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.
Will Coppoc plays double bass for the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra. He’s rather new to the orchestra. He began playing with the WFSO in the 2016/2017 season. Will also plays the electric bass, and every now and then, the piano.
He received a Bachelor’s in Music Performance from the University of North Texas (where He graduated summa cum laude) and a master’s in performance and pedagogy from Oklahoma State University.
Will grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Both of his par-ents have musical talent. They exposed him to music from an early age, encouraging him to take piano lessons, and later to enroll in school orchestra. Music of many styles could be heard both at home and in the car.
He says that he owes so much of his success in music to his parents, wheth-er for taking him to lessons every week or providing him with quality instruments.
His interest in music began with his taking piano lessons from age five. He remem-bers hearing music from movies and tele-vision as a kid, and watching to be able to play the music for himself at the piano. Unfortunately, he didn’t want to practice. His mother had to sit with him to make sure that he practiced every evening. However, his attitude toward practice began to change when he discovered the double bass in school orchestra. It was the beginning of a passion that is still quite strong.
His first musical memory was from his first piano lesson, which he remembers quite distinctly. He remem-bers being less excited by the piano, and more excited by his teacher’s pet perrot, which she would occasionally al-low him to feed.
When Will was a teenager, he had the great for-tune of living in Cairo, Egypt for several years. One year he was asked to play double bass for a Christmas pageant at a church he attended. Before the service started, someone told him to make sure that he stayed out of the path of the camel. That was the first he had heard of any camel, and he had no idea what this person was talking about. But sure enough, once the service began, here came one of the Wise Men on camelback. And of course, the camel parked itself right in front of him, and he played the ser-vice from behind the camel. It was certainly an interesting experience for him.
His first concert with WFSO was a pops concert featuring The Midtown Men. He remembers how friendly and humble the four gentlemen were to him and the other members of the orchestra. He says It was refreshing to work with such easygoing and talented guest artists. Will very much appreciates the orchestra, its conductor, and supporting staff. He is also grateful to the patrons who attend concerts and help support the organization in its desire to bring quality art to the community.
In addition to WFSO, Will plays with the 77th Army Band, which is his primary, full-time job. He also plays some with the Lawton Philharmonic, The Oklahoma City Philharmonic, The Tulsa Symphony, and the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas. In addition, He play for three different churches, as well as with the Oklahoma Baptist Sym-phony, a volunteer group.
He enjoys many genres of music, including classical, jazz, rock, and country, although he has a par-ticular affinity for film music. His favorite composer changes quite often, but he says it is probably Ralph Vaughan Williams.
In his free time, you will usually find him reading. He enjoys many genres of books, from thrillers to science fiction, and also non-fiction. He is also an avid book and music review-er on Amazon. In addition, he likes to spend time with his friends and family.
Thanks to the WF Symphony League for proving our musician spotlight.
Violinist John Schertz first began playing with the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra in the early 1970s under Conductor William Boyer his Dallas-area commitments forced him to “take a leave” until 2005 when he resumed playing under Dr. Candler Schaffer and now under Fouad Fakhouri.
John grew up in San Antonio, but he has been in the North Texas area since his college days. His bachelor’s and master’s degrees in violin are from the University of North Texas. While at UNT, he played with the Fort Worth Symphony. For 17 years he taught orchestra/strings in Dallas ISD.
He also earned an associate degree in Information Technology from El Centro, Dallas, then entered the business world as a programmer/analyst, working for several large banks and insurance companies. This past June he retired from BlueCross Blue Shield of Texas.
For a number of years, he was a freelancer, performing with the Lenny Dawson Orchestra and for 10 years as a member of the Dallas Strolling Strings, which performed nightly at the Dallas Anatole. He has also played with the symphonies of Sherman, Richardson, Plano and Tyler. Currently he plays only with the WFSO.
One of his vivid music memories occurred when he was in high school and attended a San Antonio Symphony concert watching Aaron Copland conduct his Appalachian Spring—then went backstage where Copland signed his program. “He was so kind and seemed interested as I expressed my hope that the San Antonio Youth Symphony would perform his work. His second memory is singing Christmas carols (in German) in a small church in Germany on Christmas Eve and then the next day walking into a beautiful church with amazing acoustics and listening to several movements of the Bach Christmas Oratorio performed by a wonderful choir and orchestra.
John says the WFSO has had many great performances with world-class soloists, but guitarist Sharon Isbin’s visits are standouts due to her wonderful musicality and beautiful personality.
Mozart is his favorite composer, but he has always loved the Beatles.
As a young child, he listened to an aunt’s records of Broadway musicals and Strauss waltzes then discovered Mantovani and Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, which opened to him the world of classical music. While other kids were blasting out rock ‘n’ roll, he was blasting out Beethoven and Bach. He began playing violin in the 6th grade and immediately began private lessons.
In addition to music, John likes to spend time at the gym and reading. Recently he took a road trip to Santa Fe and Taos to absorb some of the artistic and spiritual atmosphere. The household also has two “very spoiled rescue dogs” who somehow prefer to sleep while John is practicing.
John states: “… I’ve appreciated the Wichita Falls community support for the arts and particularly the symphony and school string programs. It’s been wonderful seeing this commitment grow and mature over the years, and it makes me happy knowing that I’m contributing to this spirit in some small way each time I play with the WFSO.
Thanks to the Wichita Symphony League for sharing their “Musician Spotlight”!
