The orchestra will return to the familiar venues with a familiar name after a short rebranding effort as the Rock River Philharmonic.
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"The previous executive director had some really fantastic ideas of how to move the symphony forward, but what he didn’t understand was the community," said Edie Baran, who became the orchestra’s interim executive director in February.
"One of the first things we did when I joined the board was we went back to the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra," Baran said. "The name of the symphony now defines where it really came from."
And from what Baran hears, people are really pleased with the name change back to the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra.
Baran said the concerts will feature music that people of all ages should enjoy.
"It’s like having a buffet. I guarantee there’s going to be something for everybody at the concerts. I’m sure they’re all going to love everything, but not everyone will get into the electric violin," Baran said. "A lot of people have an image of the symphony being for older people, but we’re mixing it up and having music that would appeal to younger people. It’s a great way for them to get interested in a symphony. I’m very excited about the whole lineup for the program."
The orchestra will perform several well-known patriotic tunes such as "God Bless America," "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Stars and Stripes Forever" and the "1812 Overture." The concerts also will feature selections from American composers and musicals. The Beloit concert will be followed by a 40-minute fireworks display.
The orchestra also will perform the "Armed Forces Salute," which will include the theme songs from each branch of the U.S. military. Veterans will be asked to stand when the theme song from the branch that they served in is performed.
"I remember the first (Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra) I went to," Baran, said. "They did the ‘Armed Forces Salute,’ and I’ve never seen that before, and just how touching it was to see all these people stand up, it just brought tears to my eyes."
Guest artist for the concerts will be Susan Aquila, who will perform the "Bluegrass Festival Overture," Led Zeppelin’s "Kashmir" and an electric violin version of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Aquila has performed with several well-known artists including Paul McCartney, Elton John, Billy Joel and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
"She’s a classic violinist who has performed at the White House for three presidents, George Bush Sr. and George Bush Jr. and President (Bill) Clinton," said Robert Tomaro, music director. "Now, she’s making a name for herself as a rock star. She plays both the acoustic violin and the electric violin, which is kind of like the electric guitar."
The orchestra has been planning for the Independence Day concerts since March, selecting the music arrangement, contacting performers and selecting the musicians.
"This is the first year I’ve been involved with (planning the concert)," Baran said. "I’m just amazed at all the work and the organization of it and the people we need to help make it happen."
There is no cost to attend the concerts, but donations will be accepted.
"It’s BJSO’s gift to Rock County," Baran said. "We put a lot of money and effort into producing this concert. If you’ve never seen a symphony concert, this is the best time to come. It’s just so much fun."
A community effort
Tomaro has been the orchestra’s music director for about 17 years.
"It’s a dream come true. I began studying conducting when I was in college. When you study conducting, you dream of having a symphony orchestra and being able to mold it and develop the sound and having the community proud of it," Tomaro said. "Conducting a piece of music you love and bringing it to life is gratifying and a thrill for a conductor."
Tomaro said the number of members that are selected for each concert depends on the type of arrangements that will be performed. He said a typical concert requires between 50 and 60 musicians.
Auditions for the orchestra are held in spring and fall. Tomaro said people of all ages audition each year.
"Auditions are open to anybody. We have people who work full-time jobs who played an instrument in high school and college and they want to get back into it again, so they audition for a seat in the orchestra," Tomaro said. "We have full-time professional musicians who make their living playing with various ensembles throughout the area. In the future, we plan to do something that we’ve done in the past, which is called a side-by-side concert in which young musicians are mentored by professional musicians."
Tomaro said he looks for musicians who are able to match the orchestra’s sound.
"I’m looking for a certain level of performance ability for an instrument," he said. "I’m looking for a certain sound. An orchestra kind of develops a personality for sound. We’ve developed a certain sound and a certain tone, so I’m looking for that."
A stage manager, production manager, personnel manager, board of directors and volunteers all are needed behind the scenes.
"It’s amazing how much stuff has to go on backstage to pull this together," Baran said. "We’re always interested in having volunteers if anyone is interested. It could be anything like filing things in the office or helping set up a rehearsal. It takes a lot to set up 58 chairs and music stands, little things like that, that I never thought of before."
The Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra is a nonprofit organization and receives its funding from donations, ticket sales, grants, fundraisers and sponsors. Baran said it costs about $10,000 to put on a concert.
For more information about the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra, call 608-931-5705.
July 3, 2016: 6:30 p.m., Independence Day concert, Courthouse Park, Janesville
July 4, 2016: 7:30 p.m., Independence Day concert, Riverside Park, Beloit (Rain location in Telfer Arena)
Oct. 29, 2016: 7:30 p.m., “A Wild Ride in the Night” Halloween concert, Eaton Chapel located on the Beloit College campus.
Nov. 20, 2016: 2 p.m. “Dancing With the Stars” fundraiser, Janesville Performing Arts Center
Dec. 22, 2016: 7:30 p.m., “Ring in the Holidays” concert with the Badger Chordhawks Chorus, Janesville Performing Arts Center
March 17, 2017: 7:30 p.m. “March Madness With the Rock Goddess of the Electric Violin” concert, featuring Susan Aquila and Matthew Hollingsworth, Eaton Chapel.
May 12, 2017: 7:30 p.m., “A Visit to the Carnival of the Animals” concert, Janesville Performing Arts Center. A matinee performance for children will be held at 1 p.m.