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OLEAN — The Southern Tier Symphony opens its 17th concert series, “The Magic of Music,” this weekend by celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Series I, entitled “Celebrate!” features Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 — his greatest work — as well as selections from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn.

The symphony will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Regina A. Quick Center at St. Bonaventure University and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Bromeley Theater at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, Pa.

Benjamin Grow, returning for his third season as music director, said music by Mozart and Haydn fit well with a celebration of Beethoven because of their influence on Beethoven’s work. Meanwhile, inclusion of so-called “big names” in orchestral music result in a recognizable program that Southern Tier Symphony organizers hope will draw more music fans to the concerts.

“All the pieces of the concert tie together in different ways,” Grow said earlier this week, noting that Mozart and Haydn were musical contemporaries a generation before Beethoven.

Meanwhile, Grow said he is pleased that the symphony will play Saturday evening in the Quick Center, which he called “a really intimate environment” for a symphonic concert.

“It seats something like 320 people,” he said of the venue, “which means there is a great vantage point and great acoustics for everyone” to listen to a 40 to 50-piece orchestra. “I think it’s going to be a cool experience.”

Grow also related how he enjoys returning from his home in New York City to work with the Southern Tier Symphony, not least because of his ties with and good memories of the Twin Tiers. His father grew up in Bradford and Grow has visited the area since he was a boy.

Grow has worked with a wide array of ensembles in New York and serves as principal conductor of the Chelsea Opera and co-director/conductor of the sinfonietta Ensemble Échappé, which is in residence at both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Italian Academy at Columbia University.

He has also conducted studio recordings and workshops for Opera Philadelphia with artists including Frederica von Stade. Upcoming engagements include concerts with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. He teaches at The Juilliard School and has been guest conductor at the Manhattan School of Music. He received his bachelor’s degree in music from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and his master’s in music at the Manhattan School of Music.

Members of the Southern Tier Symphony come from all walks of life, from music teachers at area high schools and colleges to professional musicians from the region. One player is from North Carolina and another is coming down from Toronto for rehearsals and concerts.

As the 2019-20 concert series gets underway, Southern Tier Symphony organizers also encouraged participation in one of their key fundraising activities — adopt a musician. Donations in that program, among others, help to fund the symphony, not least the licensing fees that allow selections of more contemporary music, such as from popular movie soundtracks.

In 2020, Series II, titled “Engage!” is set for Feb. 1 in the Quick Center and Feb. 2 in the Bromeley Theater. Series III, “Amaze!” will be May 9-10 at those respective venues.

(Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is

Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is