A pair of symphony orchestras, one old and one new, are betting the house there is enough support in the Scottsdale area to make both successful.
The long-established Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra has company in the form of Musica Nova, a collection of professional and student musicians formed three months ago.
However, spokesmen for both groups said they don't see it as a competitive situation.
Each will draw audiences from different geographic areas: The Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra performs at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts downtown; Musica Nova has aimed at north Scottsdale for musicians and its audiences.
One person, though, has some doubt that Scottsdale is big enough to support both.
“A lot of people from up north have told us they would like to have classical music, but I think it would be difficult to have two orchestras in Scottsdale,” said Kathy Hotchner, a member of the Scottsdale Cultural Council and director of the Scottsdale Center for the Arts.
“Sometimes, (the Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra has) a difficult time filling the seats for just one.”
Both groups face problems.
The Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra might be forced to shut down after being notified it must vacate its headquarters and rehearsal hall of 27 years at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, said Robert Ernst, corporate secretary for the symphony. The church has notified the group it will begin restoration of the church in August.
“We're still looking for a new home, and, if we don't find one we may have to stop performing,” Ernst said. “But I'm optimistic that we'll relocate and continue playing.”
Harriet Yellin, concertmaster for the Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra, said the mostly volunteer group of musicians needs financial help.
“We're trying to reach out to the Scottsdale community because we need money, period,” Yellin said.
Unlike Musica Nova, the Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra receives some financial grants from the city's performance coordinating agency, the Scottsdale Cultural Council, but not enough to cover expenses.
“We're also looking for financial support,” said Warren Cohen, who formed Musica Nova with classical music lover Bill Stanley.
Cohen directed the Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra from March 2002 until February. He said he left the orchestra after several disagreements with Irving Fleming, its founder, over operation of the orchestra.
Cohen and Stanley are trying to develop a series of fall concerts that they hope will attract large audiences.
“We're currently auditioning musicians for concerts mostly in north Scottsdale and nearby surrounding areas,” Stanley said.
Fleming, who also directed the Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra, said his orchestra faces economic hard times, too.
“Every community needs an orchestra and every orchestra needs financial support, including the Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra,” Fleming said.
Stanley said Musica Nova will perform at various locations, including churches in north Scottsdale, Carefree and Rio Verde.
“Some people might view us as being competitors, but I don't think we are,” Stanley said. “Most of the music in north Scottsdale and nearby is popular, not classical.”
Jack Herriman, director of the San Marcos Symphony Orchestra in Chandler, said competition, if it exists, is good for the performing arts.
“The more the merrier,” he said.
Cohen, who also directs the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra in Tucson, said Musica Nova is blending its musicians and musical selections for a somewhat different audience.
“We're trying to fill a musical gap by including students, for one thing, and by offering our audiences a slightly different approach to classical music,” Cohen said.
Musica Nova is a large symphony, a fine arts string orchestra and a youth orchestra. It presented its first concert May 18 at Pinnacle Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale, attracting an audience of about 200.
Its 2003-04 schedule will include pieces by Mendelssohn, Mahler, Grieg, Mozart, Vivaldi and Handel as well as Latin American numbers by Villa Lobos and Gonzalas and numbers by Duke Ellington.
The Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra on June 3 and 4 will feature pianist Jian Liu and music by Francis Scott Key and Beethoven at the 838-seat Scottsdale Center for the Arts.