3Qs: Steven Byess, North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

The Tupelo Symphony Orchestra recently changed its name to the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra’s musical director, Steven Byess, responded to questions about the NMSO from Daily Journal arts and entertainment reporter Sheena Barnett.

Q: The orchestra’s name change reflects the many outreach concerts performed in the region each year. Tell me more about some of those concerts.
A: Just after I joined the orchestra, I traveled to several neighboring cities around Tupelo to meet the people, many of whom were patrons of our performances, and to learn about these communities and what was important to them. There was a unanimous desire to have greater access to live symphonic music, so I proposed that we take the TSO, Tupelo’s and Northern Mississippi’s musical jewel, to these communities and share our amazing orchestra and world-class soloists with them. With the personal and institutional commitment that “music should be available to everyone,” I returned to the communities of Fulton, Amory, Oxford, New Albany and Columbus, hoping that one of these cities would bring the orchestra to perform in their hometown. I was delighted that all five communities enthusiastically responded to having the TSO perform in their city. Over the past three years, we have performed nine of these “Outreach Concerts” for our fellow communities.

Q: Can you speak to the importance of an orchestra for a city like Tupelo?
A: The presence of a professional orchestra signifies a community’s commitment to culture. It is a phenomenal thing for a city the size of Tupelo to have a professional orchestra, professional ballet, musical arts series, a museum, an outstanding community theatre, festivals of many varieties, and so many other great artistic, cultural and community offerings. Truly, the existence of these organizations and offerings is a testament to the desire and commitment of Tupelo residents, and to the foresight and vision of our community leaders.

Q: Tell me more about the upcoming North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra season.
A: We begin our season in October with another installment of our popular “A Night At The Movies” series. This program will feature the dynamic music of John Williams, including selections from favorites like Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, Catch Me If You Can and E.T. It will feature our first Family Concert on a Saturday afternoon in a performance that is shorter than our evening programs, and is designed especially for younger concert-goers. We also will present the usual dazzling array of internationally recognized soloists (visit our website for more details). And, of course, we will present our yearly favorite holiday program in December, featuring the NMSO Children’s Chorus, and introducing the NMSO Big Band as we perform The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky and Duke Ellington, side-by-side.