Symphony's new face

For only the third time in more than 50 years, the Augusta Symphony -- recently renamed Symphony Orchestra Augusta -- appeared with a new conductor at the podium.


Shizuo Z Kuwahara, known as Z, opened his inaugural concert with a performance of John Williams' Sound the Bells! , followed by German composer Paul Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber and Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 3 op. 44, A minor .

Katie and Allan Weiser of Martinez have been symphony season ticket holders for seven years. Mrs. Weiser said although she is very familiar with the ensemble, Mr. Kuwahara marked a real change for the organization.

"He has a lot of energy and passion," she said. "He has a conducting style you don't see very often."

Mr. Weiser said it was that kind of enthusiasm that will aid ailing arts organizations.

"I love the energy," he said. "We go to the opera also. Little by little young people have started coming."

Mr. Kuwahara's debut attracted some new faces.

Augusta resident Nicole Swanson was enthused enough to bring her young daughters to the performance, and Michael and Holly Landes of Augusta had bought season tickets.

Mr. Landes said they had supported their local symphony while living in Baton Rouge, La., but were attracted to Symphony Orchestra Augusta by more than an appreciation for music.

"It's the changes, the energy," Mr. Landes said. "It's really been something."

Though the concert had not yet drawn to a close, Mr. Landes said his first impressions were favorable.

"We're not really aficionados," he said with a laugh. "But it sounds great."

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