Get to know our volunteers!

We have over 600 volunteers annually that work as hosts, gift shop volunteers, light walkers, supernumeraries, docents, special events, Youth Guild, Guild, Gala, ushers, ticket takers, and more. We couldn’t function without the endless hours they dedicate to Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. Enjoy getting to know two of our wonderful volunteers and join us by emailing volunteers@usuo.org.

Anne Polinsky is a Utah native and has lived here and in Idaho.  She graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in accounting but is now retired. She also volunteers for several other local organizations, including Sundance Film Festival and Park City Art Festival.

How long have you been a USUO volunteer and what do you love most about being volunteering here? Carolyn Holloway was the person who first got me involved and we think it’s about 2006, so just over a decade! I enjoy working with the other volunteers and the patrons.  It’s nice to see the outreach that USUO does, and the younger people from Youth Guild and students attending performances.

Do you have any memorable moments or concerts? What made them so enjoyable? I think one of my favorite concerts (among many) is the first time I saw Pink Martini at Deer Valley and how the audience reacted to their talent.

Why is it important to you that you have classical music and opera in your life? I made a New Year’s resolution a couple of years ago to have more music in my life and this was a perfect way to do it. It not only helps with relaxation, but I’ve read that it also helps one’s brain from deteriorating, and who doesn’t love that?

 

Whit Wirsing was born in Roanoke, Virginia. He has a degree in philosophy from Virginia Tech and a degree in Spanish from the University of Utah. He teaches English as a second language for the Granite District and Continuing Education department at the University of Utah and Lumos School. He is the author of the “Ultimate Spanish Phrase Finder” published by McGraw Hill in 2009. Whit is most often seen at the symphony intermission receptions acting as the head “sommelier.” His beautiful origami cranes add a bright spot to the tables.

How long have you been a USUO volunteer and what do you love most about being volunteering here? I’ve been volunteering since September 2011. I enjoy several things about volunteering.  I want people to enjoy the experience of coming to the symphony, to have a good time, and want to come back.  Second, I like the people that I work with.

Do you have any memorable moments or concerts? What made them so enjoyable? I remember the night of a post-reception when the whole orchestra, the staff and the board were in attendance.  The champagne was flowing, and everyone was in high spirits. Another night that was memorable was about 3 years ago when it was a Latino night.  I loved that because I speak Spanish, and the Latino community that likes classical music fits like glove with the rest of the music-loving community. 

Why is it important to you that you have classical music and opera in your life? My grandmother was a concert pianist.  She mostly played with symphonies in the Roanoke and southwest Virginia area, but once she played Cesar Franck’s Symphonic Variations.  I have a CD of it, and my CD is no better than what my grandmother played that night.  My mother also played the piano (she died when I was 12), and both my aunts played.  So it’s in the blood.  I can’t imagine life without it.  And we are the organization for people whose love of music is in their blood. 

 

Melissa Robison is our Front of House and Publication Manager who also managers our Volunteer Network and has the pleasure of working with over 600 volunteers each season.

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Beethoven’s Ninth – Ode to Joy

This is a reprint of a blog post from a couple of years ago about Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Was it really an ode to a life of joy or trials, turbulence and torn love that inspired a final Ode as Beethoven ended his career writing his 9th and final symphony?

From the beginning of his life, Ludwig van Beethoven was destined for one full of fame, fortune and friction.  Named after his grandfather, a musician of the Roman Catholic Flemish Court, and one of three survivors of the seven children his parents bore, Ludwig van Beethoven was destined to carry the musical weight passed through generations of his family. In addition to his grandfather’s legacy, his own father was a tenor in the Electoral court and his first music teacher.

Beethoven studied as a young man with famous pianists such as Haydn, gaining a quick reputation as a virtuoso pianist in his early teens.  Studying abroad, Beethoven quickly returned home as his mother passed on and he raised his siblings while his father battled being an alcoholic.

