Waco Symphony offers big-name artists

By Connor Yearsley

The Waco Symphony Orchestra’s 51st concert season features some highly acclaimed guest soloists and frequently played classics.

The lineup includes French composer Maurice Ravel’s “Boléro,” as well as Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.”

The season kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27 in Waco Hall with Claude Debussy’s “Afternoon of a Faun,” Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with virtuoso pianist Olga Kern.

Other soloists this season are renowned flutist Carol Wincenc and violinist Jolente de Maeyer.

The iconic Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto will close the season. Also on the schedule are works by Zoltán Kodály, Darius Milhaud, Haydn and Rouse.

“We just had a very huge season with big-name artists and lots of publicity,” Conductor and Music Director Stephen Heyde said, of the upcoming season.

“The expectations are high, but you have to meet the expectations. To maintain the enthusiasm is probably the hardest part.”

If classical music isn’t quite your thing, the group will also be bringing you “A Salute to Sgt. Pepper!” in November, to celebrate the 45th anniversary of The Beatles’ album.

As a holiday favorite, the orchestra and Ballet Austin will put on Tchaikovsky’s ballet, “The Nutcracker,” on Dec. 2. And on Dec. 7, the “Ho-Ho Holiday” concert will present a collection of popular Christmas music.

Michael Bracken, marketing director of the orchestra, said he was excited about the concerts lined up for this season.

“Of course we are excited about all of them,” Bracken said. “I’m particularly excited about having the ‘Classical Mystery Tour’ and ‘A Salute to Sgt. Pepper.’ Also, Olga Kern is a gold medal-winning pianist, and we have a lot of excitement for her as well.”

Under the baton of Heyde, who also conducts the Baylor Symphony Orchestra, the group is composed of between 70 and 80 musicians, all of whom have jobs outside the orchestra.

Heyde also said the most challenging pieces on this season’s schedule, for the orchestra, are probably the “Rouse Flute Concerto” and “Firebird Suite.”

“There are different types of challenges,” Heyde said. “Sometimes I interpret the music differently than the audience is used to hearing it.”

Heyde said he thinks the orchestra has improved.

“That’s the nature of orchestral music,” Heyde said. “Every orchestra gets better all the time. I’m so fortunate. It’s a very capable group. They care about the music and they want to play it… Music should be joyful.”

He also said there are misconceptions of symphonic music that lead people to associate it with suits and ties and the well-to-do.

“Orchestral music appeals to those who have been exposed to it; there are more people who would come to love it if they were exposed to it,” said Heyde.

“The demographics are people who are usually highly educated and have a lot of disposable income, so I’m not happy with it…We’re constantly trying to reach more people.”

Heyde said he felt encouraged by all the support the orchestra is getting from the community, Baylor, and the Starr family.

He mentioned attendance has been remarkably good, the orchestra is in good financial health, and the increase in popularity of classical music among young people is astounding.

Bracken also talked about the challenges facing the group.

“The greatest challenge is competition with other entertainment options, with movies, the Baylor Symphony, and museums; finding the audience; letting them know we’re here,” Bracken said.

Season tickets can be purchased up until the first concert on Sept. 27. For students, the group offers a $25 subscription that is good for five tickets to any five concerts.

After Sept. 27 tickets may be bought at the door. For more information, visit the website at www.wacosymphony.com or call 254-754-0851.

The Speight Parking Garage is open for all concerts. Dress is up to the audience members.

All concerts start at 7:30 p.m., with the exceptions of the two holiday concerts, and all are in Waco Hall.