Maestro James Blachly

Maestro James Blachly

Get to know us better.

That is our vision at the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra for this year.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, dozens of you have contributed to – and hundreds of you have listened to – our Music Heals playlists, where we shared pieces of music that were healing, inspiring, joyful and calming.

In the past month, we’ve had two recent concerts broadcast on WQED/WQEJ, bringing our music making into your living rooms. Jim Cunningham, the esteemed WQEJ host, wrote afterward to say, “Thank you for sharing the incredible music making you have going in Johnstown. Great repertoire at the highest level of playing and explained eloquently. Radio at its best. Magic. You are doing something truly beautiful for this part of the world.” High praise from one of the legends of classical music radio in this country.

Due to health restrictions, we cannot perform as an orchestra or for an in-person audience, but we’ve been able to have small concerts outdoors, and we shared our July 4th concert, which we performed on the mound above the Inclined Plane, via Livestream. As nearly 20,000 of you know, our chorus made a fantastic video of “America the Beautiful.” And our Community Strings and Youth Orchestra have been able to share their music with Laurel View Village, and to play for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s Summer Youth Cafe. A special thanks to the Cambria County Drug Coalition for collaborating with us on that meaningful way to share the music. I was also happy to be a part of the 159 Inclined podcast, UPJ’s mask project, and the Band of Brothers sonnet campaign.

Our Symphony Chorus and Inclined to Sing aren’t able to meet in person because of the risks associated with singing, but the Youth Orchestra has been meeting every week and will even be presenting a concert online on Nov. 22. 

They have state-of-the-art PPE thanks to Lee Initiatives, and they are following the strictest guidelines for student safety. 

Community Strings is also able to meet in limited numbers and without an audience, allowing that avocational group to enjoy the unique gift of playing music together.

In Somerset, we have shifted our Taste of the Laurel Highlands to an online-only event, running through Saturday.

And there’s so much more to mention. 

You see, our goal is not just to scrap it together and get through this hard time. 

Our goal is for you to get to know us better over the course of the year so that when we next perform for you live, we will have an even deeper connection to this community.

With that in mind, we are announcing several new plans.

One has just been launched on our website – a free video of our JSO players performing Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, the “Eroica” Symphony, written after Beethoven had gone through the most difficult crisis of his life. Rather than succumb, he emerged on the other side of that terrible crisis with a new energy and passion and strength.

This video is our gift to our community, to our audience, to our donors, to our supporters. You have stood by us this season as we have been unable to perform live and in person. So this is our way of saying “thank you,” and we hope it will inspire you to keep it going. Keep helping each other and supporting each other in the way the greater Johnstown community is famous for.

And we have three additional plans to get to know us better.

One is spearheaded by our Chorus Director, Jeffrey Webb. This unique offering is called “No Fear, No Frills: Jeff Webb Talks About Classical Music,” and is being offered to the entire student body of Greater Johnstown High School on Friday, with future presentations to other students and beyond. This initiative is funded through the CFA and we are so grateful.

The next is called “The Making of Our Maestro,” which will be a five-part video series where I will share my own personal journey to becoming your music director, and my insider insight into what a conductor does and how our orchestra is able to function on such a high level of professionalism. We’ve had a lot of enthusiasm for this program when we have spoken to you individually, and I am really looking forward to this chance to “pull back the curtain” on what I do on stage and beyond. This series will be a paid subscription, with a special offer for our current subscribers and ticket holders.

The final initiative to mention here is called “Musicians Out Front,” and will feature our beloved JSO musicians in short, fun interviews with me. This series is free and we hope will help you all get to know the unique and remarkable professional musicians that form the core of this orchestra, some of whom have been with us for more than 50 years!

We do have an entire spring season of concerts to announce soon, but with the government’s restrictions changing almost weekly, we’re waiting to announce until we are sure they can go forward.

To all of you who know and love this orchestra, I want to personally thank you all again for your support and communication in this hard time. This pandemic has been hard on all industries, and its impact the performing arts is quite profound. We’ve been so grateful for all of your letters and phone calls of encouragement and your understanding as we change our plans week by week. Your appreciation of what we’ve been able to make happen despite all the challenges has made all the difference for us as an organization.

Let’s keep working together to be strong as a community and help each other through this unique time.

Like the video we just released says, Johnstown knows how to overcome adversity, and so does your symphony.

James Blachly is the 12th music director of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra.

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