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April 14, 2018 - 7:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, music, arts, entertainment, batavia, news.

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GSO Conductor S. Shade Zajac led a group of young musicians today in a string workshop at the First Presbyterian Church of Batavia.

The students will perform May 6 with the Genesee Symphony Orchestra at Elba Central School on Sibelus, "Andante Festivo." 

The program that day includes featured soloist Mimi Hwang on cello joining the orchestra for Elgar's "Concerto for Cello & Orchestra in E-minor."

The orchestra will also perform Wagner's "Siegfried's Death & Funeral March," Howard Hanson's "Symphony No. 2 'Romantic," and Holst's "St. Paul's Suite for String Orchestra."

The concert, "Romantic Masterpieces," begins at 4 p.m.

Tickets are available through geneseesymphony.com or GO Art!, Roxy's Music Store, YNGodess, and Smokin' Eagle BBQ  & Brew in Le Roy.

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March 6, 2018 - 8:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, music, arts, entertainment, news.

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The Genesee Symphony Orchestra rehearsed Monday night at Batavia High School for its concert this Sunday featuring the music of Tchaikovsky and a solo performance by David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The program includes Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D, David Kim solo violin, Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, and The Sleeping Beauty: Polonaise.

The concert is at 4 p.m. in the auditorium at Elba Central School.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $7 for students, $10 for seniors, and $35 for families.

Photos by Chris Choate.

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February 1, 2018 - 3:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, music, arts, entertaiment, news, asteria string quartet.

The Asteria String Quartet's "First Viennese Valentine's" performance scheduled for this Saturday at the Dibble Family Center in Batavia has been canceled.

One of the quartet's members had an unforeseen circumstance arise and will not be able to perform. It was not possible for the quartet to find a replacement musician on such short notice.

The performance was sponsored by the Genesee Symphony Orchester and Musical Director Shade Zajac, and quartet member, shares his deepest regrets for the canceling.

The GSO will refund all ticket purchases. For a refund, call Roxie Choate at (585) 356-9635 and she will mail a refund to you if you purchased tickets.

December 9, 2017 - 7:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, music, entertainment, batavia, news.

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The Genesee Symphony Orchestra performs its annual Christmas concert tomorrow (Sunday) at 4 p.m. at St. Mary's Church in Batavia.

The program includes "Dance of the Tumblers" from Snow Maiden by Rimsky-Korsakov, Canadian Brass Christmas, "The Snowman," by Howard Blake and narrated by Laurence Tallman,  (top photo), Holiday Favorites with a special guest vocalist: "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," "(There’s no place like) Home for the Holidays," "White Christmas," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Sleigh Ride," and "Christmas Festival."

Tickets will be available at the door.

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September 24, 2017 - 10:51am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCC, education, college, news, GSO.

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This weekend GCC celebrated its 50th anniversary with the Cougar Crawl (visiting downtown businesses), homecoming activities, including a kids zone, a car cruise, and campus tour, and a Golden Gala capped by a performance of the Genesee Symphony Orchestra.

Photos Courtesy of Genesee Community College.

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May 4, 2017 - 10:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, elba, music, entertainment, arts, news.

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The Genesee Symphony Orchestra performs in Elba Central School at 4 p.m., Sunday, in its final concert of the season.

The program is called "Escaping Gravity: A Journey Through the Stars," and features "And God Created Great Whales," by Hovhaness, "Music from Apollo 13," arranged by John Moss and featuring the String Workshop, "Suite from Close Encounters of the Third Kind," by John Williams, and "The Planets," by Holst.

Musical Director S. Shade Zajac conducts.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $7 for students, $10 for seniors and families are $35. Tickets can be purchased online at GeneseeSymphony.com.

Photos are from Monday's rehearsal.

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March 11, 2017 - 1:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, music, entertainment, news.

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Internationally acclaimed pianist Brian Preston performs tomorrow with the Genesee Symphony Orchestra.

They will perform Brahms, "Concerto No. 1 in D Minor."

Also on the program, "Danzon No. 2" by Marquez.

Shade Zajac conducts.

The concert starts at 4 p.m. in the Stuart Steiner Theater at GCC. Tickets are available online at GeneseeSymphony.com or at the door.

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December 12, 2016 - 9:52am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, arts, music, news.

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St. Mary's yesterday held a capacity audience for the annual Genesee Symphony Orchestra holiday show, which featured performances by Emily Helenbrook, of Alexander, and Young Artist Competition winner Amelia Snyder.

