When Alfred Savia inherited the position of music director of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra in 1989, the orchestra was stable and well established, but very different from what we see today.
The Philharmonic performed in The Old National Banks Events Plaza, or what is formally known as the Vanderburgh Auditorium, which was the only venue in Downtown Evansville at the time. To compete with the other entertainment venues that would later come to the city, Savia worked to create stability to his personnel and diversity in the programming.
Twenty-five years later, it’s time for a celebration. A silver celebration, that is. The 11th and final production of Savia’s Silver Season, which began Sept. 28, 2013, will be May 18.
Originally from Livingston, N.J., Savia graduated from Butler University’s Jordan College of Fine Arts. Savia played the clarinet and fell in love with Evansville native Kitty Parsons, a violinist at Butler. They were married in 1976, after college. They share the same passions for music and the Philharmonic after 37 years of marriage.
When Alfred and Kitty Savia moved their family to Evansville in 1989, they bought a house on the East Side, where they raised their two daughters, Laura, 31, and Juliana, 27. “My parents live here, and we brought Alfred’s parents here,” Kitty says. “It literally became home for all of us.”
“Like any institution, you have your milestones and your challenges,” Alfred says. “We’ve been able to keep the ship afloat and that’s something a lot of other orchestras can’t say the same, and we’ve been able to grow and expand artistically.”
Each of the 11 concerts brought in for Maestro Savia’s Silver Season incorporates some aspect of the previous 25 years.
“I chose a lot of pieces that I have personal connections to,” Alfred says. “There are orchestral works themed around three of my favorite cities in the world — Paris, Prague, and Rome. We’re also bringing in some of the artists who have been some of my favorites.”
Returning for Savia’s Silver Season are Gospel Night and the fully staged opera. He calls the opera, which he brought to the Victory Theatre more than a decade ago, “one of the most rewarding accomplishments of my tenure.”
The season was kicked off in September with the Silver Soiree, a fundraising event for the Philharmonic that served as a celebration of Alfred. Many special tributes were presented in Alfred Savia’s honor, such as a specially made podium and an “Alfred Savia Day,” as proclaimed by Mayor Lloyd Winnecke. Representatives from the governor’s office, past presidents of the Philharmonic Board of Directors, family and friends from New Jersey, and past friends and co-workers from Indianapolis and New Orleans were in attendance to celebrate this honor with Alfred and Kitty.
“A lot of people I didn’t expect surprised me,” the maestro says. “I felt rather stunned.”
Kitty says it’s very unusual for a conductor to remain with a single orchestra and that Alfred has enhanced its great reputation.
“He is a big picture person,” Kitty says of her husband. “He has a vision of what he wants the orchestra to be, and he has gotten the chance to make the orchestra so great.”
Under his leadership, the Evansville Philharmonic has expanded its activities to include a comprehensive Youth Orchestra program. It also incorporated the Philharmonic Chorus in 1993 and the Eykamp String Quartet in 2007. Partnerships with the Owensboro Symphony, the Evansville Museum of Arts and Sciences, the Evansville Ballet, and the University of Evansville have developed excellent community relationships for the Philharmonic.
For more information about the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, call 812-425-5050 or visit evansvillephilharmonic.org.