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LARSON: Main Street Symphony Orchestra keeps everyone in the loop

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

It wasn’t your physics professor’s string theory. For Dixie Huthmaker, it was the belief that she could create an adult amateur orchestra for the many musicians she saw on a daily basis in her family-run violin shop in Duluth. If only she could find the time and space.

“When we bought our new building, we created the Lynam-Huthmaker Music Center and a rehearsal hall for the orchestra,” Huthmaker said. “After the ‘Name the Orchestra’ contest was held, the Main Street Symphony Orchestra was born.”

If You Go

• What: Main Street Symphony Orchestra

• Where: New Dawn Theatre, Duluth

• When: 7 p.m. Dec. 12

• Cost: Free

• For more information: www.huthmakerviolins.com or 770-476-9443

The goal of MSSO, founded in 2005, is bring together adult musicians of all backgrounds from beginners to people who haven’t picked up their bow in years to active musicians looking for other venues. And those “string variables” have no limit.

“Our musicians range in age from 24 to 80,” MSSO conductor Dana Lowe said. “With our changing population, we see a tremendous growth in adults wanting to learn for the first time. They’ve raised their families and want to learn to play an instrument.”

Nancy Mack of Cumming is one of them.

“I started seven years ago at age 50,” Mack said. “My son played the violin in high school and my life was centered around music. When he went off to college I said something about playing the cello. That Christmas my husband bought me a cello and had a teacher lined up for me. I’ve been with the orchestra since it’s inception but I still don’t sound like Yo Yo Ma.”

Other musicians, like Doug Patrick of Lilburn and Jessica Luttrell of Duluth, played their stringed instruments in high school and welcomed the opportunity to play again.

Harriet Nelson who plays tenor sax in the orchestra at Snellville First Baptist church said, “We needed more strings, so I came here to learn how to play the cello. They said MSSO really needed a bass player, so here I am playing bass.”

And Tom McDermott of Atlanta has gone full scale in his 65 years of playing.

“I had a few lessons as a kid, but after that became a self taught musician,” he said. “I fooled around with it for years. Then I joined an orchestra. When I realized I didn’t sound like everyone else, I started taking lessons.”

Conductor Lowe has her own string of accomplishments. As orchestra director for Mill Creek High School, she was Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year in 2001. Her students have won many awards including first place in the Smoky Mountain Music Festival 2010, and second place in the New York Freedom Festival, which her principal, Jim Markham said “is really big.”

MSSO practices on Sunday nights. There are no auditions and no fees to join. They perform three free concerts a year. The next concert is Dec. 12.

“This was Dixie’s dream and a gift from her to the community,” Lowe said.

Whether you’d like to be a performer or a patron, MSSO’s strings keep everyone in the loop.

Susan Larson is a free lance writer who lives in Lilburn. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.