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September 13, 2012
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Nostalgia Symphony No. 25 in Grand Junction pays tribute to Maestro Kirk Gustafson

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - In 1987, Kirk Gustafson arrived to a very different Grand Junction economically, demographically and culturally than we know today. Effects of "Black Sunday," just five years prior, were still being felt and the population had not seen significant growth since 1980. The Grand Junction Symphony was beginning its 10th year and since its inception there had been a revolving door of music directors. Jack Nisley, GJSO horn player, was on the committee that hired Kirk 25 years ago and he remembers feeling that they needed a music director who could become a part of the community and also connect with the musicians. To Nisley and several others, Gustafson fit that bill. Growing up in Washington state and teaching at South Dakota State University, Gustafson was that small-town guy.Within in a month of becoming the fourth music director of the GJSO, symphony manager Maggie Blanton suddenly died, and four days prior to Gustafson's opening concert Nov. 10, he received a frantic call from pianist Jon Klibonoff. Through a mix-up in his contract, Klibonoff had begun preparing Frederic Chopin's "Piano Concerto No. 1" while the orchestra was busy rehearsing the "2nd Piano Concerto." With no time for either the pianist or the GJSO to make a change, Gustafson was on the hunt for a guest artist who already had the "Piano Concerto No. 2" in their repertoire. Fortunately, Janina Fialkowska was available and on 24 hours notice flew into GJ and performed an exceptional concert much to the delight and relief of Gustafson, the orchestra members and the audience."Looking back, it was a rocky beginning in 1987," said Gustafson. That rocky start was not enough to deter Gustafson from a position he has now held for 25 years. Gustafson has brought the GJSO to a new level of excellence over the past quarter century and he is constantly stretching his musicians to perform even more challenging works.Tuesday, Sept. 18, the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra takes a nostalgic look back when it performs "Encore!" at 7:30 p.m. in the Grand Junction High School auditorium. The concert is an encore performance of Gustafson's first concert with GJSO back in 1987 opening with the dramatic "Coriolan Overture" by Beethoven, Schubert's "Symphony No. 5" and Chopin's "Piano Concerto No. 2" (yes, the 2nd one!) with the expressive playing of pianist Arthur Houle, director of keyboard studies at Colorado Mesa University.

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The Post Independent Updated Sep 13, 2012 02:15PM Published Sep 13, 2012 12:59PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.