As I write this column, I am still basking in the afterglow of the final concert of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra’s 2018-19 season. This concert, like the entire season, featured composers considered musical and national heroes, as well as music depicting the life of a hero, played heroically by our symphony musicians.
In March 2018, when Maestro Lawrence Golan announced the “heroic” theme of this season, the horn section was immediately excited and yet apprehensive. When it comes to “heroic” music, the brass family, and the horns in particular, are exploited by composers, often to extremes. So what would we be called upon to do, and how “heroic” would we need to be to get ready for the season?
I spent the summer of 2018 gathering horn parts, listening to recordings and getting mentally and physically prepared for the season. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Beethoven’s “Eroica,” Brahms’ First Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, but the opportunity to prepare such monumental works as Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 and Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben (“A Hero’s Life”) for the first time was somewhat life-changing.
In 40-plus years of orchestral playing, including 28 with the YSO, I had never played these two works. In fact, I had previously convinced myself that my opportunity to play them had passed. I discovered that other YSO musicians had come to similar conclusions about these very same works.
What unfolded was a landmark season for our orchestra, and the most striking achievement was our final concert. When I joined the orchestra in 1991, I always hoped we would have opportunities to play such important masterpieces, and the joy and satisfaction shared by the orchestra and the audience in The Capitol Theater at the end of Strauss’ incredible tone poem was truly humbling.
We’ve come a long way in the YSO, and the future is bright for the orchestra and our community. Thank you to all who support the YSO and recognize its value as a jewel of Central Washington’s cultural and artistic community.
When you support a symphony, you are heroes, too!
• Jeffrey Snedeker, who has been the Yakima Symphony Orchestra’s principal horn since 1992, has taught horn and music history at Central Washington University since 1991. Snedeker has performed on six continents, released five solo CDs and published more than 50 articles on various musical topics. In 2012, he was the Washington Music Educators Association’s Higher Education Music Educator of the Year, and in 2018 he was elected to the WMEA Hall of Fame. Learn more about the symphony at www.ysomusic.org.