Celebrating Subscriber Appreciation Month—Part 2

Celebrating Subscriber Appreciation Month—Part 2

As we continue our annual Subscriber Month appreciation, a time that allows us to say thank you to our most loyal supporters, we recently spotlighted two long-time Houston Symphony patrons who have made a home at Jones Hall. This week we were delighted to speak to two new patrons who are equally at home among the Hall’s teak and marble-adorned walls, hearing exceptional music week after week.

Before jumping in, don’t forget that all November-long subscribers enjoy an extra 10% discount on their already reduced single-ticket add-ons for Classical and Bank of America POPS performances. Be sure to check your email for offer details and how to apply your 20% discount on tickets.

Shane Miller

First up, we have Shane Miller who discovered the Houston Symphony not long after relocating to Houston for work.

Houston Symphony: Do you remember your first Houston Symphony concert experience? 

Shane Miller:  I do! I had moved to Houston in the summer of 2016 and that fall was looking for something to do one weekend. As it turns out, it was opening night that weekend—with Sir Ben Kingsley doing “Peter and the Wolf.” Years later, I’m still excited to spend a Saturday night visiting Jones Hall.

HS: What keeps you returning to the Houston Symphony each season?

SM: I had always been a classical music fan, attending West Virginia Symphony Orchestra concerts as a kid growing up. Symphony Sunday, a free concert on the lawn of the University of Charleston, was a particularly fond memory.

So, when I moved to Houston, I knew I wanted to engage with the Houston Symphony. After that first concert, I found the Young Associates Council, a niche where I could meet other young professionals who were passionate supporters and the whole experience has been amazing these past five years.

HS: What does it mean to you to return to the Symphony after a year in which live music was hard to come by?

SM: The experience of being in Jones Hall is, as a friend put it, is “good for the soul.” I had the luck of being there as we started having extremely limited audiences and it just brought back the energy and joy of seeing live performances.

HS: What would you tell someone about the Symphony who has never been before?

SM:  We’re very fortunate to have a world class orchestra in the Houston Symphony—but it’s not as stuffy as some would imagine. The concerts have some amazing repertoire and are accessible to all types. If you’re new, maybe consider a POPS concert as an entry point. You can hear amazing artists perform some music that’s “closer to home,” so to speak.

HS: What's been your favorite Symphony concert and why?  

SM: That’s tough, there have been so many amazing ones. Every season has a great set of concerts, guest artists, and programs that feature our own amazing musicians. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but, I’d have to say one of the most memorable was the first winter I was here. We hosted Yo-Yo Ma and I was fortunate to have an amazing seat for that.

HS: Which Houston Symphony concert are you most looking forward to this season?

SM: Another tough one, it’s such a great season. Plus, having Andrés [Orozco-Estrada] back and having larger audiences takes it back to a more pre-pandemic experience. I’m really looking forward to seeing Pink Martini again this season, they’re always a fun POPS concert. Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony is also on top of my list, even if it is, unfortunately, Andrés’s farewell concert.

HS: What piece or guest artist would you most like to hear performed at the Houston Symphony and why?

SM: A former boss mentioned seeing “A Grand, Grand Overture” by Malcolm and I’ve always wanted to see it live. The absurdity of having three vacuum cleaners, a floor polisher and four rifles as solo artists seems to fit my sense of humor, while still making for what I’m sure would be a truly memorable concert.

Dr. Kelli Cohen Fein and Martin Fein

To round out our interviews, we spoke with Dr. Kelli Cohen Fein who had decades of Houston Symphony memories to share with us.

HS: Do you remember your first Houston Symphony concert experience?

Kelli Cohen Fein: Emblazoned in my mind’s eye and in my heart are two specific memories: Bouncing up and down in our seats as young children to the rhythm of the William Tell Overture during a school fieldtrip to the Symphony at Jones Hall and marveling at Vladimir Horowitz in 1975 as he performed Haydn, Schumann, Scriabin, Liszt, Chopin and myriad encores of Scarlatti, Moszkowski, and Rachmaninoff!

