Re-energized Symphony of the Kootenays forges ahead

New conductor Jeff Faragher signs on; plans for youth orchestra in the works

Jeff Faragher

A gem in the cultural mosaic of the region is starting a new chapter, one that its new board president promises to be bigger and better than ever.

The Symphony of the Kootenays held its annual general meeting Tuesday evening at Christ Church Anglican — with its largest attendance in its 37-year history — where exciting new changes were outlined.

Over the past four months, an interim board of directors — now the official board since the AGM — has been working to get the Symphony back on its feet, and to develop a plan to re-energize audiences and musicians.

“We got our financial and administrative house in order over that four-month period,” said Board President Steen Jorgensen. “Over that time, we had to put together a two-year sustainability plan, which is now in place. All debts have been paid, and we are marginally in the black.

“And for the first time we have a home, thanks to the generosity of the Cranbrook and District Arts Council.”

The Symphony’s new offices are at 104-135 10th Ave. South in Cranbrook (on the corner of 10th Ave. and 2nd Street South).

“We went back and researched what worked and what didn’t work for the Symphony,” Jorgensen said.

“And we reached out to other symphonies and arts organizations for ideas, both in Canada and the U.S. — in particular those that have gone through the same difficulties we were going through.

“From all that, we have put together a plan that will bring the Symphony back bigger and better than ever.”

Jorgensen said the Symphony will be taking the 2012/13 season off, to consolidate and develop new programming and marketing initiatives.

“Our approach is going to be an ‘audience first’ philosophy.”

The Symphony, in fact, has just concluded an audience survey.

“We anticipated some of the answers,” Jorgensen said of the survey. “But there are many things they shared with us that we will use in our programming and communications efforts.”

One of the Symphony’s mandates is an outreach and education program, through schools, colleges and organizations, “to introduce residents — young people, in particular — to some of the greatest music ever written.”

The Symphony also intends to establish an affiliated youth orchestra over the next two years.

“There are more than 300 young musicians in our area — on strings or piano — who once they’ve reached a certain level in private instruction have no avenue by which to proceed to an orchestral setting,” Jorgensen said. He added that the response to the plan from stakeholders — music teachers, educators and professional musicians in the area — has been overwhelming.

Board member Patrick Heatherley is spearheading the establishment of the youth orchestra, Jorgensen said.

Perhaps the most dramatic change is the appointment — effective immediately — of Jeff Faraghar of Nelson as Music and Artistic Director. Faragher is taking over from Bruce Dunn, who served with the Symphony as conductor for the past 11 years.

“Because we have this local initiative, it was imperative we have a local conductor who is regularly available,” Jorgensen said. “Bruce Dunn has been a rock for the Symphony over the past 11 years. He supports our new vision and endorses Jeff as the new Music and Artistic Director.”

Jorgensen said when time and circumstances permit, Dunn will appear with the Symphony as guest conductor.

Jorgensen described the Symphony as the “gem in the cultural mosaic” of the region.

“We are the smallest community in B.C. to host a symphony. We are the second smallest community in Canada, and one of the smallest in North America. And our membership rolls are rising every day.”

To become a member of the Symphony of the Kootenays society, email sjorgensen@myflexi.net, or symphonyofthekootenays@shaw.ca or call 250-417-0935.