The mixture of classical and contemporary music makes the East Texas Symphony Orchestra one of the top artistic and historical organizations in East Texas.
“We think we are a part of the heart of Tyler’s cultural life. Our mission is to engage ,educate and enlighten audiences through the live performance of symphonic music,” Kathy Housby, associate director of marketing and development, said. “It’s rare to get to hear a live symphonic concert these days. It’s something really unique.”
The orchestra produces four master concerts every year and numerous smaller concerts.
“We traditionally do four master works and five concerts,” Housby said. “We also do additional concerts including family and school concerts and a few others including special events.”
The next performance, “A Love For The Land,” on April 25 at the UT-Tyler Cowan Center will feature Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and Appalachian Spring.
“It’s the last concert of the season,” Housby said. “It is going to feature all American music. The first half of the concert features works by Aaron Copeland.”
The first two pieces will also have photochoreography by James Westwater.
“There will be three giant screens over the orchestra onto which will be projected his [Westwater’s] photography from throughout the U.S.,” Housby said. “The two other works that night will not have photochoreography.”
This performance is also unique because the orchestra will be working in partnership with the East Texas Food Bank to host the food drive, “Feeding the Body, Feeding the Soul.”
“People can bring nonperishable food items to the show that evening,” Housby said. “It’s tying into a national initiative called Orchestra Feeding America. We are really excited to be involved with the food bank.”
Housby said they have no trouble finding performers; they draw music from throughout the East Texas area.
“[Selecting work] is a combined effort. We do have a music director and conductor, Per Brevig. He really oversees the artistic, musical side of what happens here. He selects the work we perform,” Housby said.
The orchestra has been drawing performers for 65 years after its creation by Mrs. W.C. Windsor and the Tyler Women’s Forum in the 1930s.
The symphony was discontinued during World War II. However, Mrs. Varina G. Powell, a Tyler Symphony violinist, and Roger A. Harris, manager of the Chamber of Commerce, revived orchestra operations in 1950.
Dr. Cheryl Rogers, executive director of institutional effectiveness, planning and research is a season ticket holder, and remembers when the orchestra was housed in Wise Auditorium on the TJC Main Campus.
“I remember they [musicians] met every week to rehearse while it was at Wise,” Rogers said. “We enjoy listening to the different variety of music. Tyler is pretty fortunate to have an orchestra for its size. We are truly blessed.”
Housby said the orchestra has been affected by the economy, but not drastically.
“We are like any non-profit right now, and people are having to tighten their belts a little bit and having to reflect on where their donations go,” she said. “We are lucky people have continued to contribute to the orchestra and feel positive about the future.”