Richmond Community Orchestra – Our History
The idea of a community orchestra formed in the pit of the Richmond Civic Theatre’s August 2008 production of Oklahoma! Those musicians discussed their desire to have more regular opportunities to get together with other musicians and share their gifts with others. On September 17, 2008, the first organizational and interest meeting occurred, and a founding Board of Directors was formed. Jay Conard was selected as Music Director and Conductor. The word spread, and a list of possible musicians was made. The Board approved the formation of an Indiana Non-Profit Corporation, obtaining a Certificate of Incorporation from the State of Indiana on December 16, 2008. Federal 501(c)(3) status was finally granted on March 15, 2010, retroactive to the date of formation.
Jay hit the ground running, traveling to a variety of surrounding orchestral libraries (Earlham College, Richmond Community Schools, Wright State University, University of Dayton, and Richmond Symphony Orchestra) to borrow music. He developed a repertoire of appropriate music and even arranged and composed some himself. Initial financial contributions from Ray Ontko and Amy Noe helped the group obtain some necessities to get the project moving forward. Jim McKinney, Sharon Ontko, Jan Brady, Shulamite Wan, and Carolyn Gardner, to name a few, also contributed their enthusiasm and their valuable time to help launch the volunteer avocational orchestra.
Because Earlham College was generous enough to donate the use of Goddard Auditorium for rehearsal space for the entire first year of its existence, the RCO was able to begin rehearsals immediately. November 3, 2008, saw the RCO’s first rehearsal with fourteen in attendance. After the small group sight-read Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture, Amy Noe, flute, recalls fighting a lump in her throat at the same time Ray Ontko, cello, called out to her with a wink, “Is this what you had in mind?”
Word traveled fast. Friends Fellowship asked the RCO to perform for the residents and their families and friends on March 8, 2009, which constituted its first public performance. The RCO gave its first concert in its home venue of Goddard Auditorium on May 17, 2009. The RCO has continued to regularly perform in Goddard with Spring, Fall, and Holiday concerts and regularly takes its show on the road, performing for the 2009 and 2010 Starr Gennett Walk of Fame Celebrations (where it premiered Jay’s original composition, Starr Valley Waltz, in 2009), Centerville Lion’s Club, Friends Fellowship, Leland Residence, and with the Eaton Area Community Chorus at their 2009 and 2010 Holiday concerts. As a result of the many requests received, the RCO has formed a Chamber Ensemble and Jazz Combo for traveling appearances for Altrusa, Bethel AME Ladies’ Auxiliary, Arbor Trace and the Richmond-Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner. The RCO never charges a fee for its performances but will sometimes suggest an optional contribution.
The RCO’s repertoire includes many classical pieces by well-known composers (such as Bach, Beethoven, and Grieg) along with many lesser known works that are many times overlooked by professional orchestras. There is also an emphasis on playing music by American composers (such as Copland, Rodgers, and Gould) as well as jazz that reflects Richmond’s heritage. Concerts contain an eclectic mix of music that audiences eagerly look forward to.
A mere two years after its first rehearsal, the musicians of the RCO number approximately 55 and range in age from 14 to 83. They are teachers, students, entrepreneurs, lawyers, clergy, engineers, doctors, scientists, stay-at-home parents, city planners, computer specialists, and everything in between. The RCO is proud to continue Richmond’s unique musical heritage and looks forward to making more music history in the future.