Cameron Civic Symphony struggles for recognition

by Alexander Rosa-Figueroa

At Cameron University, students may attend band concerts, listen to the choir or even watch a soloist perform. However, students may not be aware of the orchestral form of performance that is available to them.

The Cameron Civic Symphony is a campus ensemble with an emphasis on stringed instruments: violin, viola, cello and bass. The group welcomes all players, whether the musician is an enrolled music major or someone who just enjoys playing. Musicians of varying ages are welcome as well, with both junior high students and retirees attending rehearsals.

According to Assistant Professor of Music and the Director of the Symphony, Kirsten Underwood, the group not only represents the community of Lawton, but it also encompasses the Southern corner of Oklahoma. She said that musicians from Altus have driven here to play with the group.

“It really serves as a community orchestra for Southwest Oklahoma,” she said.

The Symphony plays music that is accessible for any musician wanting to join. The group plays a wide range of styles from classical to rock-and-roll and occasionally collaborates with the choir to perform operatic pieces.

In addition to style accessibility, the Symphony also plays pieces suited for the varying skill levels within the group.

Underwood said that she sought out pieces appropriate for all players, from the junior high students to the college-age music majors.

“I pick a repertoire that is challenging, but not too challenging,” she said.

Cameron has had an orchestra since 1925, though students might not be aware of the group’s existence.

According to Underwood, the Orchestra has a long history of being overlooked.

“It is an unknown tradition,” she said. “Few people really know about it.”

The Symphony rehearses for the first eight weeks of each semester before performing two public concerts: one on campus and one off campus.

When the Symphony plays off campus, it usually plays at retirement homes or veterans centers. This semester the Symphony played on Oct. 25, at Ten Oaks Retirement Community.

The Symphony’s on campus concerts will resume in the spring semester with their first recital on March 7. The Symphony will also perform a concert version of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in the same month on a date that has not yet been announced.

It is within these concerts that the Symphony further works in the spirit of community for Southwest Oklahoma, collaborating with other music groups on campus and in town. For their March 7 spring recital, the Symphony will work to play with the MacArthur High School Orchestra.

Underwood said that this high school collaboration would not be the first.

“Just last year we played with the Lawton High Orchestra,” she said.

For the second spring concert, the Symphony will be working with the Cameron choir to perform the whole range of Purcell’s opera.

The inclusion of other musical groups does not apply to only concerts, though. Despite an emphasis on strings, musicians of other disciplines wanting to join are also welcome for every rehearsal.

Underwood said that she would work towards harmony between the differing instruments, making a call for wind players to come and join the Symphony.

“I will find music we can both play, string and wind players,” she said.

The Cameron Civic Orchestra meets from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesdays in room 135 of the Music Building.



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