When volunteers for WNED-TV’s production Our Town: Amherst were asked to share their stories about what makes their community a special place to live, Joan Fishburn was excited to express her pride and involvement with the Amherst Symphony Orchestra.
“I have been a member of the Amherst Symphony Orchestra for 52 years,” said Fishburn. “Many people do not know that there is an orchestra, so I am introducing the community to the Amherst Symphony Orchestra in its 66th season.”
Dr. Joseph Wincenc started the orchestra as a community education project at the Amherst High School in 1964. He served as the conductor for the first 50 years retiring from the podium in 1996. Steven Thomas has lead the Amherst Symphony Orchestra for the past 15 years. Thomas is also the Concertmaster of Broadway productions at Shea's Buffalo Performing Arts Center and performs with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
“When you have a volunteer orchestra and you’re not paying them to come to rehearsals or to concerts,” Fishburn explains, “they need to be inspired by having music that they love to play.”
The orchestra has five to six rehearsals prior to each concert. Performances take place at the Amherst Middle School. This is the largest auditorium in Amherst and holds approximately 1,375 people. There are four scheduled performances each year in October, December, February, and April. They also perform an outdoor concert at the Amherst Museum.
“The Amherst Symphony Orchestra is a full-size symphony orchestra,” said Fishburn. “We have guest artists that always have connection to the community.”
The October concert featured David Kim, the concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra and a graduate of Williamsville North High School. “The accompaniment to someone who is so gifted elevated all of us and excited us to play our best.”
The Orchestra does not charge admission, but offers the experience to the community with the hope that children and young families seize the opportunity to learn more about a symphony orchestra. To further this goal, they also offer outreach programs to schools.
JoAnn Falletta, Music Director of Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra said, “The Amherst Symphony Orchestra is not just a concert, it’s an event.” “And that’s really what we are,” shares Fishburn.
The Amherst Symphony Orchestra is just one segment of WNED-TV’s upcoming program, “OUR TOWN: AMHERST” which debuts on April 15 at 5 p.m. This video scrapbook of the people, places and happenings that make Amherst special was created by community resident volunteers working with WNED to put their town in the public television spotlight. Don’t miss it!