Vol. 4 | Fall 2019

At the time the symphony had a small budget and a considerable amount of debt. Concerts were only bringing in an audience of a few hundred. Since Maestro Scott entered the picture with his vision and leadership things have changed immensely. "Working with Allan is great," said Stephen Cepeda, violinist and Concertmaster for the Helena Symphony. "He is open to dialogue with musicians and that is somewhat rare in my experience. Because of Allan's direction the Helena Symphony is really going to try and play the music with a lot of musical intent and energy. He's a risk taker and that makes it exciting," said Cepeda. "Our attendance is way up. Our performances draw an average of 1,500 to 1,700 people," said Keim, noting the average does not include the annual Symphony Under the Stars event which drew 18,000 in the summer of 2019. And what a spectacular event. Thousands gather to race down a hill at Carroll College the day before the outdoor concert just to place a blanket on the grass to claim the perfect spot. On the evening of the concert thousands gather together to watch in awe as the orchestra plays against sunset in big sky country. This year's Symphony Under the Stars theme was Aretha Franklin and as the night went on and the music filled the air, many people ran toward the stage where they began dancing and swaying, physically and emotionally moved by the performance of the singers and musicians. "This event was sighted by New Yorker Magazine as one of the top five must see attractions in Montana. That puts us right up there with Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks," said Keim. On top of the cultural and economic impact, this year the Helena Symphony collected 19,500 pounds of food at Symphony Under the Stars, making it the largest single day food collection for Helena Food Share. "This is making an impact in our community. This is making a difference for tourism. It's making a difference for our culture. That's what's so great about what we do," said Scott. "It's about bringing people together, experiencing music and showing how important the symphony can be," said Scott. The musical product and attendance is not the only growth the symphony has seen since Maestro Scott came onboard. The community support has

skyrocketed. "They provide us with a budget of nearly $850,000 per year. Which is remarkable for a community of about 55,000," said Keim. Interestingly, the average age of concert audiences at the Helena Symphony is younger than what is seen across the nation. Typically the average age for symphony audiences is in the 60s, but here in Helena, Keim said that age range is about 45 to 48 years old. "It tells us that we are reaching the younger generation to carry us into the future with enthusiasm," said Keim. The symphony has been known to blend popular pieces like Star Wars and even Batman themes with classical pieces. "This attracts younger people who might not otherwise attend symphony concerts," he said. Yet another of the many ways the symphony gives back to the community is through the annual youth concert welcoming around 2,000 elementary school students to experience the power of live music for free. Maestro Scott began this program about six years ago. "At these concerts we introduce the kids to the different instruments and vocal sections. We show them how the instruments and sections work together to produce the sounds and stories of the music," said Keim. "It is heartwarming to watch the enthusiasm shown by the kids. It has become an integral part of the schools' arts programming." There are 15 performances scheduled for this season including a number of famous and popular pieces. This season the symphony will be putting on the operas of "Carmen" and "Carmina Burana." The symphony’s annual Christmas in the Cathedral concert ushers in the Christmas season with a performance inside the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Helena. It sells out quickly every year. "There's a psychological impact when people listen to classical music. It triggers something ... it inspires something. It truly can change people in a community," said Scott. There are so many reasons and opportunities to attend Helena Symphony concerts. Find someone you care about and sit by their side while you immerse yourselves in the beauty and power of this local treasure. Music has the power to heal, inspire and transform. All we have to do in Helena is decide to clear an evening and go. Then let the music work its magic. n

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