BG Philharmonia opens 100th anniversary season

Flutist Michelle Whitmore rehearses with the Bowling Green Philharmonia in 2017.


One hundred is a notable anniversary, and the BG Philharmonia is celebrating this important milestone with a year of special events during 2018-19.

Large concerts in December and May in Kobacker Hall are the premier events, and every concert throughout the season will feature something special. Under the direction of Dr. Emily Freeman Brown, the Philharmonia will welcome back alumni members and host guest artists. Talented young musicians from BGSU and local schools will join in some of the performances. And four performances will feature a “birthday” composition — three in the fall and one in the spring.

“This is the beginning of a great year,” said Brown, director of orchestral activities. “I have a terrific group of freshmen and new people. The spirit, the mood, the enthusiasm and the energy are incredible.”

The Dec. 2 gala concert will feature the return of Bowling Green native Zachary DePue, a well-known violinist who is part of a musical BGSU family. His visit holds special meaning for Brown, who was his conductor when he became the winner of the Young Artist Competition as a Bowling Green High School student. The centennial concert features DePue in Shostakovich’s “Violin Concerto No. 1” and Stravinsky’s “Petrouchka.”

Brown is also enthusiastically anticipating Bowling Green Opera Theater’s production of Handel’s “Semele” in April. Audiences will have the opportunity to see this infrequently performed work, accompanied by the Camerata di Campo di Bocce, the elite chamber group of the Philharmonia.

“It’s a challenging piece and the music is so fantastic and so exciting,” she said. “It’s just out of this world.”

The year culminates May 5 with the 100th anniversary concert and alumni gathering featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with all five University choirs and guest soloists.

Advance tickets for the concerts are $3 for students and $7 for adults. All tickets the day of the performance are $10. Tickets are available online at or by calling 419-372-8171.

As an added touch, each concert during the year will have its own concert program highlighting aspects of the Philharmonia, with photos, testimonials, past program notes and stories about the conductors.

For the first performance, Brown sets the stage with an extensive history and timeline of the orchestra, aided by the program from the 75th anniversary season written by Lee Anne Snook and by Dr. Vincent Corrigan’s “100 Years of Music at Bowling Green State University,” written for BGSU’s Centennial in 2010. Brown said she was interested to learn she is not the first woman to lead the orchestra, but the third. During the second world war, as men left for the service, its first woman conductor, Lorlie Virginia Kershner, took up the baton, followed by Maribeth Kitt.

Recounting the birth of the BGSU orchestra, Brown wrote:

“From the very beginning, University President Homer B. Williams was determined to create what he called ‘the spirit’ of Bowling Green. He gave pep talks to students and faculty, always reminding them that because of their presence and efforts, Bowling Green was, indeed, a special place. He instilled pride and spirit in the young campus. . . In 1918, he decided that Bowling Green needed a group that could provide music at official events.”

Made up of faculty members, the first “orchestra” was “more aspirational than actual,” Brown said humorously, but it developed over time into the strong ensemble it is today.

In the beginning, the orchestra was not called the Philharmonia. It went through several name changes over the years until Polish conductor Grzegorz Nowak arrived in 1982 and renamed it the Philharmonia. Nor was the College of Musical Arts (originally the School of Music) located in Moore Musical Arts Center, which was not built until 1979. The original music building was what later became West Hall.

Over its 100 years, the Philharmonia has nurtured the careers of gifted musicians and conductors who have gone on to illustrious careers in performance and teaching, carrying BGSU’s reputation far and wide.

Here’s what’s scheduled:

Saturday, September 22, 8 p.m., Kobacker Hall
The BG Philharmonia in concert with guest artist Mingwei Zhao, cello
In conjunction with the Annual High School Honors String Festival. String festival students will join on selected works.
Program includes: Elgar Enigma Variations, and Elgar Cello Concerto

Saturday, October 20, 8 p.m., Kobacker Hall
The BG Philharmonia in concert at the 39th Annual New Music Festival
Program includes: On Wings of Light and Newly Drawn Sky by Aaron Kernis, John Corigliano’s Campane di Ravello and the premiere of Martin Kennedy’s Theme and Variations for trombone in a new version for orchestra, Brittany Lasch, trombone soloist

Sunday, December 2, 3 p.m., Kobacker Hall
The BG Philharmonia in concert with guest artist Zachary DePue, violin
Program includes: Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 and StravinskyPetrouchka

Friday, February 1, 11 a.m., Cleveland Convention Center Grand Ballroom
The BG Philharmonia in concert at the Ohio Music Education Association Professional Development Conference
Cleveland, Ohio
Program includes: Stravinsky Petrouchka

Saturday, February 16, 8 p.m., Kobacker Hall
The BG Philharmonia in concert
51st Annual Concerto Competition

Sunday, March 10, 3 p.m., Kobacker Hall
BG Chamber Orchestra in concert
Featuring Nermis Mieses, oboe, and Julie Buzzelli, harp

Friday, April 5, 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 7, 3 p.m., Kobacker Hall
BG Opera Theater and Camerata Campo di Bocce presents Handel’s Semele

Wednesday, April 24, 6 p.m., Kobacker Hall
Annual Middle School Honors String Festival

Sunday, May 5, 3 p.m., Kobacker Hall
The BG Philharmonia presents its 100th Anniversary Concert with an Alumni Gathering
Program includes: Beethoven Symphony No. 9, featuring BGSU choirs and soloists