The Henderson Symphony Orchestra looks to expose new audiences to classical music

A majority of the public has some understanding of what it takes for an athlete to make it to the big leagues. But what about a classical musician? The Henderson Symphony Orchestra will put a spotlight on what it takes to be a professional with its 2022-2023 campaign titled “Heroes.”

Music Director Alexandra Arrieche tells the Weekly that a musician’s journey starts at a very young age, usually around 5 years old. They pick their instruments and must practice for hours every day, the way an athlete does, and only the most dedicated will make it.

Another parallel, she points out, is the injuries. The repeated motions can lead to anything from painful tension in the body to carpal tunnel syndrome.

“That’s why we decided to bring this up and talk about how much work it takes,” she says. “Everybody goes to concerts … that’s the result of not only a week of rehearsals but years and years of training and practice.”

The HSO’s season will open with a very literal take on the theme, a performance of Danny Elfman’s “Batman Suite” and John Williams’ “Superman Suite.” From there, however, three soloists will perform traditionally difficult pieces on their instruments during the remainder of the season. De Ann Letourneau will present Sibelius’ “Violin Concerto,” Yvonne Cox will play Ginastera’s “Harp Concerto” and Michael Sheppard will deliver Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3.”

HSO also collaborated with a UNLV fine art student, Lee Letourneau, to transform the musicians into superheroes. Cox’s bow radiates with power and Sheppard is depicted with a cape of ivory keys in promotional materials.

Arrieche jokes that her inner superhero would be the “Black Wizard,” and her baton would act as her wand. Then again, she could be considered a superhero in her own right, representing diversity in a male-dominated industry.

“In Brazil, we don’t have many orchestras, and the ones we did have had male conductors. It was difficult for a man, imagine for a woman. So I never thought about [being a conductor] until I was about 26 and one of my teachers said you should try because you have something to say,” Arrieche says. “I decided to give it a try, but before, there were really no women conductors in the world … it’s still a problem.”

Julie Williams, HSO’s director of operations, says HSO selected Arrieche due to her “rapport with the musicians.”

“She was very genuine and obviously very talented, and Alex conducted at a different level than many of them.” Williams says. “Some people conduct at more than a technical teaching level. … She was more about making the music. It brings out a different element of the orchestra. It was just what we were looking for, and we thought that would really help us grow as musicians and grow as artists.”

Arrieche isn’t just representing women on the stage; she’s on a mission to bridge the gap between the casual music listener and classical music. She explains that, in the past, classical music had to be experienced in person, but with better technology—studio recording, physical copies of music and streaming—came easy access to all kinds of music in our home.

“[At that point], classical musicians decided that we were part of an elite. … We started with all the rules: You cannot bring food. You cannot talk. You just go to be elevated in some way. And in the past, it wasn’t like that,” she says.

“Usually, when you go to see an orchestra, they’re all dressed up as penguins—which doesn’t happen with us—and then a dude comes out and rarely addresses the audience. He turns his back and then starts playing. There’s no interaction between orchestras and audience. That’s a huge problem. But there are orchestras like us that are breaking those barriers.”

BANG! September 23, 8 pm, free. Dollar Loan Center, hendersonsymphonynv.org.

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