By JIM BISSETT, The Dominion Post
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Forget the air guitar.
A few years ago, a few years ago, a few years ago, many “airlines” began in the seats of the Metropolitan Theater on a beautiful spring morning in downtown Morgantown.
It wasn’t hard to spot the smiles among the members of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, as they enjoyed the audience of elementary school kids – enjoying them.
The orchestra was playing one of its frequent road concerts, as part of the “Young People’s Concert Tour” series.
And the audience, as has been said, was grateful, even though most seats were hearing classical music for the first time, expertly performed live.
Concerts like these are the sonic heart of this internationally acclaimed orchestra hailing from a working-class working-class town in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.
Since 2020, COVID has been writing and revising an unwanted and intrusive coda in the proceedings, but whatever, Bryan Braunlich said.
Braunlich was the orchestra’s executive director.
He just left for a similar job in Los Angeles – but not before writing new chord changes for the spring.
The idea was to continue broadcasting the concert series to young people, so the orchestra did this digitally. The result was a series of shows produced at West Liberty University, before being sent to young people across the state, including Monongalia County.
Grants from the Charles R. Nailler Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts helped make this possible, Braunlich said.
Now, the executive director said, the orchestra is committed to keeping the new first-chair delivery system on stage as an alternative platform when in-person concerts aren’t possible.
“The pandemic has tested our creativity,” he said, “and challenged us to find new ways to deliver music education.”
In July, the orchestra will deliver its music the old-fashioned way, with live performances.
The “Celebrate America” tour will take the Wheeling Symphony to Weirton on July 1, Clarksburg on July 2, Canaan Valley on July 3 and return to Wheeling for an 8 p.m. concert on July 4.
Morgantown attorney Sam Stone, meanwhile, loves the Wheeling Symphony, and ever since he was knee-high at a conductor’s baton.
He learned to play classical music and he also learned to love it. His Wheeling Symphony fandom was unabashed and hardcore.
These days, he sits on the board.
For him, the verdict has always been rendered.
“It’s a world-class orchestra, and it’s here in West Virginia,” he said.
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