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Music Bridges Cultural Gaps For Sister Cities

Feb 27, 2015 02:20PM, Published by Shawna Meyer, Categories: Today, News, Arts+Entertainment


Three members of the American West Symphony of Sandy took part in the Conductors Exchange program with Riesa, Germany.



A delegation of three from Sandy’s American West Symphony recently journeyed to Riesa, Germany to participate in a conductors exchange program with the Elbland Philharmonie Sachsen. This fall, the program will bring delegates from Germany to Sandy.

“I can’t tell you what an extremely rich experience this has been. Not only from the musical point of view, but also the whole culture thing,” American West Symphony Board Chair Charlotte Jordan said.

The Elbland Philharmonie Sachsen is a large, professional orchestra with about 84 musicians. In comparison, the American West Symphony of Sandy has about 70 people, who are all volunteers. They are in their 27th season.

The idea for the conductors exchange was spawned by the cultural exchanges sponsored by the Sister Cities International program, which was founded by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. This nonprofit program aims to advance peace through cultural and educational exchanges between countries.

The Sister Cities International exchange began in 2002 during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Then, in 2012, Mayor Tom Dolan accepted a proposal to celebrate the program’s 10th anniversary by sending musicians over to Riesa to perform in a new setting and learn about a new culture.

“All the big names in classical music—all the composers—lived in or around the Riesa area . . . It’s so musical and has a rich tradition,” Jordan said.

Due to budget restraints, Sandy City couldn’t afford to send the entire orchestra, which is how the Conductors Exchange was set up. Instead, conductor Joel Rosenberg, composer Kelly Richardson and Jordan travelled to Riesa and stayed with host families.

During their 10-day trip, they rehearsed with the Elbland orchestra to prepare for four shows. Rosenberg is not only the conductor for the group; he also plays the viola. In Riesa, he conducted  three symphonic concerts and played in the chamber concert.

“We were exhausted when it was over because it was so much work,” Jordan said. “[Rosenberg] taught them lots of things to do with the strings section, and they were very grateful for that.”

The concerts in Riesa were very well received by the German public.

“You only see [audience receptions like this] in movies. We were just standing in awe. It started with rhythmic clapping, then stamping of the feet and a standing ovation at the end. It was the most incredible experience in my life,” Jordan said.

This fall, a delegation of four from the Elbland Philharmonie Sachsen will come to Utah to conduct the American West Symphony of Sandy in three concerts. Four people are confirmed for the trip so far: Chief Music Director Christian Voss, Director Susanne Voigt, musician Joerg Richter and Mayor Arndt Steinbach.

“Music is a universal language—everyone can communicate with music,” Jordan said. “What I enjoyed so much is that we are so passionate about what we’re doing, and to meet with people who are as passionate as you are about the arts and music . . . that made the experience so great.”

The symphony will play three concerts with these international guests. On Oct. 15, they will perform at 7:30 p.m. at the Concert Assembly Hall. On Oct. 16, there will be a show at 8 p.m. at the theater at Mount Jordan Middle School. Their last show will be on Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Libby Gardner Concert Hall.    


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