TOP: Albany Symphony Orchestra conductor and director Claire Fox Hillard previews the orchestra’s upcoming season for Kiwanis of Dougherty members on July 28.
MIDDLE: Dr. Hillard (right) is greeted by Richard Brown following his Kiwanis of Dougherty presentation.
BOTTOM: Dr. John Inman, Jr. (right) greets conductor Hillard after the Kiwanis meeting.
How does the Albany Symphony Orchestra assist in the area’s economic development efforts?
Dr. Clare Fox Hillard, conductor and director of the ASO and the Darton State College music program, helped connect dots between the two in a message to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on July 28.
For one, the ASO is comprised of professional, paid musicians, resulting in an annual payroll of $350,000, Dr. Hillard said.
Also, the orchestra is “a huge aid to economic development. It makes our community different than other communities our size.” He continued that he was “pleased that the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Authority has come up with its new campaign (the widely-advertised ‘There’s Only One Albany, Georgia’). Of course I’m thrilled that one of the main billboards says ‘From Symphony to Soul, Albany has it All.’ I’m delighted that the EDC has included us in the positives of Albany.”
“We are literally a $350,000 small business in Albany,” he said. “It makes cultural viability of our community a selling point for economic development, a better place to live.”
Dr. Hillard offered a preview of the upcoming concert season, which will include four events at the Albany Municipal Auditorium, the orchestra’s home venue. The auditorium will host four concerts, two each in fall and spring. Included in the schedule is a return visit in December by Cirque de Soleil for a Christmas-themed event.
In February an orchestra member turned composer will debut a piece he wrote for the orchestra based on the Flint River. According to Dr. Hillard, the composer “just became enamored with Albany. He’s written a piece he’s called ‘Thronateeska’ based on the Flint River. One interesting aspect of it is he’s going to ask the percussionists to actually have pieces of flint, as well as using drums, to knock together to make sounds associated with the river.”
Then, “In April we’re going to have a Native American flute player come play the flute with the orchestra, Native American folk songs, with slides. The piece is called ‘Gist of the Elk’, based on an Indian legend, and we’re going to do that the same weekend as the Native American Festival at Chehaw.”
In addition to the four main concerts, Hillard continued, ASO will continue with series of four smaller concerts in fall and spring at the Albany Museum of Art, performed by smaller groups of orchestra musicians. These will each be followed by wine and cheese receptions in the museum lobby, where guests meet and talk with the performers.
Hillard also spoke about other things the orchestra does to uphold its commitment to the community.
“For educational purposes, we have collaborated with Carnegie Hall. (Carnegie) has a program called ‘Link Up’ in which it designs children’s concerts. It selects the music, creates the script, makes a Powerpoint presentation, and creates a 54-page full-color student curriculum and provides them free of charge.” This is the fifth year of the collaboration, Hillard said. Teachers receive the materials and prepare the students and they are invited to perform and sing in a March orchestra performance,
“It’s very participatory. It’s something they can easily identify with,” said Dr. Hillard. “The selections from Carnegie Hall are ones that everyone will know. We do that to enhance the educational offerings of the school system.”
Another community program is “Symphony a la Carte”. “If you need something for an occasion like a wedding or a party, like a string quartet or a trumpet,” said Dr. Hillard, the orchestra can help with that. “Quite often we get calls from Kimbrell-Stern (Funeral Home) for a bagpiper, and we have a list of bagpipers we can provide. If you need musicians for any occasion, we’re here to help.”
The death of live music has been predicted for generations due to new technologies, Dr. Hillard remarked, referencing a chart he has of famous people who have made such a prediction. He disagreed. “I would compare it to a phenomenon of why should football teams have games in the stadium when you can watch them on TV You still want to go to live games. Why should we have live music when we have CDs, and downloads and clouds? The live experience is still something that is engaging, thrilling, that it’s nice to be with other people.
“So, live music is alive and well, and we’re here to provide that for you.”