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Butler County Symphony Orchestra lauded at first gala

Jim Cunningham, artistic director at WQED, speaks at the Butler County Symphony Orchestra gala Sunday evening, April 21, at the Butler Country Club. Eddie Trizzino/Butler Eagle

PENN TWP — Music from the Butler County Symphony Orchestra is played in between the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra on WQED — because the station’s artistic director believes the Butler musicians stack up.

Jim Cunningham, of WQED, said Sunday evening, April 21, that he plays music from the Butler symphony orchestra on the radio when available, because it is a group worth showing off.

“The Butler Symphony Orchestra will be heard as often as we can get recordings,” Cunningham said. “The quality of the orchestra is extraordinary — it’s truly one of a kind.”

Cunningham was the main speaker of the Butler County Symphony Orchestra Association’s first gala Sunday at the Butler Country Club, which Carl Fry, president of its board of directors, said was also a new kind of fundraiser for the organization.

The symphony orchestra just wrapped up its 75th season with a show April 13 featuring the music of John Williams. According to Fry, this season was the symphony’s most attended in years, and the association board is trying to keep the momentum going by speaking more about the group at the gala.

“We’ve had more patrons for this season that we’ve had in 15 years — it was a fabulous year,” he said. “People are finally understanding the strength of our symphony, and it’s a great thing.”

In addition to numerous baskets being raffled and other prizes up for grabs through a silent auction Sunday, the association administrators also gave attendees a preview of the upcoming 76th orchestra season. Some of the upcoming shows include “Video Games @ the Symphony,” “Holiday Traditions,” “Bizet to Brahms” and “Fiddlin’ Around.”

Three different guest conductors, each finalists to be the permanent conductor for the symphony orchestra, will conduct concerts this season.

Herb Nichol, marketing coordinator for the symphony orchestra association, said each of the finalists have put together two concerts each, which will allow the community to also participate in the hiring process.

“Our patrons will get a say in who their favorite conductor is, along with the board members and musicians,” Nichol said. “When those conductors get up on stage and are producing a concert, it is their audition.”

According to Fry, the association’s board of directors will select a permanent conductor as quickly as possible following the conclusion of next season, because they will have to get to work planning their first full season immediately after being hired.

Nichol also said events like the gala demonstrate how much community support the symphony orchestra gets, because many businesses from around the country donated products to be auctioned off at the gala.

“We’re so fortunate that we’ve received a lot of support from not only our patrons, but businesses and so forth in the community,” Nichol said. “We hope to see that growing too as there is more awareness of what we have to honor.”

Carl Fry, president of the Butler County Symphony Orchestra Association, left, shakes hands with John Furman, executive director of the Butler County Symphony Association, at the symphony gala Sunday evening, April 21, at the Butler Country Club. Eddie Trizzino/Butler Eagle
Guests of the Butler County Symphony Orchestra Association gala Sunday evening, April 21, raise their glasses for a toast. Eddie Trizzino/Butler Eagle

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