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Dear Friends and Supporters,


Greetings from the ATL Symphony Musicians!  We hope this finds you well, having enjoyed Thanksgiving with friends and family!  We have much to be thankful for as we look back at the last three years.  The hard working ASO staff, ASO Board, and a supportive Woodruff Arts Center have been
collaborating to put the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on a path of restoration.  The Musicians’ Endowment Campaign raised over $25 million in less than two years to restore 11 positions lost in 2014 due to severe cost cuts.  We all anticipate hopefully returning the orchestra to a strengthof 88 musicians by the 2018-19 season, pending results of upcoming auditions.  We are also very grateful to current and new donors who have supported the ASO with the understanding that investing in the ASO is a worthy cause.  The ASO musicians have also been working harder than ever, performing wonderful concerts from classical to movie scores and popular music.  It is exciting to see the attendance for these performances significantly grow.  As a result of everyone joining forces, the ASO has produced three consecutive fiscal years of balanced budgets with surpluses to boot.

The financial stabilization of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was absolutely critical in ensuring the future of the organization.  As we look forward, there remains much to do as we work to regain our position among major American orchestras.  We must ensure that the artistic growth of our organization is continuously nurtured through the quality of the programming we are able to offer, the guest artists and guest conductors we are able to work with, and the restoration of competitiveness with other orchestras as we search for talent on stage.  The ability to attract and retain the best musicians is crucial in building the orchestra for the future.

This newsletter shares the news of two key members of the orchestra who have announced their retirements. Principal Cello Christopher Rex and Principal Viola Reid Harris have devoted many decades of their lives in making this orchestra a wonderful ensemble for our community to enjoy and to be proud of.  Their intense dedication over many years has been critical in building the ASO into a world-renowned ensemble.  We are so thankful for their service to us and their sharing of their love of music over the years.  In this issue you will also meet the newest members of the ASO who are so important in the rebuilding of our orchestra.

We hope to share holiday spirit and joy with you this December in Symphony Hall, and thank you for your past and future generous support of the orchestra.

On behalf of all of us,

ATL Symphony Musicians

New Faces on Stage

Thanks to your overwhelming generosity, the ASO exceeded its $25 million Musicians’ Endowment Campaign goal a whopping two years ahead of schedule!  As a result, we have been able to hire 11 new musicians.  We have also hired two additional musicians to fill vacancies left by attrition.  That means that there are currently 13 new faces on the ASO stage since 2014.

  1. Anthony Georgeson, Associate Principal Bassoon

  2. Madeline Sharp, Viola

  3. Daniel Tosky, Bass

  4. Joseph Petrasek, Principal Percussion

  5. Jaclyn Rainey, Third Horn

  6. Sissi Yuqing Zhang, First Violin

  7. Karl Fenner, Bass

  8. Marci Gurnow,Second Clarinet

  9. Andrew Brady, Principal Bassoon

  10. Samuel Schlosser, Principal Trombone

  11. Gina Hughes, Piccolo

  12. Thomas Carpenter, Cello

  13. Julianne Lee, Principal Second Violin (not pictured)


Meet a Musician: Sissi Yuqing Zhang, Section Violin

"My name is Sissi Yuqing Zhang and I will be joining the section first violin of Atlanta Symphony in the fall. I studied six years at The Juilliard School and one brief year at Yale School of Music. Apart from being a serious violinist, I am an enthusiastic traveler and passionate about experiencing new cultures and cuisines. Luckily enough, being a musician enables me to go to many cool places in the world, such as Hobbiton in New Zealand!

Sissi is my nickname in English, as you can probably guess that I am neither German nor Austrian. However it is very close to my nickname in Chinese (Xixi) which my family has called me from a very young age. I grew up in a small town near Shanghai and before my family moved to Shanghai when I was ten, nobody in my family had ever been to a classical concert or had been fluent in English. But we have always loved watching American movies and my parents owned a calendar featuring Vivian Leigh from Gone with the Wind. When I was old enough to read the book, I fell in love with the story and its location, Atlanta. Never did the ten year old girl dream of moving to the land that Scarlett had once lived in the book and now I am going to make my own version of the adventures in Atlanta with the fantastic Atlanta Symphony and many of my wonderful colleagues!"

Three of our own have also won auditions to move into titled positions in their respective sections.  From left:  Michael Tiscione, Associate Principal Trumpet; Joe McFadden, Principal Bass; Justin Bruns, Associate Concertmaster.  Congratulations!


ASYO Alumni and ATL Symphony Musicians Foundation present:
5th Annual ATL Symphony Musicians Appreciation 

January 6, 2018, 7:30PM
Kellett Chapel, Peachtree Presbyterian Church

3434 Roswell Road NW

The first ATL Symphony Musicians Appreciation Concert, an event initiated and largely organized by alumni of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, took place in January 2013.  These memorable concerts are offered in recognition and appreciation of the important role played by ATL Symphony Musicians in the development of ASYO students, both as music teachers, coaches, and mentors. 

Check our Facebook page, Twitter, and ATLSM website closer to the date for more details!

Reid Harris and Christopher Rex

This year, we are saying a fond farewell to two prominent members of our string section: Principal Violist Reid Harris, and Principal Cellist Christopher Rex have announced that they will retire at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 season.  Reid and Chris were both hired by former Music Director Robert Shaw on the same day in 1979, and during their tenure, they have each been a part of over 100 ASO recordings.  We invited them to reflect on their time performing with this great American orchestra.

Interview with Reid Harris, Principal Viola

1.  When did you join the ASO?  I presume Robert Shaw hired you?  How many recordings have you been featured on?  How many times have you soloed with ‪the orchestra - and which performance was your favorite?

