From Star Wars and David Bowie to Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra (SSO) promises to unleash the power of music in the 2018-19 concert season “Music Moves the Soul.”

Music Director Michael Butterman is passionate about introducing people to orchestral music and one way he presents it is through musical genres they already enjoy. He also strives to achieve a balance between the new and familiar, serious and light, thought provoking and entertaining when he selects the music. Featuring classical, crossover, pop and rock music, this season’s concerts will embrace visual enhancements and include several special guest performances. Butterman posts Spotify and YouTube playlists with listening recommendations for the season on the SSO website. 

Photo by Glenn Ross

Most of the performances this season will take place at First Baptist Church of Shreveport while Riverview Theatre undergoes renovations. The architectural setting, likened to a European concert hall, has the necessary acoustics, ample parking, and space for pre-concert talks and post-concert receptions and camera and video capabilities to enhance the production. 

At the opening concert in September, the producers created an aviary-like atmosphere during the Dun’s Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds piece. A slideshow of professionally photographed birds flashed on screen while Butterman directed the audience to play bird sounds on a phone app to accompany the music. Board President Margaret Elrod is complimentary of Butterman’s approach to introducing other artistic entities such as dance, film and visual artists, saying it expands the reach of the symphony exponentially.  

An award-winning conductor, Butterman also serves as music director for the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra and the Pennsylvania Philharmonic and is a guest conductor with the National Symphony in Washington, D.C., among other engagements. He enjoys the challenges of managing multiple projects and creating unique programming that reflects the individual spirit of each location. He purposely introduces various music genres to encourage people of all backgrounds and musical tastes to engage with orchestral music. 

As Louisiana’s oldest continually operating professional orchestra, the Shreveport Symphony plays a major part in strengthening the cultural vitality of the region. The orchestra and its members entertain, educate and enhance the community. 

About 75 professional musicians playing string, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments make up the SSO. The contracted members of the orchestra won their positions through nationally advertised auditions. The majority of members live in the Ark-La-Tex, many have other jobs, and many can be found giving back to the community teaching music and performing in churches.  

Keeping the organization running since 2011 is Executive Director Lois Robinson with a staff of about 5.5 full-time equivalent employees, most with a musical background. Trained in orchestra management by the League of American Orchestras, Robinson holds both a music and a law degree and plays bass with the orchestra as a regular extra. 

Keeping the organization strong requires maintaining a balance between achieving artistic excellence and financial stability. The Shreveport Symphony has begun its Annual Fund campaign, vital to the organization’s ongoing sustainability. Less than half of the $1.4 million budget comes from ticket sales and concert program book advertising, with the rest depending on annual gifts from individual and corporate sponsors, and funding through city, state, federal and foundation grants. 

Butterman and Robinson are both outspoken about their gratitude to each of the sponsors and supporting partners of the Symphony (listed on the SSO website). Willis-Knighton Health System is the Season Sponsor and contributes to the Shreveport Symphony as part of the “tithe the bottom line” philanthropic philosophy. “We believe that excellent health care heals the body, and great music lifts and heals the soul,” said Elrod, who also is an officer at Willis-Knighton.

Butterman considers himself an evangelist for classical and orchestral music, recognizing that many people aren’t exposed to symphonic music growing up. “Classical music generally requires a bit of focus and attention from a listener to reveal its magic, but the effort made is returned tenfold,” he said. Butterman added that powerful music can impact anyone and everyone. “Early sparks of inspiration, like we offer with our Discovery Concerts for elementary students, can lead to a lifetime of engagement with music and the arts. But it’s never too late for anyone, of any age, to have an epiphany.”

The Shreveport Symphony Celebrates 70 Years

  • All Beethoven! with Wideman Piano Gold Medalist Mei Li, 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 at First Baptist Shreveport
  • Two-time Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell and Holiday Pops, 6 p.m. on Dec. 16 at the Strand Theatre
  • Special Event! The Music of David Bowie, 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 12 at the Strand Theatre
  • Mozart, Bach & Glass featuring a concerto by American composer Philip Glass, co-commissioned by the SSO and written for pianist Simone Dinnerstein who will also perform, 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 2 at First Baptist Shreveport
  • Celebrate the Brass, 7:30 p.m. on March 16 at First Baptist Shreveport
  • Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, 3 p.m. on April 14 at First Baptist Shreveport. “I can say without fear of overstatement that this composition is one of the great achievements of Western civilization,” Butterman said. “Experiencing it with the added dimension of dramatic context gives it an overwhelming impact. What we have is quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encounter a work like this.” 
  • Sci-Fi Spectacular, 7:30 p.m. on May 4  at First Baptist Shreveport with guest conductor Kermit Poling. Adults and children alike will enjoy music from movies like Star Wars, Star Trek, Back to the Future, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Cocoon, Planet of the Apes, The Twilight Zone, Battlestar Galactica and more.

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Single performance tickets start at $20. ($15 for students; $10 for children) Season ticket concert packages start at $99.

What to expect at a Shreveport Symphony performance?  

  • Most concerts are about two hours and include a 20-minute intermission. 
  • There is no formal dress code.
  • Arrive at least 30 minutes before the concert begins. Most Symphony concerts begin on time. 
  • Refreshments are available for purchase before the performance and during intermission at each concert at First Baptist Shreveport
  • The use of still, video, digital camera, camera phones or audio recording equipment is strictly prohibited at all times. 

Education & Community Engagement

In addition to producing concerts, the organization is dedicated to creating deep and relevant engagement in the community through a number of programs.

“Discovery Concerts” give upper elementary students the chance to experience a live symphony orchestra concert. The orchestra hosts thousands of students over a two-day period and this year’s theme is “Reach for the Stars” in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The maestro will lead this interactive experience on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1.

“SSO on the Go” takes musicians directly into classrooms, school assemblies and other community venues where they can share their love of music through interactive performances, demonstrations and coaching sessions. The musicians also put on small ensemble performances for seniors, coordinated through local agencies, senior communities and memory centers.

“Sym-Phonics” is a musical story time program for young children offered in partnership with local libraries. A symphony musician plays accompaniment to picture book reading and the children participate in dancing, games and collaborative music making. 

Community Concerts

The Noel Foundation Chamber Music Series presents four free concerts performed in more intimate musical settings at Centenary and LSUS between September and May. 

A Family Concert is planned for the spring — a full afternoon experience complete with food trucks, face painting, crafts, up-close demonstrations of instruments and an orchestra concert.