The family of conductor Shade Zajac also dedicated a new podium his grandfather made and donated to the GSO.

When it came time for the orchestra to play "Sleigh Bells," Zajac invited a young member of the audience to step onto the podium to conduct the orchestra. Shannon Campbell stepped forward (photo below provided by her mother).

The GSO's next concert is at 4 p.m., March 12, at Genesee Community College, and will feature pianist Brian Preston. Music will include Brahms, Concerto No. 1 in D Minor and Marquez, Danzon No. 2.

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December 10, 2016 - 12:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee Symphony Orchestra, GSO, music, arts, St. Mary's, batavia, news.

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Emily Helenbrook, of Alexander and a soprano, a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, who has performed from Buffalo to California, will be a featured artist tomorrow during the Genesee Symphony Orchestra's annual holiday concert at St. Mary's Church.

For more about Helenbrook, see our previous story: Emily Helenbrook dreams big, works hard as she seeks career as opera singer

Also featured will be Amelia Snyder, on alto saxophone, and one of GSO's Young Artist Competition winners.

The program includes:

  • Ukrainian Bell Chorale, arrangement by Nancy Strelau
  • Fanfare from La Perri, Dukas
  • Concerto for Saxophone and Strings, Glazonov
  • Christ at the Movies, arranged by Krogstag
  • Emily Helenbrook singing several selections
  • Canadian Brass, arrangement by Custer
  • Sleigh Ride, Leroy Anderson
  • Christmas Festival, Anderson.

The concert begins at 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. To purchase tickets online, please make your purchase by 1 p.m. tomorrow. Visit GeneseeSymphony.com

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November 29, 2016 - 11:51am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, arts, music, news.

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Conductor Shade Zajac leads the Genesee Symphony Orchestra through a rehearsal Monday night at Batavia High School as the GSO prepares for its annual holiday concert at St. Mary's on Dec. 11.

The program includes: 

  • Guests: Emily Helenbrook, soprano, and young artist competition winner Amelia Snyder, alto saxophone
  • Ukrainian Bell Chorale, arrangement by Nancy Strelau
  • Fanfare from La Perri, Dukas
  • Concerto for Saxophone and Strings, Glazonov
  • Christ at the Movies, arranged by Krogstag
  • Emily Helenbrook singing several selections
  • Canadian Brass, arrangement by Custer
  • Sleigh Ride, Leroy Anderson
  • Christmas Festival, Anderson

To purchase tickets, click here.

September 13, 2016 - 11:07am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, news, music, entertainment.

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It was the first official rehearsal Monday night for S. Shade Zajac as the new conductor and musical director for the Genesee Symphony Orchestra.

The season opens Oct. 16 with a concert at St. James Episcopal Church, Batavia. The concert will also feature winners from the GSO young artists competition, Jackie Hager, cello, and Jarod Yap, piano. The program includes: "Shortcut Home," Dana Willson; Concerto in D Minor, Lalo; Concerto in A Minor, Schumann; and "Scheherazade" by Rimsky-Korsako.

Tickets are on sale now through GeneseeSymphony.com

September 11, 2016 - 3:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Vinyl Record Revival, GSO, music, entertaiment, batavia, news, Asteria Quartet.

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The Genesee Symphony Orchestra hosted a special performance in Batavia Saturday night at Vinyl Record Revival of the Asteria Quartet.

The quartet includes Shade Zajac, the GSO's new conductor and musical director, along with Evie Boughton on the viola, Kiram Rajamani and Leah McCarthy on violin.

The quartet performed Mozart’s 8th Quartet K. 168, Stostakovich’s 8th Quartet, and Zajac’s own composition, “Willard.”

Between each piece, the members took questions from the audiences about the pieces, the performance and the history of the music.

The evening including a wine tasting hosted by Chris Crocker, owner of the YNGodess Shop.

May 20, 2016 - 3:28pm

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It would probably be a stretch to say that S. Shade Zajac knew from an early age he wanted to be a symphony orchestra conductor. Like every young person, he explored lots of interests growing up.

But then, there was that time his grandfather gave him a baton and he took it to kindergarten for show and tell.

"My mom got a note from my teacher saying, 'We understand that Shade really likes his baton, but some of the other kids are not mature enough to handle sharp, pointing sticks. So, we would ask you kindly not to bring it in anymore,' " Zajac recalled with a chuckle.

Zajac's obvious passion for music, his love of leading an orchestra and his sheer talent are why, at 22, fresh from earning his Bachelor of Music in Music Performance from Nazareth College, Zajac is the new conductor of the Genesee Symphony Orchestra.

