SCP Youth Orchestras to Present Ambitious and Historical Program This Sunday

The South Carolina Philharmonic Youth, Repertory and String Orchestras presents their second concert of the season Sunday, February 4, 2018, 3:30 PM at the Koger Center for the Arts, with an exciting and innovative program performed by some of the top young musicians in our state.

Highlights of the most advanced orchestra – the Youth Orchestra – include first violinist and high school senior Jesse Kaiser conducting the flashy Overture from Russlan and Ludmilla by Glinka. Jessie observed and played for the world renowned Conductors Institute of South Carolina this past summer. The Youth Orchestra will also present opera arias by Lehar and Gounod, and will feature soprano Sun-Joo Oh. “Sunny” has performed all over the world, is a full professor of voice at East Tennessee State University, received her doctorate from USC, and is the wife of Youth Orchestra Music Director Neil Casey. The performance will conclude with Holst’s magical “Jupiter” from his Planets Suite.

For the first time in its history, the Repertory Orchestra – the intermediate level ensemble of the three Youth Orchestras – will perform a movement of a major classical symphony in its original format. Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, also known as the “Unfinished,” was intended by the composer to be difficult, and is quite a feat for an orchestra of this age group to perform. Conductor Hayden Denesha considers it a testament to the dedication and talent of his group.

The beginning level ensemble, which is strings only, will be led by conductor Meredith Miller and joined by six local orchestra teachers and private teachers to perform side-by-side on “John Henry,” an American Folk Song arranged by Carrie Lane Gruselle. The Strings Orchestra will also perform a traditional chorale by Haydn, a charming pizzicato piece that is entirely plucked, and a majestic processional.

Tickets are $10 at the door, or can be purchased on-line in advance on the South Carolina Philharmonic Youth Orchestra webpage.

Founded in 1964 as an educational extension of the South Carolina Philharmonic (SCP), the S.C. Philharmonic Youth Orchestras (SCPYO) offer exceptional orchestral playing experience for young people throughout the Midlands. Each year approximately 200 students participate in three orchestras, comprised of the most talented young musicians in the Midlands. Membership in the SCPYO program is open to students throughout the state, ages 8 through high school, by audition.

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Curing a Fatal Childhood Disease

SC Phil and Cure Sanfilippo Foundation Partner for February 3 Masterworks
by Glenn O’Neill, President of Cure Sanfilippo Foundation

When my 3 year old daughter Eliza was diagnosed with a terminal disease in 2014, my world stopped.   All of the hopes and dreams I had for her immediately vanished.  To know that my daughter had a disease she would die from in her teens was bad enough, but to find out that she was already fading away before my eyes, was nearly too much to bear.  At that time, she was much like any young child and liked running, climbing, playing with toys, & laughing. She learned to sing songs, read words, say the alphabet, count to 20.  Such a smart little girl, but even then, we were starting to see the signs of Sanfilippo Syndrome.

Sanfilippo Syndrome is a terminal and rapidly degenerative brain disease in children, often referred to as a “Childhood Alzheimer’s.” It is a recessive genetic condition which affects the function of critical lysosomal enzymes resulting in excessive storage of heparan sulfate.  Toxic build-up occurs in every cell in the body and the earliest and most severe manifestations are in the brain. Many children with this disease receive an autism diagnosis before the underlying cause, Sanfilippo Syndrome, is found.  Progressive dementia, extreme behavior and sleep disturbances, seizures, and early death in the teen years are hallmarks of Sanfilippo.  Parents just begin to get to know their child’s personality at around age 3-4, and then it is all quickly taken away.

CSF Eliza

When my daughter was diagnosed, there was no proven treatment or cure, but there was HOPE in promising research in the way of clinical trials.  My wife and I formed a nonprofit Foundation to fund research for a cure for all children.  Cure Sanfilippo Foundation’s long-term goal is a day when newborn screening exists and an effective treatment or cure can be delivered soon after diagnosis.  Along the way, we hope to help save as many children as possible. Because of the rapid degeneration, the work must be done in an urgent fashion as the lives of so many children living today hang in the balance.

