Brett Mitchell gives insights into the works and performers of the 2011-2012 SBSO season  "`of the people, by the people, and for the people' of Michigan." 

Jeanne Lesinski: Who are the people who make up the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra? We probably see musicians in many contexts, even grocery shopping or at the hair stylist, without realizing what they do. Where do the musicians of the SBSO come from? What are they doing when not on stage at the Temple Theatre?

Brett Mitchell: Many are full-time musicians who make their living "gigging" all over mid-Michigan and the Detroit area; we share many players with the Flint, Ann Arbor, and Lansing symphonies. Others work in other professions entirely during the day; some are teachers, some are insurance brokers. The great thing about our orchestra is that all these people from their respective walks of life come together at the Temple Theatre and make great music for our community.

JL: What is the normal pre-concert process? You arrive, conduct rehearsals, perform the concerts, yet I know there are other activities going on behind the scenes. Please tell readers a bit about this process from the beginning a season schedule is set.

BM: Once I've programmed the season, our full staff gets together to set our complete rehearsal and concert schedule, being careful to avoid any potential date conflicts with other area orchestras. Literally hundreds of details go into making every concert happen, and the staff and I work closely together in the weeks, months, and even years before a concert to make sure that concert week goes off without a hitch. Concert weeks see us in rehearsal on Wednesday and Friday evenings, and a dress rehearsal on Saturday afternoon. Between our dress rehearsal on Saturday afternoon and concert that evening, I'll go home for a bit, shower, relax, and have a small bite to eat (can't conduct on a full stomach, but also need enough fuel to get me through the performance!). I'll head back to the Temple Theatre around 7 p.m. to give our pre-concert talk, and then head to my dressing room to change into my tuxedo and collect my thoughts before heading out onstage just after 8 p.m.

JL: "Pure Music, Pure Michigan" is the theme of the 2011-2012 concert season. What were your thoughts in programming for this season. Throughout the season you feature work by Michigan composers. What made you choose their works?

BM: I've always believed that any successful arts organization will reflect the community it is designed to serve. The first word in any orchestra's name is the city it represents, and one of the best way to reflect our mission to serve the state of Michigan is by performing works that come from right here in Michigan. That inspired me to include works by Michael Daugherty, William Bolcom, Bright Sheng, and Kevin Puts on our season, all of whom have strong Michigan connections. It also inspired us to collaborate with other local arts organizations, including Pit and Balcony and the Saginaw Choral Society in February, as well as local artist Kellie Schneider in March. This season, our audience will hear not only some of the greatest works of all time, but truly fantastic art produced by friends and neighbors in quite literally our own backyard. What better way to truly make the SBSO "of the people, by the people, and for the people" of Michigan?

JL: Working with the Pit and Balcony Theatre and Saginaw Choral Society for the February concert "Pure Poetry" will be a multi-genre presentation with theater and the chorus. What can we expect of this production?

BM: Like most people of his era, the great German early Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn was enamored of Shakespeare. This inspired him to write music designed to accompany Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, so we've asked Pit and Balcony to perform an abridged, semi-staged version of the play while the SBSO performs Mendelssohn's "underscore." Several of the numbers Mendelssohn wrote include passages for women's chorus, so the Saginaw Choral Society and their brilliant new Artistic Director Glen Thomas Rideout will be joining us for the performance as well. The Pit and Balcony actors will be costumed, and we'll have lighting at the front of the stage to highlight the action, while the SBSO and I perform the score further upstage. It really will be a night of complete entertainment—live theatre, orchestra music, and choral forces—all together on the same stage!

JL: In the March "Pure Magic" concert you group together works of imagination and wonder. I understand that Saginaw artist Kellie Schneider was commissioned to create artwork to enhance this concert. Tell me more about her art and how it will be used to create a multimedia experience.

BM: This is a project I've had in the back of my mind for well over a decade now. One of the greatest French composers of all time, Maurice Ravel, wrote five beautiful pieces based on the Mother Goose stories, and I've always wanted to have a visual component that I could present with the piece while performing it. I had looked and looked for an artist that I thought would do Ravel's gorgeous music justice, and never found anyone...until I came to Saginaw. Our Marketing Coordinator, Cassie Brenske, introduced me to Kellie and her work, and I knew immediately that she was the one I had been searching for. The spirit of her work, the whimsy, the fantasy were all perfect to complement Ravel's fairytale music. As soon as I accepted this job, I contacted Kellie and asked if she'd be interested; I'm very grateful that she was. She's working on the illustrations as we speak, and they'll be unveiled to our audience as a world premiere event at our concert in March. We'll display the images via projection while the orchestra performs each movement. I still haven't seen the images myself, and I can't wait to see what she creates!

© 360 Main Street, 2011