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Riverton Metro Orchestra . . . Making beautiful music

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RIVERTON — What first started as a small note asking for volunteers in the Riverton city newsletter has turned into an organization involving some 70 participants.

This organization is the Riverton Metro Orchestra. The idea for its creation came from Sheril Garn and former Riverton Mayor Sandra Lloyd, who died recently. They put the note in the Riverton newsletter asking for volunteers to help start a new city orchestra, and their first concert was held in December 2000 with only 20 members. While the orchestra hasn't been around for a long time, it has already made its mark on the community and has been received with open arms.

"I think we've got excellent support from the community. The mayor says we have the best community orchestra in the state," said Riverton Metro Orchestra Vice President Tom Biesinger. "We get great support from the City Council, mayor and Arts Council. People come out to our performances."

Laura Meyers, orchestra historian, said the orchestra has a mailing list of regulars who attend each concert that they plan to send a schedule to for next season's concert series.

Recently, the orchestra was extended a special honor: They were invited to perform in another city for the first time. After Herriman Mayor Lynn Crane heard their veteran's concert in November, he was so impressed that he extended a personal invitation for them to perform at the city's Heritage Days celebration.

In a letter to the orchestra he called their performance magnificent and also wrote, "The city should be proud. There are very few cities the size of Riverton with an orchestra of that quality."

The Riverton Metro Orchestra has already had a few memorable moments. Orchestra president Jay Rindlisbacher especially enjoyed the veteran's concert in November, especially the "Armed Forces Salute," which includes selections from all the different military themes. When a current or former serviceman or woman's theme is played, he or she is invited to stand. Rindlisbacher also liked the guest soloists who were invited to play with the orchestra during their spring concert in April.

"It was really enjoyable to listen to those performers and give them an opportunity to perform with us," he said.

Only a year ago the orchestra welcomed a new conductor, Benjamin Winkler, who brings with him over 35 years of conducting experience. He has conducted ensembles all over the United States, in South and Central America and in three countries in Europe. Both Rindlisbacher and Biesinger agree that the orchestra has improved tremendously under his leadership. Meyers said the orchestra did well under Stephen Bardsley, the previous conductor, as well. The need for a new conductor arose after Bardsley moved.

Winkler considers the orchestra's ability to connect with its audience its greatest strength.

"I like the fact that we can play program music that people will enjoy listening to. It's an orchestra, and we play orchestra music from Broadway to symphonic works. We program a lot of classical works," he said.

In addition to their performance in Herriman, the Riverton orchestra has also played at Salt Lake Community College. Rindlisbacher said they will continue to branch out as the orchestra grows and becomes more well known.

The orchestra's members vary in age from 12-75. Membership consists of junior high, high school and college students as well as older adults. Meyers said that since its creation, it has attracted some very talented musicians, including students from Weber State, the University of Utah and Provo. Rindlisbacher feels the diversity adds to the orchestra's quality.

"It gives people that haven't had a chance to play an opportunity to perform and that's the thing that thrills me the most. I see individuals who have always wanted to play but couldn't find the time. They're not in a professional orchestra but have wonderful talents or abilities," Rindlisbacher said.

Meyers said what she enjoys the most about playing in the orchestra is the connection she feels with other members of it.

"For me, my interest is that with the people I play with. There's no greater feeling of connecting not only to the audience, but when we connect playing the music," she said. "Music can take you so many different places. The orchestra gives us an outlet where we can go and connect with those people and be part of something bigger than ourselves."

Meyers also paid special tribute to Lloyd for her efforts in the orchestra's creation and in the renovation of the Riverton Civic Center, where members practice and perform. "She's been such an important part of the group," she said. "She's also done a lot for the city of Riverton."

Winkler says the orchestra's ability to make music together is what makes it special for him.

"The orchestra is the most versatile of performing ensembles. With its size and instruments, it can play almost any kind of music and because of the fact that it's such a large ensemble, a lot of people are working very hard together to make beautiful music," he said.

The orchestra is currently having its summer break. Their concert series for 2004-2005 ended with the "Pioneers and Patriots" concert at the end of July, which it also performed in Herriman. The 2005-2006 season will open Oct. 21 with the Harvest Ball Gala Season opener.

E-mail: twalquist@desnews.com