When the professional musicians and conductor of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra (CNSO) arrived in Anniston this weekend for their Knox Concert Series appearance, they didn’t have long to rest — and they weren’t just in town for a single performance.

Months before their arrival, the volunteers of the Knox Concert Series Educational Outreach Committee contacted the members of CNSO to ask if they would share their love of music as well as their technical skills with local high school and college students during their visit. Of course, they were happy to do so!

As soon as CNSO arrived in Anniston on Saturday, Knox Board Member and Education Outreach Volunteer Millie Harris transported members of the horn section to Jacksonville State University’s Music Department, where they conducted master classes for students on the tuba, French horn, and trumpet. Harris said that the language barrier didn’t seem to matter because “music is universal.”

Photos: Millie Harris

Later in the evening, and minutes before the curtain went up, Maestro Mauceri, conductor of CNSO, met with local high school students for a Q-and-A session in the library of Anniston High School. The evening’s concert featured music by Leonard Bernstein, a mentor of Mauceri’s during his twenties. (This year is the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein.)

Mauceri shared memories of Bernstein with the students, recounting his generous spirit and exuberance for sharing his talents with others, especially young people. Students from Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, Cheaha Creative Arts and Anniston, Saks, Wellborn, and Oxford High Schools attended the session as well as the concert.  

Photos: David Cummings

During the concert, students heard CNSO perform numerous pieces from their Bernstein repertoire including pieces from Mass, Songfest and Peter Pan (Link here for complete program). Mezzo-Soprano Isabel Leonard’s encore performance of “Some Other Time” brought the audience to its feet.

In the weeks leading up to the Orchestra’s visit, Harris and Conductor Mike Gagliardo of the Etowah Youth Orchestra and Gadsden Symphony conducted presentations on Leonard Bernstein at Anniston/Calhoun Public Library, and Saks, Wellborn, Oxford, and Anniston High Schools. These presentations helped deepen students’ understanding and appreciation for the orchestra and prepared them for the concert.

The educational outreach programs were generously funded by a grant from Alabama State Council on the Arts. For information on how you and your school can participate in future Knox Concert Series Educational Outreach programs, contact Millie Harris at (256) 310-4603, millieharris@cableone.net.

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