Few cities Lafayette’s size have their own symphony orchestras; fewer still have music conservatories operated by a symphony orchestra. Lafayette has both.
With more than 115 students studying everything from classical piano to Cajun fiddle, the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra Conservatory of Music is a clearinghouse for the area’s brightest young musicians, and the diverse training offered there dovetails perfectly with the vision of Maestro Mariusz Smolij, the orchestra’s affable, Polish-born, world-renowned, well-traveled conductor.
In seven years at the ASO helm, Smolij has developed a reputation as a daring musical adventurer happy to infuse a peregrine classical souffle with a large dollop of roux and a few fingers of okra. Last Christmas it was the ASO performing with zydeco superstar and Grammy winner Terrance Simien. Now, as a fundraiser for the conservatory, Smolij and the ASO will perform with three savants of Louisiana roots music — singer-songwriter Zachary Richard, slide guitar virtuoso Sonny Landreth, and multi-instrumentalist and former Cajun wunderkind Roddie Romero and his band, The Hub City All-Stars. “It is truly the multi-cultural experience and the love of music that makes these events memorable,” says ASO Executive Director Mona Burris.
The evening’s program commences with selections from West Side Story. Romero and company kick off the all-star segment of the evening, performing three songs including an original composition, “Riverside,” as well as the Clifton Chenier classic, “Party Down.” Richard follows, joining the ASO for four songs — two of them originals. Richard’s dark, folksy tenor promises to be a willing complement to the ASO’s lush backdrop. Later, Landreth brings his guitar wizardry to bear, joining the orchestra for a selection from J.S. Bach’s Cantata No. 140. Heady stuff.
Conservatory students will perform a J.S. Bach minuet, and the Lafayette High School chorus will join the ASO and Richard on a performance as well.
“The most important point of the concert is that it is a benefit for the Conservatory of Music,” adds Burris. “Through the conservatory, young musicians are able to further their interest in music as well as their talents by receiving quality instruction from very gifted teachers.”
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