Volunteer-driven orchestra proves that music doesn’t die
Maestro Jim Murray would like to invite you to the symphony.
Don’t worry; if it’s your first time, Murray has you covered.
“I always view concerts from the point of a view of a first-time concert-goer,” he says. “Inviting someone to participate means making sure they feel welcome. That’s why our program includes a guide to let everyone know how they can participate and what to expect.”
Being welcomed in and made to feel comfortable is an important part of what community art should be about, says Murray.
“The experience should be friendly and approachable. The language should be one everyone can understand, even if the experience is new. Our shows are about fostering relationships with those who join us.”
The Northland Symphony has three primary goals. The first is to provide young people the opportunity to broaden their musical horizons by performing quality music with seasoned performers and community players; in that way, students can see, in a practical and real way, that music can remain an avocation throughout their lives even if it’s not one’s vocation.
The second is to provide quality musical performances to those who otherwise might not have the opportunity or resources to revel in the glories of Bach, Mozart, Haydn, and the like.
The third is to provide elementary students with an opportunity to perform in front of a sizable audience and their families, all the while singing with a quality orchestra.
The Northland Symphony does all of this as a nonprofit organization without paid staff members. It relies on a working Board of Directors, grant funds, volunteers and donations to produce five shows every season. December’s show featured children’s choirs from Bell Prairie Elementary School, Northview Elementary School, Prairie Point Elementary School and Hawthorn Elementary School. May’s production is the symphony’s annual summer pops concert. Admission is always free.
“Accessibility is always a primary concern,” says Murray. “Not only do we not charge admission, but we make sure there are no other barriers to coming to a performance. We hold events at high schools and locations that are handicapped accessible and have ample parking.”
The Northland Symphony was founded 49 years ago by a group of Northland educators and Kansas City symphony members. Murray has been the Music Director and Conductor for 19 years.
The performers are equally split between professional musicians, community members, and students. The students are primarily college students, but some are high school students. Many of the professional musicians have been with the symphony for ten or more years—many of them much longer.
“It’s a powerful thing to see accountants and IT professionals and lawyers active and participating in community art,” says Murray, speaking of the community members who perform with the symphony. “Sometimes students don’t see a path for their music past high school; they think that they have to give it up if they pursue a vocation outside of the arts. This shows them they can do both and provides an opportunity for young people to broaden their horizons.”
The symphony’s major costs are the productions. This season’s theme, which started last October, is “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” The March 5th show theme, which will be held at Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church, is South America and Spain. April’s show focuses on Russia, while May’s show is inspired by Space. April and June performances will be held at Park Hill South High School.
“We’re the best kept secret in the Northland,” says Murray. “But we’re working to change that.”
To learn more visit NorthlandSymphony.org.