Smaller orchestras: surviving and thriving

Posted on: July 11, 2016

“Over the decades, local symphony orchestras have proven their staying power,” writes Debra Erdley in Saturday’s (7/9) Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Among those groups: Altoona Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1928; Butler County Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1949; Erie Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1913; Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1929; Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1969; Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1929.” The musicians’ “day jobs vary. They’re teachers, accountants, technology specialists. Others patch together lives fully from the musical world…. But there is a common thread … their passion for making music.…  Two-thirds of the nation’s symphony orchestras operate on less than $300,000 a year, according to the League of American Orchestras.” Daniel Meyer, music director of the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, the Erie Philharmonic, and the Asheville, N.C., Symphony Orchestra, says one reason these orchestras survive is “the passion and interest of the community. In Greensburg [where the Westmoreland Symphony is based], there is a real desire for great symphonic music and a real passion for learning stringed instruments. People know what music can do for their lives and their children.” The Johnstown Symphony Orchestra “has survived two lethal floods and the collapse of the steel industry. But the group is a point of civic pride.”

Posted July 11, 2016

Pictured: Ron Horner, principal timpanist of the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, performs during the orchestra’s “summer sparklers program” in St. Clair Park in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, July 2, 2016. Photo by Patrick Connolly / Tribune-Review