South Shore Orchestra, Valparaiso’s own community orchestra, was invited to become part of an amazing adventure—in China. Seventy-three musicians from NW Indiana with a few of their friends from Illinois and Michigan, traveled ten days over the New Year holiday to perform seven concerts in ten days at the request of the Confucius Institute at VU. From smaller towns of 500,000 in the southeastern province of Zhejiang to the major metropolis of Beijing with more than 20 million, SSO discovered new fans and friends of all ages who connected with their enthusiastic presentation of both cultures through the universal language of music.
Each concert was sponsored and paid for by a local government or a corporate host. They provided the group’s travel and lodging expenses as well as the cost of the performance venue. The stunning printed programs and large banners and posters announcing the presence of South Shore Orchestra USA were impressive and often were sought after souvenirs by our group. Each performance space had it’s own memories—the largest one was quite drafty and cold making it difficult for the performers to focus on their music without shivering! One was bedecked with aromatic tropical flora and cascading orchids. The final one at the newly debuted theater of North Central Beijing University was filled with cheering students, their professors and families. Performers often felt like “rock stars” afterwards, as audience members in each city gathered in the footlights to share their gracious compliments and English speaking skill. They were welcoming, genuine and eager to engage us.
SSO began five years ago with a few music educators and other professionals who wanted to make a difference in their community by offering a musical educational experience for all while giving themselves an opportunity to use their musicianship skill. SSO has now grown to over 70 regular members with sometimes as many as 100 performers joining the two major concert fundraising events in May and December performed at Ivy Tech Auditorium Theater. Last summer they performed to almost 3,000 on the lawn of Ivy Tech at a free to the community concert opportunity.
SSO members work beside you in your office, they teach your children, they serve you in your communities and above all, they are passionate about music—some even performing in multiple community groups like LaPorte Symphony Orchestra, Windiana, and even more within their churches and smaller chamber groups. They express being in this group, affords them the ability to perform and perfect, educate and enjoy, relate and reward a special musical dialog.
The SSO China Adventure holds many challenging and spirited memories for the musicians and their family groupie/companions totaling 91 in all—including five Lauers, four Schafers, O’Connells and Kowalskis, three Bessettes and dozens of couples and individuals from ages 10-71. Events like celebrating New Year’s Eve twice, surviving record snow and cold in Beijing and the Great Wall, early morning wake-up calls, bus roll-calls, passport collection and retrievals, dispersal and hunt for keys, the thrill of seeing and performing in each new venue with its critical sound tune-up, then deliverance of an increasingly finely perfected and produced performance each time turned around, being in and experiencing such an amazing cultural contrast, and ultimately meeting such wonderful new friends while getting to know your own group as well.
We invite you to connect to our website at www.southshoreorchestra.com where you can learn more about our organization and mission, view our travel blog and musical inserts, and sense and experience the joy and verve of what makes this organization truly a unique community treasure! SSO looks forward to your connection with us and what we can offer you—an impassioned, orchestrated experience through the universal language of music.