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Aiken Symphony Guild teaches students that music is instrumental

The Aiken Symphony Guild received a South Carolina Arts Commission Arts in Education grant to provide a youth concert series for students and teachers. From the Aiken Standard Article by Larry Wood; photos by Cindy Kubovic

[caption id="attachment_25246" align="alignright" width="250"]Regan Gregory, left, and Reese King perform Bach’s “Concerto for Two Violins” at the Aiken Symphony Guild’s Children’s Concerts program Thursday at the Etherredge Center. Gregory and King won the senior division of the Guild’s Concerto Competition. Eliza King, winner of the junior division, performed at the program’s performance Wednesday. Regan Gregory, left, and Reese King perform Bach’s “Concerto for Two Violins” at the Aiken Symphony Guild’s Children’s Concerts program Thursday at the Etherredge Center. Gregory and King won the senior division of the Guild’s Concerto Competition. Eliza King, winner of the junior division, performed at the program’s performance Wednesday.[/caption] When violinists Regan Gregory and Reese King took the stage to perform with the Aiken Symphony Orchestra, they had rehearsed together many times but had not practiced with the orchestra. Despite no preparation, the musicians, both high school seniors and winners of the Aiken Symphony Guild’s Senior Concerto Competition, played Bach’s “Concerto for Two Violins” flawlessly for elementary school students who filled USC Aiken’s Etherredge Center on Thursday morning. The concert was part of the Guild’s annual Children’s Concerts series. Over two days, the Guild’s music education program reached about 2,000 fifth-graders from Aiken and Edgefield counties. “We were a little nervous, but it’s always an awesome experience,” said Gregory, who attends Aiken High, after the concert. “I love it.” King, who is home-schooled, agreed. “It’s always fun,” he said. Gregory added that she especially loves performing for children. “A lot of them might say it’s boring, but a few might think it’s pretty cool and might want to try it,” she said. “It’s pretty cool to think that you might be a kid’s inspiration.” Fourth-grader Eliza King won the Junior Concerto Competition and performed the third movement of a concerto by Kuchler with the orchestra at the Children’s Concerts on Wednesday. All of the concerto winners are students of Joanne Stanford. Dr. Donald Portnoy, who conducted the symphony, opened the program with a tour of the orchestra from the string section to percussion, woodwinds and brass. When the French horn players held up their instruments made of coiled brass tubes, Portnoy joked, “That’s a lot of plumbing.” The program featured several children-friendly pieces. During the “Toy Symphony,” by Haydn, home-schooled students played toy instruments that might be found in a school music classroom: Craver King, small drum; Charis Hamic, triangle; Eliza King, train whistle; Serenity Hamic, toy cymbals; Sandi King, recorder; and Silver Hamic, guiro, a percussive instrument played with a wooden stick. Scott Chappell, who teaches music at Mossy Creek Elementary in North Augusta, narrated “Peter and the Wolf,” by Prokofiev. The instruments represented characters in the story – the flute as the bird, the clarinet as the cat, Peter as the strings and the French horns as the wolf – and gave the students a greater education of each instrument’s sound and role in the orchestra. To end the program, Bugs Bunny, one of the mascots of the Kids Club at Security Federal Bank, a sponsor of the Aiken Symphony Guild, danced around the stage to “Hoe-Down” from Aaron Copland’s ballet, “Rodeo.” Sharon Johnson, chairman of the Guild’s Children’s Concerts Committee, said helping young children develop a love for music is the purpose of the Children’s Concerts. When Johnson was a fifth-grader in Los Angeles, she attended her first opera, “Cinderella,” by Rossini. “I had never been exposed to opera, but I absolutely and positively fell in love with it,” said Johnson, a retired teacher. “That is still one of the most important memories of my childhood. I want to make sure that every child gets that experience.” And, from reports from ushers at the concerts, students do, Johnson said. “They say the children come in kind of ho-hum, but when they walk out, they are all smiles, totally engaged,” Johnson said. “That’s why we do it.” A grant from the S.C. Arts Commission helps the Aiken Symphony Guild fund the program. Above image: Dr. Donald Portnoy, conductor of the Aiken Symphony Orchestra, right, congratulates Charis Hamic, left, Eliza King, Sandi King, Serenity Hamic and Craver King for their performance on the “Toy Symphony” at the Aiken Symphony Guild’s Children’s Concerts series at the Etherredge Center. Silver Hamic, not pictured, also performed at the program for fifth-grade students from Aiken and Edgefield counties Thursday.

Aiken Symphony Orchestra’s debut deemed a success

From the Aiken Standard Article by Stephanie Turner, photos by Heather Sargent

Donald Portnoy conducting Aiken Symphony OrchestraOn Thursday, Sept. 17, Tom Hofstetter and Dr. Donald Portnoy's longtime vision of the Aiken Symphony Orchestra finally became a reality. "It was the end of a dream, and the beginning of something new," said Hofstetter. The USC Aiken Etherredge Center was almost full for the 7:30 p.m. Paremski Plays Tchaikovsky concert, presented by the Aiken Symphony Guild. The crowd hushed as David Tavernier, president of the organizing committee, and Em Ligon, co-president of Aiken Symphony Guild, came on stage. After their opening remarks, Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh walked on stage, greeted by an applause, and read the City's proclamation declaring Thursday to Wednesday Aiken Symphony Orchestra week, and encouraged the community's support of the new endeavor. After their exit, the 50-piece professional orchestra stood as concertmaster and first violinist Mary Lee Taylor Kinosian entered. She tuned the orchestra and then nodded to another musician, marking the entrance of Portnoy, the conductor. The presentation of the colors was followed by the orchestra playing Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner," which the audience sang. After intermission, when the orchestra settled back into their positions, Russian pianist and the night's soloist Natasha Paremski entered in a sequined gown and jeweled headband and took a spot she's taken frequently since she was 4 - on the piano bench. The concert concluded with a standing ovation, one so persistent that Portnoy and Paremski left and returned to the stage's front multiple times. "It couldn't have gone better," Paremski said. "The orchestra was exhilarating, and the audience was very enthusiastic. ... I was honored to be a part of it." After Paremski went to the lobby and sold and signed some of her CDs, she ascended the stairs to a reception hosted by USCA Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan for Tim Simmons, for whom the concert was dedicated. Simmons, who was being honored for his efforts in the arts and the Aiken community, was presented with the baton Portnoy used during the "The Star-Spangled Banner" and a certificate of appreciation. "I was absolutely delighted," Hofstetter said of the Aiken Symphony Orchestra's inaugural concert. "The turnout was spectacular." The orchestra will perform at 3 p.m. Oct. 4 for the Aiken Symphony Guild's Horses and Harmony event at Windswept Farm, 114 Larkspur Road, Wagener, and with the Beijing Guitar Duo at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Etherredge Center, 471 University Parkway. For more information, visit www.aikensymphonyorchestra.com or www.aikensymphonyguild.org or call 803-648-0364 or 803-641-3305.