by Todd Giles
As I get ready to dive into researching and writing the program notes for the WFSO’s 74th season this summer, I can’t help but pause and ruminate a bit on last year. It’s these thoughts I’d like to share with you, taking a few moments to look back on the 2020-21 season, as well as taking a gander to lays ahead in just a few short months.
The WFSO has weathered many rough patches throughout its long and rich history, but the COVID pandemic has been something entirely different. As we watched the numbers grow on the nightly news over the past year and learned about the economic and educational tolls the disease has had in our communities, one thing we seldom heard about is the financial toll COVID has had on non-profit arts organizations worldwide.
If there is a positive side to the last season’s challenges, principal timpanist Corey Robinson suggests that “the pandemic has caused many arts organizations to rethink their traditional approaches to performing arts. This has been a very positive move overall towards engaging audiences in different ways that will surely be employed in the post-pandemic resurgence of live events.” Indeed, the WFSO leadership was called upon to not only reconceive the 2020-2021 season, they also had to rethink the various ways in which they meet their outreach mission here in Texoma.
After cancelling the final concert of the 2019-2020 season the April before last, they also decided to delay the start of the 2020-21 season out of safety concerns. With the prospect of potentially having to jettison the entire season, the organization needed to do some quick and creative thinking about how to best continue supporting their seventy-five musicians. Thanks to the generous support of the Texoma Gives Musician’s Relief Fund, which raised over $19,000 with the help of two generous matches from the Perkins Prothro Foundation and an anonymous donor, the WFSO was able to supplement the incomes of three quarters of the orchestra’s musicians throughout the season.
Even with this assistance, though, many dedicated WFSO musicians have been without a steady income since the beginning of the pandemic. According to principal tubist Mark Finley, the pandemic has “devastated many musicians, not just because of a loss of income, but the loss of lifestyle. Musicians have spent their entire adult lives training and practicing to be performers, and without that, I’m not sure many of them know what to do with themselves.” Violinist Susan Younghans knew what she needed to do: “I have had to learn flexibility in my teaching platforms in order to maintain my private teaching income. The online lessons are somewhat effective for most students, but there is nothing like in-person instruction.” Likewise for violinist Tammy Sparks: “I have learned to teach my lessons by Skype, Zoom, and Google Meets. It’s not the same, but my students get to have lessons that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.”
The Symphony also needed to make major changes in the ways they maintain contact with their patrons and the thousands of area students they serve each year through their educational programming; they did so by going virtual and by going outside. The biggest logistical and creative task of all was recording the January, February and April concerts while following strict safety protocols. Videos of the three concerts, which included music by Beethoven, Mozart, and Emmanuel Séjourné, were professionally produced and made available at a discounted rate online. Throughout the season, the WFSO also offered several free pop-up concerts at venues such as Art and Stroll in downtown Wichita Falls, a “Jazz on the Lawn” concert in collaboration with Sheppard Air Force Base, and a small socially-distanced concert hosted by WFSO musician Barbara Kavanaugh titled “Candlelight Sonatas” in December 2020.
At this point, the plan is to return to normal programming next season, which kicks off with the “Texas Country Reporter” tour in November. This live concert celebrating the longest-running television show in history features Texas tunes, culture and history, as well as live narration by Bob and Kelli Phillips. While the season returns patrons back to both Memorial and Akin auditoriums, the concerts will continue to be recorded for those who aren’t quite ready to return to the live concert experience.
Next season’s Young People’s Concert will return to an in-person event, but will likewise be recorded to broaden the concert’s educational reach to more area school children. With the WFSO’s 75th anniversary coming up in the 2022-23 season, Maestro Fakhouri has decided to focus next season on some of the incredible talent within our local orchestral community, including flutist Pam Youngblood and harpist Jaymee Haefner playing the music of Mozart. The WFSO will also bring back previously scheduled pianist Alessio Bax, as well as perform an original work by Fouad Fakhouri himself.
As fun as researching and writing the 2021-2022 season’s program notes is going to be for me this summer, I approach the task with a renewed appreciation for everything the folks at the WFSO do for our community—not just the concerts, but also the day-to-day things they do to keep the organization viable, pertinent, and exciting. Believe me, it’s no easy task. Alicia, Jenny and the dedicated and tireless board of directors (and the Youth Symphony and the Symphony League) all deserve our support and thanks in whatever ways we can best give it. Thanks, guys; you’re all appreciated!
