THE GARDEN STATE PHILHARMONIC…
In 1955, a group of community minded people determined that a need existed to provide quality symphonic music to the residents of the Jersey Shore and founded the Garden State Philharmonic Symphony Society. It began with a dream, some musicians, and very little money. Within a year there was an orchestra, a conductor, a regular schedule, and a bank debt guaranteed by members of the Board of Directors. The credit for that vision goes to Morris Adler, Harry Duckworth, Ed Feiner, Jack Fellows, and Bud Lomell. As a result of their dedication, the audience began to grow along with civic support and private donations.
The orchestra presented its first two seasons in Lakewood before moving to its first Toms River home in 1958. The Orchestra for many years presented only a handful of concerts each season.
In 1959, the GSP began to expand on its commitment to the arts with the creation of the Music for Young People (MYP) — a cooperative effort between school music teachers and the GSP. Through comprehensive music education experiences including: hands-on workshops led by the Conductor and guest artists; live music assemblies led by GSP musicians; and educator materials for the classroom, young people learn about orchestral music, instruments, acoustics, historical and societal influences, concert etiquette, and how to make music in their own school. MYP culminates in free Young People’s Concert(s) performed at a public venue by the GSP, members of the GSPYO, and a chorus of student representatives from participating MYP schools.
Inspired by the success of the MYP, the GSP established the Youth Orchestras Program (GSPYO) in 1970. The GSPYO offers young instrumentalists from 6th grade to college freshmen the opportunity to study and perform more complex orchestral music beyond the ability of their school orchestras. Additionally, the GSP provides coaching, master classes, side-by-side performance opportunities with professionals, and, when possible, unique performances at prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall.
Recognizing that another music void existed at the Jersey Shore, the GSP inaugurated the MasterWorks Chorus in 1984. The Chorus allows the GSP to present repertoire not offered by orchestras elsewhere and also gives community Chorus members the opportunity to work side-by-side with professional musicians — an option that few community choirs are able to provide their members.
After a series of music directors and conductors, in the 2000-2001 season the baton was passed to Anthony LaGruth, who continues in his role as Artistic Director and Conductor to this day. Maestro LaGruth had been recognized for his prior work with the GSP as an independent artist. With such strong community roots and a history of partnerships and collaborations it is no surprise that in the 2005-2006 season, steps were taken to make the Philharmonic the Orchestra-in-Residence at Ocean County College.
Today, the Garden State Philharmonic and its professional orchestra present a rich season often comprised of a four to five-concert subscription series; at least one holiday concert alone or in partnership with other professional partners including the Atlantic City Ballet; a free Young People’s concert, which serves as the culmination to its Music for Young People School Residency Program; and a free Fourth of July Concert, thanks to the ongoing support of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, to name a few. In an endless list of guest artists featured in the GSP’s history, audiences have been serenaded by such illustrious guest talents as Schlomo Mintz, Joseph Carter Brey, and Colin Carr. The GSP’s programs include classical compositions from known and lesser known composers throughout history, choral works, pops, and other forms of classically-inspired music. Committed to supporting not only the established masters, but the great composers of today, new compositions like Mahler Grooves, an orchestration and composition by Patrick Ippolito, and Frankenstein, a composition by Michael Shapiro to compliment the 1931 film by the same name, are specialty programs often factored into season programming.
Over the past half a century, the GSP has been recognized many times for its superlative artistic and educational programming. Among the recognitions awarded the GSP have been nominations for the 2011 New Jersey People’s Choice Award for Favorite Orchestra/Symphony and 2012 Ocean Happenings’ Best of the Jersey Shore in the category of music/bands. In addition to the respect earned as a direct result of voting fans, the GSP’s history has included recognitions by the National Endowment for the Arts for its contribution to the American Masterpieces Initiative, designed to acquaint Americans with the best of their cultural and artistic legacy. The GSP was also one of the first orchestras selected to participate in the creation and presentation of Ford Made in America, a collaboration of orchestras from across the nation. This experience allowed the GSP to play a pivotal role in the premiere of a new work by Joan Tower, Made in America, which has since earned multiple Grammy Awards.
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