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          Fall 2023

Celebrating 50 Years in the Charlotte Symphony

by Amy Orsinger Whitehead

Our colleague and friend, Principal Oboist Hollis Ulaky retired last month after a spectacular fifty year career playing in the CSO. Before she left, she shared with us these fun mementos of her epic time here. We will certainly miss Hollis, and we are all wishing her the very best in her well-deserved retirement!

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How Do You Hear a Symphony in Your Own Backyard?

by Jeremy Lamb

Hey everyone, guess what? No, we all know that Lionel Messi came to Charlotte, but you're close because it IS about cool people coming to your neck of the woods...


The news is that the Charlotte Symphony is building a stage that's mobile! That means that if you live in a neighborhood in Charlotte or anywhere around the County -- (see initial list below) -- then you might see the CSO putting on concerts in your local town square. It's called the CSO Roadshow, and it's designed to become a platform for collaboration with local artists, musicians, dancers, actors, poets, magicians, dog trainers... you name it.

A plan like this doesn't come without hitches, the trailer's notwithstanding. David Fisk, our intrepid CEO, has had to navigate numerous roadblocks along the route including cost worries, design difficulties, sponsor searching, not to mention the difficulty of finding room in the calendar to squeeze CSO Roadshow concerts into an already brimming symphony schedule. But in the past year, a lot of progress has been made. The CSO team has found sponsors (I can't write their names until it's official), the stage is designed and nearly constructed, and they’ve threaded the scheduling needle to find three Sundays at the end of our Spring season to finally launch this baby. Beginning April 28, 2024, prepare to have your socks blown off, because you might live close enough to walk over in them.


I’m writing this in part to give a shoutout to David because no one makes it through that many “road closed” signs without a crystal clear vision. I asked him about this over Zoom and he said yes, he absolutely does have that vision, and it harkens back to his days as CEO of Richmond Symphony where they created a large mobile stage called the Big Tent. It was big enough to stage the whole orchestra and was used for weekend-long festivals that included as many local artists as the neighborhood housed. It might have been a reflection on my computer screen, but it looked like he teared up a little when he said that a defining moment for him was hearing a lady interviewed over the radio about her participation in the Big Tent, and she referred to the orchestra as "her" Richmond Symphony. And I agree — you've probably heard us talk a lot about "your" Charlotte Symphony and that’s because there's something magical about hearing members of the community actually taking ownership in that way. After all, a large portion of our budget comes not from the government or big corporations, but from arts lovers like you. 


First four stops for the CSO Roadshow are:


Latin American Coalition, Central Avenue

Sunday, April 28, 2024


Mayfield Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, W. Sugar Creek Road

Sunday, May 5, 2024


Renaissance West STEAM Academy, West Boulevard

Sunday, May 12, 2024


Ophelia Garmon-Brown Community Center, Freedom Drive

Friday, June 21, 2024

Meet Our New Members

by Allan Rosenfeld

Luis Ollarves, double bass

What do you think is the most notable thing about your hometown?

I am from Venezuela, a beautiful country where the music life is one of the most important  things for us. El Sistema is a music program that was created so that all Venezuelan children and young people have access to education and the enjoyment of music. The opportunity that many people have to be musicians is incredible.

What were you doing before coming to work in Charlotte?


After being part of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela for 5 years working with Gustavo Dudamel, I decided to go to study at Colburn School in LA for 6 years. After that I was part of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra as a Fellow.

Teil Taliesin, oboe

Any pieces you’re particularly looking forward to playing in the orchestra here?

I always love playing Nutcracker and bringing joy and wonder to so many children. It’s so fun seeing them peer over the edge of the pit at intermission!

Tell us a little something people would be interested in hearing about your life offstage?

I am an avid tabletop gamer and love arranging video game music for my ensemble Phoenix Down RPG! We play at conventions and in the community in fun, gamified concerts.

Cynthia Burton, violin

Why did you pick your instrument?

I was 3 1/2 when I started violin, and it was basically sheer luck that a violin teacher lived very close by, and I stuck with it.

Any pieces you’re particularly looking forward to playing in the orchestra here? 

I’m excited to play Death and Transfiguration and Dr. Atomic Suite for the first time! 

Nicholas Ritter, bassoon


What do you love most about your instrument?


I love the bassoon because of the wide range of characters it can exemplify. From mischievous, to solemn, to lyrical, we get to do it all!


What do you find the most challenging thing about playing your instrument? How do you work on this?

One of the most difficult things I have to deal with is making reeds. I work on this by thinking of reed making as a way to listen and react to my instrument. I have my ideal sound and feel in mind and adjust each reed until it gets me as close as possible to that unattainable goal. I work on it by spending a couple hours every day on reeds to make sure I can weed out the ones I don’t like. I’m not insane, I promise.

Oksana McCarthy, cello

What do you love most about your instrument?

I’ve been playing the cello as long as I remember myself. At this point it is an extension of me. 

Tell us a little something people would be interested in hearing about your life offstage?

My husband and I raising two beautiful boys Roman 9 and Robbie 12 years old - and a cute little dog named Lilly. I love hiking, decorating and traveling. 

Back In Time: Adorable Violinists Edition

by Sarah Markle

Most of us in the symphony started learning our instruments when we were tiny and cute (not that we're not still cute), and these three CSO violinists are no exception. First stop on the nostalgia train: Joe Meyer, Carlos Tarazona and Sakira Harley, all pictured here at ages in the single digits. *heart eyes*

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