Symphony Partners offers chance to meet CSO principals

Kelsey Burritt | Staff Writer

Members of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra lead normal lives as part of the fabric of the Chautauqua community — when they aren’t performing three times a week.

They attend morning lectures, take walks by the lake and their kids even attend Boys’ and Girls’ Club.

The Symphony Partners will host a Meet the Principals Reception, a special event to meet the fellow members of the community, at 5-7 p.m. next Wednesday, July 11, at the Chautauqua Golf Club. The reception is a chance for devoted fans and audience members to meet the musicians, ask questions and connect names on the program with faces on the stage.

It is the first time Symphony Partners will sponsor this specific reception, in addition to their regular Brown Bag and post-concert Meet the Musician gatherings on the Amphitheater back porch.

Symphony Partners is a support organization for the CSO whose goal is to connect members of the orchestra with their audience. The group was established in 2006, when musicians began to move off the grounds and felt that a certain connection was lost with the community. Out of 74 orchestra members, now only three or four live on the grounds, said Nancy Weintraub, member of the board of directors and previous president of Symphony Partners.

“Their contact with the audience is much more limited than it used to be,” Weintraub said. “We wanted people to be able to talk to each other. It’s getting the people together — the audience and the musicians.”

President Robin Robbins said it is the most fun way to interact with the musicians, and the event offers a certain comfort and leisure that other Symphony Partners events do not offer.

The long list of musicians attending the reception includes Associate Concertmaster Vahn Armstrong and principal tuba player Frederick Boyd. Longtime guest conductor Grant Cooper, who will conduct the CSO and the North Carolina Dance Theatre on July 10, will also attend.

“Live performance is all about the connection with the audience. It really doesn’t exist without that. It’s sort of the point of the whole thing,” said Armstrong, who has played with the CSO for 19 years. “We really get to know people in our audience, and that’s the great thing about it.”

Principal timpanist Stuart Chafetz, who has also guest conducted with the orchestra on various occasions, also agrees to the importance of the audience connection.

“It’s really perfect for the Chautauqua community, because it’s all about conversation,” Chafetz said. “To be able to actually interact one-on-one with the musicians and the audience always makes the experience for both the performer and the audience member a special thing.”

The reception is only open to Symphony Partners members and costs $15 for a buffet and a variety of wines. Members must sign up for the event ahead of time to attend. Forms can be found in the Colonnade, Smith Memorial Library, the post office and other locations around the grounds.

Membership forms to join Symphony Partners are also available in various locations around the grounds. There will be chances to sign up in person at the Chautauqua Community Band Independence Day Concert at 12:15 p.m. today in Bestor Plaza and at the CSO Musicians’ Open Recital at 4 p.m. Friday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.