The WFSO is eagerly awaiting the Saturday, April 17, 2021 concert which will welcome a limited in-person audience to Memorial Auditorium. The limited number of tickets were offered to season subscribers first and sold out quickly.
WFSO Audition Process & Procedure:
-Applicants will be assigned audition time at least one (1) week prior to audition, when possible.
-The WFSO auditions will be played before the Audition Committee and Music Director/Conductor.
Preliminary rounds shall be played behind a screen, the committee will be unable to view candidate.
-A screen shall not be required for the semi and/or final rounds of the audition but may be used if the
Audition Committee opts to do so.
To apply, send one-page resume by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Any additional questions may be addressed to Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra Executive
Director, Alicia Deges at email@example.com or 940-704-1823.
DATE: JANUARY 12, 2021
SUBJECT: WICHITA FALLS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT UPDATE
CONTACT: Alicia Deges, WFSO Executive Director
The board of directors of the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra voted to hold the January 23, 2021 concert without a live audience. “The safety of our musicians, audience and staff is always going to be our highest priority”, stated Music Director, Fouad Fakhouri.
While we are very anxious to welcome you back to Memorial Auditorium and live concerts, we feel that a more cautious approach is best at this time when COVID infection rates are once again on the rise.
A reduced complement of WFSO musicians will gather to perform the concert as planned. However, a live audience will not be present at the January 23 concert. A professional video will be recorded, produced and made available for on-demand viewing beginning January 30, 2021. Online access to the concert can be purchased online at wfso.org, or by calling the WFSO administrative office at 940-723-6202.
Additionally, a “Wine and Music Pairing” program will be offered in conjunction with the concert. Patrons will have the opportunity to enhance their at-home concert experience by purchasing specially selected wines to accompany the music being performed. Wine-expert Carl Andrews from Moreson Wineries, will use his skills to pair the perfect wine to complement the concert, offering unique tasting notes for each selection. Local wineries involved in the project include Horseshoe Bend Cellars, Hook & Ladder Wine Co, 6th Street Winery. OG Cellars, WF Brewing Company, as well as Brie Charcuterie.
Information about purchasing an On-Demand tickets and the Wine and Music Pairing program can be found on the WFSO website at wfso.org.
Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 10, 2020
Subject: The Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra Jazz Band Performance on Sheppard AFB
Contact: Alicia Deges, WFSO Executive Director
Amanda Peck, WFSO Director of Education & Community Outreach
On Saturday, November 7th, 2020, the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra Jazz Ensemble held a performance titled, “Jazz on the Lawn,” on Sheppard Air Force Base. Twelve musicians performed jazz standards and popular tunes for our military members and their families at the Parade Grounds on the base. The concert was sponsored by the Music Performance Trust Fund in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians in an effort to provide admission-free music in communities.
The concert took place at 4PM, and the audience was scattered across the parade field lawn, with plenty of room to safely distance family groups. The musicians were innovative by using special masks created for playing wind and brass instruments, and distanced during the performance. “The safety of our musicians and our audience is our highest priority,” stated Alicia Deges, WFSO’s Executive Director. “We wanted to create a relaxed atmosphere where people felt comfortable coming out and enjoying some live music.”
The performance was meaningful to WFSO musicians as well, providing the first opportunity to play music together since February. “It was such an incredible feeling to be able to perform together again,” said double-bass player, Amanda Peck. Amanda is also the WFSO’s Director of Education and Community Engagement and was also responsible for coordination efforts surrounding the event. The event was attended by roughly 200 service members and their families. The concert was also enjoyed by SAFB leadership, including Brigadier General Kenyon Bell, Commander of Sheppard AFB, who attended and expressed his gratitude to the WFSO for providing the concert for the personnel at SAFB.
