The Liberty Symphony Orchestra is a group of individuals who come together to share their love of music and strive to keep the appreciation of orchestral music alive within the Liberty area. Some of these members are local Liberty residents, some are William Jewell College staff or alumni and others are our very own students.
The Liberty Symphony Orchestra began almost 45 years ago in 1971. Since then, the orchestra has grown too large to play in Gano Chapel, so they now play at the Liberty Performing Arts Theatre in the Liberty Community Center, which holds about 700 people in its auditorium.
Unlike a band, an orchestra has string instruments, such as the violin or cello. However, it is more difficult to find string players in a school the size of Jewell because these instruments are much more complex than the average wind instrument. Therefore, they take a long time to master. As a result, Jewell opened up the orchestra to the public, and it now has about 60 members.
Student members report that opening up the orchestra to include the Liberty community has provided many benefits for them to grow as musicians.
“My favorite part of playing in this ensemble has been working on challenging music with the members of the Liberty community because many of them are music teachers and or performers, so they act as mentors,” said Elizabeth Brock, sophomore violinist and instrumental music education major.
Not only do students work with experienced musicians, but the orchestra also hires professional musicians to perform alongside the students to inspire and benefit them both technically and musically.
“Yes, [including professionals in the orchestra] will help the sound of the orchestra, but they’ll also help the student play better,” said Dr. Tony Brandolino, music director.
The orchestra places students in an environment that allows them to learn from everyone surrounding them.
“Our seating rotates for every concert, so I’ve gotten to learn from local professionals, teachers and Jewell alumni,” said Madelyn Roundey, junior and violinist.
The Liberty Symphony Orchestra is composed of a wide range of players. It aims to provide a way for students to be involved musically without being music majors and enables some community members who have other jobs to participate in the orchestra on the side. Approximately two thirds of the orchestra has connections to Jewell, and the remaining members are either volunteers from the Liberty community or paid members.
Both Roundey and Matthew Crawford, junior and bass player, noted the challenge of balancing the orchestra with the rest of their college activities. Roundey, a nursing major, has to work to find equilibrium between her classwork and the orchestra.
“Dr. Brandolino has been wonderful about working with my nursing schedule, and I love that Jewell is small enough to do both,” said Roundey.
Crawford, a member of Jewell Cardinal’s men’s baseball team, noted that there have been times when he has had to go straight from baseball to orchestra and practice in his uniform because of lack of time.
“I have a strong passion for both activities, and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to keep doing what I love,” said Crawford.
While playing alongside professional or experienced musicians definitely has an impact on the musical skills of a student, Crawford has realized how his music has impacted others as well. One day on campus, Crawford was approached by an elderly woman who recognized him from the orchestra.
“She started to tear up. The woman went on to tell me that she had taken her whole family to the symphony’s last concert and that I had made an impact on her grandson. She explained that her grandson had wanted to play in the band for a while now but that his friends, including his dad, pressured him into not doing it because it wasn’t ‘manly enough.’ She really started to tear up here. ‘You made playing an instrument cool for my grandson. He’s playing the saxophone now, and he loves it. Thank you,’ [she said],” said Crawford.
The Liberty Symphony Orchestra perform four times per year, including a Christmas show and a feature of Jewell students and high school student soloists, who are selected through a competition process. The remaining two shows fluctuate depending on special events.
“Our first concert was Halloween themed, and a majority of us dressed up in Halloween costumes. I dressed up as Boo from Monsters Inc.” said Brock.
Some shows, like one from the 2013-2014 season that Brock mentioned, correspond to different holidays. However, some are more tailored to different events that remain noteworthy to the current year.
“Next year, because of the new Star Wars movie coming out, we’re going to play, in October, the old Star Wars, the original John Williams music. We’ll have a John Williams evening,” said Brandolino.
Liberty Symphony Orchestra’s next performance is Sat., April 18. All concerts are free for Jewell students with a valid Jewell ID.