In 2016, at age 6 & 1/2 , my daughter Eliza was fortunate to receive a low-dose experimental gene therapy treatment in a clinical trial.  Ten other children have also since been treated, and more will follow. This trial was able to happen, because of funding by family foundations like Cure Sanfilippo Foundation.  Literally, the kind and generous donors of Cure Sanfilippo Foundation are giving children life-saving chances.  Pretty incredible! Cure Sanfilippo Foundation funds many different types of research now which are unlocking mysteries of the brain, and could have implications for more common neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Supporters have helped raise over $5 Million dollars to fund 12 research grants around the world.

For my daughter, by the time she was treated, the reality was that she had lost nearly all her speech and likely much of her understanding.  This disease impacts children so very quickly.  Still, we have HOPE and we love her more and more every day.  Our drive for this mission comes from the so many families of children with Sanfilippo Syndrome that have joined the fight and advocate and fundraise with our Foundation.  It also comes from the deep desire to have NO OTHER family or child go through what we have.  Once you have lived through watching your child lose so much, you want no one else to ever experience it.  It’s an anguish for which words don’t exist.

What carries us through are our faith, family, and the unwavering support of the community and from so many people we have never met.  So many right here in Columbia, SC.  That is why it was such an honor for Cure Sanfilippo Foundation to hear that we were selected by the South Carolina Philharmonic for their 2017/2018 Music for a Cause program!  We have so much thanks.

Music has a very special place in the hearts of parents of Sanfilippo children.  As children go through this dementia, so much of the understanding is taken away, but the connection with music is undeniable.  For my daughter Eliza, now age 8, this is so true.  Whether it’s classical music from the cartoon Little Einstein’s, or the song Wagon Wheel, or her favorite is when I sing Sweet Baby James (by James Taylor) to her at bedtime…she absolutely lights up!  She even seems to try to mouth the words, although she no longer speaks.  It is through her eyes she tells me “yes Daddy I know, I remember.” She smiles and connects.  Those moments and memories truly mean the world to me, and to so many other parents.  Eliza is now in music therapy at Key Changes in West Columbia and enjoys it immensely.  Her music therapist, Monica, works with her using the instruments and her beautiful voice.  Eliza’s favorite instrument right now is the Cabasa.

CSF Eliza Music

Thank you for reading about our cause, and we hope you will come out on Saturday February 3rd for the South Carolina Philharmonic Masterworks concert Kubrick Classics when Cure Sanfilippo Foundation will be featured as the Music for a Cause charity.  Every ticket for the night of Kubrick Classics that is purchased with a mention of “charity” will benefit our non-profit and the cause to save children’s lives.  (75% of ticket price will go to the cause!)  For Cure Sanfilippo Foundation to receive credit, visit or call The Koger Center Box Office at 803-251-2222 (online ticket purchases not eligible).

We move forward to fund urgent research projects to bring more treatments and clinical trial options to children, so that they might have a chance at life, and the best quality of life possible.  It is the continued support and awareness from the community that allows us to make a difference.  Many people coming together for one common goal:  Cure Sanfilippo.  We hope you’ll join the fight with us.  Thank you.


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SC Phil Celebrates Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The South Carolina Philharmonic presents Joseph Schwanter’s Morning for the New World Saturday, January 13, 7:30 PM, at the Koger Center for the Arts.

“I was excited by the opportunity to engage my work with the profound and deeply felt words of Dr. King, a man of great dignity and courage whom I had long admired,” said Schwantner. “The words that I selected for the narration were garnered from a variety of Dr. King’s writings, addresses, and speeches, and drawn from a period of more than a decade of his life. These words, eloquently expressed by the thrust of his oratory, bear witness to the power and nobility of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideas, principles, and beliefs. This work of celebration is humbly dedicated to his memory.”

