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BBSO continues to hit high notes, despite economic constraints

Upcoming ‘A French Valentine’ concert to be held Feb. 13

By: Mary Beth Almond | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 2, 2011

 Tim Nicolia, Linda Wickers, and Grace Brockett play cello for the BBSO.

Tim Nicolia, Linda Wickers, and Grace Brockett play cello for the BBSO.

Photo provided by Eileen Harned


BIRMINGHAM — With the dramatic downturn of the economy, the Birmingham-Bloomfield Symphony Orchestra had to cut its concert season from six shows to four, a move that BBSO board Chairman Richard Tropea said had to be made.

“We tried to do the right fiduciary, responsible, thing — and that was just to cut back on our season — as some of our compatriots unfortunately fall off the map because of the tight times,” he said. “We are in our 36th year of generally serving the Birmingham, Bloomfield, Troy, Royal Oak area as a full orchestra of all professionals, and we’re one of the few left, besides the DSO, that is still able to do that.”

Like many other nonprofit organizations, money is tight for the BBSO, but Tropea stressed that it in no way affects the quality of the BBSO’s performances and its presence in the community.

“The Motor City Music Awards, which are given away annually, has recognized us 12 of the last 13 years as the finest community orchestra. That really is a testament to how hard our tiny organization tries to work and reach out,” he said. “We are still able to give quality presentations, and in the last three years we’ve been able to make a slight profit every year because of the support of our fabulous musicians and the support of our audience. ... Any extra dollars we make, we plow back into school-related educational programs, and it’s those kind of programs that allow us to not only reach out to the community, but also to add value to what the community, right now, is challenged with in tough times.”

Though the BBSO’s fan-base remains strong, the organization hopes to secure an even broader audience by encouraging interest from younger crowds.

“Our audience has been very loyal for many, many years. About 75-80 percent of them are our wonderful longtime supporters who are mesmerized by the quality of music we provide, but we have tried over the last couple of years to complement that. Our youth competition, which is a two-day strings competition ... always creates a buzz in the young music community, and we let students into our shows free.”

The BBSO hopes its latest concert, “A French Valentine,” will help it establish a younger audience.

Caroline Goulding, who first appeared with the BBSO as a young prodigy and is now an 18-year-old violinist with an international career, will serve as a guest soloist during the show.

“She just explodes with excellence. That really appeals to a younger audience, when they see a successful younger musician,” Tropea said.

Goulding is a former student of BBSO orchestra administrator Julia Kurtyka, who tutored the teen when she was just 3 years old.

“She has become a wonderful artist and performs all over the place. Her career is really taking off,” Kurtyka said.

For the first time, the concert will also feature a guest conductor, John Thomas Dodson, who serves as the music director of the Adrian Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the Ballet Theatre of Toledo.

“I think the two of them together are just going to be phenomenal. The orchestra is certainly looking forward to both of them,” Kurtyka said.

“A French Valentine” will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at Temple Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Road in West Bloomfield. Tickets may be purchased at the door in advance by calling (734) 525-7578. Tickets are $27 for adults, and children 18 and younger attend for free.

“What has kept classical music going for many, many years is it being passed on from generation to generation, so bring everybody out and really enjoy it.” Tropea said.

For more information or to donate to the BBSO, visit