Janelle Olson, a Wichitan since 2007, plays piccolo with the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra. She also regularly plays flute and piccolo with the Plano and Irving Symphonies and freelances in the Dallas area. In addition, she teaches private lessons.
Janelle’s two sons, Dag Marius and Matthew, attend Christ Academy. They also have two cats, Big and Little Kitty.
Her first experience playing with the WFSO was as a substitute for the Christmas Concert in 2008. Living in Norway when she learned she would be moving to Wichita Falls, Janelle did her research and was thrilled to see that the community supported a symphony, so she wrote to the Conductor and the Flute Section that she would be available for subbing “anytime they needed” her. She became a more regular WFSO member playing piccolo beginning in 2013.
Being from a musical family, Janelle grew up with music—going to sleep to the sounds of her parents practicing for their next recital or performance. Her father, now 95, was a clarinetist and University Professor of Music and Band Conductor. Her mother, now 88, was a brilliant pianist—particularly convenient because that gave Janelle the “luxury of a built-in accompanist.” Her parents recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, and Janelle says she “can’t imagine growing up in a better musical home.”
She does, however, remember as a teenager allowing her musical tastes to “expand/explore” leading to her father’s walking into her room, turning off the radio, and saying, “That’s not music!” She admits that she now finds herself wanting to do the same thing with her own kids.
Janelle earned her Bachelors in Music from California State University Long Beach and attended New England Conservatory for her Masters in Flute Performance under the tutelage of Paula Robison. She played in the New World Symphony before becoming Principal Flute of the Tucson Symphony.
Among her vivid musical memories is the experience in 2000 playing “Suite Antique” for Flute and Orchestra by
John Rutter with Rutter conducting—in Carnegie Hall. She says walking out on that stage for rehearsal, she could imagine the great tradition of music and musicians who had had the privilege of performing there.
Surpassing that, however, was a performance in Soweto, South Africa, for an audience who had never seen or heard an orchestra instrument. After the orchestra had finished playing their “sophisticated Haydn and Mozart,” the congregation sang for the orchestra. Janelle recalls, “All ages, 2-99, got up and sang traditional praise melodies in the most heavenly, rich, 8-part harmony I have ever heard, complete with motion and rhythm.” She adds there was not a dry eye in the orchestra, and she remembers this as a “most-meaningful musical exchange.”
While it is difficult to pinpoint favorites, Janelle reports that she grew up with the sound of James Galway in her ear. She thinks he had the purest, most beautiful flute tone she has ever heard—and she always wants to emulate him. Classical music is, by far, her favorite music, but she likes most genres. She loves to play Brahms because to her Brahms is a perfect balance of color, power, and melodic beauty.
In addition to music, Janelle loves traveling. Music has given her the opportunity to see many places and cultures while doing what she loves. Her “happy place” is being in the mountains, hiking and camping with family and friends.
Make it a point to look for Janelle at our next Concert.
article courtesy of the Wichita Falls Symphony League
Tammy Sparks is a Wichita Falls native who attended Carrigan (now the WFISD Tech School) and Ben Franklin Elementary, Zundy Junior High and Wichita Falls High School. She is a graduate of Midwestern State University.
Tammy has played with the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra since 1985 in both the first and second violin sections. She taught for 32 years for the WFISD, teaching elementary general music at Milam Elementary, orchestra at Barwise Junior HIgh and Suzuki Violin at McGaha and Southern Hills.
The establishment of the Gail Key Acedemy of Music brought Tammy back to Southern Hills this past year, again to teach Suzuki Violin to 25 students.
Besides teaching for the Gail Key Academy, she maintains a home violin studio and is violin coach for the Wichita Falls Youth Symphony. She does quitea bit of free-lance performing, both solo and ensembles, for various events in the area.
When not performing or teaching, Tammy and her husband enjoy spending time at their property in Angel Fire, NM where she likes to hike, raft on the Rio Grande, enjoy the cool weather in the summer and ski in the winter.
Gina Menden, originally from Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Arizona with a Master of Music degree in Viola Performance and Drake University with a Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance.
With more than 15 years of studio teaching experience, Ms. Menden has helped develop winners of concerto competitions, symphony apprenticeships, and state UIL contestants with gold/silver placements, as well as students who’ve chosen to continue on in college as either music majors or very skilled orchestral players. Beyond these accomplishments, Ms. Menden enjoys guiding her students to be good citizens and to love what they do.
Ms. Menden began working for the Wichita Falls Youth Symphony Orchestra (YSO) in February 2010, where she established and still directs the developmental string orchestra (the “Philharmonic”) and a very robust public-outreach string ensemble program. She joined Christ Academy as a string teacher in October 2014 and later assumed a position as Adjunct String Professor at Midwestern State University in August 2015. In addition to her teaching commitments, Ms. Menden enjoys performing as a violist with the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra and is an avid musical freelancer.
Philip Chisum began playing the cello at the age of 9 and played throughout school as he attended Jefferson Elementary, McNeil Junior High and Rider HS. One of his favorite performance experiences was playing in the Texas Tech Symphony—his last concert was a performance of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, a very moving experience.
Some of his favorite music includes compositions of Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich and Mahler—the romantic era is by far his favorite in classical music. He also enjoys listening to, as well as performing, chamber music.
He loves playing his cello, gardening, and reading about political philosophy—as well as historical events and economics. He’s also starting to read some about raising dairy goats so that he can start a small family farm with his wife Sarah.
Be sure to gaze at the cello section to find this rising young cellist.