Summer Concert Q&A with Maestro Wilkins

The Akron Symphony Orchestra is once again partnering with the City of Akron to offer a series of free outdoor concerts this summer in city parks.

The series will open on July 23 at Hardesty Park, and will continue on July 30 at Firestone ParkAug. 6 at Goodyear Heights Metro Park, and conclude on Aug. 13 at Glendale Cemetery.

The performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and feature a variety of popular favorites, including Tubby the Tuba, featuring Ken Heinlein, principal tuba; Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite; and John Williams’ Suite from Jaws and March from Superman.

While the concerts feature the full Symphony, they are a bit different from the performances we present during the concert season. To provide some insight into what makes the summer concerts unique, we sat down with Music Director Christopher Wilkins for a short Q&A.

Question: How do you program the Summer Parks series?

Christopher: We program a great variety of works, from classic pops to popular classics. I look for listenable, high energy, lyrical music, and also to some extent topical works. These Akron Symphony programs are part of a long American tradition of popular orchestral concerts performed outdoors in the summertime for families. John Philip Sousa and Arthur Fiedler helped establish the tradition, the City of Akron and Tuesday Musical Association are keeping it strong here in Akron.

We also have featured a member of the orchestra as soloist each year. This year Principal Tuba Kenneth Heinlein will perform an old American classic, Tubby the Tuba. We also will feature two youth dance companies of very different types: the ballet-trained dancers of The University of Akron’s Dance Institute, and the MacConmara Academy of Irish Dance.

Question: Do you have a favorite piece that we will be performing this summer?

Christopher: We’ve done a lot of John Williams’ great film scores over the years, and this summer features one of my favorites—and one of his most influential—the score to Jaws.

Question: How do the summer concerts differ from a “regular” concert?

Christopher: They are much less formal. It’s all about having fun. Bring a picnic and a Frisbee. Invite neighbors and friends who’ve never been to a Symphony concert before. And we’ll also have a “Maestro Zone” down in front of the stage where children of all ages can come try out their hand at conducting. We’ll have a podium, conductor’s stand, the music, and a free “baton” for them to use.

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