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Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra Celebrates 25th Birthday

Mattie Kelly Arts Center


Yue Chu
Yue Chu

8/8/2012 - The Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra will feature a season of five unique concert events for 2012-13 - all in honor of the NFSO's 25th birthday as the area's premiere professional orchestra.

The season opens September 22, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center on the Niceville campus of Northwest Florida State College with a "Celebration" concert that features a gold-medal winning guest soloist and the world premiere of a new composition written specially for the NFSO's quarter-century milestone. The NFSO held its first concert September 19, 1987 in the then Okaloosa-Walton Junior College gymnasium - auditorium.

"Our September 22 opening concert has been designated specially for celebration," noted Jeffrey Rink, NFSO Music Director and Conductor. "But, the event kicks off a marvelous line-up of concerts as we recognize the NFSO's 25 years of making outstanding music all season long and embark on our 26th year." A gala birthday reception for season subscribers and NFSO underwriters follows the September 22 concert.

Season packages and individual tickets to all concerts are now on sale from the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Box Office. Packages are $105 each and include all five concerts as well as special benefits for subscribers. Individual NFSO tickets are $22.50 each per concert for adults or $16 for youth age 18 and younger. An Active Duty military discount is also available.

Founding NFSO conductor John Leatherwood noted that the orchestra was officially born on August 17, 1987, when Leatherwood, then a music professor at Okaloosa-Walton Junior College, was granted permission to organize the local orchestra under the auspices of the college. "In the early days I gave engraved wine goblets at the end of each season to the musicians, who were at that time all volunteers, to thank them for their service," reminisced Leatherwood, who noted that the orchestra's 25 years of music making and growth to a fully professional orchestra is a testament to the rich support for the cultural arts found in the local community.

Conductor Rink, who holds the college's Mattie Kelly Distinguished Endowed Teaching Chair in Orchestral Music, agreed that community support, as well as the work of volunteers like the NFSO Guild and the operational support of the college, have all been vital to the success of the orchestra. "We've performed continuously since 1987, provided cultural programs to thousands of area residents and youth, and established unique programs such as the regional Concerto Competition for young musicians, the annual 5th Grade Concerts, and more," said Rink. "That history doesn't come without many, many patrons, volunteers and donors."

The September 22 NFSO concert features the world premiere of a work by NWFSC music professor Jeremy Ribando, who describes his composition, titled "iFlight: A Birthday Overture," as a "piece full of motion... the motion in the music celebrates this orchestra's energy, vitality, and continued strength."

The special program also includes performance of Rachmaninov's "Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor" when the NFSO will be joined by a special guest soloist, pianist Yue Chu. Yue is noted for his extraordinary skill as the 2011 Gold Medal winner of the prestigious Wideman International Piano Competition in Shreveport, Louisiana, and has, in his short career, won numerous awards.

"Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto is considered to be one of the most difficult works to play in the piano repertoire and it is for this reason that every live performance of this work is an 'event' not to be missed," explained Conductor Rink.

Now a student at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Mr. Yue was born in mainland China. Before his time in Philadelphia, Mr. Yue was a student at New England Conservatory in Boston and he has been accepted into the first round of the 2013 Van Cliburn Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. (Expanded bio of guest soloist below).

At the September 22 season opening concert, the NFSO will also perform Richard Strauss's moving tone poem "Death and Transfiguration." Composed in 1888 when Strauss was only 25 years old, the work tells the story of a man's journey through life from childhood until he confronts death and at the work's conclusion; the triumphant sounds of heaven are heard as the man is transfigured after death.

"Strauss is the master of the tone poem - which is a piece of music that tells a story purely through musical sounds," said Rink. "It is a difficult work for the orchestra to play but one that both players and the public will find very rewarding."

Rink noted that the orchestra's five-concert celebration of its 25th anniversary opens in "Celebration" and ends April 20, 2013, with a "Triumphant" performance of Beethoven's magnificent Symphony No. 9, when the NFSO will be joined by an outstanding solo quartet and combined choruses of more than 100 voices. Other season concerts will explore the beauty of the violin and a celebration of 500 years of Florida history with narrator, singers and intriguing multi-media projections. The season also includes popular local favorites; a Holiday Pops concert and the annual Stars of Tomorrow event.

In January 1997, the NFSO was the first group to perform in the new $25 million fine and performing arts center constructed on the campus of then Okaloosa-Walton Community College in Niceville. The facility, now named the Mattie Kelly Arts Center, is the region's state-of-the-art performance venue and boasts a custom orchestra shell that is used for each NFSO concert to provide optimum acoustics for the symphony.

All NFSO season concerts begin at 7:30 pm. The Box Office is open 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday for in person and phone sales and re-opens at 6:00 p.m. the night of teach concert for any available at-the-door tickets. Tickets purchased at the door prior are same price as advance tickets. Online ticket sales are available through the Mattie Kelly Arts center website at

The NFSO has operated under the auspices of the college for its entire history, and the talented, professional musicians who perform with the NFSO come from across the greater Florida Panhandle region. See the symphony website for additional concert information and program notes at

The Mattie Kelly Arts Center Box Office has a $2 per ticket processing fee that is in addition to the ticket price for all events held at the center. --------------------

Yue Chu – September 22 NFSO Guest Soloist – Biography/Info

Born in China, Yue Chu won his first performance competition at age eight, and at the age of ten was among the youngest conductors chosen to lead the youth orchestra and choir in his hometown of Tianjin.

Yue Chu's teachers in the past include Yun-Xian Chen, Jin Zhang and Yuan Wu in China, Hung-Kuan Chen and Tema Blackstone in Canada, and Russell Sherman and Wha-Kyung Byun at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he was not only one of the full scholarship students, but also the first undergraduate student to receive the Presidential Scholarship in two consecutive school years. While at NEC he became the first recipient of the Burnes Family Award.

As a performer, Mr. Chu has been heard in many competitions and music festivals: the Wideman International Piano Competition in Shreveport, LA (where he was the 2011 Gold Medal recipient); the Heida Hermanns International Piano Competition in Westport, CT; the Bosendorfer USASU International Piano Competition in Tempe, AZ; the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, TX; the Honens International Piano Competition in Calgary, Canada; as well as the Kiwanis Music Festival and MMB music festival in Canada; the Chinese Performing Arts Music Festival in Walnut Hill, MA, USA; the Perlman Music Program in Shelter Island, NY,; and the Ravinia Music Festival in Chicago.

Mr. Chu is currently an Artist Diploma program at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, studies where he receives piano lessons with Jonathan Biss and Meng-Chieh Liu, as well as coaching from Gary Graffman, Seymour Lipkin and Robert McDonald.

When not at the keyboard, Chu reads all types of books, plays all kinds of sports, and likes to whip up delicious meals for his friends.