Not every rectangle is a square

Veteran S.C. Phil horn player Cyndi Williams answers the ages-old question: “So, what’s a  philharmonic?”

As a member of the South Carolina Philharmonic, invariably, I am asked to explain the difference between a “symphony orchestra” and a “philharmonic orchestra.” I hope this will clear things up a bit.

Remember when your brain exploded after your math teacher told you, “Every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square!” in fourth grade? It’s kind of like that. Every symphony is an orchestra, but not every orchestra is a symphony. Likewise, every philharmonic is a symphony, but not every symphony is a philharmonic.

Okay, let’s break this down!


S.C. Phil violists focus intently on the music during a performance. The S.C. Phil is a symphony orchestra, but used to offer a chamber orchestra as well.

“Orchestra” is a broad term for any ensemble featuring a large group of strings. Two basic orchestras exist – chamber orchestras (small) and symphony orchestras (big). Chamber orchestras employ about 50 or fewer musicians. As the name suggests, they play “chamber music” – written for private halls, aristocratic parlors, and glitzy palace chambers. Of course, contemporary composers still write chamber music, but the style peaked during the 17th and 18th centuries with composers like Haydn, Mozart, and Vivaldi.


Members of the S.C. Phil’s woodwind and brass sections in action. Symphony orchestras, like the S.C. Phil, can use 100 players or more to play one musical work.

On the flip side, a symphony orchestra can boast more than 100 players, divided into strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. As that name suggests, they play “symphonies” – large pieces that usually require 18 to 25 different instruments. (Think of the composers of the 1800’s: Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, etc.)

Essentially, if an orchestra is big enough to play a symphony, it’s a symphony orchestra.

Simple enough? Okay, next point. You might want to sit down.

A symphony orchestra and a philharmonic are the same thing – sort of. They’re the same size and they play the same kind of music. The two terms exist to help us tell different ensembles apart, especially in cities that boast multiple groups. They’re the same kind of orchestra, but they have different names so you don’t confuse them. The divide between symphony-philharmonic is just a matter of identity.

And that’s what makes them different. “Symphony orchestra” is a generic term, whereas “philharmonic orchestra” is always part of a proper name. So, you can call every philharmonic a symphony, but you can’t call every symphony a philharmonic – even though they’re talking about the same thing.

And as for “Pops?” That just means the orchestra isn’t afraid to let its hair down and play show tunes.

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Amazon Smile

Attention Amazon shoppers!

Did you know that for every dollar you spend on, Amazon will donate 5¢ to the South Carolina Philharmonic?

asmileIn order to participate, all you have to do is shop on instead of The first time you visit Amazon Smile you will be asked to choose which organization you wish to support. Simply search for “South Carolina Philharmonic” and then click on “Select.”

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Happy shopping!

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Customize your S.C. Phil Experience in 2014/2015

As long-time subscribers of the S.C. Phil know, our main Masterworks Series has consisted of seven concerts occurring between the months of September and May. This year, we are making a slight alteration and presenting six Masterworks concerts instead of seven.

Why the change? This decision is a result of several factors including feedback from our audience. Many subscribers reported that they were only able to attend an average of four or five concerts per season due to their busy schedules, and lamented the fact that they were paying for a 7-concert subscription but not seeing two to three of those concerts. We have also had requests to offer more pops concerts, including holiday and Broadway programs. In response, we are now presenting six Masterworks concerts and have adjusted the season prices accordingly. Subscription prices now range from just $82 to $230, or $14 to $38 per concert! Even larger discounts are available for seniors. military, students, and Notables. One may also, of course, purchase tickets to individual concerts without getting a subscription. Tickets go on sale September 15th. Here are this season’s Masterworks concerts, which will take place at the Koger Center for the Arts in Columbia:

The  S.C. Phil has also expanded its programming with a three-concert pops series at Harbison Theatre:

  • Beloved Broadway (Oct. 4, 2014; 7:30 p.m.),
  • Winter Wonderland (Dec. 14, 2014; 3:30 p.m.),
  • At the Movies (April 11, 2015; 7:30 p.m.).

(Note: “Beloved Broadway” is already nearing sold-out; to get your tickets call Harbison Theatre at 803.407.5111 or visit

With all of these concert options, our patrons can customize their concert experience, attending just one concert or all nine!

For more information, visit
S.C. Phil Audience Services: 803.254.7445.

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Subscription ticket packets

Communications and Audience Services Director Jason Rapp updates subscribers on when to expect their tickets.