Columbia City Councilman the Rev. Dr. Ed McDowell, Jr.  joins the orchestra onstage for this special commemoration of Dr. King, as he narrates legendary King speeches.

The season-long celebration of Music Director Morihiko Nakahara’s 10th season in Columbia also includes music by Leonard Bernstein and Duke Ellington.

Pre-concert festivities in the lobby include performances by Allen University Jazz Ensemble and Angela Blalock with the 4 Tenors. Doors open at 6:30 PM.

Tickets are $53, $45, $37, $29 and $23 and are available online 24-hours a day at, or through 5:00 today (Friday) by phone at 803.251.2222, or at the Koger Center Box Office at Park and Greene streets.

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Great Movie Music Sets Mood and Leaves Lasting Impression

by Kelly Davis

From Leonard Bernstein’s On the Waterfront and West Side Story to classics from Stanley Kubrick’s films and the wizarding world of Harry Potter, three of our upcoming concerts feature well-known scores from popular films past and present.

Great movie music has the ability to set the mood, engage the audience and leave an impression on the viewer long after he or she has left the theatre. Neuroscientists have conducted studies on the physiological responses to music to better understand how the different systems in the brain process different aspects of music from tone to tempo.

“Score:  A Film Music Documentary,” released in 2017, offers an intimate look into the history of film scores and a glimpse into composers’ creative processes. The film shows how composers look at a movie, decide where the music is going to go and what kind of music it’s going to be. Composer Tom Holkenborg (Mad Max:  Fury Road, Batman v. Superman and Deadpool) noted, “You can ask 50 composers to read the same script [and] they will all have different musical ideas.”

Film historian Jon Burlingame notes that music has always been a part of the cinema-going experience – as far back as 1895. So-called silent films were never truly silent. Organ music was added with the original intent of covering the sound of the projector. Max Steiner’s score for “King Kong” in 1933 was the first orchestra music used in a movie.

Composers aim to write music that supports the scene and complements it in an unobtrusive way, often observing sounds in the environment and recreating them with both mundane objects and unusual instruments. J. Ralph (The Cove, Man on Wire, Lucky Number Slevin) says, “There’s music in everything … I’m always trying to distill what the world sounds like into music.”

One of common elements used in film scoring is a motif – a group of notes used to highlight a common theme in the movie and to cast those themes in different lights. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit composer Howard Shore points out, “By using motifs, it helps you to understand the relationships in the story. When you hear a certain motif, you connect it. It actually helps you follow the story.”

Think of Close Encounters of the Third Kind or John Williams’ scores for the Star Wars films as offering recognizable motifs related to characters and storylines.

Dr. Siu-Lan Tan, Professor of Psychology at Kalamazoo College says, “Music is so multi-faceted, so multi-dimensional … we are having some sort of physiological response that the body is showing, and goosebumps are just a sign of what’s happening in your body.”

We hope that our concerts this spring will evoke memories, cause goosebumps and generate physiological responses as you recall your own favorite moments in the movie theatre.

Join the SC Phil and Music Director Morihiko Nakahara in our celebration of movie music at our Masterworks concerts at the Koger Center on January 13 (West Side Story) and February 3 (Kubrick Classics) as well as our Pops series concert featuring music from the Harry Potter films and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on April 8 at the Harbison Theatre.

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Ending Family Homelessness in the Midlands

by Lila Anna Sauls, CEO, Homeless No More
and Music for a Cause partner for Masterworks 1

We’ve long known the issue of homelessness among families is largely an invisible one. You rarely find families “on the streets,” but instead making do the best they can, living out of cars, in run-down motels, or moving from place to place trying to piece together an existence for their children. This instability has a heavy price. For instance children who are homeless fall behind in school at an alarming rate—one that is higher than those who live in chronic poverty.