Even as his name began to grow among Europeans and his talents were esteemed, his health began fading. Beethoven’s hearing gradually began deteriorating from a ringing in his ears to almost complete deafness as he continued to compose masterpieces, conduct, and perform. His encroaching deafness led him to contemplate suicide, and it is now rumored that he also battled bipolar disease. There is also speculation that he suffered from irritability brought on by chronic abdominal pain beginning in his 20’s attributed to lead poisoning that later resulted in his death.

Beethoven never married, but he was engaged to Giulietta Guiccardi, whose father was made thwarter of the lovers, and she joined in marriage to a noble man. Nevertheless, he had a close and devoted circle of friends all his life, thought to have been attracted by his reputed strength of personality. Towards the end of his life, Beethoven’s friends competed in their efforts to help him cope with his incapacities.

Completed in 1824, the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 “Choral” was the last complete symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven.  It incorporated part of An die Freude (”Ode to Joy”), a poem by Friedrich Schiller written in 1785.

In the first performance of Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Beethoven pounded out the beats he couldn’t hear (his hearing now completely gone). According to one witness, “the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them.” Beethoven was given five standing ovations – people waved handkerchiefs in the air and raised their hands and hats so Beethoven, who was now deaf, could see the response. Never before had the theater seen such an enthusiastic response from the audience. In the end, he truly conducted an “Ode to Joy,” which may be a tribute to his life. Though it was hard, frustrating, and sometimes overwhelming, his was a fulfilled life that would be celebrated, at least nightly, somewhere around the world to this day.

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Musician Spotlight: Robert Stephenson, oboe

1. How old were you when you started playing the oboe?
I was 8 years old, or the summer after the 2nd grade

2. What originally interested you in the oboe?
The sound. Plus my mom wouldn’t let me play drums in the house!

3. Where did you grow up?
Ann Arbor and Interlochen, Michigan and El Cajon, California

4. Where did you attend college?
The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pa.

5. How old is your instrument?
12 years old.

6. Who is your favorite composer?
Whoever’s on my stand.

7. What is your favorite piece of music?
There are too many to name.

8.  Do you play any other instruments?
Yes. The English horn and the oboe d’amore.

9. Describe to us how you create sound with an oboe?
Blow! It involves a balance between a controlled airspeed and embouchure pressure. You often have to go long stretches without breathing in. I also use a technique known as “circular breathing”. During this time you are evaluating and making adjustments for tone, intonation, volume, etc. I’m trying to get the music to speak. It’s communicating without words.

10. What would you name/is there a name for your oboe?
My instrument was made in Paris. It would have to have a sexy French name. Maybe Magnifique Monique, or Oohlala Bizet or Fleur-de-Lisa.

11. If your oboe was an animal, what would it be?
It’s been a snake-charmer, a duck, a quail, a hen, a cuckoo bird, a swan, a donkey….

12. If could wear anything to perform in a Utah Symphony concert what would it be?
Jeans. Though our formal wear is a sign of respect to our audience and our tradition.

13. If you weren’t a musician what would you be?
I might be a glass-blowing, pottery-making, home-renovating, school-teaching, boat-sailing, concert-going, art-collecting, globe-trotting, storm-chasing food critique.

14. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
The next concert.

15. What advice would you give to young future musicians?
Hold on to the passion which drew you into music in the first place and recognize and honor the music-making legacy you’re continuing.

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Memories of the Maestro

Did you attend a concert conducted by Keith Lockhart that you still remember vividly? Or perhaps was there an encounter with the Maestro or his music changed your life?

We’re collecting memories of Keith Lockhart and memorable experiences relating to him for his final performance as Music Director later this month. Post your memory as a comment on this blog. Be sure to include your email address in case we need to get in touch with you!

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Utah Symphony Musician Anniversaries

Utah Symphony | Utah Opera would like to celebrate our musicians anniversaries with the Utah Symphony! Thank you for making each year more memorable than the next!

