Diamond jubilee: Jefferson Symphony celebrating 60 years

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By Chris Ferguson

The Jefferson Symphony Orchestra will soon celebrate its 60th anniversary concert season.

And while many organizations reach similar milestones, this one is special to JSO, according to longtime violinist and spokeswoman Karen Pring. That’s because — save for a few paid employees — the group is made up solely of volunteers.

The group started in 1953 as a modest chamber ensemble at the Colorado School of Mines known as the Mines Chamber Ensemble. At that time, the ensemble was made up of a handful of Mines faculty members. Throughout the years it reached small milestones such as becoming a nonprofit in 1960 and moving into its current home, the Green Center on the Mines campus. As the years passed, the group expanded to become a community orchestra, the Golden Civic Orchestra. As the county grew, the orchestra expanded and became known by its current its name in 1972.

Pring, who is going into her 24th season, has long felt a connection to the group and its mission. In 1989, she moved to Colorado from Montana after finishing college. Her violin professor urged her to join the group because of its stellar reputation.

For the past few decades, the orchestra has maintained a consistent size of about 75 members, although it invites more members to perform more complex compositions. Most members live along the Front Range, with a few living in the mountains.

“It attracts a lot of people from around the Front Range because of the level of musicianship,” Pring said.

For the past 13 years, the group has been under the direction of Dr. William Morse. Morse has cultivated trust and a sense of community for his musicians, Pring said. “He’s done a great job challenging the orchestra and helping us to grow as musicians.”

The dedication of the musicians can be seen in the longevity of many of the orchestra’s members, said Pring. “More than half of the musicians have played with the group for more than 10 years. And we have quite a few that have played with the group for more than 20 years, a handful that have played for more than 40 years, and one member who has been with the group for more than 50 years,” she said.

“I think it speaks of how well the organization is run. I think people enjoyed not only the musical challenge that the group offers under Dr. Morse’s direction, but it’s an enjoyable group to be part of. A lot of friendships have developed from the group.”

The orchestra gets the majority of its funding through grants, such as from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. The group also receives funding from private donations, a charitable trust and ticket sales. Its biggest fund-raising event is a silent auction during its the holiday concert, which this year will be held Dec. 2.

The group’s regular classical season runs from October to May, although it performs a couple of summer concerts at the Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities and in Parfet Park in Golden.

The group’s most popular event is the holiday concert, which offers traditional songs that are accessible to a larger audience.

To encourage more music fans to attend the full season, the group is offering lower season ticket prices this year.

“We do it because we love it,” Pring said. “That’s what it comes down to.”

Chris Ferguson is a news editor for Evergreen Newspapers. Send comments or story ideas to chris@evergreenco.com.

Ticket information

Season and individual concert tickets may be purchased in advance at www.jeffsymphony.org, by calling 303-278-4237, visiting the Jefferson Symphony office at 1204 Washington St., Golden, CO 80401, or at the door before a concert.