The More The Merrier

The More The Merrier

Symphony offers all sorts of music in new season


“If you think of things that are traditional — and tradition is great; it’s church, family gatherings, lots of cultural traditions — one of the most traditional things is a symphony orchestra,” muses John Jeter, music director of the Fort Smith Symphony. “I respect tradition and history, but I’m very much the kind of person that looks to the future. I see the orchestra as a living, breathing organism, something that is very relevant today — but may not look like it.”

Jeter is philosophizing about the 2020-21 Fort Smith Symphony season, which has just been announced in the middle of the nation’s covid-19 crisis. Even though the last performance of the 2019-20 season had to be postponed, he’s as enthusiastic as ever about the future of the orchestra, the evolution of its repertoire and the demand for live music as the world reshapes itself.

“We’ve talked over the years about ways to do things differently and changing the direction of not only what our orchestra is doing but the whole idea of the significance of an orchestra,” he says. “This next season is definitely leaning in the direction of performing more music with a contemporary voice but not necessarily new commissions. We’ll still be doing terrific classical music, but we’ll also be doing more film music and more popular music. In the five concerts, we have scheduled a total of 50 pieces, everything from Mendelssohn to Lady Gaga. I always love a lot of variety!”

Jeter believes that audiences expect orchestras to play the classics, but “an orchestra can make anything sound fantastic.” And that, he says, makes the range of choices colossal.

“I love museums, but I don’t think an orchestra should be one,” he explains. “We need to keep the currency of the music going. That doesn’t mean we can’t play the classics, but just having this infusion of things written pretty recently, no matter the genre, is really important. And I think eventually, that’s what orchestras are going to do, as times change and listeners’ habits change.”

Jeter points to last year’s recording of music by African-American composer Florence Price as an example of how the choices made by the Fort Smith Symphony can echo across the country.

“Florence Price’s music is being performed everywhere next season,” he says. “It just goes to show you can be in a smaller community but have a big impact much further than you can imagine.”



Fort Smith Symphony

2020-21 Season

Sept. 13 — Celestial Symphonies: Experience the solar system through sight and sound with a performance of “The Planets” by Gustav Holst and overhead visuals from NASA and artist Adrian Wyard. Also, guest artist SooBeen Lee will perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, 3 p.m.

Nov. 7 — Film Score Festival: Music from 12 motion pictures including “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “Superman: The Movie” and “Forrest Gump,” 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 5 — ‘Tis the Season: Holiday classics from “Sleigh Ride” to “The Nutcracker” with guest instrumentalists and vocalists, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 27, 2021 — Pops Spectacular: With music from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Skyfall,” “Downton Abby,” “Phantom of the Opera” and more, 7:30 p.m.

April 24, 2021 — Opera’s Greatest Hits: Music by Puccini, Verdi, Gershwin, Saint-Saens and Beethoven with soprano Nicole van Every and Metropolitan Opera tenor Arnold Rawls, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE — Arcbest Performing Arts Center in Fort Smith

COST — Season tickets at $110-$210 are currently on sale at 452-7575 or

BONUS — “The Sounds of Hitchcock” concert originally scheduled for April 25 will be presented in February 2021.

Categories: Music, Uncategorized