Shoals Symphony will hold annual concert

The Shoals Symphony has a unique partnership with the campus — some musicians are community members from throughout the Shoals area, but many of its musicians are students and professors.

The Symphony will hold its “Tragedy into Triumph” concert Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. in Norton Auditorium.

“I try to put myself in the mind of our audience when choosing selections,” said Daniel Stevens, Shoals Symphony’s new conductor and associate professor of music. “I think it is important to connect to an audience that may not always come to a symphony concert.”

The selections for upcoming concerts include excerpts from “Lord of the Rings,” traditional Christmas favorites, and “The Magnificent Seven,” he said. The March 1 concert will feature favorites from movies.

String bassist June Howard said she would like to see the campus at the concerts.

“The most exciting thing is that it is growing,” she said. “More and more people are learning about it and coming to the concerts. It’s becoming a bigger thing on campus.”

Most of the winds, brass and percussion musicians in the symphony are either UNA students or faculty, Stevens said. The majority of string players are professionals brought in from Nashville, Birmingham or Tuscaloosa to play with the symphony on concert weekends.

“The best thing about it this year is the very strong new leadership,” said Percussionist Jeremy Smith.

This will be Stevens’ first year conducting at UNA.

Stevens’ students said they are excited to have him.

“I think he is doing great,” Howard said. “He has been so nice and helpful. I was not technically trained in string bass — I kind of taught myself. He has been very patient with me teaching me how to do things technically. He’s super nice and he knows his material.”

Stevens was brought in as a new professor to help develop the strings program, he said. There are currently 12-15 students in the strings program, but Stevens said he thinks the number needs to triple.

“Band rules this state a little bit,” he said. “A lot of musicians will find that if they want to make a career of performing full-time, many of them would (need to) perform in a full orchestra.”

Band students should explore the orchestra side of music, Stevens said.

“Those who have only played in band during their lifetime are missing out,” he said. “I think they need a good balance of both the band world and orchestra world.”

Student Todd Erikson encouraged students to build an interest in orchestra as well.

“Come out and see what we have to offer and if you’re interested, you should try out as well,” he said.

For students not currently involved with the symphony who would like to be, there is a solo competition. Student composers and musicians both vocal and instrumental are invited to try out for the chance to perform in a solo role during the May 3 concert. Preliminary rounds are in November, with finals in January.