2020 is Beethoven’s 250th birthday. And so this 2020-2021 season we are going to be celebrating, it’s titled Inspired by Genius. And much of our season is inspired by Beethoven and his genius.

Eva Marie Restel

Executive Director , La Crosse Symphony Orchestra

The Orchestra will be celebrating its 80th anniversary next year and it is strongly invested in the community that has enjoyed and supported it for so long. The La Crosse Symphony Orchestra is especially focused on the youth of La Crosse with nearly as many educational programs as concerts in their yearly series.

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La Crosse Symphony Orchestra

Executive Director, Eva Marie Restel

Introduction:  I’m Amy and this is La Crosse Local. Since 1898 there has been an attempt to have an orchestra in La Crosse, Wisconsin. None of the orchestras held on for very long until the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra came along in 1941.  And it is still going strong, there are 70 musicians that are contracted to perform. Plus, they get in guest artists every season.  The La Crosse Symphony Orchestra has nearly as many educational programs as it has concerts that they perform throughout the year.  The Orchestra is invested in the youth of La Crosse.  From scholarships, to violin lessons after school, to getting those violins into the hands of kids.  I sat down to talk with Eva Marie Restel about these educational programs.  She is the executive director of the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra.

Interviewer:  Tell me a bit about the educational programs that you have going on right now, how are you helping the kids?

Eva Marie:  Oh, in so many ways.  It’s really exciting. I used to teach 5th grade, way back, and so education is something near and dear to my heart. In my position I can see the opportunity that the Symphony has to bring something. People that might not have the opportunities in music, to grow and get the benefits of music education which we know from science, studies are showing, wow he will stay in school longer, your behavior is better, your grades are better, you feel more confident.  You socially do better, the improvement is remarkable.

Interviewer:  Better in math even.

Eva Marie:Better in math, and in reading interestingly.  What it does is that it helps each  individual maximize their potential.

Interviewer:  How long has the La Crosse Symphony had these programs with students?

Eva Marie:  We’ve had programs for years and they’ve been growing.  But the one that has been heard about most recently, is the one at the Boys & Girls Clubs. We have it at two Boys & Girls Clubs, the Mathy Center and the Erickson.  It is a free violin lesson and we are in our fourth year. Anybody who goes to Boys & Girls Club may go into this violin lesson. It’s open to anyone to join. What we do is we provide the instruments, so that is half of it. It’s Play it Forward part of our program where people donate instruments and we have Leitholds fix them for us and then we pay for that. Or we buy new instruments. So that puts the instruments in the Boys & Girls Clubs and in the schools, for the the school string programs that are already existent.

Interviewer:  So if someone has an instrument at home that the kids have grown out of how do they get that to you?

Eva Marie:  Super simple, you take it to Leitholds and you say “I would like to donate this instrument for the symphony” and Abby Leithold we’ll take care of it.

Interviewer:   Well that’s easy.

Eva Marie:  Super simple, it’s super simple. The other program is the free violin lessons. What makes it extra special is that the teachers are our performers. The Tri-M Society, the music Honor Society, those students come as volunteers and they will practice with the students. It models that, you know just a lesson by itself is not going to get someone from A to B, you need that whole that habit.

Interviewer:  Little kids look up to teenagers so much, and to be able to see this is cool, this isn’t something that I can’t do.  I can totally do this.

Eva Marie:  Yeah, it’s dynamic.

Interviewer:  And how are you hoping to expand that?

Eva Marie:  There are new centers opening, the one in Holmen is opening up, and so we will be talking to them once they’re open to see if they would like this program.

Interviewer:  Have you been able to follow any of the students who have gone through this to see if any of them go on to continue to play.

Eva Marie:   Well this is the exciting thing, it’s only in its infancy for the most part it was all younger students that signed up.  But they are all sticking with it. My vision of this is that many of these students will just stay in through high school and then we’ll get to see, wow look at the difference of what they’re getting to do. And our next order of business is to come up with an actual name for the free violin portion of the program. We will give it a proper name so that it’s easier to talk about.  I mean we have other really neat education programs as well, we have the Symphony for Youth. Which we offer a 45-minute long Symphony for elementary students to come as classes. It’s a really neat program and it talks to students about what’s going on onstage, so there’s some learning. We invite one of our stars of La Crosse.  So this year we had Victor, a Junior at Onalaska high school and he played a piano concerto. Beethoven’s piano concerto.  And it was impressive.  It is really neat for students, the young students, to get to see a young teenager performing at that kind of a level. And there’s all kinds of reasons why attending a live Symphony can improve your life. Just come give it a try. You know some people think of the symphony, and maybe their Grandma’s went, something for only old people and you had to be super dressed up and it’s not like that anymore.

Interviewer:  Just come out.

Eva Marie:  Come out.  Student tickets are $10 any seat, any concert.

Interviewer: So what do you have coming up for the symphony later on this year?

Eva Marie:   2020 is Beethoven’s 250th birthday. And so this 2020-2021 season we are going to be celebrating, it’s titled Inspired by Genius. And much of our season is inspired by Beethoven and his genius.  In November our concert we are going to be celebrating, 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II.  Which is just going to be a really moving and beautiful concert. Which I think is important for us to remember our history and to celebrate our milestones.  And then our Christmas concerts are always a treat, a family event.

Interviewer: And the Christmas one must be pretty popular.

Eva Marie:  Oh, it’s really popular.

Interviewer:  And people should probably get those tickets early.

Eva Marie:  That’s right.  And those tickets go on sale in September.

Interviewer:  So how do people get their tickets, and how do they find out more information?

Eva Marie:  Go to the website, www.lacrossesymphony.org.

Photography by © Dylan Overhouse Productions


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