Four Minutes, Four Questions with John Jeter of the Fort Smith Symphony

Four Minutes, Four Questions with John Jeter of the Fort Smith Symphony


“We try to choose a concert season that is exciting, thought-provoking, artistically compelling and diverse for a wide range of musical tastes,” says John Jeter, music director of the Fort Smith Symphony. “We plan over a multi-year period, so part of what is programmed is based on what was done the previous few seasons and what is planned for future seasons. We do this as a great majority of our attendees return year after year.

“Although our primary goal is to take care of our audience and community, we try when we can to program works that are exciting for the orchestra members to perform as well,” he adds. “Other more mundane but important issues such as budget and guest artist availability play into season planning as well.”

The 2019-20 season, just announced, has been built around the theme “The Sounds of Genius.” Within it are “The Sounds of Joy,” “The Sounds of Hollywood,” “The Sounds of Christmas,” “The Sounds of Power” and “The Sounds of Hitchcock.” Jeter answered a few questions for The Free Weekly to let audiences know what to expect.

Q. You’ve led the way in Arkansas for “popular” concert music with Hollywood scores. What moved you in that direction? How have audiences received it? Does it bring in as many new people as I imagine it does? And do they come back?

A. Yes, we love to program film music. There are so many outstanding film scores, and some of the most amazing 20th Century composers wrote for film. For us today, right now, the symphony orchestra’s most important cultural contribution is its use in film scores. Think about it: Every blockbuster film these days is accompanied by a film score performed by a large symphony orchestra. This is new, living orchestral music that a large majority of the world is listening to. It’s a musical language embraced by young and old right now! We have had such a wonderful response to film music that two of our concerts this upcoming season are all film scores.

Q. Are there concerts you simply HAVE to do — like a Christmas concert? And how much wiggle room do you have within those concerts?

A. We HAVE to do concerts that are meaningful to our audiences. This means a huge variety of programming is important. As long as the music presented is of high quality and has something to communicate to the audience, it’s important. There are great pieces of music in all genres, just as there are less good pieces. We try to program the best selections we can in various genres.

Q. Tell about the guest artists.

A. We have two absolutely spectacular guest pianists this coming season whom audiences will love. Drew Petersen and Maxim Lando were chosen because they are both high energy, nuanced performers possessing brilliant technique combined with musical depth. Our guest artists for the December holiday concert are wonderful vocalists from throughout the region. Interestingly, the guest artist for one of our concerts could be said to be a movie. We will be showing Alfred Hitchcock’s complete film, “North By Northwest” with the Symphony performing live the entire brilliant score by Bernard Hermann. And Rocky Reuter, our composer-in-residence, will be in Fort Smith for performances of a terrific new piece called “Where Eagles Fly.” It is a majestic work about the life of these great birds.

Q. What goes on beyond the concerts that you want readers to know about?

A. As always, the Symphony will present very important educational programs for students throughout the region. Symphony-in-the-Schools and the Kool Cats Jazz Quartet will perform at dozens of elementary schools to thousands of students. Earquake! will present thrilling orchestral music to thousands of sixth graders as well.



Fort Smith Symphony

2019-20 Season

Sept. 8 — “The Sounds of Joy,” featuring American pianist Drew Petersen and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, 3 p.m.

Nov. 2 — “The Sounds of Hollywood,” including music from “The DaVinci Code,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Batman/The Dark Knight,” “Avatar,” “Apollo 13” and more, with video presentations by multimedia artist Amos Cochran, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 7 — “The Sounds of Christmas” with guest artists of all ages, 7:30 p.m.

March 7 — “The Sounds of Power,” a concert of symphonic greatest hits with composer Rocky Reuter’s new “Where Eagles Fly,” 7:30 p.m.

April 25 — “The Sounds of Hitchcock,” with “North By Northwest” shown in its entirety, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE — ArcBest Corp. Performing Arts Center in Fort Smith

TICKETS — Season tickets on sale sale; single tickets available Aug. 1

INFO — 452-7575

Categories: 'Tis the Season