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Continuing the Music: How the THSO Survived the Pandemic and Even Flourished!

As you have probably heard, many symphony orchestras in Indiana, as well as across the United States -- and around the world -- have had a very difficult time in the past 12+ months. Fortunately for the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra (THSO), it has been a very successful year. The staff of the THSO has persevered and even forged ahead with creative and innovative programs that throughout the pandemic have provided Great Music! Close to Home.

Of course, none of the programming would have been possible without the continuing support of our many, many community partners. As a way of thanking our sponsors and summarizing our efforts over the past year, we are very proud to share the many events and programs we presented to the community during the pandemic.

May 2020 – Music in Bloom Livestream Concert After our April 2020 and May 2020 concerts were rescheduled or cancelled, we presented a free livestream concert at Central Presbyterian Church in Terre Haute featuring solos and duets from musicians in the orchestra in response to the need for hope in our community. All musicians and all members of the production crew were socially distanced in the church and were required to wear masks. Prior to the livestream, we also released four “teaser videos” that featured a few of the musicians who would perform.

We were delighted and inspired by the fact that our first effort to livestream a concert had over 1,000 unique views during the live event! Enjoy the full performance of Music in Bloom on the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra YouTube Channel! Concert Link -

August 2020 – Rescheduled Classical Mystery Tour Concert

Fortunately, we were able to reschedule an indoor concert from April 2020 in Tilson Auditorium to an outdoor concert at the Fairbanks Park Amphitheater in August 2020. This concert featured the Beatles tribute band, Classical Mystery Tour. Everyone was so excited that we were able to reschedule, including the local musicians and the tribute band, who had not played live music for months, and -- of course -- our audience. We reduced the orchestra’s size to allow for social distancing on stage and required social distancing and masks among parties in the audience. We also shortened the concert and had no intermission. We worked closely with the Vigo County Health Department to ensure that we were implementing policies to prevent the spread of the virus. Fortunately, the weather was perfect as was the setting on the banks of the Wabash River. This concert was supported by Union Health, Old National Bank, Ross Elliott Jewelers, and Thompson Thrift. Included are pictures from the event shot by Jen Gray, music photographer for Lo Fi Eye.

September 2020 – 2020-2021 Season Opening Concert – “I Love a Piano”

In September, we offered the first concert of our 2020-2021 season which featured singer/songwriter/pianist Tony DeSare. We also moved this concert from our home venue, Tilson Auditorium at Indiana State University (ISU), to the Fairbanks Park Amphitheater. Although the weather at the end of September can be unpredictable, once again it was beautiful! And, once again, we worked with the Vigo County Health Department to make sure we would not be a super spreader event. This concert was supported by Old National Bank. We worked closely with Tony DeSare to produce short videos that were released on social media. Linked are a few pieces on our YouTube Channel for viewer enjoyment!

Come Fly with Me

How Deep is Your Love

Close to You

September 2020 - Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) Collaboration

In September 2020, we began a series of online Zoom presentations in partnership with OLLI at Indiana State University called a Tour of the Orchestra that will continue through at least 2021. All programs feature THSO musicians who share information about their instruments including history, acoustics, and famous orchestral excerpts. The presentations conclude with a solo performance and a question/answer session. We schedule new presentations each month, typically attracting 20-25 class participants. We were thrilled to learn this partnership was recognized at the national level by OLLI in early 2021! We will begin to expand our topic offerings during the 2021-2022 season to include information about pieces performed during the season or specialized topics such as early music from antiquity. The program is part of "The Virtual Symphony" project supported by a generous grant from the Wabash Valley Community Foundation. Presentations are uploaded to our YouTube Channel within a week of each live presentation. Here is a link to the playlist on our YouTube Channel:

November 2020 – “Bach, Handel, Mozart & Haydn” Concert

Our second concert of the 2020-2021 season was moved from our home venue, Tilson Auditorium at ISU, to Maryland Community Church that has a very large sanctuary with 1,400 seats. With social distancing policies in place, we were able to seat just under 400 patrons in the sanctuary. Because of the size of the stage, our Artistic Director, David Bowden, reprogrammed the music for a smaller ensemble of about twenty musicians. Nonetheless, we were still able to feature our Principal Cellist, SeungAh Hong, for Haydn’s virtuosic Cello Concert No. 1 in C Major. This concert was supported by the Terre Haute Symphony League, Fireplace World, and Robert L. Cowden in memory of his wife, Corinne. Included are pictures from the recording session shot by Jen Gray, music photographer for Lo Fi Eye, and Carl Bender. Enjoy the full concert performance on the THSO YouTube Channel:

December 2020 – “Joyful Holidays” Virtual Concert

Our annual holiday concert occurred during a particularly scary outbreak of the virus in Vigo County. Because of local guidelines, we quickly realized we would not be able to have an in-person audience for this concert. Although we were able to schedule Maryland Community Church again, we decided to offer a completely virtual option for our patrons. On December 5th, the day of the original concert, 25 musicians gathered (masked and socially distanced) along with our guest artist soprano, Cathy Rund, and recorded the entire concert in two sessions. We then worked with Haute Media Productions to create a video to release online during a specific time slot for audiences to watch as a live premiere. We uploaded the video to Vimeo and used Ticket Spice (online platform) to sell virtual tickets to watch the concert. Over 540 households tuned in! We even had families from outside of Indiana watching -- in fact, all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific! This concert was supported by First Financial Bank, Jo Einstandig, and Jerry Mitchell. Included are pictures from the recording session shot by Jen Gray, music photographer for Lo Fi Eye, and Carl Bender.

