LOCAL SYMPHONY EXEC DREAMS BIG

This story caught my eye this week. I could not let it pass without comment.

The Huntington (W. Va.) Symphony Orchestra is making an attempt to connect with the people. And the people, the symphony noticed after 50 years, watch NASCAR. This Saturday the citizens of Huntington will enjoy "Picnic with the Pops: NASCAR at the Finish Line.” Cars and driving will be featured in the music selections and a stock car, driving simulator and pit stop simulator will be set up at the park. Nothing wrong with this idea. Orchestras do this sort of thing all of the time. In Los Angeles, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performed a show in which it played video game scores. People loved it. It was probably the first trip to the Hollywood Bowl for many of the attendees.

What I love about this particular story is the scope and ambition of the Huntington Symphony endeavor. The orchestra’s executive director, who sounds like he ought to work in NASCAR with the name T. Hogan Haas, has very big plans for his ensemble. "We wanted to follow what the trends were following, we wanted to go after the crowds," Haas said. “NASCAR’s big – we want to be just as big.”

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the real-life Corky St. Clair from Waiting for Guffman.

I did not think this guy actually existed. I thought he was a character sprung from the imagination of director Christopher Guest. I was wrong. This guy is out there. He lives in Huntington, W. Va., and he’s taking his orchestra to the top. This is a man with a plan.

"We want to be everyone’s orchestra," Haas said. "You can’t just be total classical to get everyone to join in. And we want everyone to enjoy the arts."

The winter season sounds like it will be a hoot.

"This winter, we’re going to … I’m going to market as a cartoon concert, because most cartoons are all classical music: Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Road Runner, people that everyday people will be able to recognize," Haas said. "And when they recognize it, they’ll be able to appreciate it."

Thirty years from now, if the Huntington Symphony is on ESPN, and everyone agrees that its Trumpet of Tomorrow has made music boring, we can all look back on T. Hogan Haas as the Bill France Sr. of the symphony orchestra world. If Haas fails, I guess that just makes us all bastard people.

Everybody dance!

Symphony brings NASCAR-inspired music to fans (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)


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