Southern Nevada Symphony Orchestra

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Dreaming and Achieving Big

by Kathleen Snow

The Southern Nevada Symphony Orchestra (SNSO) is a unique orchestra ensemble located in Mesquite whose members come from areas ranging from southern Utah to southern Nevada. They have completed three successful years of operation, growing in size and popularity, which has surpassed the founder and conductor, Dr. Selmer Spitzer’s vision of dreaming big.

Selmer Spitzer with the Southern Nevada Symphony Orchestra

Dr. Spitzer and his wife, Phyllis, live in Bunkerville, Nevada during the cooler months, and return to their hometown in North Dakota during the summer. In 2012, Spitzer saw the need for a local orchestra that could encompass all of the smaller communities around the Mesquite area.

“Because of my past experience conducting a community symphony, and starting numerous string programs in universities and high school music programs, I sensed a need for retired adult musicians and professional community members to have an outlet for them to continue their musical talent in a more advanced and professional manner,” said Spitzer. “I also realized that the communities had other cultural programs, including good string programs, in the public schools with outstanding and very talented music educators.”

Dr. Spitzer explained that in order to start a successful and complete orchestra, he most likely would have to look in surrounding areas for talented musicians as far north as southern Utah, as well as southern Nevada communities including Mesquite, Moapa Valley, Henderson, and Las Vegas. He said incorporating musicians from other areas is a common practice in most community orchestras in the country. Because of Dr. Spitzer’s many years of experience directing and conducting large ensemble groups, he felt positive that he would be able to develop SNSO into a Nevada State recognized symphony orchestra, which he has successfully accomplished.

“I talked to many members of the community, its music teachers, local churches, and retired professional musicians,” said Dr. Spitzer. “To start a large ensemble like a full orchestra, instrumentation is very important. You need to locate interested players in all the different sections of the ensemble. If possible, it is important to have one or more very talented, strong players in each section of the violin, viola, cello, string bass, wind, brass, and percussion sections. It is also important to have a board of directors, which I had to pick from the community, and have them understand the importance of their role and commitment to the symphony.”

Rita Hermie is a board member and pianist/percussionist with SNSO. She was initially contacted by Dr. Spitzer to become a part of the ensemble, taking on those roles and helping organize the percussion section.

“He laid out his plan for putting together a symphony, and asked me to be on the board,” explained Hermie. “I was skeptical at first because I didn’t think we had the population to support a symphony, or the amount of musicians needed. As I became more acquainted with Dr. Spitzer I realized he is an amazing person with an amazing amount of energy.”

Their first rehearsal was in October of 2014, and their first concert was on November 22, 2014 at the Mesquite Community Theatre, which ended up being too small to accommodate the large ensemble. They then performed at the Virgin Valley High School auditorium, which also didn’t have a large enough stage. Finally, with their fourth concert, they found a suitable place at the CasaBlanca Showroom where they presently perform.

“The fact that we could immediately begin performing with very little rehearsal time surprised me,” said Hermie. “Each year we have improved and grown. Dr. Spitzer does a great job of putting together interesting programs with music from all periods of time. He has invited many wonderful guest performers to join us at various concerts.”

According to Dr. Spitzer, SNSO has grown from 45 members to over 70. Every season they continue adding more variety and quality musical pieces to their repertoire. They have even added their own commissioned arrangements composed just for them. In three seasons, they have had four arrangements written solely for SNSO, which is quite unheard of, and of which they are very proud. They also have featured world renowned guest soloists to perform with them resulting in standing ovations.

SNSO is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has to rely on support from the community. “We are very grateful for the generous donations and financial support by the community,” said Dr. Spitzer.

Hermie mentioned that SNSO is reaching their goals because of the tenacity of Dr. Spitzer and the wonderful support from the community. This past year they decided to begin giving a yearly scholarship to an area high school senior to help further their musical education. Hermie is the chair of the scholarship committee, and their first recipient was Isaac Talahytewa from Virgin Valley High School.

“I am thrilled with the growth of the Orchestra, and am excited to see what Dr. Spitzer has in store for us this season,” said Vice President of SNSO, Larry LeMieux. “ I’m sure he has some surprises up his sleeve.”

For more information you can email Selmer at spitzer2@bektel.com, or visit the website at www.snsymphony.com

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