He was selected by the GSO Board of Directors after a season in which he and three other conductor candidates each took turns leading the orchestra for one performance. All four shows were well attended and well received, but it was Zajac who was selected to lead the orchestra as it enters its 70th year.

Not too many young conductors get the opportunity to lead a symphony orchestra right out of college and Zajac is thrilled by the opportunity.

"It's an unbelievable experience and an unbelievable opportunity," Zajac said. "There's no substitute for having living people in an ensemble for you to work with. And not just for you to experiment and fail and to grow, but to learn from them and to learn 'okay, what works? What doesn't work? There's a problem. We're not playing this. It's not gelling yet. Why? How can I fix that?' There's only so much you can do on your own, just looking at the music."

It was Zajac's professor at Nazareth, Nancy P. Strelau, who told him about the opening with the GSO, but she warned him not to get his hopes up. His resume would arrive amongst other candidates with doctorate degrees and decades of experience.

"She told me, 'It's going to be really good for you to go through this process. Let's take a look at your resume, and you know, you won't get asked for an interview,' " Zajac recalled.

Then he got an e-mail inviting him to an interview, and he thought that was great, but "they're not going to ask me to do a concert because I'm 21 years old."

In truth, Zajac said, throughout the process, with the search committee, the board, the orchestra, he never felt like his age was an issue.

"I didn't feel like they're not taking me seriously because I'm so young," Zajac said. "They're just looking at me as a musician."

He admits he was nervous at that first rehearsal. Even for conductors in their 40s, he said, orchestras can look at a new conductor like, "Ok, who is this guy?"

"There's always going to be people who don't think I know what they're talking about or 'what is this?' " Zajac said. "They think, 'I can do better than this jerk here.' And I never, through this whole process, I never felt that. I think I said at the concert that I could have been working with these people for 40 years. It just felt, you know, we could get time to work, we could have a laugh, and we could make music, which is what we're supposed to do."

Zajac grew up in Ovid surrounded by music.

His grandparents were musicians and one of his earliest memories is being at their house and hearing Ravel's "Bolero." He was captivated.

"Just about every string player in the world, and probably other orchestra musicians, hate it because it's 15 minutes of the same thing," Zajac said laughing. "I'm probably the only person who loves it."

His next musical stepping stone was Yanni.

"My grandmother had a VHS -- whatever those are -- of 'Yanni Live at the Acropolis,' " Zajac said. "Say what you will about the man and his music but it was very helpful. It taught me that if you're going to be a cool drummer you need to have a lot of drums," which Zajac laughs at now. "So I actually really first started kind of drumming, and I was banging on pots and pans to Yanni. It sounds cliche, but I'm told it's true, and I was given a toy drum set when I was 2 or 3."

His grandfather taught in the Ithaca College School of Music and at his grandparent's house were more than Yanni -- there was Beethoven and Bach, too.

His father was a rock musician, playing guitar in bands, so he also heard a lot of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Rush.

"So I had these two very different musical paths and all of which I enjoyed," Zajac said. "Very rarely do I find something I don't like. When I was, I think, 3, my grandfather took me to my first orchestra concert at Ithaca College, and I barely remember it. It was the Stravinsky 'Firebird Suite' and apparently I went home and I just was all about, 'Oh, the timpani was so loud. I love that cello thing.' And I kept talking about the cello and I really wanted to play it, I guess. I started taking lessons when I was 3 or 4."

There was no string program at his middle school, so Zajac started studying with professors in Ithaca, but that duel interest in classical and rock came up again in seventh grade when some other boys asked him to be the drummer in their rock band, and they played together for several years.

"It's amazing how everyone always would freak out," Zajac said. "They only knew me as a cellist, classical music. 'You like rock music? You like jazz?' Absolutely. And it helps me so much with classical music, especially because playing in the rock band was, in a weird way, my first form of chamber music."

Nazareth College was a natural pick for Shade, both because he wanted to study under Nancy Strelau and it's perhaps the only college in the nation that allows undergraduates to conduct. As a result, he's already conducted a few symphony and chamber performance, including the Nazareth College Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra, the Finger Lakes Summer Festival Orchestra and the Greater Rochester Women's Philharmonic. He's also participated in workshops, master classes and apprenticeships with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and the Northwest Symphony Orchestra.

