A Sound Experience

by Liltera Williams
The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1949, is a driving musical force on Florida’s First Coast. In its many years of existence, the JSO has reached numerous milestones and has also established an excellent sense of quality and precision. Ranked among the nation’s top 30-40 orchestras, The JSO has formulated a principal standard of success. The prevalence of The JSO’s historic accomplishments has been marked with performances by notable names such as Kathleen Battle, Arthur Fiedler, Ray Charles, Marilyn Horne, Luciano Pavarotti and Benny Goodman. However, what makes The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra stand out amongst its competitors is its ability to adapt to modern practices while continuing to uphold its community’s needs.
The JSO has formulated a plan of expansion by taking advantage of social media outlets as well as boosting the emphasis on local advertising, all while increasing its focus on the community that has been the reason for many of its achievements. The vision for the season ahead includes enhancing after-school educational programs including Jump Start Strings, Instrument Zoo, Prelude Concerts, Young People’s Concerts and In-school Ensemble Visits. JSO’s leads the way with ongoing efforts that encourages developing the comprehensive Jacksonville Youth Orchestra-comprised of more than 200 students in six ensemble levels. They are planning more community concerts and implementing a new ticketing system for the new seaon. The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra has also created a new Friday Fusion series, an assortment of culture themed evenings including French, German, Italian and Latin inspired musical events with a variety of foods from the evening’s featured country.
Recognizing its competition amidst the plethora of growing forms of entertainment, The JSO has developed new ways to guarantee a worthwhile investment of its audience’s time and energy. With a logo change to promote the new J Sym brand campaign, the Orchestra is also looking to advance its theme of pureness, a clear and true example of timeless music that speaks for itself through the essence of live, symphonic sound.
Perhaps one of the biggest elements of the Orchestra’s desire to present a fresh season mixed with old ideals is the return of Michael Butterman who served as associate conductor from 2000-2007. Butterman now serves as resident conductor, a position he says is not as extensive as his former position, which required him to oversee the educational phase, attend all rehearsals and watch the musical scores. When on the podium, he sees himself as a facilitator who listens to the musicians, letting the interpretation develop while helping them to adapt to formal gestures and cues used during live performances. Butterman defines his conducting style as, “not too wild or aggressive, but reserved and clear.”
Michael Butterman is also currently serving as music director of the Boulder Philharmonic in Colorado as well as the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra in Louisiana and as principal conductor for education and outreach for the Rochester Philharmonic in New York. He juggles his responsibility in each role quite well, spending most of his free time doing interviews, planning programs, budgeting, advising marketing, promoting the orchestras and being a dad.
To some, a conductor’s job may seem quite simple, but Butterman dispels that thought. He describes conducting as “an act of subtle communication, a basic yet very individualized technique you spend your entire life learning.” When asked to explain the feeling he gets while conducting, he describes its as, “riding on top of something powerful, somewhat like a wave. In performance, I try to do less analytical thinking and allow myself to become swept up in the emotion of the music.” Butterman will conduct various concerts this season, including Beethoven’s Eroica, German Fusion, Handel’s Messiah and First Coast Nutcracker.
The upcoming 2009-2010 season will be a celebration of anniversaries, highlighting the Orchestra’s 60 years of history. This season’s conductors include: Fabio Mechetti-10th season as music director and principal conductor, Michael Krajewski-15th season as principal pops conductor, Jon Carlson-leading the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus, now in its 25th season and Scott Gregg-15th season as music director and principal conductor of The Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra. The actual 60th Anniversary concert celebration will take place on January 9, 2010 featuring violin virtuoso, Itzhak Perlman.
The majority of The JSO performances will take place at the Jacoby Symphony Hall, at the Times-Union Center, with other concerts occurring around the First Coast community . The Jacoby Symphony Hall, built in 1997, is considered one of the country’s most superior concert halls because it provides a resonance that the audience can feel during the live experience. Fans of The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra have a lot to look forward to this season. Incorrect perceptions and preconceived notions are sure to be shattered. According to The JSO’s new campaign, anyone can be moved and feel welcomed, no matter what genre they prefer.