While rain may have dampened some local Fourth of July celebrations this past summer, this was not the case for the approximately 200 concertgoers attending an American Celebration performed by the Portsmouth Wind Symphony (PWS) at Tracy Park in downtown Portsmouth, Ohio. This stirring patriotic concert, which opened with “The Star Spangled Banner,” featured the school song from each of the Scioto high schools and peaked with John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” had something for everyone, including performances by singer Steve Free and the 50-member Portsmouth Civic Chorale.
The concert brought people together. The music caused hands to clap and toes to tap. Hearts surged with pride. It was good to be there, especially for the members of the PWS, who were making their premiere performance as an ensemble, opening the 21st edition of the symphony concert season.
Founded in April 2013 as a continuation of the original Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra and Portsmouth Community Orchestra, PWS is composed of 54 woodwind, brass, and percussion musicians from in-and-around Scioto County. Its membership includes accomplished professional, recreational, university and high school musicians and “everything in between.” All have one thing in common – a love of music.
Just ask Chris Murphy, a retired Army veteran currently employed by the City of Portsmouth or Whitney Wright, a senior at Valley High School. Murphy has been a member of the Portsmouth symphony groups for eight years. He was invited to a rehearsal, joined, and discovered pleasure in being part of such a dedicated group. He also finds the additional benefit of stress relief as he focuses energy and emotion into his music. Joining the group also “justified selling my old sax and buying a new one,” he added with a smile.
Wright, a flutist, enjoys improving her musicality but sees additional value as self-discipline, patience, and confidence carry over into her everyday life. Most importantly, she has learned, “If I want to excel at something, I must practice.” Both agree that the musicians in the PWS have a passion for music, work hard, and want to provide good quality concerts.
This sentiment is shared by the new PWS director/conductor Lee Auer. Auer’s goal for PWS is to provide family concert music that will be familiar and entertaining to area residents and also inspire musicians to become active in performing.
Auer is no stranger to directing and performing. He is in his seventh year directing Valley High School’s band. He also teaches instrumental music there and at Valley Junior High. He spent five years at Ohio State (OSU) and was a member of its marching and symphonic bands. He attributes his interest in pursuing a music career to the inspiration he received from OSU professor Richard Blatti; his Licking Heights High School band director, Tom Shook; and his trombone teacher, Doug Moran. And, let’s not forget his biggest supporter. “Thanks, Mom, for forcing me to do it,” he added jokingly.
Above all, Auer believes that a true appreciation of the arts should be non-threatening and open to all. He is hoping to begin teaching a large instrumental ensemble course at Shawnee State University which not only would offer college credit, but also would provide a free class for those age 60 and older who have an interest in instrumental band music.
Much like his educational offerings, Auer’s concert offerings also include something for young and old alike. Four main concerts are planned for the upcoming season along with other special community performances. “We want people to understand that the Portsmouth Wind Symphony is a grassroots, hometown organization of topnotch community members coming together to bring the gift of music to southern Ohio,” said James Busse, recently elected PWS Board president.
“It’s gratifying to see the amount of dedication and professionalism from members at all levels of the organization as they bring music to life for the area.”
For more information regarding the new Portsmouth Wind Symphony, including a schedule of events, how to buy tickets or how to donate, visit http://www.portsmouthwindsymphony.com, on Facebook or by phone at (740) 351-3600.
Photos by Ashley G. Quinn