And yet studies show eight out of ten at-risk or homeless families who receive support only need it once.

It’s a compelling argument for the value of the work we do at St. Lawrence Place. As part of the Homeless No More continuum of services, St. Lawrence Place serves families who need stabilization with a 30-home community that offers support services, life skills training and up to two years of transitional housing.

It’s a model that works. Families who come to St. Lawrence Place move on to permanent housing 95% of the time.

Homeless No More

There’s no great mystery surrounding the secret to our success. Our focus is not on housing but on life skills training that prepares our families – and each member of the family – for life beyond St. Lawrence Place. From budgeting and parenting skills and relationship classes (for the adults), to programs designed specifically to meet the needs of teens, pre-teens and young children, our approach is one we have refined over 25 years of serving the families in the Midlands and today it is recognized nationally as a best practice.

As I mentioned, St. Lawrence Place is part of the Homeless No More continuum of services which also represents a new approach in addressing the complex set of circumstances at-risk and homeless families face. We’ve recently expanded our reach to offer housing and support for those in crisis through a close relationship with Family Shelter; transitional housing and support through St. Lawrence Place; and affordable housing (sprinkled throughout our community) for those families who have achieved stability but still lack the economic base to afford our community’s median rent of $819 per month. In each of these situations our focus is not simply housing but education and support that leads to real self-sufficiency. This is a key consideration in the seemingly unsolvable issue of breaking the cycle of poverty: By addressing the challenges families face across a comprehensive continuum we can meet them with the programs and services they need when and where they need them. Equally as important, we keep families together.

There are other barriers to success we cannot manage, of course, but that we can help families navigate. We are going about that work, as well. For the past year we’ve convened service providers from across our community for conversation and work sessions to better coordinate offerings and to identify issues we can address collectively. These include transportation, healthcare, childcare and housing. We are excited with the possibilities this initiative offers; in addition to greater community collaboration there are actual adjustments and deliverables that positively impact the way families access services. It is a key consideration in removing every obstacle we can in our goal of ending family homelessness in the Midlands.

Let me also offer my thanks for the support of the South Carolina Philharmonic through their Music for a Cause program. Every ticket for the popular Beethoven and Blue Jeans performance October 14th that is purchased with a “St. Lawrence Place” or “Homeless No More” mention will benefit our organization. Please order by calling the Koger Box Office at 803.251.2222.

For some populations homelessness is a chronic issue that cannot be solved but can be temporarily relieved with an ongoing stream of financial support. (There is no doubt this is important work.) But studies show families are different. While it may seem like an audacious goal, we believe we can effectively end family homelessness in the Midlands. Homeless No More is committed to doing just that.


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Blue jeans or ball gown?

When the SC Philharmonic first launched Beethoven and Blue Jeans, it seemed like quite the novelty – breaking down the stereotype of what may be considered acceptable attire for a classical concert.

These days, it’s not unusual to see a variety of fashion choices at any of our Masterworks concerts. As social norms have changed, so have wardrobe expectations at cultural events. From the symphony to the ballet to the art museum, it seems that anything goes.

Unfortunately, the perception of a symphonic concert as being stuffy and formal persists. That’s a viewpoint we’re working to change. We want classical music to be accessible to all people. To us, it’s more about the music than the wardrobe. That philosophy has not only led us to develop community outreach programs like Healing Harmonies and Conduct the Phil, it has also inspired us to explore different ways to schedule and present our Masterworks series.

Rather than waiting until the spring, we’re kicking off the 2017-18 Masterworks Series with Beethoven and Blue Jeans on Saturday, October 14. In addition to launching Music Director Morihiko Nakahara’s 10th season with a crowd favorite, we also see this concert as setting the tone for the rest of the season:  come as you are.

We enjoy looking across an audience and seeing everything from sequins to blue jeans. However, we know that “what to wear” sometimes weighs on the minds of arts patrons.

