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100 Years Transforming Lives through Music: The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

You won't want to miss the upcoming centennial performance of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra (NBSO) on September 19, 2015. The 2015-2016 opening performance will feature a special 100th birthday celebration. The season features everything from Mussorgsky and Mendelssohn to Bernstein and Beethoven, highlighting the range of composers showcased.

Presenting six classical and a family holiday pops concert, plus a new four-concert series of chamber music each year, the NBSO maintains exceptional community support. This community support comes in the form of benefit concert attendance, concert sponsorships by individuals and businesses, program advertising, and donations and contributions from local charitable foundations and cultural councils that primarily fund NBSO's vast education programs.

People keep coming back and support the organization not just for the music, but also for the concert happenings. Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator Conee Sousa says, "We usually have something going on before and after each concert - program talks, receptions, celebrations."

The NBSO holds most of its performances at the 1926-built and artfully restored Zeiterion Performing Arts Center (known as 'The Z') on Purchase Street in downtown New Bedford with seating for 1,200 attendees. Chamber music concerts take place at St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Marion, and Grace Episcopal Church in New Bedford.

Although concerts are central to the NBSO's mission, education is also key to the organization's role in the community, as evidenced by their amazingly creative school-based programs. Musical concepts and literature make up the pre-school Symphony Tales program where Music Director and Conductor Dr. David MacKenzie writes a composition for each book and an NBSO musician accompanies the reading to perform it. Elementary children hear a series of 5-minute excerpts of classical music and short narration via Music in the Mornings program. Sousa says, "The series repeats after five years, so students will hear hundreds of different classical works before they go on to middle school."

But that's not all. NSBO's world-renowned guest artists perform and talk to students at local schools. "But our biggest impact comes from our Learning in Concert program," Sousa explains. "Education Director Terry Wolkowicz writes amazing curriculum for each year, connecting shared themes in music with traditional academic subjects. We've explored topics like the sounds and shapes of symmetry and creative contrast with thousands of local students." This culminates in the NBSO's Young People's Concerts where youth submissions of artwork, videos and musical compositions are presented on a giant screen over the orchestra.

Hands-on youth music education is always in full swing with NBSO. Their Youth Orchestra, open to Southeast Massachusetts music students in 1st grade through age 21 during the school year, consists of four orchestras. Auditions decide orchestra placement and seating assignments and students must audition each year for acceptance. The NBSO Youth Orchestra does four scheduled concerts, including one with the NBSO itself, and performs at other community events.

Sousa says, "Our mission is to place the world's finest music at the center of the cultural life of the South Coast community to enrich the lives of adults and children through the transforming power of great music." In its one-hundredth year, the NBSO continues to make the sound of music a powerful tool for all ages.

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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