More than 50 Years
Frances Darger

40-50 Years
Jack Ashton
Carolee Baron
Thomas Baron
LoiAnne Eyring
Keith Guernsey
Don Kramer
Julia Lawrence
Chris McKellar
Claudia Norton
Lynnette Stewart

30-40 Years
James Allyn
Frank Asper
Carol Borman
Craig Fineshriber
Holly Gornik
Erich Graf
Russell Harlow
Teresa Hicks
Julianne Johnson
Rebekah Johnson
Don Kramer
Melissa Lewis
Don Main
Nick Norton
J. Ryan Selberg
M. Judd Sheranian
Robert Stephenson
Lois Swint
Jeffrey Wagner

20-30 Years
Leonard Braus
John Eckstein
Gerald Elias
Edward Gornik
James Hall
Llewelyn Humphreys
Scott Lewis
Ralph Matson
Russell McKinney
Gary Ofenloch
Christine Osbourne
Lynn Rosen
Barbara Scowcroft
David Yavornitzky
Larry Zalkind
Roberta Zalkind

10-20 Years
Brant Bayless
Ronald Beitel
Tad Calcara
Joseph Evans
Wen Flatt

Bruce Gifford

Corbin Johnston
Veronica Kulig
Yuki MacQueen
Peter Margulies
David Park
Kevin Shumway
Louise Vickerman
Pegsoon Whang
Thomas Zera

5- 10 Years
Lisa Byrnes
Julie Edwards
Walter Haman
Jason Hardink
Lun Jiang
Carl Johansen
David Langr
Lee Livengood
Jeffrey Luke
James Nova
Lori Wike

Less than 5 Years
Leon Chodas
Benjamin Henderson
Noriko Kishi
Stephanie Larsen Cathcart
Caitlyn Valovick Moore
James Wilson

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Ode to Joy: Behind the Music

Behind the Music BeethovenDelve into the truths, triumphs, and “Behind the Music” of the tunes of your favorite artists featured by Utah Symphony. Today’s feature: Ode to Joy. Was it really an ode to a life of joy or trials, turbulence and torn love that inspired a final Ode as Beethoven ended his career writing his 9th and final symphony?

From the beginning of his life, Ludwig van Beethoven was destined for one full of fame, fortune and friction.  Named after his grandfather, a musician of the Roman Catholic Flemish Court, and one of three survivors of the seven children his parents bore, Ludwig van Beethoven was destined to carry the musical weight passed through generations of his family. In addition to his grandfather’s legacy, his own father was a tenor in the Electoral court and his first music teacher.

Beethoven studied as a young man with famous pianists such as Haydn, gaining a quick reputation as a virtuoso pianist in his early teens.  Studying abroad, Beethoven quickly returned home as his mother passed on and he raised his siblings while his father battled being an alcoholic.

Even as his name began to grow among Europeans and his talents were esteemed, his health began fading. Beethoven’s hearing gradually began deteriorating from a ringing in his ears to almost complete deafness as he continued to compose masterpieces, conduct, and perform. His encroaching deafness led him to contemplate suicide, and it is now rumored that he also battled bipolar disease. There is also speculation that he suffered from irritability brought on by chronic abdominal pain beginning in his 20’s attributed to lead poisoning that later resulted in his death.

Beethoven never married, but he was engaged to Giulietta Guiccardi, whose father was made thwarter of the lovers, and she joined in marriage to a noble man. Nevertheless, he had a close and devoted circle of friends all his life, thought to have been attracted by his reputed strength of personality. Towards the end of his life, Beethoven’s friends competed in their efforts to help him cope with his incapacities.

Completed in 1824, the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 “Choral” was the last complete symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven.  It incorporated part of An die Freude (“Ode to Joy”), a poem by Friedrich Schiller written in 1785.

In the first performance of Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Beethoven pounded out the beats he couldn’t hear (his hearing now completely gone). According to one witness, “the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them.” Beethoven was given five standing ovations – people waved handkerchiefs in the air and raised their hands and hats so Beethoven, who was now deaf, could see the response. Never before had the theater seen such an enthusiastic response from the audience. In the end, he truly conducted an “Ode to Joy,” which may be a tribute to his life. Though it was hard, frustrating, and sometimes overwhelming, his was a fulfilled life that would be celebrated, at least nightly, somewhere around the world to this day.