You presume correctly! Robert Shaw hired me; I joined the ASO as Principal Viola in September of 1979.  Previous to that, I had been Assistant Principal of the Baltimore Symphony.  Recordings where I've been featured?  Three or four come to mind: Mahler, Vaughan Williams, Kodaly, and Rorem. I would guess I've soloed with the ASO around twenty times - not including repeat performances.  I have no doubt my favorite were the 1992 performances of the Walton Viola Concerto.                        

2.  What is your fondest memory from your tenure as Principal Violist of the ASO?

There are certain performances that stick in my mind: the Verdi Requiem and Bach Passions with Robert Spano; Mahler 2nd with Donald Runnicles; Franz Schmidt Symphony No. 2 with Franz Welser-Möst; the historic Beethoven 9th at the Schauspielhaus in East Berlin (1988) with Robert Shaw . . . I could go on and on with 42 years of performing!  Yet, just as meaningful has been sharing this wonderful life of playing music with my colleagues both past and present. This perhaps I will miss the most.     

3.  What are you most proud of during your tenure?  

I am proud to have served classical music for 38 years.  I am also proud to have served as a member of two ASO Music Director search committees.  Additionally, I was chosen to be the first ASO Musician to become a member of the ASO Board of Directors.  I take great pride in having chaired the audition committees that have hired all but one in our FANTASTIC VIOLA SECTION!  

4.  What is your greatest hope for the ASO’s future?

The ASO is a very good orchestra. I think all pieces are in place for it to become one of the great orchestras. Our reputation has been affected by 2 lockouts, loss of personnel, and the resulting collective bargaining agreements. The wonderful Doug Hertz proved that the money is out there to support the great orchestra and concert hall that that the city of Atlanta deserves. I hope I live long enough to see and hear this!

5.  Do you have any advice you’d like to share with aspiring young violists/musicians?

I am perpetually fascinated by talent; to me, it's a potential.  Realization of talent is a difficult task!  I will paraphrase Edison's words about genius: "Talent is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."  There is no way to get around practicing in a concentrated, thoughtful way.  It is the only path to realizing one's talent.

 -interview compiled by Jessica Oudin, Section Viola


Interview with Chris Rex

1.  What is your favorite memory from the ASO?

I always really enjoyed the tours, but the one that was most powerful for me was in 1988. We toured Europe with Robert Shaw and played Beethoven’s 9th in East Berlin. I believe this was especially poignant for the audience because of the text conveying the message “all people will become brothers” yet Germany was still divided by a wall. At the close of the concert people in the audience were so moved, they were crying. Robert Shaw was called back for one curtain call after another, and finally dismissed the orchestra while he continued to return for solo bows. I was inspired to do my own series of paintings on that tour.
I also enjoyed all of our Carnegie Hall trips, and I particularly remember the exciting performance of Golijov’s “The Passion” in Jazz at Lincoln Center.
On the stage in Atlanta we performed so many incredible Requiems under Shaw. On
Lastly, the Florida tour in 2006 was particularly memorable as we started every concert with Theofanidis’ “Rainbow Body” which opens with an extremely difficult cello solo. It ruined the whole tour for me!

2. What are you most proud of?

I'm so proud of the cello section we have had throughout the years, who have always done their best to blend and perform as a unified section.  Having great players in a section is expected, but having each individual work towards a common goal, performing with one sound is not something you find in every orchestra.
I am also very proud of the concertos I have been honored to play with the orchestra – probably approaching 20.  
There is so much talent in the ASO, over the years I have been privileged to sit in my seat and listen to the incredible playing around the stage. A front row seat to every concert!

3.  What is your greatest hope for the ASO’s future?

I hope the ASO can function as a secure major orchestra that doesn’t have to worry every single year about the bottom line and can concentrate on making great music. With all the talent on stage, it would be great to be put in a position to perform great works of music the way the ASO can without having to offset them with so many concerts that require ear plugs.
I would like to see the orchestra resume touring. Touring is so good for the stature of the orchestra and the city, and it’s incredibly important for the morale of the musicians. 25 more Grammys wouldn’t hurt either.
4.  Can you give some advice for young musicians?
Sitting in a practice room practicing 8 hours a day will not get you to a full career in music.  Musicians today must do more; you need to broaden your knowledge outside of the practice room, read and investigate other art forms, learn the history of the music, this will enable you to have something to give to the music other than just the notes.  Too many students think if they just practice 8 hours a day that will be enough, but it won’t.
A musician today will be called upon to do more than just play their instrument, they should be prepared to speak intelligently to board members and business people, and to understand what it takes to sustain an orchestra. They need to be well-rounded, and that takes more than just practicing.

5.  What year did you join?

6.  What music Director hired you?
Robert Shaw

7.  How many recordings have you been on?

Since 1979 I have played all the recordings except for 2 or 3.

 -interview compiled by Joel Dallow, Section Cello


Text for Tubas!

The ASO is looking to raise $20,000 this holiday season to help our graduating Talent Development Program seniors purchase new instruments.  Having a high quality, professional level instrument is exactly what these young, driven students need to help fulfill their dreams of making a career in classical music.

Text TUBAS to 50155 or visit to donate now! 

Holidays with the ASO

The holidays are a busy time at the Atlanta Symphony.  We not only perform at Symphony Hall, but also have concerts scheduled around the state.  Come celebrate the season with us!  (Note: concerts not held at Symphony Hall are listed as such below).

December 5 - FREE Lunchtime Christmas Concert at First Presbyterian Church

December 9/10 - Christmas with the ASO

December 15/16 - Very Merry Holiday Pops

December 20 - Christmas with Jennifer Nettles and the ASO

December 21 - Handel’s Messiah at the University of Georgia’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music

December 22 - Holidays with the Atlanta Symphony at the Madison Morgan Cultural Center in Madison, GA

December 22 - Handel’s Messiah

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