On a high note 

Colorado Springs Philharmonic looks ahead

click to enlarge Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor Lawrence - Leighton Smith feels like a blooming lotus flower. - JANE MCBEE
  • Jane McBee
  • Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor Lawrence Leighton Smith feels like a blooming lotus flower.

Meeting with a conductor after a performance is always a dicey proposition.

Last Saturday night, however, Colorado Springs Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Lawrence Leighton Smith was beaming, euphoric from the orchestra's exceptional performance, audience receptivity and this past season overall.

"That was a lot of notes," he said, smiling, "and we hit them all."

The concert opened with a strong presentation of Bedrich Smetana's Overture to "The Bartered Bride" and was followed by Eduard Lalo's "Symphonie Espagnole" for Violin and Orchestra, featuring concertmaster Michael Hanson.

In a poignant moment following intermission, the orchestra bid farewell to longtime principal tuba, Kelly Okamoto, who recently passed away after a six-year battle with cancer. The solitary spotlight on Okamoto's chair, adorned with flowers, was coupled with a moving testament given by principal timpanist Peter Cooper.

"The orchestra played their hearts out tonight," said Smith. "We are continuing to improve artistically, and I am looking forward to playing many more seasons together."

As the Philharmonic wraps up its second season on an artistic high, the business side of the operation has some work ahead.

Executive Director Susan Greene and her fellow board members are pounding the fund-raising pavement in an effort to balance the budget. The organization recently received an anonymous $30,000 gift that must be matched by May 31, the end of the fiscal year.

"Things have gone very well this year," Greene said. "We knew that the second year of operation would be more financially difficult, as some of the startup monies were one-time gifts. We had close to $400,000 to replace based on the loss of the one-time startup donations, and we are gradually making up this ground.

"We have held the line on expenses," she continued, "and [we] are committed to not incurring any debt -- so if we can't afford a project, we don't do it."

The Philharmonic will enter into contract negotiations next season, as its existing contract expires in April 2006. And the board is expected to increase its membership, which will aid in overall fund-raising efforts.

Ultimately, both Greene and Smith would like to see the organization grow, but "growth only with a clear indication that there is room for expansion," Greene said.

"We are not overextending ourselves in any way -- financially or with offerings. All elements have to buy into it: the board, musicians and the community."

Relationships with the musicians continue to be positive, Greene assures.

"We're a team," she added.

Following last weekend's season wrap-up, Smith appeared to concur.

"I am so happy," he said. "I love being here, working with the musicians, my life, my wife. I am a lotus flower in bloom."

That sentiment was easily confirmed by one of the many visitors to Smith's backstage dressing room who dropped in to say, "We're so glad you and the orchestra are here. Thank you so much for tonight."

-- Carolyn Carroll


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