It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


One of the things that makes Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera special is the connections one feels. There are connections to music, community, nature, friendships, education, and businesses.

Connections happen at breakfast

On regular occasions CSO musicians make their way to Maple Street Biscuit Company to take in a breakfast before a day hike. One particular morning after saying hello to the owner, Zeke, we bumped into a board member and symphony supporter, Harriet Whittaker, who happened to be hosting a few musicians during opening week.

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While enjoying breakfast we shared stories and planned small day hikes. Fitting in these little hikes before personal practice time and the evening concert was the perfect way to balance a concert day. Comraderies, friendships, exercise, and appreciation sets a good tone.

The group I went hiking with chose a local urban hiking area. Stringer’s Ridge is a beautiful network of trails for hiking and mountain biking. You can hike about 7 miles if you plan your trip well, and gorgeous overlooks provide very nice views of the downtown area.

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Upon coming back from the trail we encountered more CSO board members who were about to hike some of the trails we just left. For musicians and board members, a hike before a concert centered on an outdoor theme (Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Theophanidies’ Rainbow Body, Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and Dvorak’s Carnival Overture) seemed most appropriate and serendipitous.

Connections happen on stage.

Before and after a concert are great times to talk with colleagues and patrons alike. During our opening night concert, principal oboe player, Robert Burkes, and I discussed our upcoming collaboration of the Bach Concerto for Oboe and violins. Tempos are shared, favorite recordings are mentioned and rehearsal times are planned.

On a personal note, I’m most excited to collaborate with Robert Burkes, as he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. And the stories from his Cleveland Institute days where he studied with the legendary Cleveland Orchestra principal oboist, John Mack, make for an important connection to a different time and place.

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After the concert, there is a connection between patrons and musicians. Many come up to the stage to share their thoughts and impressions of the concert. This approachability between patron and musician makes the connection even more special.

Connections happen on the streets.

The community of Chattanooga has some wonderfully festive events going on just about every week. The day after our opening concert, the city of Chattanooga hosted “Parking Day,” a day where businesses, clubs, organizations and others rent parking spaces and showcase who they are and what they are about.

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The dedicated CSO staff was out early setting up a table to showcase some of the things the orchestra has to offer. Along with brochures and information about the CSO season, there was a table full of instruments to try and some information about the CSO Youth Orchestra programs.

Appropriately, one of the youth orchestra concertmasters was seated next to the CSO table performing various solos for pedestrians to enjoy. During her breaks, curious people of all ages would try the instruments offered on the table.

One curious adult tried the flute and discovered it isn’t as easy as it looks! Education is not just for kids!

There are so many connections that happen on a daily basis, whether at a concert or not. The importance of a symphony orchestra within a community makes for a complete picture of a beautiful city and its people.

About Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. She currently serves as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. She spends her summers at the celebrated Grand Teton Music Festival. Believing in music as a healing and coping source, Holly founded Arts Capacity, a charitable 501(c)3 which focuses on bringing live chamber music, art, artists, and composers to prisons. Arts Capacity addresses many emotional and character-building issues people face as they prepare for release into society. Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.

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