Get ready, music lovers. It’s time for another concert in Mountain Home!
The Mountain Home Symphony is officially inviting music fans in Mountain Home and the Twin Lakes area to celebrate their Spring Concert Series on May 22 at 2 p.m. in the Vada Sheid Community Development Center at ASUMH.
The symphony will be playing pieces from the “Phantom of the Opera,” Russell Crowe’s “Gladiator,” and more. Tickets cost $10 at the door. Children under the age of 12 get in free.
“The symphony is what we call a teaching symphony,” said Jack Clayton, vice president of the board for the Mountain Home Symphony. “Its focus is on providing high-quality music, but also developing players. Both adults and high school student players that can play at this level and give them exposure to playing in an adult orchestra with an adult director.”
Originally founded in 1991 as the Ozark Regional Orchestra before transferring its 501(c)(3) status to Arkansas, the Mountain Home Symphony has spent the better part of 30 years attracting some of the best and most spirited performers to its performances.
For some, like Betty Dykstra and Michelle Webb, the symphony presented an opportunity to pick up their instrument and knock the dust off the skills they practiced as children and teenagers.
With others, like Dave Fornes, the symphony’s current president, it was a chance to join together with other musicians after moving his music lesson business to Mountain Home.
“I was driving around, and I saw a house that said ‘studio,’” Fornes said about his moving to Mountain Home. “I pulled into the studio, and I said, ‘what are you doing?’ I went and knocked on the door, and a nice lady came and answered the door. And I said, ‘is this a music studio’ and she said, ‘yes, it is.’ I said ‘I just started teaching here’ and she said ‘come on in’, and it was Mrs. Betty Dykstra who invited me into her home.”
Dykstra, who was one of the original members of the symphony, passed away in 2019. While Fornes joined the symphony several years after their first meeting, he remembers the encounter to this day. The orchestra’s stage at the Sheid at ASUMH is named in her honor.
“She even gave me a piece of music for the piano that I had been looking for, for a while,” Fornes said.
Not everyone that joins and supports the symphony is a musician. Jack Clayton, the retired owner of Nature’s Way, joined the symphony’s board in 2018 after watching a performance that was conducted by Bruce Shaver, the symphony’s current conductor.
At the time, the symphony had waned in popularity. Clayton said he saw potential in Shaver and, after a few discussions with Fornes, joined the symphony to help bring back interest in its performances.
“The symphony’s performance was so much better than I had ever heard before,” Clayton said. “And I actually kind of quit coming but decided to come back in. They had their rather dynamic director, Bruce Shaver, who was leading it. And it was just an outstanding concert, but it was poorly attended. I may not be a musician, but I think I can recognize when things are going right in a musical performance, and that was just outstanding.”
Bruce Shaver has a diverse background in music. Growing up in north Arkansas, he took piano lessons and sang in various churches, schools, and community choirs. He attended Arkansas Tech University and graduated in 2006 with his B.M.E. in Keyboard/Vocal Music Education. Since then, he has taught elementary, middle, and high school students in various schools.
And while Shaver’s time at the helm was put on hold because of COVID-19, he successfully helped put the symphony back together for its first performance since the pandemic outbreak in 2020 during Christmas of last year.
He is set to lead the symphony again for its Spring Concert Series.
“I recognized in Shaver, the talent that guy has got, and the energy that he was creating inside of the symphony,” Clayton said.
As a 501(c)(3), the Mountain Home Symphony provides its younger members with scholarship opportunities so that they can further their education after graduating from high school.
To earn a scholarship with the symphony, high schoolers must perform in the symphony’s various concerts. The more performances a student participates in, the more money they earn through their scholarship.
Both Fornes and Clayton are working to increase funding for the symphony’s scholarship at this time.
“One of the things the symphony is trying to do, in my mind, is we’re looking for ways to try to do better with that,” Clayton said. “To get more students involved. To give more money away and really make it worth it.”