Playing in the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, a part of the city's - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Playing in the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, a part of the city's 'soul'

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Heather Trussell of Rochester joined MSO in 2000 after graduating from college. She says Memphis chose her because she won an audition with the city's symphony.  (Image source: MSO) Heather Trussell of Rochester joined MSO in 2000 after graduating from college. She says Memphis chose her because she won an audition with the city's symphony. (Image source: MSO)
Musicians of the 550-member orchestra perform regularly at schools, libraries, and even the Memphis International Airport in addition to playing subscription concerts, operas, and ballets. (Image Source: Kickstarter) Musicians of the 550-member orchestra perform regularly at schools, libraries, and even the Memphis International Airport in addition to playing subscription concerts, operas, and ballets. (Image Source: Kickstarter)
Downtown's Tom Lee Park fills up with hundreds of blankets and lawn chairs during the Sunset Symphony's performance, but its audience is only a fraction of who the MSO delivers to annually. (Image Source: MIM) Downtown's Tom Lee Park fills up with hundreds of blankets and lawn chairs during the Sunset Symphony's performance, but its audience is only a fraction of who the MSO delivers to annually. (Image Source: MIM)

(WMC-TV) - In the recent years, musicians of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra gather every spring to play on the banks of the Mississippi River—composing mellifluous tones and rich classical sounds to the setting sun.

Downtown's Tom Lee Park fills up with hundreds of blankets and lawn chairs during the Sunset Symphony's performance, but its audience is only a fraction of who the MSO delivers to annually.

"During any given week, we have musicians working all over the city in just about any field related to music that you could imagine," said violinist Heather Trussell. "We have musicians providing music therapy via drum circles and string ensembles to Youth Villages, assisted living facilities, and prison. Other musicians visit middle and high schools on a regular basis to coach their orchestra students."

Musicians of the roughly 50-member orchestra perform regularly at schools, libraries, and even the Memphis International Airport in addition to playing subscription concerts, operas, and ballets.

It operates with a $4.1 million budget.

MSO's financial crisis—a budget gap of initially $400,000became public in January; the orchestra would have been broke before their current season ended without aggressive action. The gap shrunk to $100,000 after generous gifts and internal staffing a programing change, according to a Kickstarter page.

Musicians created the relatively new crowdsourcing project dubbed Save Our Symphony, which has already generated nearly half of the $25,000 goal. The predicament still threatens MSO's structure—and overall existence—for upcoming seasons, the activities it shares with the community, and the $10.2 million it brings yearly for the local economy.

"Our symphony fills many important roles," said Trussell. "The Memphis Symphony has a special soul and strength, just like Memphis. I love this orchestra, and I love this city. We are constantly looking for more ways to use our music to enhance and uphold Memphis."

The 38-year-old Rochester native joined MSO in 2000 after graduating from college. She says Memphis chose her because she won an audition with the city's symphony.

"It is such a huge part of our lives here [in Memphis]," she said. "[Without the symphony] it would lose something positive and something beautiful. We are part of Memphis' soul and body."


Trussell wrote Action News 5 about her Memphis pride for a topic in the Short Social Stories series. Read more about our series here.


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