The Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra has had a long and productive relationship with Midwestern State University going back to 1948 when their first conductor, Frederic Balazs, took a faculty position at MSU and established the WFSO as the tenth orchestra in Texas.
More recently, MSU piano professor Ruth Morrow was joined by two of the orchestra’s most important advocates and benefactors, Aurora Bolin and Dale Prothro, in 1999 for a performance of Mozart’s “Concerto for Three Pianos and Orchestra,” and last year MSU’s Martin Camacho joined the orchestra to perform the music of Grieg.
This season the WFSO will for the first time in their 71-year history present regular performances at Akin Auditorium on the MSU campus. These concerts will open and close the season. “Akin Auditorium offers the WFSO an opportunity to perform music perfectly suited to the more intimate performance space,” says Elizabeth Yeager, President of the WFSO. “By offering both a Saturday evening and Sunday matinee performance, we hope to give more community members an opportunity to experience the music of the WFSO.”
The opening concert will be held on Sept. 22 at 7:30 pm at Akin, with the Sunday matinee at 3:00 pm. The guest artist for the first two Akin concerts will be pianist Lewis Warren Jr. Like Mozart, Warren began composing his own songs at the age of five, and since the age of eight, he has been a top-prize winner in local, state and international piano competitions.
“We are so excited to have Lewis perform as a guest artist with the orchestra this season,” says the WFSO’s Katie Parkey. “For the past two summers, the WFSO has partnered with the Wichita Falls Area Community Foundation and the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture to present Lewis at the TALL summer arts camps. At the workshops, he performed piano, sang, talked about his life journey, and worked with the campers. He is an inspiring young man!”
For the season opener, Warren will be joining members of the WFSO and Maestro Fakhouri in a performance of Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major.” The program will also include Felix Mendelssohn’s “Italian Symphony,” and a short American masterpiece for orchestra from 1906. Fakhouri, who spearheaded the new Akin concerts, says, “I am very much looking forward to performing these great masterpieces at Akin Auditorium. I specifically wanted to open the series with ‘The Unanswered Question’ by one of the most innovative American composers, the modernist Charles Ives.”
Warren, who has performed with many orchestras around the country, has also appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and was featured on “NASCAR’s Samsung 500,” where he performed the “National Anthem” in front of over 200,000 live spectators. In March 2012, he was a featured performer at the Van Cliburn Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Gala Celebration, and has recently released his first two CDs—“Shine on Us,” recorded at the Gateway Church and in 2015, and a holiday instrumental titled “A Christmas Album.”
Along with the new Akin concerts and this season’s three young guest artists, orchestral music fans will also have four new thematic concerts to look forward to—“Symphonie Fantastique,” “WFSO does Hollywood,” “Dance Mix,” and the annual “Holiday Celebration.” Those interested in learning more about the season can call 940-723-6202, or visit wfso.org.
-Dr. Todd Giles