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And the Band Played On

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With trumpets sounding and cymbals crashing, the sounds of the Gwinnett Philharmonic have been pleasing audiences for nearly eight years.

A vision of founding conductor Monte Nichols, the Philharmonic #idea# was born in 1992 as the Gwinnett Civic & Cultural Center#s Performing Arts Center was still under construction. For nearly three years, Nichols and friend Forrest Robinson began developing plans for the Gwinnett Philharmonic.

#We encountered enthusiasm everywhere for the idea,# said Nichols. #It seemed nothing short of miraculous that we received encouragement from the county#s civic leaders.#

In January of 1995, the Gwinnett Philharmonic Association was formed with founding board members, and by the fall, the orchestra presented its inaugural concerts.

Nichols, an established musician and director of music for the Peachtree Corners Baptist Church, was charged with the task of locating musicians for the orchestra.

#It was amazing to learn how many world-class musicians there are in Gwinnett and the surrounding counties,# he said.

Many of the musicians in the orchestra also perform with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Opera Orchestra and the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra. Some offer private music instruction or are teachers in the school system.

Nichols himself has appeared with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as a soloist, has conducted the Ft. Worth Symphony and performed at Carnegie Hall.

Along with performances at the Civic Center, the Gwinnett Philharmonic also performs at other venues in the county. A favorite of Nichols# is the July patriotic celebration at Scott Hudgens Park at River Green in Duluth and the performances held at the Buford Fine Arts Center for Buford City Schools.

#The students seem to sit spell-bound in rapt attention for the entire program each year,# he said. #It has been extremely meaningful for the musicians to have the opportunity to expose these students to symphonic music in a very positive environment.#

Upcoming events for the Philharmonic include a March 25 concert entitled #Music That#s Popular for a Reason,# featuring popular classics performed in an eclectic mix of musical styles. April 25 brings a non-orchestral concert featuring Gary Menzies with a nine-foot Steinway grand piano. Expect a variety of music from Beethoven to Broadway. Both performances will be held at the Gwinnett Civic Center, and tickets can be purchased at www.gwinnettphilharmonic.org.

With sell-out crowds at performances, the Gwinnett Philharmonic seems to have hit the right note with the community. An enriching cultural experience close to home # now that#s music to my ears.