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Sun, Oct. 13

Play on: Prescott Pops readies for move as full-time orchestra

The Daily Courier/Nathaniel Kastelic
Diana Hart and the Prescott Pops Symphony rehearse at Prescott Mile High Middle School Thursday night.

The Daily Courier/Nathaniel Kastelic Diana Hart and the Prescott Pops Symphony rehearse at Prescott Mile High Middle School Thursday night.

PRESCOTT - The sold out performance by the Prescott Pops Symphony this past August foreshadowed a new age for the community orchestra.

This Sunday's performance at Yavapai College Performance Hall begins the first year as a full-time symphony orchestra with four performances throughout the year instead of just two concerts in the summer.

"As opposed to a symphony orchestra, which plays the heavy classical masters, we play lighter fare - movie scores, Broadway shows, popular tunes and light classical works," explained Pops publicist George Friedman.

This past summer, for example, the Pops, made up of all local musicians ranging from students to retired music instructors,

performed a show based on the theme of "Caribbean Cruising," and the sold-out "An Evening with Rogers and Hammerstein."

"It really started to take off in 2005 when we started playing to nearly sold-out crowds then in 2006 we had our first sold-out show," said Pops president Julie Dalton, a French horn player who joined the orchestra in 1997. "If you compare our audience attendance from the very beginning, we've increased about 300 percent over the last 15 years."

The Pops this year has received grant money from the National Endowment of the Arts through the Arizona Commission of the Arts, the Prescott Arts and Humanities Council, and the Acker Trust so the Pops could offer scholarships to young musicians in the orchestra and pay for youth tickets. Recently, the Yavapai County Community Foundation named the Pops as a 2007-08 beneficiary of $1,000.

"We'd like to pay our musicians at some future point. We want to increase awareness in the state of our organization," Dalton said of the Pops' objectives,

adding that it is the only Pops organization in northern Arizona.

"One of the goals we set with the state arts commission was to continue to increase the number of appearances by nationally renowned artists."

Soloist Isola Jones, a 25-year performer with the Metropolitan Opera, performed at the Pops' recent summer performances.

The Yavapai Symphony Guild chose the Pops as the orchestra for its Music Memory program, in which docents from the guild educate third- and fourth-graders about composers and pieces the Pops performs at music memory concerts, Dalton said.

In 2008, Dalton said, the Pops plans to perform before elementary students at Tim's Toyota Center and sell tickets for $5 to adults wanting to see the concerts.

"I'm glad it's here year-around," said percussionist Clydene Dechert, who also is conductor of the Central Arizona Concert Band and Pops guest conductor for Sunday's concert.

"I think they have improved immensely. We have some very top-quality people playing in the orchestra," she added.

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