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RSO Goes Underground This Season

Al Wojtera, David Stewart Wiley, Julee Hickcox, John Smith.

As the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra prepares to open the 2010-2011 main works season on October 4, the long time cultural institution has a few new tricks up its sleeve.  The new “Symphony Underground” series will place RSO musicians in a variety of venues around town, at restaurants and the like, performing in more intimate settings, playing solo, as a duo, trio, etc.

Marketing director Rodney Overstreet says it’s all part of an effort to draw the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra closer to people in the valley, especially those who might not otherwise consider attending a performance. The RSO has done plenty of outreach before, but marketing director Rodney Overstreet calls Symphony Underground a “much more concentrated effort.”

The first installment in the Symphony Underground series takes place on Tuesday night, Sept. 14, at Kirk Avenue Music Hall. “Maestro on the Edge,” will feature flutist Julee Hickcox, violinist Shaleen Powell, bassist John Smith, drummer Al Wojtera, and music director David Stewart Wiley at the piano and keyboard. Overstreet says this ensemble has played together before.

The program on Sept. 14 includes a mix of arrangements from the music of J.S. Bach, George Gershwin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Scott Joplin, Harry Chapin, as well as Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Piano, and originals by Wiley. (see kirkavenuemusic or call 589-0546 for ticket information.) “We hope that the audience responds as much as we love [the thought of playing] there,” says Overstreet.

After that “Cocktails and Clef Notes,” on September 23 will feature the RSO at Metro! restaurant downtown, where they will play as patrons dine. “Certainly an element of the unexpected … will be played up,” said Overstreet. “It won’t be straight up classical music.”  For the most part RSO musicians “absolutely love,” the idea of something like the Underground series, according to Overstreet.

Metro! will feature RSO violinist Shaleen Powell on the 23rd. Look for other events downtown soon or in the Grandin Road area, about once a month, with themes like Gershwin and Gimlets, or Mozart and Manhattans. (Details soon at “Hopefully we’ll give listeners an opportunity to connect the dots with what we do all the time,” says Overstreet, “and make what we do relevant.”

By Gene Marrano
[email protected]

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