UA Symphony Orchestra performs at First Congregational Church

By Judy Nelson, Arts & Life Writer

Family, friends and community members gathered Thursday, Sept. 25 for the first 2014-2015 performance of The University of Akron Symphony Orchestra.

Valerie Thorson, Director of Music for the First Congregational Church of Akron, welcomed both guests and musicians to the sanctuary.

“We are pleased and happy to offer concerts to the Akron community free of charge,” Thorson said.

Located at the corner of Union and Market Street, the church is a quick trip from Guzzetta Hall, which is the UA School of Music’s campus home.

Patty LaNasa, Coordinator of Events for the School of Music, said, “The music department truly appreciates the opportunity to perform at this 100+ year old church.”

“Guzzetta Hall is too small for the orchestra; EJ Thomas is too big,” LaNasa said. “We would certainly love to have a ‘just right’ hall on campus, but until then, we are grateful for this wonderful venue.”

With UA Director of Orchestral Studies Guy Victor Bordo conducting, the group successfully performed the program for the evening. They played pieces from 19th and 20th century European composers Alexander Borodin, Arvo Part, Bela Bartok, and Peter Tchaikovsky (known for the 1812 Overture and the ballet suites Swan Lake and Nutcracker.)  They were joined on “Nocturne” (one Borodin’s pieces) by UA faculty member, Alan Bodman, playing the violin.

Except for an artist-in-residence and the harp player, the orchestra musicians are all UA students. Surprisingly, they are not all music majors, drawing members from other programs such as engineering, education and pre-med. Orchestra membership is by audition and all students are eligible.

“Most of our members played in high school and are happy to have the opportunity to continue playing while here at the university,” LaNasa said. “It’s a good way to release the stress from their academic pursuits, allowing them to express their creativity at the same time.”

Second-semester sophomore Donavan Laughlin is thrilled to be a part of the orchestra this year.  He’s been playing the flute since joining the school band at 12 and hopes to be a professional flutist some day, with a back-up plan of being a college professor.

When asked what brought him to Akron from out of state, Laughlin said, “I was hooked by an article in a flute magazine in which Professor George Pope described the UA program.” Although Professor Pope has since retired, Donavan is satisfied with his college selection.

“The music department here is amazing,” Laughlin said.  “It’s just like a family. The music selection for the evening was well-balanced and challenging [for the student musicians].”  He contributed to the performance with both piccolo and flute solos.

The next performance of The University of Akron Symphony Orchestra is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 9, at 7:30 p.m., and will once again be at the First Congregational Church.

Donovan Laughlin and Teresa Bellamy pose for a photo after the evenings performance
Judy Nelson
Donovan Laughlin and Teresa Bellamy pose for a photo after the evenings performance
Composer Victor Bordo gets the orchestra ready for another song
Judy Nelson
Composer Victor Bordo gets the orchestra ready for another song