Sammamish Symphony starts new season

October 12, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Before the start of every rehearsal and performance, oboist Dennis Calvin and Sammamish violinist Dennis Helppie play the A note to help the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra musicians tune their instruments.

Helppie and about 75 other musicians have rehearsed together since early September to prepare for the first of six performances for the 2010-11 season, a show titled “Famous Overtures.”

Helppie, who owns Plateau Music in Issaquah, said his favorite piece, “Drama Jondo Overture for Orchestra,” by Carlos Surinach, has good Brazilian rhythm.

“We’re banging on our violins with our bows, so it’s very percussive,” Helppie said.

He played the piece 40 years ago as a young man of 20, and said it was fun playing the piece again, especially with his two teenage students, who also play in the orchestra.

The group began as the Providence Point Players in 1994 and changed its name to reflect the giant lake rippling next door. Its conductor, R. Joseph Scott, played the tympani, or the kettledrums, and the oboe as a youth before studying at the University of Oregon School of Music.

He founded the Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestra in 1967 and served as its music director, conductor and general manager until 1997. He came to the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra one year later.

Conducting in Bellevue 40 years ago is not unlike working in Sammamish now, he said.

Both places were growing bedroom communities with little or no performing art groups.

Now entering its 19th season, the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra draws a crowd from Everett to Tacoma, but focuses on drawing its neighbors to its shows. In addition to playing overtures, including by Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms, the orchestra will feature trumpet soloist George Steward, who will play “Concerto in E minor for Trumpet and Orchestra,” by Oskar Bohme.

“We’re right on your doorstep,” violist Myrl Venter, of Issaquah, said, inviting the Eastside to the performance. “We put a lot of love and effort in our playing.”

Tickets are available at the door, online or by calling TicketWeb at 800-965-4827 toll free. Season tickets are $89 for adults and $69 for seniors and students.

“We are growing along with the city and we are looking to be the major performing arts organization,” Scott said.

Musicians from the Westside are taking notice. For the third consecutive year, the orchestra will play at Benaroya Hall, in downtown Seattle.

The orchestra other’s signature concerts include a competition for a young soloist to play with the group in the spring.

The Sammamish Symphony Orchestra does outreach to young people with string quartets. Youth players also play with the orchestra, including 15-year-old Jonathan Kuehn, of Sammamish.

He practices every day and takes lessons from Helppie. Playing with an older orchestra helps him progress in his musical studies, he said.

“They know what they’re doing more than I do, so it’s a good experience to be around them and learn by playing with them,” Kuehn said.

His teacher agreed.

“I can work on the music with the students in their lessons and they get better at their parts, and I get better at my parts,” Helppie said.

For people unfamiliar with classical music, Scott said they should open themselves to its depth and worldliness.

“What we encourage is just listen to a piece of classical music that you like, and pretty soon that will whet your appetite and you’ll want to listen to something else,” he said.

On the Web

If you go

Famous Overtures

-2 p.m. Oct. 17

-Eastlake Performing Arts Center, 400 228th Ave. N.E., Sammamish

-Adults $16; seniors 62 or older and students $11; families $32; children 10 or younger, free

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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