Fort Smith Symphony
Text in englischer Sprache verfügbarThe Fort Smith Symphony draws audiences from a large area in its home state of Arkansas, as well as in eastern Oklahoma, and presents an unusually wide variety of performances and activities characteristic of ensembles in much larger cities. The orchestra has recorded little-heard music by African American composers for the Naxos label. It was founded in 1923 and is the oldest symphonic ensemble in Arkansas. For many years it was a community-based orchestra, but when conductor John Jeter ascended the podium in 1996 it had started to include professional musicians. As of the 2010s, it includes 100 professional musicians who come not only from Arkansas but also Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, and even New York for rehearsals and performances. What draws them is, first of all, the existence of a high-quality ensemble that has attracted guest artists of international caliber. These have included superstar violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk, both of whom normally appear in much larger cities. The symphony's nine concerts annually include a wide variety of musical genres and styles, from traditional classical repertory to jazz, folk music (presented in a city-wide celebration of Fort Smith's bicentennial), and rock. The orchestra is notable for the breadth and energy of its educational programs. These have included not only traditional Symphony in the Schools concerts aimed at elementary school students, but also "Earquake" presentations for sixth-graders involving student musicians and novel video interpretations of music, as well as a Kool Cats jazz quartet (which has traveled to more than 25 schools in the Fort Smith area and has also appeared in the symphony's adult programming) and an electronic string quartet called Jolt. The Fort Smith Symphony has gained regional and national recognition not only for the quality of its playing but also for the depth of its repertory. The orchestra has commissioned numerous contemporary works and has been among the few groups to have programmed the symphonies of two historically key African American composers, William Grant Still and Florence B. Price. This programming has led to recording opportunities, again unusual for an organization in a city of Fort Smith's size: the Fort Smith Symphony was the first orchestra to record a complete cycle of Still's symphonies, and its first recording devoted to Price appeared on the Naxos label in 2019.
© James Manheim /TiVo
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