ASHTABULA — The Ashtabula Area Orchestra is set to produce more community-oriented performances and programs this summer.

Founded in 1982 and performing under the current leadership of Musical Director Tim Carlson, the orchestra is celebrating its 35th concert season, said Cheryl Dickson-Walker, president of the Ashtabula Area Orchestra board of directors. She said the group is a community orchestra, created for the benefit of student, professional and non-professional musicians and classical musical lovers of all ages.

The orchestra is developing a strategic plan and moving forward with fundraising, marketing and community and educational outreach programs.

“We hope to expand our concert season and community outreach programs soon,” she said, “We want to perform more concerts and bring the orchestra experience to children. This will be our focus for the upcoming months.”

She said one of her favorite new ideas the orchestra has planned is working with the Ashtabula Area City Schools District’s string and orchestra programs for intermediate, junior high and high school students.

“This will be a big focus of our educational outreach programs.” she said. “We consider the approximately 150 combined string players in Lakeside’s four schools to be our orchestra’s farm team. It is our goal for the orchestra to become the ultimate resource for young, aspiring musicians in our area. I’ve spoken to teachers about creating an affordable way to offer students of all incomes both private and group instrumental and music theory lessons from Ashtabula Area Orchestra members.”

She said she also asked students and teachers about buying equipment that their annual budgets don’t cover, with the expressed intention of having Ashtabula Area Orchestra fundraisers cover the costs.

She said some students whose families cannot afford to buy instruments are looking to the orchestra to donate instruments.

“This is a project the (Ashtabula Area Orchestra) board has just started to work on,” she said. “We are currently looking for a violin for a young man at Lakeside High School.”   

Debra Laveck, vice president of the Ashtabula Area Orchestra board of directors, said the orchestra is made up of friends, co-workers, neighbors and family members.

“We have our eye on a future children’s concert in the 2018-19 concert season with an orchestra ‘petting zoo’ situation in conjunction with the Ashtabula County District Library, where kids will be able to get up close with instruments and players,” she said. “Also, we are talking with music teachers at Lakeside Junior and Intermediate Schools about ways we can partner with their orchestral and string programs.”

Carlson said he had been the Ashtabula Area Orchestra conductor for two years and also has been the director of the Grand Valley High School band since 1991, a trumpet player in many brass ensembles in northeastern Ohio and an instructor.

“I’m really happy to be the conductor for the orchestra,” he said. “I usually work only with percussion, brass and  woodwinds here at Grand Valley, but when I was offered the opportunity to work with strings in the orchestra, I gladly took it. Strings add a whole new, challenging dimension to the musical experience.”

He said he’s excited to be a part of the orchestra’s new plans.

“We’re planning a lot of new things,” he said. “We’ll be going back to having two Christmas concerts, one at Lakeside and one at Jefferson High. We also expect to have a summer concert sometime soon. It could be this year, but it may not be until next summer.”

Carlson said some of his favorite new things with the orchestra include working with children and showing them instruments and explaining their use.

“We also want to expand into instrument petting zoos,” he said. “This would give children the opportunity to not only see the orchestra instruments, but to handle them and even try to make sounds with them.”

The Ashtabula Area Orchestra will host a fundraiser at Applebee’s Grill and Bar in Ashtabula Thursday.

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