Paul Palmer started playing violin in the 5th grade. At the age of 14, he went to a music camp at Midwestern State University where he participated in a master class with Paul Rolland. Mr. Rolland then invited him to attend the National Academy of Arts in Champaign, IL where he studied violin and played viola in the orchestra and in chamber music. After graduation, he attended the University of Illinois for 3 semesters then transferred back to Dallas and completed his studies at SMU. Paul toured Europe with The New York Harlem Theater Ensemble, playing Carmen Jones for 9 months in 11 countries. He has played with The Dallas Opera, the Tulsa Opera, the Utah Festival Opera, the Spoleto Festival/Festival Dei Due Mondi, the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, as well as symphonies in the North Texas area including Amarillo, Shreveport, Waco, Longview, Texarkana, Tyler, Oklahoma City and Lawton, OK among others. He also has a teaching studio of about 50 students in the Plano ISD. When not practicing, Paul enjoys studying foreign languages and playing contract bridge and chess. He is an active member in his church orchestra at the Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ.
Birthplace: Dallas, TX, but I grew up in Grand Prairie
Favorite WF restaurant: McBride’s
Family: Mom, Brother Sister, cousins by the dozens
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I plan trips around museums and opera performances. I want to go to St Petersburg to see the Hermitage
Favorite hobby: Studying languages; I speak French, German, some Russian, and I’m trying to learn Mandarin Chinese
Age you started playing your instrument: 9
Favorite book: Les Miserables
Favorite movie: 2001, A Space Odyssey
Favorite onstage moment: When I was playing the Spoleto Festival, I participated in a Mass with an envoy from the Vatican. “O Sacrum Convivium” was beautifully sung a capella, and I still have that close to my heart
Favorite piece of music: Mozart’s “Marriage of Figero”
John Schertz was a violinist for the WFSO between the years of 1970-1982, where he played among Violinist- Henry Brahinsky and Conductor- William Boyer. He returned to his position in 2005 and has been playing with the WFSO since then under Dr. Candler Schaffer and now Fouad Fakhouri. Mr. Schertz is a graduate of the University of North Texas where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s in violin, and also holds an associates degree in Information Technology from El Centro College in Dallas. John has played with many symphonies in the area including: Fort Worth, Richardson, Sherman, Plano and Tyler. In 2017, John retired from the Dallas Independent School District, where he taught orchestra and violin for 17 years, to later work for BlueCross BlueShield of Texas. Along with performing with the WFSO, John performed around the North Texas area with the Lenny Dawson Orchestra and the Dallas Strolling Strings, where he was a member for 10 years.
Saturday, February 29th, 2020 at 7:30 PM, the WFSO presented their concert titled “Russian Masterpieces,” featuring Seattle native Julian Schwarz performing Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 107 (1956). The performance was extremely successful, and the WFSO is honored to have featured such a phenomenal musician.
Growing up in Seattle, Julian Schwarz grew up in a family where classical music was the family business.
His mother’s family was rich in musicians with relatives playing in symphonies across the country, as was as his father Gerard who served as conductor of the Seattle Symphony.
Schwarz and his siblings began playing piano at 4, “to get a basis in counterpoint and harmony and clef reading,” he said. “After a year or so, we could switch to another instrument.
“I wanted to play double bass but my brother had taken it, so I started playing cello at age 6. I wasn’t that serious then. By the time I was 10, I was on my way.”
The cellist has his bachelor’s and master’s from Julliard and teaches at Shenandoah University in Virginia. He also performs with his fiancée pianist Marika Bournaki In New York City as well as the Frisson Ensemble (a mixed nonet of winds and strings), and the Mile-End Trio with a violinist and Bournaki.
For more information on Julian Schwarz, please visit the article below!
We are excited to announce the Grand Opening of our new Wichita Falls Symphony Store!
Available exclusively online, our Store will feature merchandise for all types of music lovers, including classical, opera, jazz—and even guitar enthusiasts. Each department has been curated with different price points and artisan-focused finds.
Some of our favorite Symphony Store finds include:
Piano Wire Necklace
Guitar String Bracelet
Violin Bottle Opener
Concerto Violin Mug
Bach Lapel Pin
“The new Store has been designed to appeal to all types of music lovers,” said Alicia Deges, Executive Director. “We hope that our audiences will discover unique finds not only for themselves but as thoughtful gifts for family and friends,” she continued.
Store items may be shipped anywhere throughout North America; we will offer free shipping on orders totaling $50 or more.
Let the shopping begin! Click here to explore your new Wichita Falls Symphony Store.