Symphony director gets feel for audience

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In looking back at his first year as musical director of Symphony Orchestra Augusta, Shizuo Z Kuwahara finds he has a lot to look forward to.

Shizuo Z Kuwahara made his debut as conductor of Symphony Orchestra Augusta in October.   File/Staff
File/Staff
Shizuo Z Kuwahara made his debut as conductor of Symphony Orchestra Augusta in October.

Kuwahara, who wraps his first season with a free outdoor pops concert on Saturday, admits that his first year with the organization was about finding his feet at programming a season and conducting the orchestra.

"There have been a lot of surprises," he said. "I discovered, very quickly, that I had to get a feel for the audience and community. I mean, before coming here, everything I knew about Augusta came from the Internet."

What Kuwahara found was an organization with an established and vested audience that needed to be expanded and a community in the process of transforming itself. The orchestra, he felt, could play an active role in both.

"But one year is not enough," he said. "I see Augusta as a city that I want to help develop and grow. But I am still an outsider, an observer. I feel like it will be at least three to five years before I can feel like I'm really ready to be a part of this city."

His role, he said, will certainly be musical. He said he's beginning to understand how the orchestra can operate as a conduit for civic pride and growth.

He said finding a way to attract and engage previously untapped audiences will be essential. He's already developing plans for staging orchestral and chamber music in nontraditional settings, and is encouraged by the level of interest and engagement of the symphony's current patrons.

"I found that when I was criticized this year, it was for very specific reasons," he said.

"I find that very encouraging. It means people are listening and that people who come to these concerts really appreciate music."

He said he was pleased to see the way the audience responded to pieces that have not traditionally been part of the symphony repertoire.

"I was surprised and pleased to discover that both very new music and very old music was taken to very well."

He said the response encouraged him to program a few interesting, and perhaps challenging, pieces next season.

Moving forward, Kuwahara said he hopes people learn to pay less attention to the orchestra. The group, the musicians, he explained, should just be the conduit. The important parts of performance are the music and audience and that's what he wants to concentrate on.

"That has already started," he said. "We no longer even mention the orchestra in our mission statement. I mean, really, there's no doubt that this is an orchestra. I am up there conducting after all. But we don't want to put walls around what we do."

In concert

WHAT: Symphony Orchestra Augusta Pops! Under the Stars

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: University Health Care, 447 N. Belair Road, Evans

COST: Free

Comments (7) Add comment
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3M3T1B
9
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3M3T1B 05/08/10 - 01:33 am
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If the musicians are not an

If the musicians are not an important part of the performance why not just put a CD player on stage? Mr Kuwahara, your statements in this regard are extremely foolish. The fact that you are "up there conducting after all." does not an orchestra make. Mr Kuwahara take a step back from your arrogance for you, sir, do not exist without the musicians. I am sure the they will accept your public apology for disparaging their importance.

ColumbiaCountyOrchestraA
24
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ColumbiaCountyOrchestraA 05/10/10 - 10:02 am
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For the Columbia County

For the Columbia County Orchestra Association, our philosophy for the orechestral music experience is: "to promote the musical arts and foster music appreciation, while also providing an outlet for musicians to express their musical talents". This is consistent philosophy of Harry Jacobs, founder of the Augusta Symphony. Whether it is our Columbia County Civic Orchestra, Columbia County Youth Orchestra, or our professional CCOA Recital series, that is what we do.

As a boy growing up in Washington, D.C., the National Symphony Orchestra came to my elementary school cafeteria to play "Peter and the Wolf". As students, we were drawn into the orchestral experience. The vision of the National Symphony to come to our school, led me down the path of music that I now pursue with all of the groups of the Columbia County Orchestra Association. The orchestra for the students, the audience, and the players is central to what we do. Without the orchestra in our organization, there would be no musical experience. My conducting is only as a guide in a musical direction. Hopefully, the musicians and audience will follow and together enjoy music.

Music changes lives. But the orchestral experience is unlike any other experience. There is plenty of music to experience in the CSRA. The listeners need to experience all that they can and form their own opinions.

Music, for us, requires: prepared musicians who love creating music playing skillfully together, an audience who wants to have a fulfilling musical experience, and a common passion to experience "live" music together.

Sincerely,
Rob Nordan
Music Director
Columbia County Orchestra Association
www.columbiacco.org

maddhatter
0
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maddhatter 05/10/10 - 10:19 pm
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If not for the orchestra

If not for the orchestra members, then the expression of the music would be lost! In an orchestra, the members give the music its character. Listening to the music is one thing, but seeing the expressions of the players, pouring everything they have into their instruments to create and transform the notes on the page to the sweet sounds permeating though the ear is something that can only be experienced by watching and orchestra perform. When I go to a concert, I want to become lost in the visual as well as the auditory sensation. A live concert is just that, an artistically put together creation of sound and visualization. There is nothing better to witness than a musician really getting into their work. What would Jazz be if you could not experience the visualization of the performer? The emotive feelings in Blues only come alive when the audience witnesses both the music, and the performer. For Kuwahara to say that he hopes people learn to pay less attention to the orchestra shows his lack of connection to what a live performance truly is. And if he really felt that way, why does he conduct the way that he does? To be flamboyant is to give energy to the musicians who in turn put energy to the music. If people shouldn’t pay attention to them, then start merely conducting in a basic 4-4/3-4 pattern and then see how the music sounds. If your ego needs to be seen, then I am sure the musicians would love a little shine of their own. Do not be arrogant but remember that it is the musician that plays the music that sells the tickets, that gets the crowds coming back again and again.

Sincerely,
Scott Richardson
Band Director, musician

Shizuo Z Kuwahara
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Shizuo Z Kuwahara 05/22/14 - 06:25 pm
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musiclover13
0
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musiclover13 05/24/10 - 09:38 pm
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The orchestra isn't important

The orchestra isn't important and just a conduit??? Really?? Last time I checked, you can't have orchestra music without an orchestra. That is just a completely absurd statement, Mr. Kuwahara...and as a musician, it's rather offending.

ColumbiaCountyOrchestraA
24
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ColumbiaCountyOrchestraA 05/27/10 - 07:06 pm
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The orchestra is central to

The orchestra is central to the orchestral experience. musiclover13, keep demanding that the musicians are central. The conductor is the conduit.
Rob Nordan
Music Director
Columbia County Orchestra Association
www.columbiacco.org

ColumbiaCountyOrchestraA
24
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ColumbiaCountyOrchestraA 05/27/10 - 08:28 pm
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Let me re-phrase... The

Let me re-phrase...
The conductor is the facilitator.
The orchestra is the channel.
The room is the conduit.
The sights and sound are the experience.
The printed music is the blue print.
The composer is the revealer.
And the listener (audience) is the receptor.

All of this makes up music.

Rob Nordan
Music Director
Columbia County Orchestra Association
www.columbiacco.org

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