"All throughout high school, I had other interests," Zajac said. "I enjoy reading, and probably in another lifetime, I would fancy myself a writer, or a painter, but I have always known that somehow I wanted to do music for my life, whatever that meant. If that meant being a rock drummer and touring the world, or being an orchestral musician, or being a conductor. If any of those things happened, I would be happy.

"Conducting," he added, "what really drew me to conducting, I think is, for one, there's so much music in the world, that even if I listened to something new, if I just spent each day for the rest of my life listening to something new, I probably wouldn't begin to scratch everything that's out there. I didn't want to just limit myself to say, just the cello solo repertoire or the quartet repertoire because that is just a skin cell in a body of music that I'm sure is out there."

That vast body of music -- centuries of composers from all seven continents -- will give Zajac much to choose from as he begins to chart out each season of GSO's four performances. He must balance each performance to ensure the pieces work together, that there is the right mixture of audience-pleasing hits as well as new, challenging or unfamiliar works to help spark exploration and interest. That's important both for the audience and the orchestra members, who can grow even more bored than the audience if the same pieces are performed year-after-year.

He knows he's gotten into something special with the GSO, an orchestra that consistently performs at the highest levels and attracts talent from throughout the region, something rare for the few small community orchestras that still survive. He wants to cherish that and nurture it, providing pieces that both please and challenge orchestra members, but not take them further than they're able to go.

"Me and Professor Strelau sat down and said, 'Well, what's good for this orchestra?' And what I chose was a little risky to do. Capriccio Espagnol and Polovtsian Dances. They're meaty pieces. And, quite frankly, they played the hell out of them. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with me. I mean I can only do so much. The conductor is there to inspire and to guide, but they do all the hard work. I just wave my hands. You have to have good players, and then you have to pick a smart repertoire, an engaging repertoire. I think it's a great group."

So good, in fact, that Zajac went through, after the performance last fall, a spell of "post-concert depression." It's a real thing most conductor's experience, he said, because there is so much work and anticipation that go into preparing for a performance, and then just like that, it's over. It's done.

"You're on cloud nine for a little while if it went really well, and then the next day you go, 'Ugh. When do I get to do another one?' And I have not experienced such post-concert depression as after the concert in September. Not only because it was such a great experience, and I felt such a connection, and they played so well, and I thought, 'Even if I get this, I have to wait so long before I get to work with them again.'"

The ideas of what to perform in the coming seasons are already running through his head. Perhaps a whole show of orchestral pieces from movies.

"John Williams is obvious, but Bernard Herrmann is one of my favorite composers," Zajac said. "He did most of the Alfred Hitchcock movies. "Psycho' is obviously the one you think about, but "North By Northwest" and "Marnie" and "Vertigo," they have really stunning music."

He's also interested in exploring local composers.

"Dana Wilson, for example," he said. "I guess he just retired this year, actually, from Ithaca College. Very important composer, relatively local, in the area, and he wrote some really phenomenal stuff. One is called, "Shortcut Home." It's a three or four-minute overture that's vibrant. It's got some jazz influence in it and I think the orchestra would really like it, and it's exciting as a listener. Even for someone who's not into classical music, it's cool. There are trumpets with plungers."

Perhaps, someday, the GSO will even perform one of his own compositions. He wrote his first piece in seventh grade. But he isn't considering that any time, soon, he said. The performances should be about the music and the orchestra, and he's afraid that if he programs one of his own compositions, it will look like it's about him.

There's also a very good chance one of the professors from Nazareth, a world-renowned pianist, will perform Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1. The pianist was in Batavia for Zajac's performance with the GSO and was impressed with the orchestra. He said if Zajac got the job, he would perform.

At 22, with his first appointment as conductor for a symphony orchestra, it's hard not to think the GSO could be just a stepping stone for a young, passionate and talented musician, but Zajac said he doesn't look at it that way. He doesn't even like the term "stepping stone," he said. Maybe there will be opportunities down the road that are too good to pass up, but he said he's committed to helping the GSO grow and thrive, if not for the sake of the GSO, just for the sake of his own enjoyment of music.

"As long as I'm working with musicians who want to be working, and who are just as passionate as I am about what we're doing, I could be conducting the Berlin Philharmonic or I could be conducting the East Podunk Orchestra with five people in it," Zajac said. "My goals are just to make music every single day until I physically can't or die. I think it's very easy to set these goals, like, 'I want to be the new conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic or the Berlin Philharmonic,' and although they're really wonderful names, the name is not what's most important.

"I'm convinced that I can experience just as beautiful of an experience at the GSO or another orchestra."

