Orchestra Spotlight:
National Symphony's Residency in Kentucky

Once again, NSO cellist Yvonne Caruthers is sending daily "postcards" to Polyphonic about their residency – this year in Kentucky. Here's a link to some pre-concert publicity from the Commonwealth Journal in Somerset, Kentucky; and here's a link to the NSO's blog about their Residency, which includes some fun photos of the musicians (including Yvonne) presenting a countdown before their departure.

Thanks to Yvonne for sharing her experiences with Polyphonic's readers.


It’s that time of year again, when the NSO packs up and heads out of town (Feb 17-25) for our annual American Residency. This year we’re going to Kentucky. The orchestra is playing evening concerts in Louisville, Owensboro, Paducah, Lexington, and Somerset. We’re also playing a children’s concert in Paducah. That’s six concerts in 8 days, with a lot of travel in between towns, since it’s 4 hours by bus between Paducah and Lexington.

Map of Kentucky Kentucky map (Click to enlarge.)

Our music director, Christoph Eschenbach, won’t be making this trip with us. Instead, our conductor will be Hugh Wolff, who is no stranger to the NSO– he was an assistant conductor with us early in his career. I’m sure Hugh will connect well with our audiences, as he has a lot of experience with outreach. Our programs are a mix of American and European repertoire, with Copland (Appalachian Spring) and Daugherty (Route 66) alongside Beethoven (4th symphony) and Ravel (Daphnis).

One of the missions of our American Residency program is to bring music to “under-served communities.” Another mission is to spotlight the work already being done in each state by their local orchestra(s). We hope our visit will be widely publicized, particularly
in Louisville, because the Louisville Orchestra (LO) is facing a very tough situation. Attorney Liza Hirsch Medina came to Washington recently to fill us in on the LO situation – it doesn’t look promising. However, those who support the LO have begun a campaign to “Keep Louisville Symphonic.” (That slogan might not be as catchy-sounding as “Keep Austin Weird,” but the impulse behind it is similar.) Current plans are for LO players and NSO players to perform a joint concert on 2/18 in Louisville. Iʼll keep you updated on these events.

Louisville Orchestra logo Louisville Orchestra logo (Click to enlarge.)

In addition to the orchestra services (six concerts), I’m also involved in 11 other events, ranging from teacher workshops, to chamber performances in schools, to a telecast-taping, so I’m busy using my last days before we leave getting ready for all these events (as well as my usual NSO services and teaching, etc).

I feel very confident about our school program (Connections: Science and Music, for cello, violin, and tuba), since we just did 8 performances of it at the Kennedy Center in early January. All weʼll have to do is show up at a school, set up our props, and do the show. The hardest part is finding storage for all the props, which range from my carbon fiber cello to a fur coat and a laundry hose, with a tuning fork and a metronome thrown in too. Our stagehands are taking along a large hamper for such items, which will be loaded onto our truck Tuesday afternoon, after our last rehearsal (along with our instruments!).

Teacher workshops are a mixed bag. During past residencies, I’ve sometimes had as few as 3 teachers show up, after spending hours getting materials ready to put in their hands...that’s a disappointing experience. The topic of my workshop is how to connect music to other classroom subjects. There’s a lot of interest in this topic, but it’s challenging for me, since most classroom teachers have very little working knowledge of music. To my surprise, during our Alabama Residency, I found myself talking to a group of music teachers – who wished I was talking to their administrators, since those are the folks are in charge of budgets. Iʼm keeping my fingers crossed that in KY my
workshops will have good turnouts and receptive listeners.

I’m doing a sectional (which I thought was supposed to be a masterclass) at the University of Louisville the afternoon we arrive, followed by a pre-concert lecture about the NSO’s evening performance, and then the actual performance. I’m hoping someone remembers to get me a sandwich and a bottle of water somewhere along the way. Speaking of sandwiches, I understand that a hotel in Louisville served the very first “Kentucky Hot Brown.” I’ve read descriptions of these sandwiches (turkey, bacon, cheese, tomatoes), so I’m hoping I’ll have a chance (and time) to eat one!

Owensboro KY is supposed to be famous for BBQ, while western KY has burgoo (a type of stew). Both of those are overshadowed by KY’s legendary distilleries, Mammoth Cave, and thoroughbred race horses kept on immaculate farms.. there’s so much I’d like to see and do, but as usual, I’ll run out of time, transportation, and energy, and suddenly it will be time to catch the flight back to Washington!

I hope to send photos every day to Polyphonic so you can follow the NSO’s progress around the state, and I’ll try to include “the day's top stories,” so check back often for updates.

Yvonne Caruthers, NSO cellist
February 2011

Comments (Click to Hide)

We can make a card for you, Yvonne (we, meaning me and my twin).

That even my F-I-L-A was recruited for post-card writing took me by surprise.

Thank you, both.

Only one more day (for Yvonne to have these mini-reunions).
ichkcldr4mozart on February 21, 2019 at 6:51 PM
Thanks, Yvonne, for posting on the joint concert with LO and NSO members, which was a truly special event for us in the LO. And thank you for relating the kind comments on my composition "Make Gentle the Life of This World." It was a privilege to hear such a beautiful performance of it by such fine musicians from two great orchestras.
(I'm enjoying the rest of the blog - it reminds me of when the LO used to tour Kentucky!)
Raymond Horton
Bass Trombonist (and occasional composer)
Louisville Orchestra
rhorton on March 1, 2019 at 6:42 PM

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