GLEN ELLYN – This season promises to be a memorable one for the New Philharmonic, as the professional orchestra returns home to the McAninch Arts Center at College of Du-Page in Glen Ellyn for its annual New Year’s Eve concerts.
But first, the New Philharmonic will begin its 2013-14 season Oct. 19 and 20 at Gary United Methodist Church in Wheaton with two “Amadeus!” concerts. The 80-member orchestra has a long history in DuPage County, having provided an alternative to Chicago for music lovers in the area for more than 35 years.
“I think it’s an incredible cultural resource for the community,” said College of Du-Page (COD) Dean of Liberal Arts Daniel Lloyd.
While the New Philharmonic has long been housed at the McAninch Arts Center (MAC), the group was recently displaced for about a year due to a $35 million construction project to renovate the building’s academic and performance spaces.
In the meantime, the orchestra has found other locations for its performances, but construction is expected to be finished in time for the New Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Eve concerts.
The final concerts of the season will be held April 12 and 13, also at the MAC.
The New Philharmonic performs a variety of music, from classic compositions to more modern works.
The orchestra has played shows of entirely Irish music or full operas. Some concerts involve taking the piece apart and explaining it for the audience. And still other shows have featured Disney music or movie scores.
“We try to play music that all types of people, all ages in our community, like to hear,” Maestro Kirk Muspratt said.
For its “Amadeus!” concerts, the New Philharmonic will be joined by 14-year-old Florida piano prodigy Nadia Azzi, who made her Carnegie Hall debut when she was 11 years old.
The New Philharmonic aims to build a relationship with its audience, through features such as “Just Ask Kirk” that actively engage listeners.
During concerts, Muspratt will allow audience members to write questions for him on an insert in their show programs. Sometimes, Muspratt will answer questions during the show; other times, he will follow up with a phone call, email or letter.
“I think it’s the way we should be doing music and interacting with each other and learning from each other,” Muspratt said.
This type of attitude has contributed to a strong following for the New Philharmonic that has proven especially helpful when matters of funding come into question.
In recent years, COD has decreased its financial support of the orchestra, relying more on donors and patrons than in the past in an effort to make the New Philharmonic as self-sustaining as possible.
The orchestra, which requires about $150,000 each year to operate, set out on a three-year donor campaign to raise as much of the $450,000 needed for the upcoming seasons as possible, Lloyd said.
After a little more than half of that amount was raised, COD agreed to offset the remaining costs for the New Philharmonic through 2015-16, he said.
Muspratt enjoys having a close relationship with the people who attend the New Philharmonic’s performances. He’s not interested in just being the guy in the black suit who stands at the front of the concert hall.
“Just for me, that’s not our world,” he said. “That’s not the world I want for our music.”