Symphony establishing program at Reinhardt
by Laura Braddick
lbraddick@cherokeetribune.com
May 07, 2011 12:00 AM | 3761 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Music director Michael Alexander conducts the Cobb Symphony Orchestra. The group has announced it is changing its name to the Georgia Symphony Orchestra and plans on  performing concerts at Reinhardt University as well as providing instruction to students while on campus.<br>Cherokee Tribune/Special
Music director Michael Alexander conducts the Cobb Symphony Orchestra. The group has announced it is changing its name to the Georgia Symphony Orchestra and plans on performing concerts at Reinhardt University as well as providing instruction to students while on campus.
Cherokee Tribune/Special
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The Cobb Symphony Orchestra is changing its name to the Georgia Symphony Orchestra.

It's a change that has been in the works for years, said Todd Youngblood, chairman of the board of the nonprofit symphony. The new name - which will be formally announced at tonight's concert - signifies the orchestra's regional reach, he said.

"We are very excited about it, obviously," he said. "We're ready to reach out to folks in other parts of the state not served by symphonies."

Next January, for instance, the orchestra is scheduled to perform at Reinhardt University in Waleska. Additionally, an agreement is in place to establish a program at Reinhardt's Falany Performing Arts Center, where orchestra members will provide musical instruction to Reinhardt students at times when concerts are held on campus, said Marsha White, executive director of marketing and communications at the university.

But the orchestra is not abandoning the county where it was born, music director Michael Alexander said. Its performance home will remain at the Murray Arts Centre on the campus of Mount Paran Christian School.

"Our home base is always going to be Cobb," Alexander said. "Our goal is unquestionably to continue to grow. As an arts organization, one of the most dangerous things you can do is become stagnant. We want to keep pushing the envelope."

As arts organizations across the country are facing financial difficulties due to declining patrons and donations, Alexander said the local orchestra's success can be attributed to its innovation.

"A modern symphony orchestra is different than what it was 50 years ago," he said. "It's important to get that message out. The symphony is an interactive experience. It's not stiff. We hate the phrase 'high art.' We believe art should be accessible to all and that's reflected in everything we do."

Since its founding in 1951 in the Marietta home of Arthur F. Moor, the orchestra has evolved from a private club of six musicians to a regional arts organization.

It was originally called the Marietta Music Club, and with the help of its members and first conductor, the late Betty Shipman Bennett, it became known as the Marietta Concert Orchestra.

The name continued to reflect the organization's growth as it went on to become the Marietta Symphony and then the Cobb Symphony Orchestra.

"We use the phrase 'home-grown,'" Youngblood said. "It grew up in Marietta and has gotten stronger, better and keeps growing."

Eight years ago, the orchestra produced just a handful of concerts per season that drew a couple hundred patrons each, he said. Now, the orchestra hosts more than 20 performances per year that together draw thousands of patrons.

In addition to the 85-member orchestra, the organization also provides chorus and jazz programs that are showcased in numerous concerts throughout the year.

In 2006, the organization founded the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, which has become the largest youth program of its kind in the Southeast, drawing about 400 students from across the state.

For tonight's concert the orchestra will perform two contrasting pieces symbolic of the orchestra's journey.

"We'll be playing Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 and Mozart's Requiem," Alexander said, explaining each work's musical metaphor. "The requiem, of course, referring to the passing of something and the 7th represents the joy of life."
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