Monday, March 18, 2013

Beatrice Regional Orchestra: Providing a bridge between small communities and the arts

Lincoln and Omaha are Nebraska’s largest cities and have numerous Classical music events. But what about the smaller cities and towns in the state?
Beatrice, Nebraska, is a relatively short 40-minute drive down Hwy 77 from Lincoln, and people are working hard to bring Classical music to the community there. Kevin Boesiger has been conducting and managing the Beatrice Regional Orchestra since 2010, and wants to invite you to come out and hear the concert put on entirely by local musicians of Beatrice and nearby communities.
“Around the World” will take place this coming Friday, March 22, at 7pm in the Hevelone Center at the Beatrice High School, 600 Orange Blvd. in Beatrice. Tickets are $5 at the door and students get in free! You can visit the Beatrice Regional Orchestra facebook page for more information. Enjoy a nice drive down Hwy 77 in the (hopefully) spring weather, and see what Beatrice has to offer.
Boesiger sat down to explain why and how he’s working so hard to put together events like this one:
“We have to work really hard to get all the players we need but we have been able to sustain this orchestra by stretching beyond just Beatrice. We have players that come from about a 40-mile range, but all the musicians come from smaller towns in our area. We work with what we have. This does create a challenge, but we have been able to make things work quite well and have continued to present quality concerts. We also range in age from 15 to 85 years of age. We have some of the really good high school players involved and it is a great mix of young and old playing along side each other. Our more experienced musicians do a great job of helping out the ones with less experience. It is really a cool thing to see!”
At this point, Boesiger explained, there is no audition to join the orchestra. “Our biggest hurdle has been having more winds than we need and not enough strings. We do ask people to contact me first because if we have a section already full and don't need another player we have to work around that. I have had to tell some players occasionally that we don't have an open spot. This does change some from year to year depending on who is able to play, so I encourage people to check back... We try to include as many people as possible since we are a community orchestra not a professional symphony.”
The orchestra rehearses every Tuesday evening from September to May and performs four concerts in their season. Boesiger includes area highschool choirs on one of the concerts. The goal in this, just as it is with the choir itself is to “do things to encourage our student musicians”—in this way, the Beatrice Regional Orchestra is giving many of the schools in the area a chance to sing with an orchestra. They also sponsor a Senior Soloist Competition in the spring and choose one vocalist and instrumentalist to perform on the final concert in May.
Boesiger feels that they are doing an important task for the community. “Many communities are feeling cuts in the school system when it comes to music and Beatrice is one of those communities. We are able to provide a great experience for some of those serious players in high school. We are also able to provide a great concert at a VERY reasonable rate to many people in our area who might not be able to afford getting to Lincoln or Omaha. People come knowing they are going to enjoy whatever is on the program for the evening."
Boesiger described it as being “a bridge to get people more interested in other programs in the arts.” At the concerts, he always highlights what is going on in other communities and encourages audiences that “if you enjoyed the performance to consider checking out the Lincoln Symphony.”
Oftentimes, the Beatrice Regional Orchestra is introducing people to the arts for the first time: “Since we are a small town you would be amazed at the number of people who have not experienced orchestral music and assume it would be a long night of boring music. We are working hard to break down that conception and give people something we know they will enjoy.” 

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Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Brahms meets Beethoven’ concert: A triumph

Despite another wintry evening, the cold was not enough to deter a sizeable audience from coming out to hear Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra last night. Anton Miller and Maestro Polochick were both stars of the evening.

Anton Miller had shared some of the emotions he felt about the music on the concert in his interview last week. Miller, concertmaster and soloist during last night’s performance, loves music especially because it continues to communicate when words and language fail.

Last night, his music went far beyond words.

Miller’s performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D made the audience almost forget about the technical virtuosity that it took to perform as listeners were swept up and carried up and down with the emotions of the great Beethoven work.

Polochick led the orchestra in an equally emotionally charged performance—you could hear the excitement and joy at times and, at other times, the almost palpable sorrow, or the joviality heard in the third movement.

The only complaint about the evening would be the order of the pieces. Despite the fact that both pieces were beautifully performed, the Brahms Symphony in F wasn’t really able to follow the incredible performance of the Beethoven concerto in the first half of the concert.

Bravo, once again, Anton Miller and Maestro Polochick!

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Anton Miller to communicate things 'only expressible through music'

On Saturday, March 16, at 7:30pm, Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra will perform a program entitled “Brahms Meets Beethoven” at the Lied Center. This concert is the first of two remaining concerts in the 2012-2013 season. Tickets are still available by visiting the LSO website.
Anton Miller, longtime concertmaster in the LSO, sat down with this Examiner to talk about Brahms and Beethoven. First off, Miller explained what the title “concertmaster” entails. The concertmaster is “basically the leader of the orchestra—in the history of orchestras, the concertmaster acted as the conductor or could step in to direct the orchestra for the conductor. In short, the concertmaster is a leader, certainly the leader of the strings, making sure all the bowing goes the same way for instance.” Other ways that the concertmaster leads the orchestra today include “translating” and “serving as a conduit” between orchestra and conductor; “in performance,” Miller shared, “my job is to do everything I can to help the conductor get everyone playing together.”
How does Miller accomplish all of this the LSO when he lives in New York and has a busy performing schedule?
“I’ve been doing this for about 25 years now. I come out for rehearsals the week before the performance, and I spend the entire week out in Lincoln. I travel to all kinds of different places, but I’m always there in Lincoln for a week of rehearsals. I always love coming out, and it’s a wonderful place.”
Miller is not only concertmaster but also soloist at this week’s performance. He will be performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major. He has played this concerto about three times before: “The first time was about 20 years ago with the Westfield Symphony in New Jersey, and I’ve played it again a couple times with various smaller orchestras in New York.”
When asked if he had a favorite between Brahms and Beethoven, Miller laughed, and then groaned. “If you held my feet to the fire and MADE me choose, my two favorite composers would be Brahms and Beethoven. If I had kids, it’d be like trying to make me say which of my two kids I liked better.” In the end, he admitted, he would choose Beethoven, who “came first and is probably the greatest composer... If I had to live without one of them (which I would hate to have to do!), it would be Brahms; I just couldn’t do without Beethoven.”
Miller also shared what his goal is when performing. He wants the audience to be “inspired, and that the concert communicates emotions and feelings to the audience. Music is it’s own language. Certain things are only expressible through music.” Miller admitted that he loves performances where he can talk to the audience and tell them what the music is about. In a way, of course, that opens up the doors for the audience to understand what the music is communicating.
To that end, Miller explained a little of what to listen for in the Beethoven work on Saturday:
“This concerto is incredibly beautiful. The first movement is incredibly lyrical and filled with an immense amount of emotion. What I want to do is show that...and get the audience to feel those different types of emotions. Many emotions, a lot of joy and sorrow, come to a head at the end of the first movement.
The slow movement is like a recitation, so soft, and it almost dies away—you feel like the music could last forever in a beautiful way. The last movement is like a dance that’s fun and joyous and a little tongue in cheek. This music lends itself to knowing the feelings.”
Miller has one experience of communicating with music that stands out especially. “I played a concert many years ago in Switzerland for an audience of mentally handicapped people. It was very noisy as I came out on stage, not applause, just chaos. I started playing—and I played for an hour and a half—and there was dead silence the entire time. I knew I was communicating at a high emotional level.”
That memory helped to inspire Miller to always “find something that touches people” as he performs.
“Something that’s beyond what would normally be talked about or communicated.”
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