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Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana

Sounds of the Season

The Monroe Symphony Orchestra

Sounds of the Season

Photo by Zach Parker

Monroe Symphony Orchestra.

From its beginnings as a small community orchestra in 1971, the Monroe Symphony Orchestra (MSO) has grown to feature and collaborate with artists of national reputation and arts groups to entertain and educate area residents. Now in its forty-ninth year, the MSO continues to bring talented musicians and excellent music to Northeast Louisiana.

Each subscription season the orchestra offers a package of concerts including classical, pops, family, and holiday performances. MSO season ticket holders also have access to informative talks by music scholars detailing the history and significance of the various works the orchestra will perform. As a part of its education initiative, the MSO also presents Sound Safari, an educational concert offered to third- through fifth-grade students. This concert is designed to spark interest in music performance in those students, in hopes that they may one day join the Monroe Symphony Youth Orchestra. The youth symphony works to develop young string students, building a pool of talented performers and a bright future for the MSO.

The MSO also works to develop young musicians from outside the area through its collaboration with the Monroe Symphony League to present the Marjorie Stricklin Emerging Artists Competition, hosted by the University of Louisiana at Monroe School of Visual and Performing Arts, which attracts performers between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five from Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas. Instrumental competitors play a movement from a concerto; vocal competitors audition with an accompanist and sing a variety of pieces from their vocal repertoire. A jury of professional music educators grades the competitors, moving from open audition to final competition late in the evening. The award winner has an opportunity to play as a featured soloist in a performance with the MSO that same season.

The MSO supports itself in part through fun and creative fundraising events designed to engage the community. This season, the symphony held its first Feet in the Street fundraising event in Alley Park in West Monroe. Regional musicians brought country, pop, rock, and other favorites to the crowd for dancing and an afternoon of fun, all in support of the MSO. During the spring of 2020, the MSO will hold their second annual Juleps and Jazz event on Kentucky Derby day, featuring great food, amazing drinks—and derby hats. Participants dress for Derby Day and participate in Derby-themed games while supporting the symphony.

The symphony is also working to attract new fans and audience members through new concert ideas and formats. Look for events like solo concerts featuring conversations about music with the performer, unusual groupings like wind quintet or string quartet and marimba, and the inclusion of pop, Broadway, and other styles of music not always heard in an orchestral setting. These intriguing and accessible concerts can form a helpful entry point for people who may be interested in classical music, but don’t know where to start—or who don’t think they like classical music, but might be curious when they hear the details.

Upcoming MSO concerts include the Sound of the Holidays, the Sound of Broadway (March), and the Sound of Enchantment (April 2020). The Sound of Broadway will showcase some of Broadway’s most memorable music of the past twenty years. The Sound of Enchantment will take audiences on a journey to explore the exotic harmonies and sweet violin melodies of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Arabian Nights.

Season memberships are available at many price points and can be purchased, along with individual performance tickets, on the MSO website: www.mymso.org.