After 40 years, mid-MI Maestro takes final bow

Apr 27, 2017

After 40 years, a mid-Michigan Maestro is calling it quits this weekend after one final bow Saturday night. WKAR’s Jamie Paisley attended one of their final rehearsals together.


Wednesday’s rehearsal with the Jackson Symphony Orchestra started, as usual, with David Lamse, of JSO’s Community Music School and rehearsal timekeeper, making one last announcement just as rehearsal begins sharply at 7:30pm: "Well this is Maestro Osmond's last concert after 40 seasons, so this is a big week for us and we're really, really thrilled you all could be here." At which, the orchestra does the traditional stamping of the feet, signaling their applause to the outgoing Music Director.

In the world of classical music, lasting a couple of decades as music director of an orchestra is a big deal. It means the musicians and the community trust you. But there have been scant few that have made it to 40 years, as Maestro Stephen Osmond has. This Saturday, he will make his final appearance as Music Director of the Jackson Symphony Orchestra. But for this rehearsal, at least, Osmond hasn’t lost focus on the main goal.

"Not really, I'm just looking at it as another concert right now." says Osmond. "My wife, she's more concerned about this being some sort of 'final event.' But I don't really uh, [clears throat] you know, maybe afterwards, I might feel that way but right now, I just want to make sure we get all the notes right. Once I feel comfortable that we've met that, hopefully it'll be at least during the performance, if not a little bit before, then I might have a chance to, you know, wander off a bit."

[Audio of the Jackson Symphony rehearsing Richard Strauss' Don Juan.]

Since the concert takes place at the Potter Center in Jackson on Saturday, I asked the Maestro what the first thing he would be doing Sunday morning, post-concert. At which he chuckles for a second and has an immediate answer: "Cooking! I have a lot of family and friends so I'm having a little brunch and I make a famous pancake. It's named after my mother, we call them 'Melba-cakes.' So I'll make that, other people will be bringing things and to just sort of, kick back and relax."

Saturday’s farewell concert is part two of a couple of evenings of music as Maestro Stephen Osmond bids farewell to the Jackson Symphony. The first concert, a month ago featured a frequent collaborator with the JSO. Someone who’s been a staple of the mid-Michigan community even longer than Osmond, Professor Emeritus at MSU and Van Cliburn competition winner, Ralph Votapek.

"It started way back, I believe in his second season in 1978." recalls Votapek. "He was always so conscientious. You know, some conductors, you have the feeling that when you solo with their orchestra, you're a little bit of a pest. I mean, they would rather be doing symphonies, overtures, you know, things without concertos. But he [Osmond] always took the concerto very seriously. He would usually truck up here, you know only 40 miles, but still he would want to hear my play it alone and that made the rehearsal much easier. It was just always a pleasure to work with him. Some would say 'well, is he a good conductor?' Of course he is, he kept hiring me! But besides that he was a good conductor--- is a good conductor and I hope he'll still be appreciated in Jackson."

Maestro Stephen Osmond's tenure with the Jackson Symphony will end on Saturday, just as it began 40 years ago, with Beethoven’s 5th.

"Well, first of all, it's a terrific piece, you know?" explains Osmond. "And it's not being overplayed as much now as it, you know, was 30, 40, 50 years ago. But it was the first piece I conducted with the Jackson Symphony and I was thinking of going out with the Mahler 2[nd Symphony], or something like that. But, you know, that's [a] wonderful, powerful piece but it's just one composer. And I've got too much affection for too many composers just to limit it, you know, to one. I just thought it would be nice to go as the program's described: Full Circle."

[Audio of the Jackson Symphony rehearsing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Mvmt II.]

After 40 years on the podium, Maestro Stephen Osmond’s Grand Finale concert with the Jackson Symphony Orchestra takes place this Saturday, April 29th at the Potter Center in Jackson starting at 7:30pm. Head to jacksonsymphony.org for ticket information and to view the full program.

Click our link below to listen to WKAR's first interview with incoming Jackson Symphony music director, Dr. Matthew Aubin.