Join us this Friday, and Saturday, September 12th and 13th at Abravanel Hall to experience the same audience ovation as our own Keith Lockhart and the Utah Symphony Chorus praises Beethoven in performing with the Utah Symphony in Ode to Joy!

Utah Symphony presents “Ode to Joy”
September 12 – 13, 2008
Abravanel Hall
Learn More >>

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Company Picnic in the space to Deer Valley

Last weekend the Department heads of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera hosted a company picnic in Sugar house.  The food was fantastic, and the cooks were entertaining with costumes to boot to entertain the summer theme.  It was a nice break as we are still working hard to get the summer season at Deer Valley prepared and ready to go!  There was great socializing that ended in a water fight breaking apart the various conversations, and games of croquet that had begun.

Kirsten Brochinsky headed up a food drive as a competition between the company at Abravanel Hall and the Production Studios.  It was a race to the finish, and Kirsten even collected a few more items at the picnic itself but Production Studios had them beat by over one thousand ounces as the winners were announced after lunch.  The prizes were bubbles and small water guns for everyone at the winning building which were used in abundance during the water fight.  The afternoon was great fun!

Pictures can be found http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=23046&id=6381784924

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Concert for Autistic Children: Both Entertaining and Inspirational!

Last night I went to a special concert, FREE for children with Autism and their families, featuring the Utah Opera Ensemble Artists as they performed favorite Opera scenes with the Utah Symphony.  

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They had a light dinner right of snackables and chips right before the concert.  It was delightful to see the children flood in snatching up the brilliant idea of enclosed peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches.  There were smiles all around on the kids faces on the choice of catering.

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The concert was only 45 minutes, a perfect length for them AND me, consisting of upbeat songs in which the audience would burst out clapping along with the beat as well as highly entertaining opera numbers full of choreography and costumes!  Looking around I watched the children moving around to the music, dancing in the isles, and quite a few even leading the musicians from their own seats and doing quite a remarkable job!

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It was also quite impressive to see the Symphony performing on the set that is up for the current Opera, Don Giovanni. The stage is at a slant and so all the musicians were performing crooked, as it were, compared to a normal flat stage.  It was a beautiful set and ambiance for the whole concert.

A couple parents wrote of the concert:

Dear Ms. Fowler, Staff, Musicans, and Singers:

I just wanted to thank all of you for the free performance tonight for children with autism and their families.  This was a wonderful experience that we could have not enjoyed otherwise.  It was so comforting to be able to enjoy the performance with other families in our situation and not have to worry if our son moved around in his seat too much or talked to loudly.  My son, age 11, has always loved listen to classical music, but this was his first time actually seeing it performed.  The look on his face was priceless….even though he is non-verbal, his expression clearly said, “OH, that’s how they make this music”.  I saw so many children clapping and dancing to the music…..it was heartwarming.  So, thank you, thank you, thank you for giving these children (and their families) the opportunity to experience something fun and new.

Debbie Joplin
South Jordan, UT

I just wanted to thank you and everyone involved with the orginizing and perfect performance last night at Capitol Theatre. Me and my two kids had a wonderful time and from the way all those great kids around us were acting I could tell they were having fun as well. So THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!Trevor Saiz

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It is wonderful to be a part of an organization that provides children of all ages and their families such an opportunity to catch the fever of the Utah Opera or Utah Symphony when they might not be able to otherwise. 

To support programs like these or catch the fever of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera go to www.utahsymphonyopera.org

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Opera Preview; sneak peak to brilliance!

I went to the Opera preview this past week, and it was so much fun! They gave us a tour of the facilities and had old costumes out as well as costume and set designs for us to see as we walked around. It was really exciting to see it all up close! The food was great, but the highlight of the evening was the performances. The Opera apprentices performed selections from next years season and I lost myself as I listened to them! They have picked some brilliant shows, and as I am a new Opera lover it only seems to get more and more exciting as I am introduced to this new world. Next year is going to be one hit after another.

If you’re interested in season tickets for the 2008-2009 Utah Opera season, they’re on sale now and start at just $42: utahopera.org/subscriptions.

You can see pictures of the Opera Preview on Facebook here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=15801&page=1&id=6381784924

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