New Albany News

Orchestra's 2014 finale intended for the eyes and ears

New Albany group planning concert for the hearing impaired

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

New Albany Symphony Orchestra officials say they want to reach out to the hearing-impaired community with a performance in April 2014 that will feature a light show and a deaf violist, 16-year-old Israelle Johnson.

"We're doing a show trying to reach out to the deaf and hearing-impaired community, which is very underserved in the concert hall," said Heather Garner, director of the symphony orchestra.

"We're going to make them feel very welcome by adding laser-light show that will be timed with music."

The April 6 performance will close the 2013-14 season. In addition to the light show and Johnson, Canadian pianist Jon (Jackie) Kimura Parker will perform Short Ride in a Fast Machine by John Adams and Ludwig Von Beethoven's second piano concerto.

"Beethoven was deaf in the latter part of his life, so he's a really great inspiration," Garner said.

John Moore, executive director of the Deaf Services Center of Worthington, said he was pleased the symphony orchestra would offer such a concert.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for deaf and hard of hearing individuals who may not be able to enjoy music because of the lack of visual aids," Moore said.

"Music is based on sound and the ability to modify and manipulate sound through song, instruments and other means to provide entertainment and pleasure to the masses," Moore said.

"When a deaf person views a concert or symphony, the person will see people playing instruments but cannot hear the music and therefore are not able to fully enjoy it," he said.

"Imagine yourself watching a concert and there is silence. This is how deaf people when they go to a concert."

The concert will feature Johnson, who lives in Baltimore in Fairfield County and is a freshman in the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio's hearing-impaired program based at Upper Arlington High School. Sign-language interpreters attend classes with the six students in the program.

Johnson said she was born with hearing loss, but can hear the viola when using her hearing aids.

She said she became fascinated with music listening to her family sing karaoke.

"It made me really start wanting to play an instrument," she said.

Johnson started playing violin at age 11 and switched to the viola the next year.

"I had to switch to the viola because it's a lower pitch," she said. "The violin was harder to hear because of the higher pitch."

Johnson plays the viola in Upper Arlington High School's concert orchestra.

Ed Zunic, Upper Arlington's concert orchestra director, said Johnson sits between violas and cellos, which are easier for her to hear.

Her sign-language interpreter attends practices to sign Zunic's directions and the student who shares her music stand, another viola player, helps Johnson know where to begin playing once the orchestra stops.

"She has the most precise freshman left hand I've ever seen in my career," Zunic said.

Johnson had to try out to be in the concert orchestra and Zunic said she tested "slightly above average for a freshman on that instrument."

Johnson said she one day wants to teach music to "hearing and hard of hearing kids."

"I also want to encourage hard of hearing and the deaf population, kids especially, to try and learn music," Johnson said.

"If you can do it, if you want to, then they shouldn't allow anyone to stop them. If you dream of music, you should go for it," she said.

Johnson said the April 6 New Albany Symphony Orchestra concert will be her first performance with a symphony orchestra and she plans to practice at least three hours a day this summer to prepare.

Garner said a sign-language interpreter will be on stage for the second half of the show when the symphony performs The Planets by Gustav Holst.

"The language interpreter will be interpreting the sound through sign language and images of planets will be projected on the big screen," Garner said.

"With the inclusion of visual aids and interpreters, the New Albany Symphony Orchestra has made the full effort to make it accessible to individuals who are deaf or have hearing loss," Moore said.

"The visual aids being provided will enable a deaf person to follow the beat and rhythm and enjoy the symphony."

Garner said the idea for next year's show came from a documentary she watched on music therapy.

"It's interesting to me to try and reach this audience that doesn't seem to be served in music," she said.

The 2013-14 season will open Oct.13 with the symphony and the Capital University Chapel Choir performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Ode to Joy.

The second concert, the holiday spectacular, will be performed on Dec. 22 and will feature the 2013-14 student concerto competition winner.

The third concert, titled Let's Go to the Movies, on Feb. 9 will feature themes from the silver screen and a performance by the symphony orchestra's first vocal competition winner.

The orchestra's artist in residence for the season will be Jurate Phillips, a 2002 graduate of the Columbus College of Art and Design and a Columbus resident. Phillips is a native of Lithuania who came to the United States in 1997.

She will create a piece of art that will be used in promotions and programs this season and finally auctioned off as a fundraiser for the symphony, Garner said.

Season tickets currently are on sale. Tickets to individual shows will go on sale Aug. 1.

Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster or the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts. All performances are held at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts, 100 E. Dublin Granville Road in New Albany.

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