The Black Hills Symphony Orchestra opens its 2019-2020 concert season with its annual fundraising event, Symphony Hoedown, Sept. 7 at the Bridger Steel Building at the Central State Fairgrounds.

This family-friendly event will feature Square & Western swing dancing, fiddle music, an instrument "petting zoo," a Chuckwagon supper, hayrides, a silent auction, and more. Funds raised from this event go toward providing orchestral music to the entire Black Hills Region and supports educational opportunities for kids in the community.

Tickets are $10 for children under 12 and $20 for adults, and available at app.arts-people.com.

“This is a great way for the community to come out and support the arts, and have a good time in the process,” said executive director Kirsten Hollenbeck.

While the first concert doesn’t take place until Oct. 26, the Symphony Hoedown is a way to drum up excitement for the upcoming season, which will feature a female-composed piece for every concert they are presenting this year.

“This is a new and exciting change for us. We believe women should be represented in orchestra music as equally as men every year, and so one of the pieces that we’re doing is the Florence B. Price Symphony No. 1 on Feb. 29,” she said.

Price was the first noted African American female composer to gain national notoriety. She won first prize in the Wanamaker Competition with her Symphony in E minor in 1932, making her piece the first composition by an African American woman to be played by a major orchestra.

Choosing shows composed by women for this season’s series was an easy choice for music director and conductor Bruce Knowles. His goal was to make sure that there was equal representation for female composers.

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“It came to my attention a couple of years ago that the female composers are very much underrepresented in the concert repertoire of major symphony orchestras in the United States. So, after I found that out, I said, ‘OK, I'm going to take up the challenge and I'm going to find pieces by female composers and program them,’” he said.

Knowles said the orchestra has featured female composers in past programs, but not to this extent. The most challenging part to him was finding someone who publishes those pieces and getting the sheet music.

The Feb. 29 show will also feature the winner of the 41st Annual BHSO Young Artist Competition. This instrumental music competition for students in grades 9 through 12 is held every year and showcases the students’ abilities on brass, woodwind and string instruments in front of a panel of judges.

Letters are sent out in the spring to teachers across the region announcing the dates of the competition. Students are then given the opportunity to apply, with recommendation from their school music director or private music teacher, and can submit a preliminary recording to the symphony where a committee reviews the recording. Students chosen for the competition will perform on Jan. 18, and the winner will have the opportunity to play their solo piece with the opera.

“This is one of our most wonderful outreach programs. It’s a way to find the most talented and motivated youth who play acoustic instruments in Rapid City, and it’s a great way to showcase the local talent in our community,” Knowles said.

Knowles is excited about this year’s concert lineup and believes that this season will suit all tastes.

“We’ve got holiday shows, there’s space odyssey, there’s a lot of variety in each concert, and we hope to have everyone come out and check out a show or two. I think you’ll find that there’s something for everyone,” he said.

All concerts will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center of Rapid City unless otherwise noted. Tickets are $17-$32 for individuals and $77-$144 for season passes, and are available at the box office, by phone at 394-1786, or online at www.bhsymphony.org/tickets. For more information and a full list of shows, visit  www.bhsymphony.org.

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