Couple brings harmony to new local orchestra.
It’s Thursday night, and while most people are unwinding from work or preparing for the weekend, the tone inside Crabapple Baptist Church is focused. All is quiet except for the click of music stands and the shuffle of papers, as the members of Alpharetta Symphony Orchestra make their final adjustments before their next piece begins. In a single wave, conductor Eric Hawk commands the attention of his musicians, and then a swell of sound emerges from the brass, strings, winds and percussion. It’s a sweet symphony of sound, even if it’s just for a weekly rehearsal.
Passion reverberates from the Alpharetta Symphony Orchestra, not just through their playing, but through the group’s foundation, director Eric Hawk and his wife (and the group’s pianist and manager) Dawn Dalangin.
After living in Columbus and Athens, the couple decided to move to Alpharetta to build their future. Both were nearing the completion of their doctoral music degrees at University of Georgia: Eric a candidate for orchestral conducting; Dawn a candidate in piano performance. They reasoned, John’s Creek had a professional orchestra, Alpharetta had a band, so why not start a symphony orchestra in Alpharetta?
“I believed people in Alpharetta would appreciate fresh art and entertainment,” says Eric about his community. “The city seems to be only in the infancy of its artistic potential.”
Dawn was a piano teacher at PianoAlpharetta, and saw that Alpharetta had a high potential for amateur musicians. After outreach to local schools, studios and music teachers, the Alpharetta Symphony Orchestra held their first auditions in September 2014. Twelve musicians, ranging from high school orchestra students to senior citizens who were former players, appeared at the first rehearsal. The instrumentation was perfect for a large chamber ensemble, and thus was born “AlpharettaSO,” as it was deemed.
Since its humble beginnings, the AlpharettaSO has grown to more than 25 members for the 2016 season. The goal during the first season was to gain exposure. The orchestra played anywhere they could: church concerts, assisted living homes, the Velvet Note jazz club and at the Taste of Alpharetta Festival. Every concert seemed to be a gateway and after every performance they were welcomed back to perform again.
Dawn and Eric have paid for everything out-of-pocket, from the rehearsal venue to the sheet music, website fees and even instruments for members who don’t currently have their own. Through the couple’s generosity, AlpharettaSO is free to members, but in order to financially support its growing needs, the group is applying for non-profit status this year.
“I believe that music-making is a privilege and a community has to have the passion and need for supporting the arts,” says Eric.
In the future, the hope is to create a professional symphony orchestra in addition to the community group. For now, the group welcomes musicians with a high school level playing ability or higher to join. Rehearsal is every Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at Crabapple Baptist Church.
“Our members love making music. As a whole, I have seen more dedication with this group than any others I’ve worked with.” That praise speaks volumes, considering Eric has conducted University of Georgia’s premiere symphony orchestra and the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra.
To hear the AlpharettaSO in concert, see them at “River Run” benefit for the Rising Star Equestrian Foundation on April 26 and “Taste of Alpharetta” on May 12. Check the website, AlpharettaSymphony.com for additional performance dates.