The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has accomplished much since George Eastman founded it in 1922.

The RPO has taken part in extensive touring, numerous recording projects and has performed more than once at Carnegie Hall.

As one of the great American orchestras, the RPO?s mission is to perform and present a broad range of quality music. The orchestra also strives to attract, entertain and educate audiences with superior musical performances, maintain and build its national reputation and enhance the reputation of the Rochester community.

Today, Music Director Christopher Seaman follows the high standard set by former Music Directors Eugene Goossens, Jose Iturbi, Erich Leinsdorf and David Zinman.

The RPO has also performed under the batons of such renowned guest conductors as Fritz Reiner, Leonard Bernstein, Sir Thomas Beecham, Igor Stravinsky and Leopold Stokowski.

Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik has earned a national reputation for excellence in Pops programming during his tenure with the RPO. The orchestra is also at the vanguard of music education, naming Michael Butterman as Principal Conductor for Education and Outreach, which is the only position of its kind in the country today.

The RPO presents more than 140 concerts per year, communicating to nearly 350,000 people each season. They achieve this through ticketed events, education and outreach concerts, an annual residency at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival in Colorado, regional runouts and concert broadcasts on WXXI-FM 91.5.

A few weeks ago, when many of us here at Eastman came to learn about the programming for RPO?s 2001-02 season, we stared in disbelief.

While most professional orchestras will program a few masterpieces and scatter them throughout the season, the RPO is plunging headlong into a sea of heavy hitting works.

Two weeks ago, they kicked off the season with a rendition of Beethoven?s monumental 9th Symphony and a virtuosic interpretation of Gershwin?s Piano Concerto featuring Eastman piano professor Barry Snyder.

Last Saturday saw a rousing performance of Beethoven?s 5th symphony, as well as Brahms? 1st Piano Concerto and the same composer?s ?Academic Festival Overture.?

Future concerts include Rachmaninoff?s beloved 2nd Piano Concerto, Shostakovich?s defiant 5th Symphony, Bruckner?s sprawling 4th Symphony and Tchaikovsky?s fiendishly difficult Violin Concerto.

Also planned are Dvorak?s ever popular 9th ?New World Symphony,? Gershwin?s ?An American in Paris? with it?s delightful jazz melodies, Vivaldi?s ?Four Seasons,? Rimsky-Korsakov?s ?Scheherazade,? Bartok?s Concerto for Orchestra, Brahms? 2nd Symphony, Mussorgsky?s ?Pictures at an Exhibition,? and Mahler?s 5th Symphony, amongst others.

To a certain degree, we all acquiesce to the notion that classical music concerts are events at which the social elite can show off their latest mink jackets.

This season, however, is off to a start that looks to turn that stereotype on its head. Though not quite the mosh pit of Oct. 2?s Reel Big Fish concert at the Water Street Music Hall, the lobby of the Eastman Theatre has been flooded with a variety of concertgoers lately.

Not only was the theater filled to its nearly 3,500 person capacity, the faces I saw around me were a mix of a younger audience as well as the older that I?m accustomed to seeing. I think that the repertoire that the RPO has programmed this year is going to draw in record ticket sales, attracting the young and old alike.

If the first few concerts were any indication of what?s in store for us, I suggest that you fasten your seat belts and decide which concerts you?d like to attend.

In addition to all the classical masterpieces planned for this season, the RPO will be collaborating with Dee Daniels, Art Garfunkel, the Chieftains, the Mambo Kings, Jubilant Sykes, Burt Bacharach, the Capital Quartet and several other stars for their Pops Series.

So, for all of you trying to find something enjoyable that?ll keep you out of the cold ? whether it be Bacharach or Brahms ? consider the wide variety of concerts that the RPO has to offer.

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