LSO opens season with guest conductor

Sonia Emmons

Friday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m., the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra begins its 2007-2008 season with new musicians, exciting repertoire, and a special guest conductor. For this first concert, the orchestra will follow different leaders for each of the three featured pieces.To begin the concert, concertmaster Garth Neustadter will lead the orchestra in the Farandole from George Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suite No. 2. Neustadter conducts with his bow from his seat beside the podium.

After this short but powerful introduction, conductor David Becker resumes his place on the podium for Bartok’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion, featuring Professors Michael Kim, Anthony Padilla, and Dane Richeson, along with Lawrence alum Mike Truesdell ’07. The four soloists remain in constant motion with wild melodies and rousing rhythms.

Once the two pianos and percussion have been cleared from the stage, Maestro André Raphel Smith takes the stand to guest-conduct the orchestra in Jean Sibelius’s Second Symphony in D major.

Maestro Smith, currently in his third season as Music Director of the Wheeling Symphony in West Virginia, has received abundant recognition for his musical accomplishments thus far. He was recently awarded the 2006 Distinguished Alumnus Award from Yale University.

In 2004, he received an Honorary Doctorate from West Liberty State College. In 2001, Smith was awarded the “Order of the Long Leaf Pine” by the North Carolina Senate. The annual award is the state’s highest civilian honor.

Smith has also conducted the esteemed Philadelphia and Saint Louis Symphony Orchestras.

Smith’s appearance is the result of a request put in last season by the Conservatory Deans Advisory Committee. Members of the LSO had requested that the orchestra bring in a guest-conductor for a concert.

That request was more than filled. Smith is only the first guest-conductor the LSO will work with this year, with two others to follow.

LSO members and non-LSO members are all talking about the beginning of what promises to be an exceptional season.

Sophomore Anneliese Abney, an oboist in the Wind Ensemble, is thrilled that LSO will be playing Sibelius’s Second Symphony. “It’s my favorite piece of classical music,” she gushed.

The Romantic composer’s magnificent work is tied to his native Finland’s struggle for independence from Russia. The dramatic theme of the finale has been known to linger in the air for days after a performance.

Senior Skyler Silvertrust, an LSO first violinist, was also enthusiastic about the music. When asked if he is excited about the first concert of his last year at Lawrence, he delivered a resounding “Yes!”

The LSO’s opening concert offers a variety of different music under two different batons and one bow. The concert will be held in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel and admission is free.