Symphony Begins Season at New Home Lerner Theatre

November 05, 2011

Six years after almost being disbanded, the Elkhart County Symphony will perform tonight on the stage of its new home, the renovated Lerner Theatre.

Tonight�s concert, �Sounds of Stage and Screen,� isn�t conventional classical music, but a tribute to Broadway and movie themes.

Symphony board president Chris Witman said the group has no debt, in part thanks to the 30 or so musicians who have donated their paychecks to the group.

�They�ve been very gracious and forgiving of the debt the symphony had accrued with them,� he said.

About six years ago, the then-board was going to disband the symphony, but several musicians decided the group was worth saving and became the new board. They changed the bylaws, which had restricted the number of musicians that could be members.

�They were literally within minutes of dissolving the symphony,� said principal French horn Deb Inglefield.

To cut expenses, they cut down their season from six concerts to four. Inglefield said that the symphony used to play at each of the three middle schools in Elkhart as well as some smaller performances in the elementary school, but had to cut those performances due to lack of funding.

�I would love to bring all of that back,� she said. �I think that was a huge service to the community.�

Inglefield is one of about 30 musicians who have donated their salary back to the symphony. She teaches at Andrews University in Michigan, IUSB and Notre Dame and has been on the board since the crisis six years ago.

With the addition of the Lerner Theatre, members hope that having their new home at the downtown venue will make it easier for interested fans to find their concerts. Previously, the symphony would often switch venues, making it difficult for people to know where each concert would be held.

Witman said with the town known as the band instrument capital of the world, it needs a symphony to go along with it.

�It helps weave the strong cultural fabric we�re proud to call Elkhart,� he said.

Board member Angel Hernandez, who works as vice president of production at WNIT, said the group is trying to make the symphony concerts part of Elkhart�s expanding downtown. He said they�re trying to partner with some local restaurants so that people can go to a symphony concert and then get a discount for dinner or drinks.

�We want to make this a little night on the town where you can go with your significant other or friends, go out and enjoy restaurants and taverns,� he said.

Tonight�s concert will focus on Broadway and movie soundtrack themes, a lighter concert than what most people think of as �classical music.� Witman said people like to hear lighter concert fare.