HS: What keeps you returning to the Houston Symphony each season?

KCF: We consider the Houston Symphony directors, musicians, and staff to be part of our family, past, present and future. We cherish the many perennial friendships we share with the Symphony family and patrons. The Classical and POPS series remain touchstones for all seasons.

We deeply value the educational aspect of being season ticket holders as well. Whatever the musical fare–classical, contemporary or POPS–the Symphony keeps us intellectually and culturally engaged in every key of happiness. There is always something new to learn, which enriches our active listening skills and overall enjoyment of symphonic music. Our learning curves are continually challenged which makes us feel vibrant and alive.

HS: What does it mean to you to return to the Symphony after a year in which live music was hard to come by?

KCF: Indeed, we have been forlorn without our gold standard, musical encounters, as we historically planned our date nights around the Houston Symphony concerts each week. During the pandemic, we experimented with the online concert experiences and finally pursued a long-time goal of embracing The Great Courses—“How to Listen to and Understand Great Music”. We look forward to renewing the gift of our weekly tradition with our Symphony family and friends in-person and in real-time very soon.

As well, throughout the pandemic, we have maintained pace with our Houston Symphony League Book Club, which is a time-honored, educational, semiannual event. I serve as co-chair along with Diane Gendel. Ginny Garrett is our erudite facilitator. During the prolonged quarantine, we navigated Zoom meetings with impressive success. We read and discussed The Lives of Isaac Stern by David Shoenbaum; The Silent Musician: Why the Conductor Matters by Mark Wigglesworth; Schumann: the Faces and the Masks by Judith Chernaik (Ann Thurmond even performed an impromptu piano recital to illustrate some of the concepts presented in the book); and this month we look forward to a comprehensive review and compelling discussion of Mozart’s Women by Jane Glover.

HS: What would you tell someone about the Symphony who has never been before?

KCF: Buckle your seatbelt and hang on for a magic carpet ride—a journey to last a lifetime!

To be transported on a weekly basis to a land of beauty, wonder and marvel with our exceptional orchestra and musical directors is the healthiest addiction one can have—low calorie too!

HS: What's been your favorite Symphony concert and why?

KCF: In 2014, Hans Graf conducted Gustav Holst’s The Planets which captured my wildest imagination. The music majestically and powerfully translated the wonder, magic, and miracles of our universe into an action-packed experience.  We remain “over the moon” imbued with the electrifying beauty and magnitude of this performance. My heart continues to race! This concert should be seen and heard by all schoolchildren, as it piques one’s curiosity–with multi-dimensional sensory impact– about exploration of realms beyond our planet earth. The perfect “beyond the classroom” companion to lectures and textbooks.

HS: Which Houston Symphony concert are you most looking forward to this season?

KCF: While we are bereft to have missed the recent program with acclaimed conductor Jane Glover, as our Houston Symphony Book Club is currently reading her book, we anxiously await Copland 3+ Higdon World Premiere in May.  Fanfare of The Common Man remains ever pertinent, timely, and inspirational – we can never hear it too many times. We wait in breathless anticipation for this program coupled with Rainbow Body, a Houston Symphony commission.

We were also excited to livestream Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Songbook because “It’s a Wonderful World” was the theme of the 2013 Houston Symphony Ball which we were infinitely honored to chair. This specific theme emerged as our inspiration as this was our favorite lullaby to sing to our children when they were young.

HS: What piece or guest artist would you most like to hear performed at the Houston Symphony and why?

KCF: Valentina Lisitsa… her sheer brilliance and breathtaking technique… Liszt’s La Campanella... Perhaps a collaboration with Hilary Hahn? Save our seats! We’ll be there!

From all of us at the Houston Symphony, both on-stage and back, we thank you for your support and look forward to seeing you at Jones Hall each weekend. Don’t forget, you can access a 20% discount all month-long for can’t miss performances. If you’re not a subscriber yet, it’s never too late to join! Browse our selection of curated packages or Create-your-own today and to begin your Symphony story now.

By Mark Bailes

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