Symphonic Salida! concert series continues for a fifth year

Five world-class members of the Colorado Symphony will take the Salida SteamPlant stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, as part of the Symphonic Salida! music series. The quintet calls itself New Kids on the Block because the musicians are the newest members of the Colorado Symphony.

Scott Adams, head of the Symphonic Salida Steering Committee, said the collaboration between the Colorado Symphony and Salida’s community radio station, KHEN 106.9 FM, began five years ago when symphony executive Gene Sobczak asked the KHEN board of directors if the station would like to partner on a concert series.

Adams recalls being new to the board and not having a specific role. Board member Harry Brull asked Adams if he would lead the steering committee to make the series happen. “I thought it was a neat opportunity to get involved with a classic orchestra and get to know world-renowned musicians by name,” Adams said.

In addition to performing at the SteamPlant, the quintet will perform at Salida High School Thursday afternoon. Of the three world-class classical music concert series in Salida – the Walden Chamber Music Society’s annual chamber music concerts, the Salida Aspen Concerts series and Symphonic Salida! – Adams said Symphonic Salida! is the only one to bring the concerts to the public schools, and for free at that. “For many, it is the only exposure they will have as students to world-class classical music – really important to our mission.”  

Megan Lombardo, Steering Committee member, described a new aspect of the concert series. “Paulette Brodeur painted a violin for us that we will be auctioning off during the concert on Thursday. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece that is the first of what will be an ongoing artist series that we will continue to showcase – the Symphonic Salida! Painted Violin Project.” 

Adams said Dale Anderson “was very kind to donate a violin, and Paulette Brodeur was very kind to paint the violin in her unique style.” The violin will be auctioned during intermission. 

Salida Strings, a music program run by Jennifer Cox and featuring students ages 12-18, will open for the featured string quintet. Not to be confused with the ’90s boy band, New Kids on the Block is Yi Zhao and Ben Odhner on violin, Leah Kovach and Mary Davis Cowell on viola and Susan Yun on cello.

Born in Henan, China, Zhao has excelled in both solo and ensemble playing. At age 12, she was selected as one of China’s best and entered the prestigious preparatory school program at the Central Conservatory in Beijing. Zhao officially joined the Colorado Symphony as the assistant concertmaster in July 2014.

Odhner was born in Boston and started his violin studies at age 5. He was a member of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, which performed at Carnegie Hall in April 2009. In 2014 Odhner became a member of the symphony and earned fourth chair in the first violin section a year later.

Growing up in Salt Lake City, Kovach moved to the Rocky Mountains to join the symphony in 2015. Recently, she traveled to Aldeburgh, England, to participate in the acclaimed Britten-Pears Young Artist Program.

Cowell has held her third chair fixed position in the viola section of the symphony since 2007. Cowell loves playing with the symphony in beautiful venues around Colorado such as Red Rocks Amphitheater, Beaver Creek, Salida and Telluride. 

A native of Boston, Yun began her studies at age 4. She joined the Colorado Symphony during the 2014-15 season. Yun recently completed her doctorate degree as a student of soloist Colin Carr.

The quintet is the second of four concerts this season. The next Symphonic Salida! concert, featuring the double bass quartet Bach, Bass and Beyond, will take place March 23, Adams said. “We’re so fortunate to be in our fifth season with the Colorado Symphony. Salida is still the only city beyond the Front Range to host regular visits by the Colorado Symphony.”