Utah Symphony: Giving Utah a 'shower of sounds'

Published: Saturday, Feb. 22 2014 3:10 p.m. MST

Abravanel Hall became the home of the Utah Symphony in the fall of 1979.

Provided by Utah Symphony and Utah Opera

Editor's note: This is the second story in a series highlighting arts organizations around Utah.

It all begins with a flick of the maestro’s baton. The signal ushers in the first stroke of a violin, a chord on the piano, or a burst of notes from a united orchestra and results in what the Utah Symphony’s music director, Thierry Fischer, calls a “shower of sounds.”

“You are surrounded by this invisible energy,” Fischer said. “And then to share this with an audience and in a community, with the fact that they know something is happening in the Abravanel Hall, is what matters.”

The “something” that is happening at the Abravanel Hall is approximately 60 performances by the Utah Symphony each year with dozens more happening throughout the state. With a rich history spanning 74 years, the symphony is a deeply rooted fixture in Utah’s cultural scene. The organization continues to reach out to the community through educational programs, breaking stereotypes as it moves forward into a bright future.

“It’s a cultural anchor in many ways,” said Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of Utah Symphony and Utah Opera. “It’s all about excellence in building the orchestra to be the best it can be, and excellence is driving the vision.”

Vision and mission

The joint Utah Symphony and Utah Opera organization website describes its vision to offer access to live music in three simple phrases: “To perform. To engage. To inspire.”

Fischer further expounded upon the symphony’s objective by listing four guiding principles: the urge for excellence, education, sharing and the role of beauty in the community.

The existence of the symphony is almost an anomaly in the current artistic landscape where orchestral music is readily available through in-home media. It’s one of only 15 orchestras throughout the United States that offer 52-week contracts to their players.

“When you sit in a hall, even if you don’t know your neighbor, the feeling you experience — this massive loud sound of the brass section, or the softness of string, going from one drama to the other because every symphony is a story — it will never be replaced by what you experience individually at home,” Fischer said. “We’re building the collective at the service of the community.”

And community is the driving force behind the mission of the symphony. Tourangeau described it as an important place where people “share humanity.”

“That’s one of the reasons I think it’s important to have the symphony in a community, because it is a place where people can go and relax and unwind and come together as a community and just be inspired by great music,” said Jon Miles, Utah Symphony and Utah Opera vice president of marketing and communications.

The symphony supports the community and the community supports the symphony in a reciprocal process. Local companies and foundations such as the Eccles Foundation, O.C. Tanner Company, Zions Bank, LDS Church Foundation and the Larry H. Miller companies are among the supporters of the symphony, Tourangeau said. And in turn, the symphony’s ability to financially support 85 full-time professional musicians allows the organization to give back in the community through various outreach programs.

“It’s built by its community, it’s supported by its community and it’s owned by its community,” Tourangeau said.

Building on a rich history

The Utah Symphony’s legacy in the community began in the organization’s infancy.

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