ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Area residents will have the opportunity to expand their musical diet Sunday afternoon when the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra performs its fall classics concert in Newton.
Susan Mayo of rural Peabody will be among the group of accomplished area musicians who will assemble to offer a feast for any musical palate.
“All the music we’ll be playing in this particular concert is invigorating and exciting music,” Mayo said. “It’s very dynamic and people who attend can expect a lot of excitement.”
Mayo, who is married and has a 15-year-old daughter participating in the music and theater programs at Wichita East High School, knew at an early age that music would become her lifelong passion.
“The first instrument I learned was the piano and I started playing the cello in the sixth grade,” Mayo said of her childhood in Flagstaff, Ariz. “But I pretty much always thought I’d go into music for a career.”
That career path led Mayo to an undergraduate degree in cello performance at the University of Pacific in Stockton, Calif., and then to Peabody University Conservatory in Baltimore, Md., for graduate work.
“I chose the cello because I like the sound of it,” Mayo said. “I started out playing the violin but I think most people have an affinity to a certain sound or range, and I like the lower range that the cello falls into.
“Once I started playing the cello, I knew I liked it better than the violin.”
Seeking to develop expertise in music education, Mayo and family moved to central Kansas about 20 years ago and have has called it home ever since.
Mayo offers private music instruction for instrumentalists from beginners to college students and adults in addition to being an adjunct instructor at Friends University in Wichita and Bethel College in North Newton.
In her spare time, Mayo also performs with the Wichita City Symphony Orchestra as well as the Mid-Kansas Symphony.
“Once in a while I’ll go down and play in the Oklahoma City Symphony as well as some summer festivals as well,” she added.
Music, Mayo said, allows participants to increase their level of proficiency continue to grow no matter how long they’ve been playing.
Mayo traveled with several of her college students to Norman, Okla., last weekend to participate in a cello day.
“I’m also going to Portland over Thanksgiving, where they’ll teach body awareness as pertains to learn in the musical profession.”
The cello, according to Mayo, exudes elegance and fills myriad roles in an orchestra.
“We function in a lot of different ways,” she said. “Sometimes we’re the rhythm or base line, but we’re really also a melodic instrument that’s beautiful. And Sometimes we’ll have a huge soaring solo with the entire orchestra.” featuring the whole cello section.
Mayo is the first-chair cellist for the Mid-Kansas Symphony.
“That means I kind of lead the section,” she said. “I tell them which way their bows are supposed to go.”
The Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra is comprised of about 100 area musicians.
“Exact numbers vary depending on what type of piece we play,” Mayo said.
Members come from Newton, Wichita, Hutchinson, and Marion County-“just all around the as well as the rest of central Kansas area.”
Adrienne Daugherty, who is concert master as the lead the violinist also lives in the rural Peabody area.
“The Newton orchestra is a community orchestra, which means it’s for community members and not so much professional musicians,” Mayo said.
“A few of the principles are professionals performers, or music educators, and others are semi-professional, meaning they might teach music in high school but they don’t teach or play an instrument for a living.”
Several of Mayo’s college students are also members.
“It’s a nice training session for them,” she said. “This orchestra just feels great. It’s my favorite community orchestra.”
Although the musicians aren’t necessarily professionals, Mayo said that doesn’t diminish the caliber of the music.
“The quality of music from this orchestra is great,” Mayo said. “I think we do a very credible job of performing the music and it fulfills kind of a two-fold thing. purpose.
“It gives these people, who are still interested in playing their instruments but it’s not their avocation, a chance to play,” she added. “The other thing is it gives the community an opportunity to hear a really nice lovely renditions of some classical work music.”
Mayo said whether you’re a novice to classical music or an afficionado, the concert will offer an opportunity for everyone to enjoy an art form not usually found in central Kansas.
“This is a chance for so-called rural areas of Kansas to experience classical music,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’ve ever been to a concert before, you can definitely enjoy this.
“As a matter of fact, I think it would be so great fun to go to your first symphonic orchestra concert and see what it’s all about ears.”
Orchestra members receive the music a couple weeks in advance of the concert, and congregate on the weekend of the concert to integrate and perfect each participant’s role.
“It’s hard to get people to commit for a months of once a week practices,” Mayo said. “So this works pretty well, and we can focus in that amount of time.”
This year’s concert will be under the guidance of guest conductor Whitney Reader of Wichita and performed at Newton High School.
“The conductor has a great deal to do with how the music is presented,” Mayo said. “He dictates the speed of the piece as well as generates energy within the orchestra.
“It’s like someone who works with clay and makes a pot. You have tons of variations on how you’re going to make that pot look. It’s his job to shape the orchestra; he’s the artistic director.”
Featured numbers this year include Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture, Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3 Eroica” and Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A Minor” featuring Nathaly Gustafson of Hartford, Conn.
“We want to build audiences; and listening to these pieces ahead of time helps prepare newcomers, great,” Mayo said. “It makes Then, at the concert, it’s like listening to an old friend.”
Tickets for the 4 p.m. concert are available in advance at the north Dillons store in Newton. The cost is $8 for adults and $4 for students; at the door, tickets will be $9 for adults and $5 for students.
Children under 12 get in free with a paid adult admission.
The concert is expected to last about 11/2 hours with a 15-minute intermission.
“It’s amazing to hear a symphony in person,” Mayo said. “Just to hear that sound live and see people performing is great.
“Part of the whole experience is also visual. direction. It’s kind of like watching a dance.”
Mayo said listening to a symphony orchestra is somewhat like physical exercise.
“It’s so good for you and it makes you feel great, but you won’t die if you don’t have it,” she said.
“But music and the arts make us feel great: we won’t die without them, but they are part of what make us human.
“Anytime you can be a part of a positive experience like a symphony, I think you’re a better person for it.”