A couple of phone calls came in from long-time subscribers this morning wondering when to expect their tickets for the 2014/2015 season. I single out “long-time” subscribers because newer ones might not realize that before the 2013/2014 season, the S.C. Phil’s Masterworks Series began in about mid-September. Tickets were almost always mailed out by this point in time, so it’s understandable that some might wonder why they’ve not gotten theirs yet.

But as is now the custom, this season’s Masterworks Series begins in October (the 11th). The later start moves the ticket mailing back a couple of weeks, as you might imagine. We’re working toward having ticket packets mailed to subscribers the latter stages of the week of Sept. 8-12.

Two additional items of note:

  • Individual concert ticket sales begin Monday, Sept. 15. If all goes according to plan and ticket packets go out on time, new subscribers and those who renewed early (by April 18th) will have their reward vouchers in hand to redeem at the Koger Center Box Office for complimentary tickets to any 14/15 Masterworks concert — the day they go on sale.
  • Subscriptions ARE still on sale, and we’ve got great seats available. A subscription gets you the same seat to all six concerts, and they start at just $82.
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Kickstarter Campaign

We have some very exciting news to share!

Beatbox March 14

The Philharmonic is pleased to announce that we will be hosting the world premiere of the world’s very first concerto for string quintet and orchestra. The piece, by composer Dan Visconti, will be titled “Beatbox” and will be performed by the string quintet Sybarite5. The concert will take place on Saturday, March 14th, 2015 and is part of our Masterworks Series, so if you’ve purchased your season subscription you already have your ticket to this special event! Ticket sales for the 51st season concerts will open again on September 15th, 2014.

As well as presenting this new music, we are trying a new method of fundraising to help cover the cost of putting on this amazing performance. This is our most ambitious and exciting musical creation of the season, and we would like all of you to be sponsors! The S.C. Philharmonic is running it’s first Kickstarter campaign, which begins today, August 19th and last 30 days, ending on September 18th. During this time, anyone in the world is welcome to donate to the cause online. Click here to view the campaign and to donate!

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding venture, meaning a large number of donors are encouraged to donate small amounts of money that together meet the overall funding goal. Our goal for this campaign is $5,000, so if all of our Facebook fans donated just $2.50 each, we would exceed our goal!

The crowdfunding method has proven to be an extremely successful method of fundraising in many cases. Perhaps you heard about the Potato Salad Kickstarter that went viral this summer and raised over $55,000 with about 7,000 donors. Yes, if potato salad can raise $55,000, our goal seems quite attainable.

Please consider donating a few dollars to bring this world premiere to Columbia, SC. We are so excited to have the community of Columbia work together to bring this project to fruition. Those few dollars really do add up quickly. And of course, we will have thank-you gifts for all of our donors. View the Kickstarter to see the gifts.

And thank you, as always, for your generous support.

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SC Phil Brings Healing Music to Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital

The South Carolina Philharmonic presents monthly concerts at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital to bring healing (and fun!) music to children and their families who are in stressful medical situations. Read more about it in this article!

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Season subscription renewals

Communications and Audience Services Director Jason Rapp checks in with an update for season ticket-holders about renewing for next season.

The Phil’s office is nothing short of bustling for the last week or more. Late winter/early spring is always a busy time of year: on top of Masterworks concerts come our wonderful Link Up concerts, usually a Youth Orchestras concert, season subscription renewals, and this year’s biggest source of the frenetic (and sometimes frantic) pace … Tasting Notes.

(We trust you’ve heard about it once or twice.)


But the reason for this brief blog update (my first for the Phil) is to reach out to our subscriber base regarding subscription renewal packets (above). These are roughly a month behind when they normally get to you, but there’s a good (and obvious) reason: our new schedule is about a month later than the one to which we’ve all become accustomed!


Jason Rapp

The first “Thank You” season concert was last October rather than September, and the season runs into June instead of April/May. So fear not – if you were worried, the packets are being prepared as of today and are scheduled to be in your mailboxes next week. (The original plan was this week, but my co-workers threatened me bodily harm if I caused the phones to ring even more. True story.)

As always, we’ve done our best to make the renewal process simple and streamlined for those who wish to do so:

  • as much of your form is pre-filled as possible – add up ticket cost, a donation (of any amount is greatly appreciated!), and processing fee, choose payment method, and either drop it in the mail or come see me at the ticket desk at the April or May Masterworks concerts,
  • you can call,
  • you can fax,
  • or you can visit if in-person consultation is necessary.

All the details are included, and we’re once again offering the Early Renewal Reward if you renew by the Friday, 18 April Early Renewal Deadline (final deadline is Monday, 12 May). Look for your packets next week. We hope you like what you see.

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