​SSO Celebrates 32nd Season


by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer
The 32nd season of the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra (SSO) will begin on at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 6, at Guerry Auditorium on Georgia Avenue. The concert is free and open to the public.
The first event of the season will feature Kaitlyn Vest, visiting instructor of cello at the University, performing the Cello Concerto No.1 in C major by Haydn.
“This year, we focus on bringing artistic collaborations to the forefront of our artistry. Each concert experience of the season will feature guest artists from the national and international music scene,” said César Leal, artistic director and assistant professor of music history. Leal has been with the orchestra for 6 years, and he said planning for the next season starts about a year in advance. “Dr. Vest is a cello teacher and a wonderful first-class cellist. The orchestra has never sounded better.”
“We select the music, audition the musicians and choose the music based on the students’ technical level and musicianship. We design a program that challenges their artistic techniques and enables them to play music successfully,” he said. “We schedule all the production dates, spaces, collaborations, contracts with guest artists, and a group of students from the Artistic Leadership Program manages the orchestra.”
In February, the Chattanooga Symphony will join the orchestra for a special collaborative concert.
“The entire symphony will play alongside the students, and the students are going to be in the leadership roles. I will conduct and share the podium with Kayoko Dan, musical director of the Chattanooga Symphony,” Leal said. “The students will get to experience someone else at the podium and having a guest conductor who is a recognized female conductor. That is especially important—so they can see women in positions of leadership and see themselves represented.”
For the final concert of the season, Reggie Smith, a Grand Finals winner of the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions will join the orchestra.
“Reggie has one of those voices that just gives you the chills when you hear it. He’s a wonderful, charismatic, beautiful singer,” he said. “We have been friends for a long time, and to book these people, it takes more than a year in advance because they’re so busy performing all over the world.”
Leal said in addition to collaborations, the program this season will include performances of the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky and Peress’ arrangement of Bernstein’s Overture to West Side Story.
“The orchestra is always a collective effort. There is a reflection of what Sewanee is. There is a whole department and a whole group of people behind what we do. I just wave my hands. I’m very proud to see the department continue to grow and solidify,” Leal said.