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2015 Year in Review

The end of an old calendar year always seems to be replete with review and reflection, and my own personal exercise of this practice reveals that 2015 has been among the most meaningful years of my career! So many milestones and accolades have come my way!

A few of the highlights:

First and foremost, I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary with the love of my life, Barbara Karam Wilson. Barb continues to serve White Castle System, having enjoyed a promotion to Tax Manager this year.

My Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra had its debut performance at Carnegie Hall. This was also my first performance in the venue, a collaborative effort with the Cincinnati Youth Symphony. A sizeable and enthusiastic audience enjoyed an outstanding performance, and I was able to renew my acquaintance with composer Lowell Liebermann whose work I programmed.

I marked twenty-five years of service to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. While my appearance at the CSO’s annual Picnic with the Pops series was its usual quasi-rainout, I was surprised with a stunning video tribute and a warm reception that allowed me to connect with any number of old friends.

City Scene Magazine named me “Music Director of the Year” as a part of its annual Best of the ‘Bus reader poll.

I traversed several monumental scores for the first time:
Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty with the Tulsa Ballet, truly a pinnacle for ballet conductors
Mahler Symphony No. 2 with the Springfield Symphony
National attention was drawn to the Westerville Symphony as we embraced head-on the presence of social media in the concert hall. I played a round of golf at the Double Eagle Golf Club, one of the most elite and challenging in central Ohio. And in preparation, I enjoyed several intense lessons from my coach, Chris Miller at the Medallion Club.

I survived 15 performances of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker with BalletMet Columbus at the Detroit Opera House and with the Tulsa Ballet (including the annual snow drop).

My friend Cabot Rea retired from broadcasting after 30 years of service to the NBC affiliate in Columbus.
Barb and I managed to squeeze in a little vacation in LA with Barb’s brother, and were lucky enough to score tickets to see Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. Very talented, iconic duo. Also paid a visit to the Reagan Library where Air Force One is a major attraction.

All in all, a great year, full of wonderful music, great friends, love, and happiness. But the world seems ever more turbulent and cries out for the harmony that music provides. So my work is just beginning! Here’s to 2016 and all the opportunities it brings!

Concerts in the 21st Century
October 27,2015
Recently, the Westerville Symphony received a grant from PNC Arts Alive which enabled us to create a concert experience that invited social media into the concert hall. Through a live twitter feed projected over the orchestra, the audience was invited to tweet about the concert while it was taking place. A live internet stream of the performance further expanded our audience reach, and, according to the twitter activity, we had viewers from throughout the US and Europe. PNC’s grant enabled us to promote the event and purchase the necessary hardware and licensure to carry it off. Staffing was handled by our own tech-saavy Executive Director, Sean Brewster.. For the event, I programmed the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition and invited Gavin George to perform the First Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto. Gavin is a prodigious talent of twelve who lives in Granville, OH, and has recently signed with Opus 3 Artists. His popularity, his youth, and his gregarious personality made him a perfect player in this experiment. The musicians of the Orchestra as well were tremendous sports, and helped to generate buzz about the event through their own social media outlets. The Orchestra is a unique paradigm of Otterbein University students, regional amateur musicians, and semi-professional musicians, so labor obligations triggered by the electronic media presence were not an obstacle. The audience was given a quick tutorial (and reminded to silence their devices) from the stage, with very few limitations about how and when to tweet their comments. We had tried to invite “tweeters” to sit in a particular section of the audience (we employ general seating), but I think the participants scattered themselves throughout the hall. There is no denying that social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., are now integral parts of our daily lives. Few of us, at any age, are completely immune to the presence. Social media are more and more the conduit for news, social commentary, marketing, and communication. If the arts are to flourish in this new era, then ways to utilize these media are both lucrative and vital for our survival. I do worry, at times, about the invasive presence of YouTube. Intellectual property seems to be a thing of the past, as events are shared, in many cases, without regard to approval of the artists. But we’ll save that discussion for another installment of “Between the lines.” Our primary concern in creating the Westerville Symphony experiment was to not interfere with the concert experience, but rather, enhance it by creating an access point that usually is avoided. Great care was taken in placement of the screen projecting the feed so that it would not distract the musicians, particularly the soloist, nor intrude on those who wished to experience the concert in a traditional fashion. We monitored the feed so that relevant discussion was shared. The local classical music radio outlet, WOSU medias Classical 101 tweeted commentary about the music in real time, relaying informative insight with regard to architecture of the piece, programmatic content, etc. I got involved with tweets about the pre-concert rituals, backstage activity, etc. Our soloist, likewise, shared some thoughts. The event was a great success. While we did have a little negative feedback from a few die-hard traditional concert enthusiasts, overwhelming majority of the response has been highly positive. I feel that we made younger concertgoers feel a sense of involvement that they may not typically enjoy at a symphony concert. Society is evolving at a furiously fast pace, and we must experiment and then implement new concepts in access and service that make the art form we practice as relevant, synergetic, and inclusive to its public as it can be.