In its 20th year, the Terrace Symphony Orchestra (TSO) thrives, continuing the idea it was founded upon, says its only living founder.
Michael Wen, Cal music teacher, says the late Jim Ryan had been thinking about starting the orchestra for years and wanted students to be part of it.
“The whole idea to keep it fun is important,” said Wen.
“I still think Jim was on the right track: involve students and make it educational for everybody.
“The adults in the TSO, their role is also to mentor younger students. That’s how we began and it made a huge difference.”
At that time, there was only the Terrace Community Band, which was adults only.
Ryan contacted Wen and Heinz Radek in the spring of 1993 to ask if they wanted to help put the orchestra together.
They wanted to have it made up of some key community band members, Radek and his students, anyone else they could think of who played a stringed instrument and other students, said Wen.
“Jim had a knack for finding people: ‘so you just moved to town, I hear you play the violin, would you like to join the Terrace Symphony Orchestra?” said Wen.
“So a lot of players were recruited by Jim and word of mouth.”
Ryan shopped for some music and in fall of 1993, they began to practice in Wen’s classroom at Thornhill Junior.
Most of the members came out of the community band and had never played in a symphony orchestra except for four of them, including Wen, he said.
“It was a good learning experience,” said Wen. Ryan conducted and Wen sat in the orchestra to play his french horn and acted as assistant conductor.
“Each of us could sit next to our students and help them,” he said, adding that the orchestra’s first concert was shared with the Thornhill Junior band. Within a few years, the orchestra played in the Pacific Northwest Music Festival and played Handel’s Messiah along with the Northwest Singers.
Wen began conducting in about 1999 when Ryan, who was ill, called him about three or four days before a concert to ask him to conduct instead.
The orchestra has been invited to play at MusicFest Canada several times but has only gone once in 2005, and won silver, when it was in Richmond and members had the time to go.
Gradually, the orchestra began doing a Halloween kids concert, which has become a tradition.
Only four of the original members still play in the orchestra and some have had their children in the group.
“We often get comments from adjudicators that [see] students and adults playing together,” said Wen, adding that the adjudicators enjoy hearing the music and can see that everyone is playing in the TSO because they really like what they’re doing and want to make music.
Cellist Michael Kevin Jones, who recently visited and played with the orchestra, also commented on it.
Wen still takes time to play his french horn as part of the orchestra and then assistant conductor Stacey Zorn conducts. Zorn played flute in school here, went away to get a music degree and returned.
For details on the TSO’s 20th anniversary concert, see City Scene page 19 in the Dec. 11 Standard.