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Style · February 14, 2014

Symphony enriching community for 18 years

Photos/Cassandra Brown
The Piedmont Symphony Orchestra includes young musicians, such as Jonah Finkel, and more experienced members, such as Cory Cook, but all must earn seats through audition.
Charles Groves on the bassoon.
I think it’s an enrichment of the community. Any community that is fortunate enough to be able to support a group like this is blessed.
— Michael Hughes, orchestra founder and director emeritus
Piedmont Syphony
• Founded: 1996

• Musicians: About 60

• Artistic director: Glenn Quader

• Director emeritus: Michael Hughes

• Home: Rice Theatre at Highland School Center for the Performing Arts in Warrenton

• Upcoming concerts:

> Peter and The Wolf — PSO Young People's Concert, 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16

> Appalachian Spring, 3 p.m. Sunday, April 13

> Dads LOVE Beethoven, 3 p.m. Sunday, June 15

• Website:
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Bows glide across strings and fingers press shiny brass buttons.

With the slight lift of his hand, he commands the orchestra’s attention.

In its 18th season, the Warrenton-based Piedmont Symphony Orchestra continues to inspire the community with a variety of classical, jazz, rock and opera performances.

Under the direction of Glenn Quader, 60 dedicated musicians play with emotion, heart and accuracy.

“The orchestra has continued to improve by leaps and bounds every year. They are really maturing into a sound of their own and working hard for that and that is something everyone notices,” said Mr. Quader, who has directed the orchestra for nine years.

From Beethoven to Gershwin and Shostakovich, Mr. Quader chooses music that challenges and educates the musicians and their audience. He blends popular classics with obscure pieces.

“It’s the greatest educational tool that any community can have — live music, live performance of any kind,” said Michael Hughes, director emeritus.

Partnering with guest musicians, instrumental soloists and vocalists, the PSO holds an average of four to five varying concerts a year.

The orchestra, whose members must audition for seats, provides an outlet for musicians of all ages and professions within the community.

“Playing with the PSO is a wonderful way for me to relieve stress while keeping up my proficiency on the violin,” said Hanna Rodriguez, the player's committee representative. “We come from all different walks and different backgrounds, but these wonderful members of our community and I are bound together by the invisible bond of music.”

Members range from 16 to 70 years old.

“One of my favorite discoveries upon joining the PSO was that our local community can produce fantastic music,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “We don't have to go into D.C. to hear music like Dvorak's New World Symphony or George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue played well.”

The group rehearses from 7 to 9:30 Tuesday evenings at Highland School’s Center for the Arts. All rehearsals are open to the public.

The orchestra’s start

Mr. Hughes, who served as director for nine years, started the PSO with a small group of musicians, including Wayne Hintz and his wife Dorothy, Brian Smith, Debbie Gilbert and Elizabeth Thornton.

After directing a Handel’s Messiah sing-along performance at Liberty High School in 1995, Mr. Hughes was inspired to start the community orchestra.

Originally called the Piedmont Regional Orchestra, the group opened its first season in fall 1996. The orchestra quickly grew from 40 to 60 players.

“I think it’s an enrichment of the community,” said Mr. Hughes, who serves as artistic director at Highland School’s Center for the Arts. “Any community that is fortunate enough to be able to support a group like this is blessed.”

Music Mentors school program

The PSO always has focused on giving back to the community.

Last fall, the orchestra launched its music mentors program in three local schools, thanks to grants from the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, Target, Wegmans and the Virginia Commission for the Arts/NEA.

The pilot educational outreach program offers hands-on instruction from PSO members at Marshall Middle School, Fauquier High School and Cedar Lee Middle School.

“Investing in the lives of the next generation of musicians is at the very core of the PSO's vision,” Ms. Rodriguez explained. “This program encourages young people to continue their musical training by putting experienced musicians in local schools to give individual attention to the young musicians who will one day carry on the music of the PSO themselves.”

As part of the program, several PSO musicians visited each school twice, building relationships with students and offering demonstrations on posture, bowing, fingerings, positioning, phrasing and interpretation.

The program inspired students in Debbie Price’s orchestra class at Marshall Middle School.

“My students thoroughly enjoyed the experience,” Ms. Price said. “At this age, they lack self-confidence and sometimes they need a little push. I think the music mentors program was that little push for some of my students.”

“Seeing the way they played inspired me to strive toward becoming a professional, too,” said Emma Riedel, a Marshall Middle School student.

Mr. Quader based the music mentor program on programs he has worked with in Fairfax County Public Schools.

“I had those high level opportunities when I was younger and it made me a better musician,” he said. “I wanted to give them the same type of experience I had when I was younger.”

The orchestra plans to expand the program to more local public and private schools and to include elementary grade students.

Scholarships on the line

Each February, the PSO offers a young artists concert that includes visual and performing art competitions.

This year’s concert revolves around the children’s tale of “Peter and The Wolf,” by Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev. Conductor Emeritus Hughes will serve as narrator Sunday afternoon, Feb. 16, at Highland.

The visual aspect includes artwork entered by young adults throughout Virginia.

Student artwork will appear on a screen above the orchestra during the concert, with originals on display in the lobby.

The first part of the concert features a performance from three young musicians — Andrew Liang from Fredericksburg, Keiju Takehara from Marshall, and Alex Villavicencio from Manassas — who will compete for scholarship prizes.

Andrew will play the third movement of Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25; Keiju will play the first movement of Chopin's Piano Concerto in F minor; and Alex will play Chaminade's Concertino, Op. 107 for flute and orchestra.

Based on their performances on concert day, the young musicians will receive scholarships — $1,500 for first, $750 for second and $500 for third place — to further their musical education.
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