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Renowned orchestra conductor Michael Tilson Thomas has called his line of work a "hybrid profession" -- because a conductor is so much more than a person who leads musicians with the swing of a baton. A conductor also is "a coach, a trainer, an editor ... ."

All that applies to Donald Portnoy.

The maestro is stepping down as the Augusta Symphony's conductor and music director after 19 years of helping build one of the strongest regional symphonies in the South.

With his guidance, the symphony cultivated its successful pops series, and attracted top-rank performers both in its orchestral ranks and in such fronting acts as Don McLean and Three Dog Night.

Portnoy's final appearance in the symphony's Masterworks concert series will be at First Baptist Church at 7:30 p.m. today. Tickets still are available at the door, or through

In a community continuing to tap its rich artistic vein, Portnoy's outstanding work has been music to all our ears.

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