LITTLE ROCK — The Conway Symphony Orchestra, described by Music Director Israel Getzov as a distinctive hybrid of pre-professional and professional ensemble, closes its 25th anniversary season with a Silver Anniversary concert Tuesday.
Stephen Feldman, who has been principal cellist for eight years, will be the soloist in the Cello Concerto in b minor by Antonin Dvorak. Also on the program, the Symphony No. 4 by Robert Schumann. Getzov will be on the podium in the University of Central Arkansas’ Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall.
Getzov is ending his fifth season as the orchestra’s music director, “so I guess I’m responsible for 20 percent of the Conway Symphony’s output,” he quips.
The ensemble started out as the Conway Civic Orchestra, a joint project of the music departments at Hendrix College and UCA, founded by the late Carl Forsberg of UCAand Karen Griebling, who still conducts the orchestra at Hendrix.
The list of conductors includes James Gardner and Kurt Gilman, 1982-86; Gardner◊ and Ken Christie, 1986-87; Gardner and Griebling, 1987-88; and Griebling and Scott Johnson, 1988-90.
After 1990 the orchestra discontinued the practice of having joint conductors, starting with Johnson, 1990-93; Charles Jones Evans (now music director of the Pine Bluff Symphony), 1993-96; John A. Roscigno, who has longest tenure as conductor, 1996-2002; Peter Freisinger, 2002-03; and Steven Bird, 2003-05.
Getzov says Feldman’s “great playing, and the opportunity to perform with him, was a big influence on the program choice.”
Bringing soloists out of the orchestra is “something we try to do on a regular basis,” Getzov says. “We have many great musicians in central Arkansas, and one of the nice things about the Conway Symphony is that we get a chance to feature them as soloists.”
Looking toward the next 25 years, Getzov says, “I want to keep the orchestra growing. We have a lot of room for growth; we’re just beginning to realize what we can do in Conway, artistically and the capacity of the institution.
“I truly believe the work we do is one of the most important things for the future of classical music in Arkansas. We’re training the next generation of young musicians. Many of our collegiate musicians are now regular members of the [Arkansas Symphony], not to mention the 26 regular [Arkansas Symphony] members that are regular Conway Symphony members.”
Regarding the personnel sharing, Getzov says, “We are helping training, making the connection between the Youth Symphony or the school programs and the Arkansas Symphony. That’s an important link in the chain for a healthy musical environment in the state.”
Getzov accepts the comparison to a Triple-A team in a major-league baseball farm system.
“And sometimes Triple-A ball can be more exciting,” he says. “Sometimes the fans are more dedicated, the ballpark is more intimate and fun.
“People a lot of times ask me what makes Conway Symphony special. We have the besthall in central Arkansas, and there is this dynamic between the players. The students are on their toes when they’re sitting next to their teachers, and the professionals say, ‘I’d better practice my part because I want to look good in front of my student.’ The energy goes both ways.”
To mark the silver anniversary, the orchestra’s board has announced establishment of the Conway Symphony Orchestra Archives at UCA, portions of which will be on display at the concert. Archivist Jimmy Bryant is also compiling a written history.
Conway Symphony Orchestra 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall, University of Central Arkansas, 201 Donaghey Ave., Conway. Stephen Feldman, cello; Israel Getzov, conductor. Dvorak: Cello Concerto in b minor, op.104; Schumann: Symphony No. 4 in d minor, op.120 Tickets: $5-$35; discounts for children, students and “UCA community” (501) 450-3265; (866) 810-0012; (501) 269-1066 uca.edu/tickets; conwaysymphony.org