James Blachly

Johnstown Symphony Orchestra Maestro James Blachly

What can our orchestra do to help this community while we are unable to perform for you in person?

The magic of orchestral music is not just the music itself – as beautiful and powerful as that music is. The magic of orchestral music is in the performance, the experience of being at a concert together, having the same sounds move through the air to a thousand people at once, being physically present and physically moved.

The magic of an orchestra comes from 50 or 100 musicians playing together with one spirit, one intention, one impulse. The sound shakes the rafters, and their music-making can help heal our hearts.

The magic of an orchestra is in the energy of the room as we perform music from movies such as “Slap Shot” and “Star Wars,” play with rock bands and perform with local stars. It comes from being physically close, seeing old friends and making new ones – bonded by the shared experience of a performance.

So what can we do as the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra when we can no longer perform in person?

We can deepen our connection even more. The roots of this orchestra are deep in this community and region. So often, great creativity comes from great challenges. So as we come back to our mission of bringing people together through music, we are digging deeper.

My personal goal is that by the end of this time, when the all-clear is given and we can perform in front of packed houses again – that by that time, you will have come to know us better, and we will be serving the community in even deeper ways. My goal is for us to find creative means to bring our music to you despite these restrictions, and for those to be connections we continue far into the future.

During the past two months, we have been creating new digital projects, several of which you may have seen, and several more that we will be unveiling in the coming weeks. So many of you have participated in our Simple Gifts campaign, encouraging everyone to keep playing music as you have sheltered in place, as you performed essential services, and as the economy slowly starts to open.

Music helps us through all of that. And hundreds of you are active with our Music Heals playlists, which has been truly a gift for all of us.

But during this time, we are also deepening our connection through our community groups.

The artistic team that leads our orchestra, youth orchestra, chorus and youth chorus have all stepped up their games – reaching their groups through online sessions, phone calls and creative projects. I encourage you to view their pages and Facebook offerings. And community strings, a group of amateur and professional string players, was even able to meet again in person – from a distance of six feet or more.

What does the future hold for us as an orchestra and as a community? Whatever it is, we are bound together.

At the JSO, we rise when the region rises, and we suffer when the region suffers. But we also see ourselves as one of the forces to lift us up, to inspire to greater heights – and to comfort and heal when we are suffering.

The fact is, we need your support now more than ever before.

And this region needs our inspiration and support and comfort and healing throughout this entire time. Please stay connected with us in every possible way – following our offerings through our newsletters, Facebook, TV and radio – or by writing to us through email or physical letters.

We’ll keep making music for you in every way we can.

James Blachly is the 12th music director of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra. He can be reached at info@johnstownsymphony.org.

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