Dayton’s other orchestra

25 years of the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra

By Pat Suarez

Photo: MVSO founding conductor Ron Kindell conducts a rehearsal of MVSO’s 25th season opening concert production of Le Mis


In 1976, a group of us caravanned to Missouri to hear the St. Louis Symphony perform Gustav Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand. After the concert, in a post-performance ice cream mood, we migrated from Powell Hall to the local Friendly’s. As we entered, a tuxedoed musician sat, instrument at his side. “Nice performance of Mahler 8,” I said to the guy. “We didn’t do Mahler 8,” he replied. “We did The Rite of Spring. I play for the St. Louis Philharmonic,” he said.

“You’re kidding,” I thought. “St. Louis has two orchestras?”

Indeed they did, and, as it turns out, cities having multiple orchestras are not a rarity. Dayton is one of those cities.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1989, two men founded the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra as a way to show off the skills of some of the members of the Theatre Under the Stars, which they also founded.

John Root, concertmaster and president of the MVSO spoke with the Dayton City Paper about its 25 years in the business.

What was the spark that caused MVSO founders Pat Carson and the late Keith Prentice to create the orchestra?

The original group developed from members of the pit orchestra for Theatre Under the Stars. A suggestion was made that the group should get together outside the theatre stage to bring the community together for orchestral concerts at affordable prices. A full-fledged symphony orchestra performed its first concert in December of 1989. – John Root

Tell us about the mix of musicians in the MVSO. Is everyone from the Dayton area?

The musicians come from very diverse backgrounds. We have members who either play or have played professionally with orchestras such as the Dayton Philharmonic, Springfield Symphony, on Broadway and with other regional orchestras. We have music educators, students and players who want to continue to learn through an orchestra experience. None are paid; we perform out of a shared love of music. – JR

Tell us about some highlights in the MVSO’s 25 years and some of the notable guest soloists who have performed with you.

The orchestra has been fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in many of the art forms available to an orchestra – ballet, theatre, opera, even for a silent movie. We’ve been fortunate enough to feature well-known local soloists at many of our concerts: Don Hageman, Jane Varella … most recently, Jim McCutcheon in a performance of [Mason Williams’] “Classical Gas” to an enthusiastic audience that demanded an encore repeat to close the show. – JR

How did former Dayton Philharmonic Music Director Charles Wendelken-Wilson become involved with the orchestra? What did he bring to it?

Charles was well established in the Dayton arts scene, having brought the Dayton Philharmonic to a level of professionalism comparable to other fine regional symphony orchestras. His relationship with Clark Haines and others led him to a relationship that spanned a decade with the MVSO. Few community orchestras have the fortune to work with a conductor with the depth that Charles brought. His artistic experience with the Boston Symphony, and later the New York City Opera, brought a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many players over the years to make music with an artist of his magnitude. – JR

This year, the MVSO is collaborating with other artistic organizations. Is this unique or is this part of what the MVSO does each season?

The MVSO has established a number of partnerships in the past. The 25th season provided a wonderful opportunity to establish major collaborations with other community arts groups. We wanted to give back to the community by presenting three major concerts, incorporating as many of the arts forms as possible. We think these relationships are very important going forward in order to continue to bring great concert experiences to audiences at prices that are affordable for the entire family. – JR

On October 24-26, the MVSO is performing Les Misérables. This is quite an event. How did this come about and why this musical?

It was important to collaborate on a major theatrical concert this season as a way to offer something special to the community. This show offers a unique experience as one of only a handful of “sung-through” musicals. The entire story is told through song and music and is perfect for a large stage production.

It also allows us to offer a different perspective of the Broadway musical experience. Taking inspiration from the 10th and 25th anniversary productions for the show, we’ll place the focus on the emotion of the music and lushly orchestrated score. The current run of Les Mis on Broadway boasts an impressive cast and chorus of 45 with an orchestra of 17. We have 90 singers and an orchestra of over 60 players together at the Masonic Center Theater! We’ll be using the authentic keyboard sound patches designed especially for the Broadway production and can proudly note that, in addition to wonderful costumes and sets, we will be the first production in the area to incorporate the stunning visual projections from Broadway Motion Design. We even have Mayor Nan Whaley introducing the show on Saturday night. Brian Sharp directs with vocal direction from Erik Strope. MVSO’s founding conductor, Ron Kindell, will lead the orchestra. This show definitely offers something new and exciting for even the most die-hard fans of Les Mis! – JR

The Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra presents its first of three collaborations this season, Les Mis, with the Dayton Playhouse on Friday, Oct. 24 and Saturday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. at the Dayton Masonic Center, 525 W. Riverview Ave. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and students. There will be general admission seating with accommodations for wheelchair access and those requiring assistance. Tickets are available online at or by calling 937.424.8477.

Reach DCP freelance writer Pat Suarez at PatSuarez

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Pat Suarez has been involved with a wide variety of music for nearly five decades. He has hosted music programming on FM radio and produced and hosted the radio broadcasts of two symphony orchestras. His articles about music have been published extensively in print and online. Reach him at

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