Richmond Symphony performing in Jarman in 2017

Every spring the swells of classical music rise out of Jarman auditorium: Brahms etudes, Mozart sonatas, Chopin nocturnes. Voices of the Camerata Singers, Longwood’s premiere choral group, join with the sound from the stringed instruments to create beautiful melodies that echo through the hall.

The annual Richmond Symphony concert at Longwood University is a can’t-miss event on the spring cultural calendar in Farmville, drawing a mix of students, faculty, staff and community members to Jarman Hall, where the celebrated ensemble performs a mix of classics and newer pieces. But for Longwood music majors, the partnership is more than just an annual concert—it’s an opportunity to engage with some of the country’s most celebrated artists in workshops and through performances that aren’t available at many other universities.

This year’s concert is Friday, April 20, at 7:30 p.m. in Jarman Auditorium at Longwood. Tickets are $20 for general admission and may be purchased at the Longwood Box Office or at the door.

For almost 40 years, the Richmond Symphony has performed at Longwood, but for the first three decades concerts were only occasional. It was in 2012 that a gift from philanthropist and great champion of the arts in Richmond John Cook ’52 created a permanent partnership between the orchestra and Longwood, resulting in the annual spring concert. We talked with Laura Bordner Adams, director of orchestral operations for the Richmond Symphony, and Dr. Charlie Kinzer, professor of music at Longwood, about the partnership.

What does a partnership like this mean for Longwood and the Richmond Symphony?

Kinzer: For students, symphonic and orchestral music is really at the core of the classical music tradition. A lot of what we do in Longwood’s music department is train young musicians to be either performers or teachers—band or choir. In their general music training, students need to be exposed to the great orchestral pieces, and while we listen to recordings every day in class, there is really nothing like being able to experience these pieces live.

Adams: At the core of our mission is a charge to unite communities through music, and so we relish the opportunity to form partnerships like this. We not only get to be a part of the development of young musicians about to embark on a career in the field, but because of John Cook’s generous endowment, we can offer tickets for less than half what they normally cost in Richmond, meaning the performance is available to many more people who might never experience a concert like this. And that is very powerful.

We love working with Longwood students! It’s quite invigorating to be in a room of eager, talented young musicians so full of energy about our shared passion.

Laura Bordner Adams, director of orchestral operations for the Richmond Symphony

Students are often involved in the concert. What does this mean for them?

Kinzer: Students get involved in a couple of different ways. First there’s the performance aspect, and the Richmond Symphony generously builds in performance by the Camerata Singers, our top vocal ensemble, during their concert. So that’s an experience for them that can’t be replicated. Furthermore, as time allows, we’ve been able to organize workshops with these world-class musicians in the classroom, where students are learning from the masters of their craft. These kinds of experiences are not only valuable as they train to become teachers and performers, but they are incredibly inspiring—motivating them to become even better musicians themselves.

Adams: We love working with Longwood students! It’s quite invigorating to be in a room of eager, talented young musicians so full of energy about our shared passion. For me, it reminds me of myself as a young student and the professional musicians who mentored me throughout my career. If we can play a small role in their development as musicians, that’s reward in itself.

These kinds of experiences are not only valuable as they train to become teachers and performers, but they are incredibly inspiring—motivating them to become even better musicians themselves.

Dr. Charlie Kinzer, professor of music

How has the community reacted to the ongoing concert series?

Kinzer: There’s a loyal group of people in the Farmville community who are very supportive of any kind of opportunity to enjoy classical music, and those folks form the core of the audience for the Richmond Symphony concert. Year after year I hear from people who are looking forward to it—the performance is really a high point on their spring calendars. And for Longwood to provide an opportunity for people who don’t normally come to campus experience such a joyful event creates an almost palpable sense of community in the room. There’s been a real sense of increasing energy in Farmville over the past decade, and I’m proud to say that the annual Richmond Symphony concert has played a role in that.

Adams: Farmville is a great town and every year we look forward to coming here. As I said, the Richmond Symphony’s mission is wrapped up in the idea of community-building, so we look for opportunities to take our show on the road, so to speak. It takes a great deal of effort and funding to move an entire symphony to a different town and back again, so often travel is prohibited in some way. But Farmville is such a cultural hub of this region, and has such a strong history of championing the arts, it is always one of our favorite events because of the community support.

...Farmville is such a cultural hub of this region, and has such a strong history of championing the arts, it is always one of our favorite events because of the community support.

Laura Bordner Adams, director of orchestral operations for the Richmond Symphony

What has been your favorite moment over the past six years of annual Richmond Symphony concerts at Longwood?

Kinzer: For me, the concert in 2012 was quite special.  It was the culmination of a great deal of work behind the scenes from a lot of people at Longwood.  John Cook was there, and he was so excited to see his idea for this partnership coming to life.  The Camerata Singers participated in the program, and the RSO played Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, all in front of a large crowd with many college students witnessing a live professional orchestra for the first time.  

Adams:  I think my favorite performance was in 2014 when we featured the amazingly talented young pianist, George Li, performing the Grieg Piano Concerto in A Minor on the gorgeous new concert grand piano followed by the Richmond Symphony Chorus joining forces with Camerata Singers performing excerpts from Handel’s Coronation Anthem. The energy level on the stage and in the audience was palpable!

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