By Samantha Pidde Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — For 60 years, area musicians have been gathering together in the Clinton Symphony Orchestra.
“We have always sought to be a community orchestra in every respect — community musicians performing in our local communities. We think the programming and the quality of performance continues to improve, but the concept remains the same,” Executive Director Bob Whipple said.
Whipple first began playing with the orchestra in 1973, after moving to the area. He enjoys performing for his friends, neighbors and community members. While the orchestra typically hires a local professional music director and conductor, some of Whipple’s best memories have been the occasions where he has been asked to fill in.
Founded in 1954, the symphony orchestra was the dream of Lowell Adams, the Clinton High School orchestra director. It also was a project of the Clinton Junior Women’s Club and the first rehearsal was held in January 1954.
In April 1954, the orchestra held its first performance at Washington School, with violinist William Henigbaum preforming a solo. According to a brief history, provided by Whipple, Henigbaum became the orchestra’s director after Adams left the next year and held that post for 24 seasons. Other conductors have included Dan Culver (1974 to 1979), Rayburn Pierce (1980 to 1981 and 1985 to 1989), Nicholas Palmer (1989 to 1996), Steven Zike (1997 to 2006) and Brian Dollinger (2007 to present.)
Whipple and Robert Engelson, who joined the symphony board in 2000 and served as board president from 2002 to 2008, agreed that the orchestra has experienced periods of hardships. At the end of the 1999-2000 season, the board was forced to cancel the final concert because there was not enough money to pay the musicians.
Whipple said the administration collapsed at that time and voted to disband the orchestra, only to have the musicians protest and reorganize.
“Orchestra members rose to the occasion and put together a concert of chamber music at their own expense, thereby salvaging the season,” Engelson said.
Engelsen has enjoyed his fellow board members, who he described as “a dedicated group of volunteers who provide leadership and support year in and year out to make the orchestra a success.”
“The organization has survived 60 years because of the vision and persistence of musicians, the good management of members of the board of directors, and the enthusiastic support of the public,” Whipple said. “All of them see the advantage of active arts here in our community.”
In celebration of 60 years, the symphony orchestra will hold a dinner/social event at 5 p.m. April 5 at Rastrelli’s Tuscany Room. The annual concert will then begin at 7:30 p.m. at Vernon Cook Theater at the Clinton High School, featuring the “Symphony No. 4” by famed Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky. Ticket prices are $15 for adults and $5 for students.
For more information on the Clinton Symphony Orchestra, visit www.clintonsymphony.org.