Lawrence Leighton Smith and Thomas Wilson, the music director and associate conductor, respectively, for the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, are being honored by ABE for their “Ongoing Support for Arts Education.”
As the citation says: “Knowledgeable, appreciative audiences, as well as instrumentalists and conductors, are being fostered by Messrs. Smith and Wilson’s commitment to the Philharmonic’s ‘Conductor in the Classroom’ and ‘Young People’s Concerts’ programs, the former bringing personal and musical exposure to working musician/conductors into the classroom, the latter bringing live professional symphonic performances to 7,000 children each year. These programs may even create music critics; one of many grateful students observed to Lawrence Leighton Smith, ‘You’re as great as Beethoven!’”
Susan Greene, the executive director of the Philharmonic, said that Smith and Wilson richly deserve to be honored.
“Both Larry and Tom are very committed to broadening the educational outreach of the orchestra in the community,” she said. “Both of them have made visits to a significant number of middle school, high school, and junior high school orchestra and band programs to offer their perspectives on the rehearsal process and the music education of students.
“That’s the goal — to reach out. And that’s what they do.”
Smith has had a distinguished career in music. He has been music director of the Sunriver Music Festival in Oregon since 1995, was principal guest conductor of the New Jersey Symphony from 1997 to 2000 and was named music director of the Colorado Springs Symphony in 2000.
In 2003, he joined with the musicians of the former Colorado Springs Symphony and community leaders to become the first music director of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.
Thomas Wilson serves on the music faculties at Colorado College and the Colorado Springs Conservatory, and maintains an active guest conducting schedule. He previously conducted for the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony program and founded the Young Concert Artists of Colorado Springs.
A primary focus of Wilson’s conducting career has been collaborations among performing arts organizations, which he sees as essential to artistic growth and a unified arts community. Thomas has led the Philharmonic and the Chamber Orchestra in collaborative performances with the Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale, Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble, Young Concert Artists, Colorado Springs Youth Symphony, the Colorado Springs Conservatory and many others.
Greene is most excited about the “Young People’s Concert Program.”
“Tom Wilson gives instruction to volunteer docents who go to classrooms with CDs and other material, and prepares the kids for the experience,” she said. “For most of the kids, it’s their first experience with a live orchestral performance. It’s narrated, it’s very interactive.”