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Art Views

Reno Chamber Orchestra: A Closer Look

Published May 19, 2023

Reno Chamber Orchestra: A Closer Look

by Amy Heald (Guest Writer)

Amy Heald: Executive Director of Reno Chamber Orchestra & Nevada Chamber Music Festival 

When Scott Faulkner asked if I wanted to take over his PBS Reno Art Views blog for May it was the beginning of April and May 17 seemed like ages away. I should know better by now. I have been in the arts admin field for going on 12 years and I guess like a lot of things in life, time has a funny way of speeding by and suddenly a date that seemed far into the future is tomorrow. So yes, I am writing this blog post the day before the deadline.

Quick introduction – my name is Amy Heald and I am the not-so-new Executive Director of the Reno Chamber Orchestra. It will be one year since I took over on June 1, 2022. Another example of time speeding by. I can hardly believe it has been a whole year. For those of you less familiar with the Reno orchestra scene, I work for the ‘other orchestra.’ We are the orchestra, smaller than the Reno Philharmonic, that performs at Nightingale Concert Hall on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Other than having fewer members on stage, what is, you may ask, the difference between the Reno Phil and the Reno Chamber Orchestra? Under the direction of our new music director, Kelly Kuo, the biggest difference is the repertoire we program. Kelly is very conscience about programming pieces that are really written for the smaller-sized ensemble. While some people might think this limits us, it is quite the opposite. The depth of repertoire that is written for the smaller ensemble is quite deep in both the old and the new. For example, this coming November we will perform Caroline Shaw’s (b. 1982) The Mountain that Loved a Bird alongside scenes from Rossini’s (1792-1868) opera La cenerentola. Both pieces are written for smaller forces than say Richard Strauss’ Don Juan (which if you haven’t already seen, the Reno Phil is performing next October). I think this is one of the things that makes the orchestral music scene in Reno so special. We have two professional orchestras performing very different repertoire and offering our community two very different musical experiences!  

In the year since I have taken over, the RCO has also made a concerted effort to think about the communities who might not normally be able to access our concerts. This has led us to our first community partnership with Northern Nevada HOPES. Throughout this season we have taken our musicians to perform small concerts for the residents of Hope Springs. Hope Springs is northern Nevada’s first bridge housing community. Hope Springs offers shelter and full wraparound services to individuals experiencing homelessness. Along with the performances, we offer free tickets to all our concerts to staff and clients of Northern Nevada HOPES and Hope Springs. My favorite thing this year has been to see residents I met at Hope Springs attending our concerts at Nightingale Concert Hall. Everyone, no matter their situation in life, should have the opportunity to experience the power of live music. To quote Simon Woods, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras: “Every empty seat is someone not hearing Beethoven 5.” It is very important to me that as an organization we are aware of all the different barriers to accessing our music and work to dismantle them as much as possible. 

The RCO, like all other performing arts organizations, is still feeling the effects of the past three years of pandemic disruptions but we are on the upswing. Ticket sales are increasing and the vibe in the concert hall is beginning to feel like in the before times. I remember very clearly the first concert I watched as a live stream at the very beginning of the pandemic. I was living in Seattle and working for the Seattle Symphony and we were the first orchestra to stream a concert in in March 2020 – during the week when everything shut down. It was a terrifying time, especially in Seattle, as we were basically the epicenter of the outbreak in the US. The Seattle Symphony did a live re-broadcast of Mahler’s Symphony No 2. It is such a powerful piece of music and I remember sitting on my couch crying, letting the music wash over me, trying to grasp the idea that we had no idea when we would be able to gather and perform again. Now three years later I will never take for granted the ability to go to a concert and hear musicians perform live in front of me. While we all got really good at Zoom and streaming and stitching together video performances, there is nothing that compares to the live music experience. 

This weekend the RCO will close out our 48th season at Nightingale Concert Hall with Beethoven’s third piano concerto and soloist Jon Kimura Parker. I hope you will join me and share in the magic and power of the live orchestral experience!

For tickets visit or call our office M-F 10am-3pm: 775-348-9413

Thank you to Amy Heald, writing as a guest for our reoccurring ART VIEWS contributor, Scott Faulkner

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