December 2020 - Christmas at the Moon Lite

With the help of Board Member Mike King and Union Health in Terre Haute, Haute Media Productions put together a thirty-minute video featuring four pieces from our Joyful Holidays concert, an adorable Rudolph cartoon, and a message from Santa Claus that was shown for free at the MoonLite Drive-In movie theater on December 23, 2020. There were three showings: 6pm, 7pm, and 8pm. It was such a huge hit that we are already thinking about ways we can bring the THSO back to the Drive-In theater! This special program was supported by Union Health and Thompson Thrift.

April 2021 - Adventures in Music - Virtual Education Program

Because of the pandemic, we were unable to invite students to Tilson Auditorium for our annual Adventures in Music children’s concerts. Remaining vigilant, we devised a virtual program that included recording a thirty-minute video with familiar music such as selections from Harry Potter, The Sound of Music, and the William Tell Overture. Woven into the program were instrument demonstrations presented by our principal musicians. The goal of our educational programs is to teach students about the orchestra’s instrument families and to encourage them to make music. Because this year's fifth graders missed last year's concert due to the pandemic, we coordinated with the Vigo County School Corporation (VCSC) to present the thirty-minute video to 4th and 5th grade students the week of April 5th. The following week, THSO musicians participated in 33 half-hour Google Meet sessions with all 4th and 5th grade music classes in VCSC to give students a chance to ask questions about the performance and what it is like to be a professional musician. We reached over 2,000 students in VCSC! In addition, the video is available by request for free on our website. Since its launch, we have reached an additional 1,600 public-school students, private-school students, homeschool students, and young families. The success of this program would not have been possible without a generous grant from the Indiana Chemical Trust and the support of Terre Haute Savings Bank. Visit for more information or to request access to the video!

April 2021 – “The Thrill of the Orchestra” Concert

Our April concert, The Thrill of the Orchestra, occurred during another peak in the virus, just after Spring Break. With the success of our virtual Joyful Holidays concert, we decided to have another virtual concert with the same format that we used for our December concert. This concert highlighted our Adventures in Music program and contained extended excerpts from pieces performed on the thirty-minute video that was created for the 4th and 5th graders as well as extended demonstrations of the instruments. This concert was supported by Union Health and the Vigo County Public Library as part of their Big Read program grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The chosen Big Read book, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, features a traveling symphony during a pandemic. Although the book was published in 2014, the subject could not have been a more perfect fit for a collaboration! The THSO traveled to different venues and into the virtual world to continue providing music for our community. This partnership with the Vigo County Public Library and the Big Read was quite exciting. Included are pictures from the recording session shot by Carl Bender.

May 2021 – “Beethoven’s Humor” Concert

We finally had the opportunity to return to the Tilson Auditorium stage after an 18- month hiatus -- the longest intermission ever! We invited approximately 250 people to enjoy the concert in person. Due to social distancing needs on stage, Artistic Director David Bowden reprogrammed the concert to feature three principal musicians and to highlight the humor composed into Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1. The concert was recorded and will be released to our season ticket holders in the coming weeks. Included are pictures shot by Carl Bender. This concert was supported by Bob & Jo Brown, Dick & Betsy Frank, Carl Bender & Barbara Brugnaux, and Tom Tucker & Sherry Dailey.

Musician Profile Videos

In addition to our OLLI presentations, we plan to release more free virtual programs for patrons. We released our first Musician Profile video on social media featuring our Principal Clarinet and Executive Director, Samantha Johnson-Helms, in the Fall of 2020. Over the next several weeks, we will release videos showcasing our Principal Oboe, Rebecca McGuire; Second Bassoon, Dr. Sara Fruehe; and Principal Flute, Dr. Joyce Wilson. These three videos were filmed at the Swope Art Museum to highlight another wonderful arts organization we have right here in Terre Haute! Our goal is to feature our talented musicians and collaborate with other museums and arts organizations in Terre Haute. This program is supported by "The Virtual Symphony" project grant from the Wabash Valley Community Foundation. Here is a link to the Musician Profile playlist on our YouTube Channel:

At the outset, we mentioned that the THSO has enjoyed a very successful season serving our community, but clearly it was also a very busy one! We remain grateful for the continuing support of our many, many community partners and sponsors who made these concerts, events, and programs possible. As we enter our 96th season for 2021-2022, titled Sights, Sounds & Stories, we will continue to incorporate virtual elements into our programming with the help of several grants and foundations including the Wabash Valley Community Foundation, the Allen Whitehall Clowes Charitable Foundation, and the Indiana Arts Commission. We hope to see YOU next year at the symphony!

Samantha Johnson-Helms is the Executive Director & Principal Clarinet of the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra.

Sherry Dailey is a Board Member & Past President of the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra.

Feb 5th Blog Post
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