Symphony celebrating 25th year with concert at the Foundation

subhead: Introducing conductor, Dr. Patricia Sparti
Apr. 28, 2013 @ 07:46 AM

The Symphony of Rutherford County will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Sunday, May 5 with its annual spring concert at 3 p.m. at the Foundation, Isothermal Community College. The concert will be followed by a reception. Admission is free.

Under the direction of its new conductor, Dr. Patricia Sparti, the orchestra will present a program consisting of symphony favorites such as Bob Lowden’s arrangement of “Selections from Les Miserables,” a medley from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, and “A Blue Ridge Tapestry,” composed for the Symphony of Rutherford County by former member, Bill Flanders.

“What an honor it is to be named the new music director of the Symphony of Rutherford County," said Sparti. "It is a true honor and privilege to work with these very fine musicians who are also wonderful people. We hope everyone comes out and enjoys our upcoming 25th Anniversary Concert. " 

Sparti said the first half features some great art music, Rimsky-Korsakov Procession of the Nobles, Bizet Carmen Suite #1, Stravinsky Firebird Suite, and Haydn Piano Concerto in D, with Gale Wilson soloing on piano.  The second half is lighter in tone, with music from Broadway and a march. 

"Then, we play Selections from two great musicals, Les Misérables and West Side Story  and end the program with Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever, the official national march of the United States . . .We also plan on doing an encore of Amazing Grace. "

"I look forward to many exciting concerts with this orchestra and to involving all of Rutherford County and surrounding areas.  We plan to do educational concerts, outdoor concerts, concerts at the Foundation, and collaborative concerts with other groups, churches and schools," Sparti said.

The symphony, which began in 1988 as a string ensemble under the direction of Anna Martin, soon added other instruments and became known as The Little Symphony of Rutherford County, said  symphony member Nancy Womack.n 1990 it became a 501 (c) (3) organization. When its numbers increased to the point that it could no longer be called “little,” the Board of Directors officially changed its name to The Symphony of Rutherford County in 2000.

Throughout its 25-year history the mission of the symphony has remained the same: to serve the community through music and music education. Since its inception, the board has always maintained that the best way to achieve this mission is to make the symphony accessible to everyone. Unlike most orchestras, no auditions are required for membership, and all performances are free of charge.

A highlight of each year’s programming is the annual school concert for fourth and fifth graders in Rutherford and Polk County public schools. Through this venue, the symphony reaches out to over 1,500 students each year, introducing them to live performances by fellow members of the community—their friends, neighbors, relatives, and in some cases, fellow classmates.

The symphony is funded largely through contributions from members of the community and organizations who believe in its mission and  want to support its cause.

In the last 25 years the following individuals have served as president of the symphony: Richard Beard, Mickey Starling, Betty Jo Carpenter, Doug Long and Joe Goodwin.

Conductors, each of whom who contributed his or her own influence on the orchestra, have included Anna Martin, Henry Hampton, Ron Kickasola, Robert Hudson, Cara Regitz, Brian Evans, Wilbert Kimple, Matt Guffey, assistant director; and new conductor, Sparti.

"I enjoy music and I love to play," said Guffey, the only charter member of the symphony. "Each director that I have sat under, I learn something different," he said. "It's a challenge to learn new music and expand my own techniques. Any avenue I get to play my clarinet I do that. I enjoy very much."

 Guffey also plays clarinet with the Community Band in Spartanburg. 

Of these Kimple served the longest term—slightly over nine years. He resigned in September of 2012. Guffey, served as interim conductor from September through January 2013, and Dr. Sparti began her role as conductor at the beginning of the spring semester. 

The symphony’s Board of Directors is different from most boards in that it consists primarily of orchestra members who volunteer extra time to serve as the governing body for the symphony. Current officers are Joe Goodwin, President, Seth Carson, Vice President, Kim Hollifield, Secretary, and Nancy Womack, Treasurer. Members at large are Dorothy Henson, Karen Johnson, Sharon Lawrence, Alice McCluney, Robert Nelson and John Walker.

Membership in the symphony fluctuates as people come and go. Young members grow up, graduate from high school, and move on to new lives—and sometimes come back. Some members move away and others move here. Older members sometimes experience mobility problems or other health issues, hang up their instruments and stop coming.