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Knoxville Symphony to perform at the Kennedy Center in 2020

June 19, 2018

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra is one of just four orchestras selected to perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., during “SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras” from March 23-29, 2020.

The Kennedy Center and Washington Performing Arts announced last week the four orchestras selected to participate in the festival taking place at the Kennedy Center and other locations around D.C. The orchestras also will present community residency programs in the D.C. area. Chosen from a pool of applicants from across the country, the Knoxville Symphony joined the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and Orpheus (New York) Chamber Orchestra chosen to perform during the 2020 festival.

Music Director Aram Demirjian

The participating orchestras will spotlight a diverse repertoire that has been influenced and inspired by history, local geography, various cultures, theater and other genres of music, including jazz, spirituals and gospel. Integral to the ensembles’ work as part of the festival is the residency element, which reflects the education and engagement work that the orchestras do in their own communities. Details of the residency events, which are expected to include work with students, amateur musicians, patients and actors, will be announced closer to the festival.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Washington Performing Arts have collaborated to present the SHIFT festival since 2017. The festival is composed of mini-residencies, with each orchestra offering education, engagement and community events in venues around Washington, D.C., along with full-orchestra performances in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, which are ticketed at $25, alongside ticketed and free events throughout the city.

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s SHIFT performance details:

“Knoxville: Artists at Home”
March 27, 2020, at 8 p.m.
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

Aram Demirjian, conductor
Julia Bullock, soprano
The University of Tennessee Symphony Brass
R.B. Morris, Knoxville Poet Laureate, Speaker

MICHAEL SCHACHTER: “Overture to Knoxville”
BARBER: Knoxville: Summer of 1915
COPLAND: “The Tender Land,” Orchestral Suite from the Opera
RACHMANINOFF: Symphonic Dances, Op. 45

Every good journey begins and ends at home. This program celebrates the artistic legacy of Knoxville,* interweaving music with narrative excerpts by Pulitzer Prize-winning Knoxville native James Agee. The KSO highlights two pieces inspired by Agee texts: Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, which vividly captures a young Agee’s tender memories of his family and home, and Copland’s Suite from The Tender Land, inspired in part by “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” Michael Schachter’s “Overture to Knoxville” was commissioned by the KSO in 2017, a piece inspired by the city itself. Knoxville also is home to a statue of Sergei Rachmaninoff, who gave his last public performance at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville on Feb. 17, 1943, three weeks before he died. The KSO concludes its program with his final composition, Symphonic Dances.

*Note: This program was performed Sept. 21-22, 2017, at the Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville as part of the KSO’s Moxley Carmichael Masterworks Series.

SHIFT provides a platform for orchestras to share a sampling of their best work – to be creative, interesting and provocative and to present work that embodies each orchestra’s identity, heritage, standards and artistic vision. The League of American Orchestras will partner with SHIFT to facilitate engagements on Capitol Hill and conversations about the impact and value that arts and orchestras can provide to their communities.

The orchestras selected for 2020 join an illustrious group of eight American orchestras that have participated in SHIFT in its first two seasons: Albany Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Boulder Philharmonic, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony and The Knights.

Generous support of SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras is provided through a matching grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support is provided by Daniel R. Lewis.

About the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra

Established in 1935, and now under the leadership of Music Director Aram Demirjian, the KSO has contributed to the cultural life in East Tennessee continuously for more than 80 years, providing excellence in musical and educational programs. The Orchestra consists of 80 professional musicians and performs 300 programs throughout the region each season, reaching audiences of more than 200,000 people. The KSO performs in traditional venues such as the Tennessee Theatre, Bijou Theatre and the Civic Auditorium as well as non-traditional places like hospitals, schools, city parks and churches. For more information regarding the KSO, please visit or call 865-291-3310.

About The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is America’s living memorial to President Kennedy. Under the leadership of Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah F. Rutter, the nine theaters and stages of the nation’s busiest performing arts facility attract audiences and visitors totaling 3 million people annually; Center-related touring productions, television, and radio broadcasts welcome 40 million more.

Opening its doors on September 8, 1971, the Center presents the greatest performances of music, dance, and theater; supports artists in the creation of new work; and serves the nation as a leader in arts education. With its artistic affiliates, the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera, the Center’s achievements as a commissioner, producer, and nurturer of developing artists have resulted in more than 300 theatrical productions and dozens of new ballets, operas, and musical works.

As part of the Kennedy Center’s Performing Arts for Everyone outreach program, the Center stages more than 400 free performances of music, dance, and theater by artists from throughout the world each year on the Center’s main stages, and every evening at 6 p.m. on the Millennium Stage. The Rubenstein Arts Access Program expands the Center’s efforts to make the arts accessible to children, young adults, and to people who have little or limited ability to attend and enjoy the performing arts, enabling audiences to engage in more ways, at more times, and in more places than ever before.

About Washington Performing Arts

One of the most established and honored performing arts institutions in America, Washington Performing Arts has more than a half-century history of serving artists, audiences, students, and civic life. The city is truly our stage: in venues ranging from concert halls and clubs to public parks, we present a tremendous range of artists and art forms, from the most distinguished symphony orchestras to both renowned and emerging artists in classical music, jazz, international genres, and dance.

Washington Performing Arts nourishes communities throughout the region by partnering with local organizations and other arts institutions, staging concerts and arts activities in the neighborhoods, involving internationally known main-stage performers in community programs, and presenting locally based artists to a wider audience. We place a premium on establishing artists as a continuing presence in the lives of both young people and adults through sustained residencies and educational programs.