Friday, October 19, 2007

Is Wood River ready for a local orchestra?

Community effort looks expand the sound of music

Express Staff Writer

Andy Lewis, the new orchestra instructor for the Blaine County School District, will be directing a new community symphony. Photo by David N. Seelig

Strike up the band; sit in with a symphony. Mitzi Mecham, who owns Notes music store and Music & Me in Hailey, is working on her latest musical extravaganza.

In the past, she’s directed a classical music concert at the Community Campus theater, arranged Battle of the Bands, opened a School of Rock program, held open mic events at her store, and enabled Head Start to begin a music program through Sesame Street Music Works and The National Association for Music Education.

Now she wants to start the Wood River Orchestra for adults.

Mecham, who is as bubbly as Lawrence Welk’s champagne, has help in this venture. A performer for 30 years, Andrew Lewis, was hired this fall as the Blaine County School District’s orchestra instructor. He now lives in Hailey.

“He’s going to conduct for free,” Mecham said. “It’s a community service. All you have to do is buy the music and stand and meet each week for a rehearsal.” Mecham wants everyone—no matter what level of player they are—to dust off their violins, and flutes, tune up their cellos and join the fun. There will be some musical anchors, including violinist Sue Mendelsohn, and pianist Elena Baranova Watson.

“So many people played in bands in school and still have their instruments somewhere,” Mecham said. “The first piece may be ‘Bolero’ because it has woodwinds, strings, brass—everything you see in symphony. The whole goal is we want to be a performance-based local symphony orchestra. We’re lucky to have Andy.”

Among the many orchestras for which Lewis was the principal timpanist are the Santa Rosa Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the New Zealand Symphony, the National Orchestra of Columbia and 10 years with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. He has a master’s in percussion from The Juilliard School, a post-graduate degree from Mannes College of Music and a bachelor’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He’s written a book on percussion and for the past eight years has been teaching rhythm at seminars around the country.

Though the Wood River Orchestra is not for students, unless they audition, he’s just as excited about his work in the schools.

“This community has an opportunity,” Lewis said. “All kids can be in the flow of the Sun Valley Symphony Conservatory. Jim Lewis (Blaine County School District superintendent) wants to make this school district a model in music education.

“I want to enrich the community with a cultural experience that is just the same as any metropolitan area. As far as quality of education, my goal is to have kids be enriched forever. There’s an awareness of music here because of the symphony. If it goes well, then there’ll be the channel to the symphony. We have the best summer symphony, I think, in the entire world. And the entire community can be involved.”

The same passion Lewis brings to his concepts for music education he plans on utilizing in the adult orchestra. It’s not about being an orchestra to create concerts for the public. It’s for the concert members to enjoy making music together. It’ll be a democratic process. We’ll do whatever, have fun and enjoy ourselves.”

For more information on the orchestra, call Mecham at Notes Music, 788-2496, or e-mail Lewis at

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