Symphony now has a place in the valley
Post Independent Staff
Karin White knew where she was headed from a very early age. When she was 5 years old, her parents enrolled her in the Pittsfield Music School in the scenic Berkshire mountains of Western Massachusetts.
White made a bamboo flute while she was there and that became her instrument of choice.
Since then, her life has been suffused with music.
White, who has lived in Glenwood Springs for 26 years, is the co-founder of Symphony in the Valley, a community orchestra that offers concerts to the public and scholarships to budding music students.
What jelled her musical leanings was three years of service in the Air Force.
In 1958, she enlisted specifically to play in the all-female Air Force Band. After basic training at Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, Calif., she auditioned for and was accepted by the band.
Besides being a professional musical training ground, the band was her ticket to television. Over the three years she played with the band, it appeared on the Roy Rogers Show and the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, among many others. The band even played for the Oscars one year, she said.
When re-enlistment time came around in 1961 she was “devastated” to learn the band was being dis-banded.
“Our primary goal was to entertain the troops and get people to enlist,” she said. “We did such a good job and so many women were enlisting,” about 5,000 at the time, the Air Force decided it didn’t need the all-woman band anymore.
“We were getting more jobs than the men were. There was a little jealousy there,” she said. “I was going to make a career of it but I was so bitter I got out.”
She played for a time with local symphonies in San Bernardino and Victorville, Calif. Then Richard came along and in 1978 the couple moved to Leadville where Richard managed the Montgomery Ward store.
In 1979, they moved to Glenwood Springs and Richard managed the Ward’s store in the Van Rand Center.
White joined the Glenwood community orchestra until 1986 when it too disbanded.
Although she tried to interest local musicians in keeping the orchestra going, it was not until 1990 that opportunity presented itself.
That year, while on a musical visit to Connecticut where she played in the Senior Symphony, she met Chuck Overington, a retired musician who had played with the Mummers Band in Philadelphia. The Mummers are a fancy dress marching string band that leads the Philadelphia New Year’s parade each year.
She told Overington of her wish to form an orchestra in Glenwood. He said he had experience doing that very thing and he offered to move to Colorado for a time to help her set one up.
They sent letters to local musicians and soon had about 45 regulars coming to rehearsals, White said.
“It was pretty rough going at first,” she said. The first concert was in December 1993 at Glenwood Springs High School.
For most of those years White was intimately involved in the community symphony, as was Overington until he left the area because of health reasons a few years ago.
“Now 13 years later, look where we are,” she said.
White retired 3 1/2 years ago, both from her regular job as a checker at City Market where she’d worked for 23 years and from symphony management.
White is justly proud of the symphony that now offers a handful of concerts each year and boasts 70 members. She is still a member of the musical ensemble and plays both flute and piccolo.
Although White acknowledges a selfish motive for organizing the symphony, so that she could continue her musical career, she also felt it was a benefit for the community.
“We have about 18 young people. What an opportunity for them,” she said. Each year the symphony awards college scholarships to students, who are symphony members, and who express a desire to pursue a musical career.
Most of all, she credits the Air Force, and her experience with the women’s band, as the impetus for launching Symphony in the Valley.
“It never would have been possible if I hadn’t been in the Air Force Band,” she said.
Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510
Name: Karin White
Hometown: Pittsfield, Mass.
How long in Garfield County: Since 1979
Favorite Place in Garfield County: Glenwood Canyon Bike Trail
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