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Orchestra offers eclectic mix of music

Hoedown tunes, music from Star Wars, Disney music and songs especiallyfor children will be included in the Clearwater Symphony Orchestra's gala dinner and concert March 23 at the Sheraton Sand Key.

The program will be called "A Night on the Town."

Conductor Raymond Hawkinson said, "We will have a variety of music from serious to Disney. The concert will feature 15 to 20 kids from Our Lady of Lourdes (Catholic) School (in Dunedin). I think it's going to be an interesting concert all the way through.

"Over the past years, the quality of many sections of our orchestra have improved. The orchestra members seem to really care about the quality of the orchestra. The members actually practice;

they don't just show up for rehearsals."

The non-profit orchestra was formed about five years ago, said Raymond Jones, who coordinates publicity for the group. The orchestra presents four concerts on a regular basis each year. It has about 50 members, all volunteers, from Hillsborough and Pasco counties as well as Pinellas.

"We specialize in symphonic music," said Hawkinson. "We present a wide range of so-called serious music."

Hawkinson was the original conductor when the symphony was formed, but then left the group for about a year and returned a year ago. "We used to have concerts in Ruth Eckerd Hall and other auditoriums, but the expense was considerable. From the standpoint of finances, the board decided to have concerts in churches.

"We performed in Clearwater Mall last Christmas, and we hope to do more things like that to give us more exposure. We want to make our programs interesting, not stuffy."

When the orchestra performs in churches, it gives $100 of any money raised to the church. "That leaves us $25 or $30 or a deficit," Jones said. "But it does give us exposure to the community, so we feel it's best to perform to get more community support.

"The pops concert in the spring keeps our heads above water in regard to finances."

Additional musicians, especially string instrument players, are needed for the performance. "The orchestra includes performers of all ages, and we need about 10 more people," Jones said.

"We want to be as close to professional as this organization can be," Hawkinson said.

"We allow people to come in for six rehearsals. After the sixth, we will send an invitation if we want them to join. If the section is filled, openings do come up and they would be contacted. Extra performers are needed sometimes.

"It is most important that they be able to read music. We do want quality people so we can have quality performances."

The Clearwater Symphony Orchestra rehearses from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Wednesdays in the band room at Clearwater Central Catholic High School.

Anyone interested in joining the group is invited to attend a rehearsal, or call 461-2130 or 447-3580.

The Clearwater Symphony Orchestra's spring gala dinner and concert "A Night on the Town," will begin with a social hour at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 and the musical program from 8 to 9 p.m. March 23 at the Sheraton Sand Key resort. Dance music will be presented after the concert. Tickets are $25. Call 461-2130 or 447-3580.