20th Century Club hears history of PBSO at recent meeting


The final meeting of the 20th Century Club for the 2011-12 year was held recently at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Services Building.

LaQuita Wisner called the meeting to order with the reading of the Collect and Renee Mitchell gave the invocation. Linda Minyard read the minutes of the April meeting, which were approved as read. Roll call was by Minyard. There were 12 members in attendance and two visitors. Beverly Warren introduced her visitor, Vi Ross. Peggy Howard introduced her visitor, Cheryl Fox, who was also the speaker.

As there was no other business, the group paused for a meal served by Jenkins Food Service. The menu included chicken noodle casserole, carrots and salad. For dessert, homemade pound cake with strawberries and whip cream was served, with water, tea and/or coffee.

Howard again introduced Fox. After spending 25 “wonderful” years as a teacher, Fox has worked the last 10 years for her husband, Bill Fox, at the Pine Bluff Symphony office, located at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Services Building.

Cheryl presented a very informative history of the Pine Bluff Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra was organized in 1987 in response to interest which came from a string music instruction program that began in Pine Bluff schools in 1980. Ellen Stutchman, Ellen Nuckolls and Jane Huffstetler were instructors in the Pine Bluff school system and it was through their vision that the symphony came about. This dream was also shared with Carolyn Greenberg. The first board of directors met in the spring of 1987 and organized the initial fundraising ticket campaign and volunteer support. Eric Knight from New York was hired as the first conductor. The orchestra now holds four subscription concerts per year.

In addition to a four-concert season for the general public and the children’s concert, the orchestra continues a strong youth musician program. The symphony owns string instruments and loans them to students in the school orchestra for a nominal cost each year, so that any student can participate regardless of income. In-school coaching is provided for students to work with a professional musician in a small group setting to develop skills and techniques on their particular instrument.

The educational program is continually expanding as new funding and opportunities present themselves. These programs include annual education concert, annual summer orchestra workshop, instrument loan program, school coaching program and free youth orchestra concert.

Throughout its history, the Pine Bluff Symphony has had a strong volunteer support group. The Notables also organized in 1987 to help with ticket sales, fundraising, office work, feeding musicians and the children’s concert. The general public does not know that it takes between $25,000 and $30,000 for one performance. So the volunteers, corporate sponsors, individual sponsors, individual ticket purchases and those loyal season ticket holders who always renew their performance subscription are important to the Pine Bluff Symphony Orchestra.

The meeting closed with a reminder that the next meeting would be Sept. 20 at the home of Peggie Howard.