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Utah Symphony to embark on a 'Great American Road Trip'

On April 25, the Utah Symphony announced its plan to embark on a 1,200-mile journey throughout Utah, providing free outdoor concerts and educational activities at state parks and national monuments.

Under the signature sponsorship of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, members of the symphony will head out on “The Great American Road Trip” from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2. The journey will pair live, classical music with the natural landscapes of Utah, according to a news release. Led by conductor Thierry Fischer, the symphony will travel on a five-day tour that alternates between concerts performed by the full symphony and chamber concerts performed by the Utah Symphony brass musicians.

Paul Meecham, president and CEO of Utah Symphony, expressed his excitement for this opportunity to perform “against the backdrop of (Utah’s) beautiful landscapes,” and said the tour will stop at a “diverse group of places across the state.”

“One of the many things that attracted me to Utah and this position was the combination of performing music at the highest quality and in unusual venues,” he added.

The tour will kick off at the O.C. Tanner Amphitheater near Zion National Park in Springdale, where the Symphony performed during their "Mighty 5 Tour" in 2014. The other concerts will be held at Cedar Breaks National Monument, near Natural Bridges and Hovenweep national monuments in Bluff, Goblin Valley State Park and at Split Mountain in Dinosaur National Monument in Vernal, Meecham announced.

These locations were chosen because of their “proximity to state parks, national monuments and other cultural and historical icons in an effort to fulfill our desire to connect with communities, including our Native American communities, throughout Utah,” Meecham said in a news release.

As part of this effort, two works by Native American composer Brent Michael Davids will be featured in the concerts, including the composer’s own performance of his piece, “Fluting Around,” which Davids will play on a traditional Native American wooden flute.

The concert will offer many “nature-inspiring works,” opening with pieces by three American composers: Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Davids, according to Toby Tolokan, Utah Symphony’s vice president of artistic planning. He added that the second half of the performance will have more of a nighttime-theme as the symphony performs such works as “Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky and “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy.

Abigail Rethwisch, Utah Opera resident artist soprano, and baritone Andrew Paulson will both perform as guest artists, and the full orchestra concerts will culminate in a grand finale of Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.” It's a conclusion, said Tolokan, that sounds like a “a major thunderstorm.”

“We hope we’re not jinxing ourselves by mentioning that today,” he joked.

Meecham added during the press conference that he hopes “The Great American Road Trip” will attract a mixture of residents as well as visitors. Partnering with the Utah Office of Tourism, one goal of this tour is to encourage visitors to explore many scenic locations throughout the state.

“What an amazing partnership to work with the Utah Symphony,” said Vicki Varela, managing director of Utah’s Office of Tourism. “This truly is life elevated. I think we can all agree here that Mother Nature played favorites with Utah’s landscapes. (But) in addition to the wonderful synergy of art, let’s just acknowledge that there’s a big economic benefit to this, too.”

She mentioned that tourism is a major part of Utah’s economy as tourists last year spent $8.15 billion, translating into $1.15 billion in state and local tax revenue.

In addition to partnering with the Office of Tourism, the Utah Symphony has also collaborated with the Natural History Museum of Utah to provide an educational component to the tour. This outreach will include in-school assemblies and pre-concert presentations that explore the relationship between nature and music, according to Sarah George, executive director of the museum.

“We’re always looking for ways to help people look at the natural world through different perspectives, and music offers that perspective,” she said in an interview. “We want to offer unique experiences to connect people to this wonderful place we live in.”

Furthermore, post-concert “star parties” will be held in collaboration with the University of Utah’s Consortium for Dark Sky Studies and the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative, according to the news release.

As part of these “star parties,” local astronomy groups and park rangers will offer audiences lectures on Utah’s night sky as well as laser-constellation tours, viewing opportunities on high-powered telescopes and other children-friendly activities, according to Bettymaya Foott, who works for the Cooperative.

“We are so lucky here in Utah to be blessed with incredible dark skies across our public lands,” she added.

Tickets for all performances are free and available through the Utah Symphony ticket office starting at 10 a.m. on May 31 or by calling (801) 533-6683. For more information, visit

Plan your trip:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 | 8 p.m. | O.C. Tanner Amphitheater, Springdale, UT

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 | 6:30 p.m. | Cedar Breaks National Monument

Thursday, August 31, 2017 | 8 p.m. | Near Natural Bridges / Hovenweep National Monuments, Bluff, UT

Friday, September 1, 2017 | 2 p.m. | Goblin Valley State Park

Saturday, September 2, 2017 | 8 p.m. | Split Mountain in Dinosaur National Monument, Vernal, UT

Use this map to chart your symphonic journey.