What may seem effortless to Long Bay Symphony audiences is the product of hours and hours of preparation, study, promotion and practice by at least twice as many players as you see upon the stage.
Just as each orchestra member’s unique contribution is critical, behind the scenes there are administrative “players” whose efforts make every note heard a reality.
As on stage, the conductor of said players is Charles Jones Evans.
“Stereotypically, people believe that I just show up, wave a baton around and tell people what to do,” Evans said. “There is something to do constantly – programming, organizing; it all has to work in a box like any other business.”
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With such responsibilities, he is fortunate to have a loyal audience; impassioned volunteers; triple threat, Jessica Miller – librarian, principal oboist and Youth Orchestra manager, who “feels blessed to do what [she does]”; and Executive Director Carolyn Pittman, who brings to bear her rich professional experiences as a musician, businesswoman and entrepreneur.
As building blocks go, the importance of a listening audience cannot be overstated; simply consider the philosophical question: “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it...”
Not an experience that the LBS need worry about as long as there are folks like Howard Olson around.
“They do a fantastic job. I am always amazed at the kinds of music they perform,” he said. “I’m not a real classical music buff; I just enjoy it.”
In part, that is because of the illuminating discussions Evans hosts pre-performance to help familiarize attendees with the composer and the music.
Olson also appreciates the value.
“It’s not expensive and from a ‘bang for your buck’ perspective you certainly get your value,” he said. “I don’t think people realize what they have to offer.”
People, perhaps, not unlike board President Lisa Davis who moved to the area about 30 years ago.
“I’m one of the examples of someone who did not know there was a symphony in Myrtle Beach,” she said. “I discovered [it] in 2011.”
She has since made it her mission to raise community awareness of the symphony.
As has Marilyn Grigas, president of the Long Bay Symphony Guild, an auxiliary group, whose events “support the symphony, its educational programs in area schools and the Youth Orchestra ... [and brings] the orchestra to the attention of the community, to broaden support, and to further music appreciation and education.”
“Having been a music teacher for 30 years, the symphony is a big passion of mine,” she said. “I’m always chatting [it] up [and] passing out brochures.”
Grigas and Davis are both quick to extol the symphony’s value, not only as part of the community culture, but for its impact on our youth.
“We really want to further music appreciation in our kids,” Grigas said.
To this end, in 2013, the guild was able to award the greatest number of scholarships for summer music programs to date; this success, in addition to continuing support of the Long Bay’s educational efforts in local schools and the Youth Orchestra.
These programs have had a profound effect; whether participants go on to become professional musicians or informed listeners.
Alexander Pons, a Youth Orchestra graduate, credits the experience with teaching him about being a leader, about proper conduct and how to work with other musicians.
“[It] is just such a fantastic orchestra. We took pride in the fact that we had this great director that had so much knowledge of music,” he said. “It’s not school, so it’s a little bit more fun and you are there for your own benefit ... I learned so many life lessons in the four years that I was in the program.”
Pons now attends the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and has played with a number of orchestras.
“My professionalism has always been commented upon,” he said.
Although he experiences a bit of surprise when people learn that his training was in Myrtle Beach, he is confident that with the “thirst for culture in this area,” and the talent devoted to it, the Youth Orchestra will soon be recognized nationally as a premier youth program.
Such praise is music to Pittman’s ears, who in addition to being passionate about the symphony’s non-quantifiable value, appreciates its quantifiable economic value. People moving here want to know what the community has to offer in terms of education and culture, and “we provide both,” she said. “The Long Bay is a first-class professional symphony orchestra.”
Had she been eavesdropping, long time supporter and volunteer Joanne Milnor would have said, “Amen.”
Admittedly, once started, she has trouble stopping when enthusing about the organization. From the Young People’s Concert for 2,000 Horry County students to Evans’ finesse to the Youth Orchestra, she runs out of adjectives well before she runs out of enthusiasm.
She did, however, manage to limit her description of LBS performances to three letters, “OMG,” and declared that everybody ought to give them a try.