DISCLOSURE: Howard Owens is a member of the Board of Directors for the Genesee Symphony Orchestra.

February 13, 2016 - 4:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, music, entertainment, batavia, GCC.

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About 20 young musicians joined the Genesee Symphony Orchestra today to sit next to the members of the orchestra playing the instrument of their choice during a rehearsal for tomorrow's concert at Genesee Community College.

Tomorrow's concert is called "Flutes and Flourishes" and will be conducted by Nicholas DelBello, one of the four finalists for a permanent appointment as conductor.

Guest artist is Christine Baily Davis on flute, with performances by the Buffalo Brass Choir and Miranda DelBello.

Concertgoers are invited to arrive at GCC's Stuart Steiner Theatre at 3 p.m. for Meet the Orchestra. The concert begins at 4 p.m.

The show includes pieces by Mozart, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Franz Doppler and Ottorino Resphighi.

Tickets are available at the door, or purchase online. Click here.

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To purchase prints, click here.

January 29, 2016 - 11:48am
posted by Howard B. Owens in music, schools, education, GSO, batavia, Batavia HS.

Anytime we cover an entertainment event at Batavia High School, we wind up with a picture of Ross Chua performing. He's very talented and very motivated. This is a photo from a talent show in June.

Besides being a performer, Chua is also a songwriter and composer. On Monday, the Genesee Symphony Orchestra played one of his compositions so it could be recorded to include with his college auditions and interviews.

This may be the first time the GSO performed a composition by a local high school student.

Here's the video:

December 5, 2015 - 11:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee Symphony Orchestra, GSO, arts, music, batavia.

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Yunn-Shan Ma will conduct the Genesee Symphony Orchestra at 4 p.m., Sunday, through a program that includes holiday music and performances by the Oakfield-Alabama School Chorus, directed by Danielle Mileham, and Lars Kirvan on cello.

The program includes Leonard Bernstein's Candide Overture, Dvorak's Silent Woods, Hayden's Cello Concerto No. 1, Rimsky-Korsakov's Selections from the Snow Maiden Suite and the Polar Express Suite, among other numbers.

Ma is one of four guest conductors this season under consideration for a permanent position as conductor of the GSO.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $7 for students, $10 for seniors and family packages are available for $35. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at GeneseeSymphony.com.

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September 22, 2015 - 9:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee Symphony Orchestra, GSO, arts, music.

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The Genesee Symphony Orchestra will be conducted in the season-opening performance on Sunday by S. Shade Zajac.

Zajac is one of four conductor candidates auditioning for the position for next season.

The graduate of Nazareth College in Rochester is a cellist and composer who currently works as a freelance conductor. His awards include the John Phillip Sousa Award and he's twice won the Nazareth College Symphony Orchestra Concerto/Aria Competition.

Of Sunday's show, he promises a "showcase of sound," with pieces from Korsakoff, Copland, Grieg and Borodin.

The concert will also feature Raymond Feng, of Rochester, on piano. Feng was winner of the Young Artist Competition.

To purchase tickets, visit the GSO Web site.

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June 12, 2015 - 11:36am
posted by Billie Owens in GSO, jackson square concerts.

Tonight's Downtown concert in Jackson Square, featuring the Genesee Symphony Orchestra, has been moved inside the Batavia Centre City mall due to weather concerns. Bring your own seating. Concert starts at 7 p.m. but unlike the others in the 16th Annual Jackson Square Concert Series, this one is only one hour long ('til 8 p.m.).

The series is offered by the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District (BID) on Fridays, June 12th – Aug. 28th. Free to the public. Food and refreshments available.

More Info: Don Burkel at B.I.D. at 585-344-0900. Visit: www.downtownbataviany.com

February 1, 2011 - 1:39pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, GSO.

The Genesee Symphony Orchestra will perform a concert entitled "Love Notes" at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 13, at Genesee Community College. It will feature special guest violinist Michael Ludwig.

This performance, to be held in the Stuart Steiner Theatre, is in partnership with the Cancer Services Program of Genesee & Orleans. It is being partially underwritten by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which is dedicated to education and research about the cause and treatment of breast cancer.

Tickets are: $12 adults; $8 seniors 62 and over; $5 students 18 and under, including GCC students with valid I.D.; $30 for families, including children 12 and under.

Tickets are available at the GCC Box Office, or at the door one hour prior to the performance and at these locations: Hi-Tek Graphics in Oakfield; Bank of Castile in Le Roy; Roxy's Music Store; GO ART!; and The Enchanted Florist.

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