The Summer of Symphony

As the summer season brings Michiganders beautiful, warm weather, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming concert series is making its triumphant return to the stage. 

In 2021, fans of KSO were welcomed to the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners for three larger concerts out on their lawn, with an entire stage being constructed specifically for the orchestra in mind. Now, in 2022, the symphony plans on going full steam ahead with their refreshed initiative: To bring symphonic music to as many people in Kalamazoo as possible.

“Our community and our world have changed so much in the last 100 years,” said Jessica Mallow, executive director of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. “Anything that we’re bringing back, such as summer concerts, has a new flair. It has today’s flair, because we’re responding to our community’s desires and needs right now.”

Providing an essential service of music and performing arts for the people of Kalamazoo seems to have always been the mission of KSO, which surpassed its centennial anniversary this past year. The organization has cemented itself as a community mainstay in the area, and several beloved artists have graced the stages of both Chenery and Miller auditorium (along with many more venues KSO maintains ties with) over the years. 

Longtime fans of KSO may remember the symphony’s first outdoor performances at Bronson Park with the late music director Yoshimi Takeda, or the pre-concert “Preludes” — 30 minutes of pre-show discussion, analysis, and music education — led by respected music director emeritus Raymond Harvey. 

What seems markedly different this time around for KSO is, of course, the addition of music director Julian Kuerti’s first full season with the symphony, as well as a return to some music spaces that the orchestra hasn’t performed in for over 10 years.

“There were many challenges with COVID, but also some opportunities to be creative,” Mallow said. “The reinvention of the KSO summer season was one of those things that was birthed during this
challenging time.”

The series begins with a return to the Overlander Bandshell in Portage, one of the most beloved outdoor venues in the area. Next, KSO’s “Patriotic Pops” will make its long-awaited return to Bronson Park, where the symphony first hosted their outdoor performances nearly 50 years ago. And to top it all off: the Gershwin and Dvořák
showcase at the Gilmore Car Museum.

“Expecting everyone who loves music to always find us downtown means that we don’t get to reach as many people in our great community with music,” Mallow said. “We are excited to turn that on its head and to take music out to as many people and as many places as we can get it.”

While almost all of these summer concerts are completely free to the public, attendance at the Gershwin and Dvořák showcase will require an entrance fee. However, all tickets purchased for the show include day-long access to the rest of the Gilmore Car Museum’s fantastic facilities, including whole gallery spaces dedicated to specific car manufacturers and eras in automobile history. 

Some especially in-tune car horns may even be featured in the symphony’s performance of “An American in Paris,” composed by Gershwin.

There’s truly something for everyone in KSO’s 2022 summer concert series, capping off the symphony’s 100th anniversary season. With such a wide variety of classical symphonic music, visitors can expect arrangements by legendary composers like Copland, Stravinsky, Mozart and Beethoven. There’s never been a better time to spend a night out with your family, picnic (or beer) at hand and enjoying a wonderful night of music under the stars.

“Whether it is somebody’s first time or their hundredth time, we hope that they’ll come out and find us somewhere around Kalamazoo and Battle Creek this summer,” Mallow said.

Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

Patriotic Pops, July 2 at Bronson Park
Gershwin & Dvořák’s New World, July 16 at Gilmore Car Museum
Musical Storybooks, July 9 & 23 at Huss School
KSO at the Zoo!, July 31 at Binder Park Zoo