The following ran in the “My View” column in the August 31, 2017 edition of the Alexandria Times:
Alexandrians are accustomed to the transient nature of our town. Neighbors come and go, restaurants open and close, and friends who work in politics, foreign service or the armed forces find a temporary home here for a few years before moving on to their next assignments. Perhaps that’s why those of us who have lived here for decades or more have a special appreciation for institutions that have stood the test of time and continue to contribute to the quality of life in our city.
One of those is the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, which will embark upon its 74th season in September. When it began in 1943, the ASO was made up of a dedicated group of around 40 amateur musicians. In the ‘60s, Dr. George Steiner, a local music professor, began a subscription series of concerts in the original T.C. Williams High School auditorium. Maestro Emeritus Kim Kluge took over the conducting duties in the late ‘80s, and during Kluge’s 27-year tenure, the ASO became a fully-professional orchestra performing concerts at both the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall on the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College and the George Washington Masonic Memorial.
For more than 30 years, the Symphony Orchestra League of Alexandria (SOLA) has not only hosted annual fundraising events and provided key volunteer support for the ASO but has also sponsored the annual Mary Graham Lasley Scholarship Competition for college and graduate school student musicians.
Today, the ASO’s concert roster includes some of the most talented professional musicians in the region, drawing heavily from the various military bands and ensembles based nearby. Very few cities of Alexandria’s size have a symphony orchestra as accomplished as the ASO—and too few Alexandrians are aware of this gem in their midst.
Sure, within seconds your phone can play a recording of Leonard Bernstein conducting Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, but the chest-pounding excitement from a live orchestral performance is unmatched by anything you’ll hear on Spotify. With affordable ticket prices, family-friendly $5 youth tickets and free parking, ASO patrons can enjoy live performances just minutes away from home for less than the cost of parking your car at the Kennedy Center.
If you are unfamiliar with the ASO, this will be a particularly timely season to check it out. Each concert weekend will feature one of the four finalists to be the next music director and conductor of the ASO. These four—Michael Rossi (September 23-24), James Ross (October 21-22), José-Luis Novo (February 10-11) and Nicholas Hersh (April 7-8)—were chosen from more than 170 candidates from around the world. There will be several ways for subscribers and single-ticket patrons to rate and review the candidates, and this input will be helpful to the ASO Board of Trustees as it selects the person to lead our home-town orchestra into its 75th anniversary season. The selection will be announced in May. Come be a part of the next chapter in the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s proud history!