​SSO and CSO, ‘Side-by-Side’ Concert

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer
A partnership years in the making between the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra and the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and Opera, will culminate with a 7:30 p.m. performance on Saturday, Feb. 9, in Guerry Auditorium. The concert is free and open to the public.
Sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the College, the concert will highlight University students in principal roles playing alongside professional musicians from one of the leading orchestras in the region. Visiting assistant professor Peter Povey will play a violin piece inspired by the opera Carmen.
“In 2017, with the support of John Kilkenny, we created partnership with the Sewanee Summer Music Festival, and last year, some of the CSO youth orchestra students attended,” said César Leal, artistic director of the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and assistant professor of musicology at the University. “The Chattanooga Symphony and Opera is a large organization. It oversees the professional orchestra as well as the youth orchestras and we’re talking about hundreds of kids that might find Sewanee a viable institution to pursue musical studies. It’s logical to connect these two organizations.”
Leal said the opportunity for the Sewanee students to maintain their leadership roles while playing alongside professionals is a unique opportunity and one that he sees as invaluable for the students.
“Students get the chance to see how professional musicians approach their métier, to observe the work ethic of professional musicians and to experience their incredible sense of responsibility and love for music. Sewanee students see a role model and point of reference outside of what is familiar to them in their teachers, and it’s a way to feel mentored as well,” Leal said. “The Chattanooga Symphony and Opera members are here to mentor and play alongside students. The center of the concert is the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra. Multiple solo passages, for instance, feature mostly our amazing students.”
Leal also spoke of what a rare opportunity it is to share the podium with a female leader in the music industry. He said the impact of seeing Kayoko Dan, musical director of the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra and Opera, at the podium is immense to the young female musicians.
“In southern culture, and in the world of orchestra conducting in general, it is uncommon to see women as conductors or artistic directors. It is really important for our culture as a whole and empowering for our students and for women of all ages to be able to see a woman at the podium,” he said.
In addition to learning from partnerships like that with the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra and Opera, students in the SSO also participate in the Artistic Leadership Program (ALP), which provides training in management and leadership.
“Students from the ALP have been attending professional trainings by Samantha Teter, CSO executive director, and Dr. Dan, and that is truly important because ALP students run the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra, and they do so in a very professional manner,” he said. “Something that I find really important, and I can’t emphasize this strongly enough, is that these trainings were led by women. Music is still a male-dominated field and, unfortunately, there are not women in charge of professional orchestras. We are very lucky to have women in such high-profile roles empowering our students.”
It is the influence of guest conductors like Dan and partnerships with professionals at the CSO that Leal said he hopes to see foster growth among the student musicians in the orchestra.
“Ours is the only orchestra in 20-30 miles around and to work to establish a regional presence is a good way not only to expose the students to a larger audience but to teach them about the role of music in social transformation,” Leal said. “This is one of the few classes that students are able to take eight times. In a way, it’s a 4-year course. We are aware of the importance of music in the community, and this is an opportunity for us to think about the responsibilities we have as an orchestra within this region.”