Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Pittsburgh symphony to perform at IUP

by BILL ZIMMERMAN billz@indianagazette.net on March 27, 2011 3:00 AM

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

It's a notion that assistant conductor Thomas Hong keeps in mind every time the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra brings music to the surrounding area: He'll never get second chance to introduce first-time symphony-goers to classical music.

"It can be a life-changing experience for some," Hong said, "especially if they've never experienced the symphony before. It's always great when you go to your first basketball game or football game and you see the big stars. … It's always a good thing if that's your first impression."

Hong will lead the PSO in an all-Beethoven program on Tuesday at Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Fisher Auditorium. It will only be the second time that the full orchestra visits IUP during the 10-year partnership between the university and PSO.

Hong has been with the PSO since 2009. His past posts include associate conductor of the Seattle Symphony, Orchestra National de France and Fort Worth Symphony. A native of Incheon, South Korea, he oversees programming and conducting of all educational and outreach concerts.

The orchestra makes its home at Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall but often ventures out into the region, bringing music where symphony options are often scarce.

"It's very exciting because we're able to go out there and present the best music to them ... and do it in the highest artistic standard possible," Hong said.

Mingling is one of the perks, according to Hong, who said there'll be pre- and post-concert receptions on Tuesday. To him, performances -- especially ones at universities -- are more than just entertainment, they're opportunities to foster a love of the arts.

"It's like visiting someone at their home," he said. "We want to bring the best of what we can offer to their front door and inspire them. The college age is such an impressionable age. … It's a critical time to gain their attention, their support and their excitement about classical music."

The full PSO last visited IUP in February 2004 for a special event that included a piece celebrating Black History Month with actor Danny Glover narrating, according to Hank Knerr, events director for The Lively Arts at IUP. Prior visits involved the chamber orchestra of about 20 to 25 musicians. The full orchestra will bring roughly 50 performers to the Fisher stage.

Concert pianist and IUP assistant professor Henry Wong Doe will take the stage with the orchestra, performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2.

"We're looking forward to working with him," Hong said, "and all the experience and background that he brings with his playing."

A native of New Zealand, Wong Doe has performed in such concert halls as New York's Carnegie Hall and Australia's Sydney Opera House. He earned his doctorate from The Juilliard School in New York and joined the IUP faculty in 2009.

Created in 1898, the PSO's reputation extends beyond western Pennsylvania with more than 34 international tours. The PSO made its debut broadcast on national radio in 1936 and released its first commercial recording in 1941. Renowned pianist, conductor and composer Marvin Hamlisch is the Pittsburgh Pops Principal Conductor for the PSO. Before an IUP performance in 2009, he said Pittsburgh has one of "top five symphonies of America."

"It's true," Hong said. "He would know just about every orchestra in the country."

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Fisher Auditorium

Ticket information: (724) 357-2547, www.iuptickets.com

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