Once Upon A Time...
Over 50 years ago, patrons of the arts began raising funds for a brand new orchestra. They felt that with two colleges, a university and a constant influx of new people joining existing residents, certainly there must be an abundance of talented musicians in Johnson City—and the community should have the opportunity to hear them perform!
Since its creation in 1969, the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra has grown from its original 28 members to a 70 piece full orchestra. The JCSO has performed under nine conductors:
Mr. Gil Oxendine (1969-74)
Dr. Lewis Songer and Mr. Richard Compton (Co-Directors 1974)
Dr. James Marable (1974-82)
Mr. Thomas Hinds (1982-83)
Ms. Antonia Joy Wilson (1983-89)
Mr. Lewis Dalvit (1989-2004)
Mr. Thomas Stites (2006-08)
Rob Seebacher (2008-Present).
Celebrating 50 Years
A! Magazine for the Arts
by Pamela Blair
For the past 50 years, the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra has been entertaining the Tri-Cities with one fabulous concert after another. The 2019-2020 concert season continues the grand tradition with exciting performances by regional and international artists. What is so special about having a symphony orchestra in our community? “Everything!” says Rob Seebacher, musical conductor since 2008, and his excitement is contagious as he continues to lead a 70-member orchestra filled with accomplished musicians and guest artists from around the globe.
As Seebacher explains, “It’s rare for a group of 70 people to be fully concentrated on doing one thing for the greater good. Being in the concert hall, you can’t help but feel the cohesiveness, joint ambition and extraordinary sense of human kinship. The orchestra and the audience – we are all in it together as active participants playing a crucial role in the creation and enjoyment of musical excellence.”
How do you sustain a 50-year partnership between the JCSO and the Tri-Cities? It’s a collaboration between the symphony and the community, with the belief that having a symphony orchestra is a visible and cultural contribution and an asset that helps to attract new businesses and residents to the area. There is great strength in its ability to feature local guest artists, hire regional musicians, support internationally known artists such as Bela Fleck, Valentina Lisitsa, Chee-Yun, Bella Hristova, The Canadian Brass, and the Celtic ensemble, Mithril. The JCSO is also able to collaborate with other artists to present “The Nutcracker” as Tchaikovsky wrote it, featuring a full symphony and a full ballet performance. The orchestra also aids in efforts to introduce local schoolchildren to music.
It’s about keeping the promise – In 1969, a project was launched to establish a community orchestra and that promise has evolved year after year to reach extraordinary heights. For Spenser Weese, principal bass trombone for the past 10 years, the concert featuring Holst’s “Planets” is a great example of the JCSO’s evolution. “It’s a notoriously demanding piece which requires unwavering concentration from everyone on the stage, bringing a sense of euphoria and appreciation to be taking part in such a momentous performance.” Seebacher believes that every orchestra should be the community’s orchestra and that bringing great music, at a world class standard in a concert hall that is open to everyone, is the goal of every performance. “If it’s your first time to attend a concert, you will be highly entertained and if it’s the 50th time you’ve attended, you will continue to be stimulated and excited by the music. Just come to enjoy the music and we’ll take care of the rest.”