The Midlands Region of SCWLA held its monthly luncheon in Columbia on August 5, 2010 at the Palmetto Club. The guest speaker was the Music Director of the South Carolina Philharmonic, Mr. Morihiko Nakahara. Mr. Nakahara has been the Philharmonic’s director since 2008, and he also serves as the Resident Conductor of the Spokane (Washington) Orchestra while making frequent guest appearances throughout the country. Mr. Nakahara began by noting there are probably as many conductor jokes as there are lawyer jokes, so the audience could just substitute the word “lawyer” and get a rough idea!
He entertained everyone with anecdotes about life in the Philharmonic, including observations of the personality types who tended to favor different instruments, and he took a survey with a show of hands of those who had ever played piano, stringed instruments, woodwinds, etc. and explained what it could indicate. For example, he stated the brass players sit in the back of the orchestra for several reasons – not only because they play the loudest instruments in the orchestra, but also because they tended to be the fun-loving types who can get into trouble! He also kept the audience laughing with a mini-lesson in conducting; everyone grabbed a piece of silverware and followed his lead – up/down slowly for marching music, faster for quick tempos, etc. When he noticed some trying to keep up, he explained (with tongue firmly in cheek) that many of the conducting students learned (some earlier, some later) that it’s much easier to just move your wrist for the fast music, saving the expansive arm waving for the novices, and he noted many of the SCWLA members were quick to discover this.
Despite a busy schedule, Mr. Nakahara stated the Philharmonic is part-time, operating on a budget of just $1.0 million a year (compared to $7.0 million for the full-time Charlotte Symphony), and it is comprised of individuals from many different backgrounds, including computer technicians, CPAs, attorneys, medical employees, and even the manager of a wine store. However, they all come together one week each month to rehearse and produce great music. All of the musicians are highly skilled, with some performing at Lincoln Center and many teaching and performing throughout the year with a variety of organizations. One musician even recently admitted to being a winner on the Gong Show in the 1970s! Mr. Nakahara stated they have performed try-outs with the musicians behind screens so they can hire based solely on superior musical performance, and they conduct several rounds of auditions to narrow the field, similar to the procedure on American Idol. He stated the best part of his job is getting to share great music with an audience, and he encouraged SCWLA members to attend some of the upcoming events, as the Philharmonic is accessible to everyone.
The Philharmonic has a Master Works Series that runs from September to May, with one concert each month (except for December, “when there are too many Nutcrackers to get a date at the Koger Center”). For October 2010, they have planned their annual collaboration with the Richland One schools. This year they also will be resuming the Chamber Series, in which some of the musicians will make impromptu appearances at public places all over Columbia to give residents a chance to enjoy music in a variety of settings.
Mr. Nakahara closed by thanking Rhonda Hunsinger and her staff for the assistance they have provided to the Philharmonic. He also thanked SCWLA for its interest in the Philharmonic. Ms. Hunsinger, who also attended, noted many attorneys have supported the Philharmonic, both for their own personal enjoyment and for that of their clients. The late attorney Lester Bates was a long-time supporter, and a memorial endowment for the Philharmonic has been created in his honor. Any SCWLA members who would like to support the Philharmonic may contact Ms. Hunsinger at Rhonda@SCPhilharmonic.com or (803) 771-7937. We all enjoyed learning about the Philharmonic at the Midlands luncheon, and we thank Kathy Helms for inviting Mr. Nakahara to be our speaker.
–Karen Huelson, SC Supreme Court