weekend’s “Classics” concert at Kuss Auditorium at the Clark State Performing Arts Center in Springfield.

Speaking of classic, the SSO has attributes of its own that would fit that description. The SSO is in the process of celebrating its 70th anniversary this concert season, a testament to its recognized value in the Miami Valley as an excellent presenter and performer of classical music. According to SSO executive director Robyn Zimmann, the organization has received outstanding recognition both locally and nationally for all its considerable efforts.

“The SSO has grown from a community orchestra into a professional organization with a roster of the highest quality professional musicians from a wide region,” Zimmann said. “A symphony orchestra is a great ‘calling card’ for a city. It is certainly something that helps generate a lot of civic pride. We’ve been recognized at the national level for our innovative programming, and have the largest endowment in the country for an orchestra of our budget size. The SSO’s attractive programming, professional quality and superb guest artists have gained the enthusiasm of audiences throughout each season.”

Speaking of attractive programming, this Saturday’s Classics concert is evidence worthy of the attractive adjective Zimmann has attached to the music the SSO chooses to perform year in and year out. Following the veteran leadership of SSO conductor Peter Wilson, the 72-piece symphony will perform works by legendary composers such as Bach, Haydn and Tartini – some of which have not been heard by local audiences. According to Wilson, these musical selections will be a slam-dunk for pleasing concertgoers.

“We have discovered our audience really enjoys music from the two eras represented, baroque and classical, so I decided to offer both on the same concert,” Wilson said. “These specific works were chosen because they provide interesting contrast from each other, and they have not been heard by our audience in more than a decade. They are also, to my ears, the best of these particular composers.”

Speaking of superb guest artists, Saturday’s Classics concert certainly continues that trend with the inclusion of Mary Elizabeth Bowden, making her debut playing with the SSO as featured soloist. Hailing from Illinois, Bowden is an accomplished and world-traveled trumpet player whose pedigree includes study at the Yale School of Music and stints as principal trumpeter for the Daejeong Philharmonic in Korea and the Auckland Philharmonic in New Zealand. Bowden will be performing on two concerti – one written by Haydn specifically for the trumpet, the other, Tartini’s “Concerto in D,” originally written for performance on the violin, but which has been adapted for piccolo trumpet on this special occasion. On the surface, the trumpet may seem like a somewhat unusual instrument for a classical concert soloist, but that’s part of what makes her participation in this Saturday’s concert that much more intriguing.

“The trumpet is an exciting solo instrument,” Bowden said. “I think the audience will enjoy hearing the sparkling sound of the piccolo trumpet. My focus is on showing how beautiful and expressive the trumpet can be.”

For the more inquisitive-minded concertgoer, the SSO offers a pre-concert lecture called “Opening Notes,” which will begin an hour before showtime in order to get and give audiences a better understanding of the performance and the music they will hear that night. The lecture will be conducted by Trudy Faber, professor of music at Wittenberg University. As if the evening wasn’t packed enough, attendees may also want to arrive extra early to take in the Performance Prelude featuring the Wright State Trumpet Ensemble showing off their musical chops in the lobby of the Clark State Performing Arts Center prior to the concert. With everything they are doing for an evening of Classics, the members of the SSO have certainly gone out of their way to put together an innovative, yet accessible, entertainment experience for the seasoned classical fan and anyone curious about checking out a live symphony for the very first time.

“The music is timeless,” Zimmann said. “Our atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, and we don’t care if you don’t wear a tie. The concert hall is beautiful, modern and fun to be in. We pull from a wide demographic, so no matter who you are or what walk of life you come from, you’ll feel like a part of things when you walk in the door.”

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra will present its Classics concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 22 at Clark State University’s Kuss Auditorium, 300 S. Fountain Ave. in Springfield. Tickets range from $12-48. For more information, please call 937.325.8100 or visit


Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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