By Deena Bess Sherman
Fox Valley Orchestra Is Staging A Comeback
Longtime Fox Valley residents may remember the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, which brought music to our area for decades before disbanding in 2001. Happily, the music is back, though the name has changed to simply “Fox Valley Orchestra.”
I recently spoke on the phone with Jonathan Hauser, who is not only a French horn player in the orchestra, but is also the president of its new board. Hauser was thrilled to tell me about two recent grants the orchestra had received: one from the Dunham Fund, to help with equipment such as chairs and music stands, as well as publicity; another from the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley, which will help with capital expenditures, including percussion instruments.
Hauser said subscriptions began to dry up after Sept. 11, 2001, but as the economy turns around, patrons are enthusiastically back, grants have become available, and the city of Aurora (particularly Mayor Tom Weisner) has also been very supportive. The orchestra regrouped in 2010 under the direction of Dr. Colin Holman, who had been the last director of the group back in 2001.
Tom Bajek, who played violin in the group’s earlier incarnation, is pleased to be playing under Holman again.
Bajek told me when he was invited to audition for the newly created Fox Valley Orchestra and learned that Holman would be the music director and conductor, he was eager to join.
“Colin has attracted like-minded musicians who are passionate about their performances and working together,” Bajek said. “I am pleased to be a part of the new orchestra and am looking forward to its future growth.”
There are about 50 members of the orchestra, only about 40 percent of whom receive some compensation, but all play very much at a professional level, and Hauser said they hope to eventually build the group to about 75 paid members.
This orchestra is an asset to our community, not only as a source of excellent music, but also as a collaborative partner with other groups and musical ambassador to our youth. Hauser told me about a couple of interesting events. First, at a fundraising concert in January, where they also collected food donations for the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry, the orchestra offered an “instrument petting zoo” for children, allowing them to handle and play the instruments. When I thought about that for a moment, I realized how important that introduction can be for children.
My daughters play instruments that my husband and I once played, probably because those were the only ones to which they were properly introduced, so early exposure to various instruments is important in creating future musicians. At that event they also let people try their hands at conducting. The food collection and “petting zoo” are features they plan to continue at future concerts.
Another interesting event, slated for spring, is a collaborative concert with Aurora University’s choir, under the direction of Lisa Fredenburgh. Hauser noted that Fredenburgh “is a very energetic, skilled and motivating director, and we are delighted that she has agreed to be the chorusmaster for the newly created Fox Valley Orchestra Chorus.”
When I asked Fredenburgh about the concert, she said, “We are excited to share audiences and performers to create a true integration of community and university. The performances elegantly serve the mission of both institutions.” Look for that concert in April.
In the more immediate future, you can hear the Fox Valley Orchestra on March 10 at the Norris Cultural Arts Center in St. Charles or on March 11 at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on Edgelawn Drive in Aurora. If you’d like to learn more, the orchestra’s website is www.foxvalleyorchestra.org.
Hearty thanks to the Dunham Fund and Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley for supporting this worthy group with generous grants. I’m looking forward to the coming concerts as someone who loves local music as well as collaboration among artists. These are exactly the sort of things that make the Fox Valley a special place to live.