“Music has a big message. It brings the community support.”
These are the words of Director of Orchestras Dr. Douglas Bakenhus. Having worked at NSU for more than a decade, Bakenhus describes the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Orchestra as an organization that brings soul to the community.
Throughout the semester, the orchestra performs at various events on and off campus. The ensemble performed their first concert of the semester Oct. 5, the annual “Pops” concert in Magale Recital Hall. The concert’s theme, “Sea Sounds,” featured music by Tchaikovsky and Handel, as well as NSU alumna Nettie Chenevert.
Former symphony society president Richard Rose says that when the orchestra was founded in the 1960s, it recruited professional strings players from Shreveport and Monroe in addition to student players. It wasn’t until the mid ’90s that it became a student-oriented ensemble.
Some students in orchestra receive a scholarship for their participation, which is funded by the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Society. The NNSS aims to provide a secure financial foundation for orchestra students.
In an April article for the Natchitoches Parish Journal, Director of the School of Creative and Performing Arts Dr. Greg Handel describes the NNSS as essential to the orchestra.
“They have fostered a love and support of symphony music and artistic endeavors,” he says. “As an organization, they have supported NSU and the Creative and Performing Arts with fundraising and scholarship support for our strings students.”
Fundraisers and events, such as an annual wine and cheese party, are held throughout the year to encourage support for the orchestra. At these events, people are able to become members of the NNSS, which gives them season passes to Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony concerts.
Annually, the NNSS brings in roughly $40,000 in donations, which is used entirely for scholarship funding.
The next orchestra concerts will occur Oct. 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Magale Recital Hall where they will collaborate with the NSU Opera Workshop to perform Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”
“The symphony society is responsible for an artistic spirit on campus and throughout the community that is rarely seen in places similar to NSU and Natchitoches,” Handel says. “CAPA looks forward to continued growth and partnerships with the symphony society and we wish them well on a fruitful next 50 years.”