Donald Portnoy has guest conducted in Argentina, China, England, Germany, Poland, South Korea, Italy and Romania. But it was the audience in Aiken that captured him. He said the orchestra audience in Aiken so impressed him that he thought, “This city should have its own orchestra.” Through the efforts of Portnoy, Thomas Hofstetter and the Aiken Symphony Guild, Aiken finally will have just that. Tickets are now on sale to the Aiken Symphony Orchestra’s first season, which will begin in September. The performances are as follows:
• “Paremski Plays Tchaikovsky” featuring pianist Natasha Paremski: Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m.; USC Aiken’s Etherredge Center, 471 University Parkway
• “Viva España!” featuring the Beijing Guitar Duo: Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m.; Etherredge Center
•Beethoven, Beethoven, Beethoven!:” featuring violinist Vadim Gluzman: Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m.; Aiken’s First Baptist Church, 120 Chesterfield St. N.E.
“These are three fantastic artists that we are bringing to Aiken,” Portnoy said.
The Aiken Symphony Guild will act as the “principal presenting organization during the start-up phase and the first season of the orchestra,” Hofstetter said.
“We are a presenting group, so we pick who we are going to present,” said Em Ligon, Aiken Symphony Guild co-president. “This year, because of the formation of this new orchestra, we have chosen them to be the group we are presenting. ... Anything it costs to put that orchestra on stage is ours.” Portnoy and Hofstetter presented opera singer Frederica von Stade’s farewell concert to Aiken in 2011; the Orchestra of the Midlands was formed for the concert. That same orchestra is helping to make up the Aiken Symphony Orchestra, said Hofstetter, who is the chairman of the orchestra’s organization committee. “These are some of the finest players, (who are) the most professional ... and highest quality,” Portnoy said. Auditions for musicians will be held in Aiken; dates to be determined. Portnoy is the orchestra’s conductor and, among other responsibilities, will oversee the “recruitment and appointment of professional symphony orchestra musicians,” Hofstetter said. Portnoy’s connections helped the orchestra obtain the season’s featured artists. For example, the seasoned conductor has worked with Gluzman numerous times. “Aiken is being offered a proven and professional symphony orchestra, a world-respected conductor, the ability to draw world-class soloists, and all of the many advantages the orchestra will afford to the quality of life of its citizens,” Hofstetter said.
Season tickets can be purchased for $105 until July 15 and for $120 starting July 16. Starting Aug. 1, individual tickets, which will be available for $40, can be reserved through the Etherredge Center box office’s website. To order tickets early, attendees should download a form atwww.aikensymphonyguild.org and mail it to the Etherredge Center’s box office, 471 University Parkway. Preferred seating is offered to season ticket holders, and applicable fees will apply, Ligon said. For more information, visit www.aikensymphonyguild.org or call 803-648-0364 or 803-641-3305.
**Original Story by Stephanie Turner and published in The Aiken Standard**