If you’re still not sure what may be appropriate, here are some tips from blogger Holly Mulcahy:

Whatever you decide to wear, we look forward to seeing you this season. You can purchase full season subscriptions or individual concert tickets here.



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Just Another Monday Night Conducting

by Rhonda P. Hunsinger

It happened again.

The South Carolina Philharmonic’s “Conduct the Phil” events are joyous occasions, as we pop up in various places around the Midlands and invite the public to try their hand at conducting. It’s just plain fun to watch the musicians adjust to the style of a new conductor every few minutes, and the giant smiles of wonder as our conductors realize that the orchestra really is responding to their every gesture.

Sometimes, however, my emotions go beyond “joyous.” It happened earlier this season when we visited the Department of Juvenile Justice and witnessed the courage demonstrated by the kids who conducted, and even one who performed with our orchestra – in front of his friends, and with their support. Goose pimples. Awe. Humbling. There is no single word that can describe this feeling.

Last night we went to Epworth Children’s Home. At first, it wasn’t that different from our typical “Conduct the Phil,” with children stepping forward, sometimes two and three on the podium at a time, waving the baton in rhythm (and sometimes not in rhythm) to keep the orchestra playing. Some were nervous and conducted gently. Others danced as they waved their batons wildly in the air. One little girl about two years old beat the baton up and down hard, hitting the music stand, and in perfect rhythm. I found out later that for most of these kids, this was their first exposure to a live orchestra, or even live music of any kind.

I didn’t have to do much “recruiting” of conductors last night, because the staff made sure there was always someone ready to take the baton for the next piece. So I took this rare opportunity to just sit back and watch.

Fairly early in the evening a little girl stepped up – she looked to be around eight or nine years old – and raised both arms up properly. She gave the orchestra a downbeat, and then established a rhythm with her right hand, which held the baton. Her left hand kept rhythm too, and she seemed to sense when it was time to cue the various sections with a flick of her wrist, or a nod of her head. She was very serious, but also comfortable with the task at hand, as if it was just another Monday night conducting a professional symphony. I could see by the expressions on the musicians’ faces that they had not expected this level of skill and seriousness from a young child, and perhaps especially in this setting, where children have been placed because of abuse, neglect or significant loss in their lives. With a history of fractured support systems for these children, one of the pastors told me, classical music wasn’t even in their wheelhouse.

The girl stepped off the podium to great applause and sat down on the grass to watch some more. She continued to conduct from her spot. More kids stepped up, and the fun continued. Attention finally waned, with some of the older boys drifting off to toss a football in the background. The sun was setting, the weather was beautiful, and the crowd of children of all ages, Epworth staff, counselors, parents and guests watched, played and enjoyed each other’s company as classical music continued to fill the air.

Close to the end of our time there, the little girl who had conducted with such care stepped forward again. For me, she was mesmerizing to watch and I wondered about her. Did she play an instrument? Had she ever seen an orchestra before?

As she stepped off the podium for a second time, one of our cellists reached out to her and said a few words quietly. He nodded and smiled, spoke a bit more, and her eyes lit up. She said a quiet thank you, and walked away with a smile on her face. I was certain she had just received well deserved praise for her talent and dedication that night.

And so the goose pimples came back and I felt that overwhelming sense of awe in the power of music. There is no doubt in my mind that every child that conducted will remember this day into their adulthood. I can’t know what the fate of that little girl will be, but if just given a chance, I can imagine her learning to play an instrument, or having a future as a school chorus, band or orchestra director. Or perhaps aspiring to conduct a professional orchestra. She already has experience!

I hope life brings her those opportunities to pursue whatever it is she loves, and for wherever her talents are greatest. I wish it for all these kids, and am thankful that, while we cannot significantly influence their futures, we at least had the privilege of introducing them to live classical music and giving many of them a moment to treasure.

“Conduct the Phil” is made possible, in part, through a Connected Communities Grant from Central Carolina Community Foundation.



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