Kevin Rhodes affirms decade-long commitment to TSO | News

TRAVERSE CITY – For two decades, Kevin Rhodes flew from Massachusetts to conduct the Traverse Symphony Orchestra.

Now the trips to work are a little faster.

Rhodes, who has headed the TSO for 20 years, reiterated his commitment to the orchestra and the TC community. His contract was extended for 10 years last Friday and also took on new roles as artistic director and chief conductor.

The extension came when Rhodes and his wife moved to Traverse City amid the pandemic. Rhodes said the heavy trips he took before were quite common in the industry.

“The main thing is that I have time to do things when I’m not really making music,” said Rhodes, who previously held the title of music director. “I used to be in town for a week when we were doing concerts and rehearsals and stuffing a lot of stuff there.”

Rhodes said the long-term contract renewal, which typically lasts two to four years, allows the orchestra to see what projects will look like in a few years.

He said the TSO wanted a greater sense of security than what a shorter contract would provide.

“Now we have some projects that we’re already starting to talk about, maybe those four years will be away, and maybe five, maybe a little longer, but we can talk about it with the knowledge and assurance that I have I will be here to finish them off, ”said Rhodes.

As Artistic Director, Rhodes will have an impact on areas that are not just music. This includes everything how the mailers look like and how the TSO greets the guests as they walk into the theater.

“We want to work with many regional arts organizations in a variety of ways and also expand the types of concerts and productions we do,” said Rhodes. “There is just a lot more to be done than just music than F-Sharps and B-Flats in the things we talk about.”

Rhodes also takes on the title of Principal Conductor recognizing that he is not the only conductor the audience or orchestras might see. In this way, the TSO can bring guest conductors into the orchestra without having to worry about the future of Rhodes.

“I want to be able to bring guest conductors to the orchestra without anyone having to feel, ‘Oh, Kevin doesn’t love us anymore,” “said Rhodes.

Kedrik Merwin, executive director of the TSO, said the message Rhodes’ commitment sends is that the orchestra is strong with future plans and progress.

Merwin said Rhodes has helped transform the TSO from a “community orchestra” to a “full-fledged, top-notch professional orchestra” over the past 20 years.

“Our players come from everywhere. We have many of the faculties of the Interlochen Center For The Arts in the orchestra, ”said Merwin. “This is a really high quality orchestra and it has been through the continuous building that Kevin has been doing over the past 20 years.”

Following the engagement of Rhodes, the orchestra will introduce two new types of performances this fall. The entire orchestra is slated to return in January 2022.

This fall, the Traverse Symphony Jazz Orchestra will perform, a big band with strings that will open the season on October 23 at the City Opera House.

Rhodes said viewers will hear a retro vibe of the music but feel like a mix of a Las Vegas lounge, Hollywood studio orchestra, modern rock and pop-up groups, and maybe even folk. Over time, guest artists will be invited to perform with the group between 35 and 40 musicians.

The other series is known as the “Maestro Series” and allows pandemic-friendly performances before the first full orchestral performance.

In four performances, Rhodes will play the piano with a first-class guest musician to give a solo concert. Among the four cast members are two soloists who have performed with Rhodes and the TSO, and two will make their TC debut as part of the series.

Will Hagen will show the first performance on November 13th in the restored cathedral barn in the Grand Traverse Commons.

“Our sponsored partner, Evola Music, will bring us a great piano to play these concerts with. We’re going to have a bar and it’s going to be a really nice kind of laid back yet great way to hear top notch music and artists, ”said Rhodes.

Personal rehearsals for fall performances usually take place a day or two before the performance, rather than all year round. So Rhodes said that work at the TSO before the fall will include drawing up plans for 2022. 23 season.

Rhodes said the TSO is also working on a joint outdoor project for August with the Traverse City Dance Project and Parallel 45 that is yet to be discussed.

“We have quite a few outside concerts with small groups of people over the summer,” said Merwin. “We’re approaching this, I think, both cautiously, but with a real sense of optimism that people will be ready to come back. I think they are hungry for live music and we will be there to do it in a healthy and responsible way. “

Follow Andrew Rosenthal on Twitter @ByAndrewR

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