Celebrating the U.S.A.


Dirk Meyer Augusta SymphonyThe 2023-24 Augusta Symphony season offers a patriotic tribute to American music.
For Dirk Meyer, Augusta Symphony music director, the upcoming concert lineup is personal.

“This season is very much influenced by what has happened in my own life,” he says.

Earlier this year, the native of Germany, who has been in the United States for 20 years, got his dual citizenship. In honor of this milestone achievement, the theme of this year’s concerts is American Perspectives.

Symphony Series

The showcase of American artists and music is evident from the beginning of the season, which opens on Friday, September 22 with the first concert in the Symphony series, Welcome to America. Beginning with this performance, a common thread runs through all six concerts in the series.

“In the Symphony Series, each concert features music by an American composer and a composer who eventually became an American citizen,” Meyer says.

A guest artist will perform with the Symphony in each of these concerts as well.

Augusta Symphony“Our guest artists are local and international soloists,” says Meyer. “They add another dimension to the concerts that are great for the audiences and for the orchestra to have an opportunity to play with them.”

Violinist Anastasia Petrunina performs with the musicians in the opening concert, which features works by Stravinsky and Mahler as well as a violin concerto by Barber.

On Friday, November 17, Symphonic Shorts features Taylor Massey, the principal clarinetist who has been with the orchestra for years, and the Youth Concerto Competition winner.

“This is one of my favorite concerts,” says Meyer. “It has seven different pieces, and each one is 10 to 15 minutes long. I think people will recognize at least five of them, and I hope the others give them an appetite for trying something more.”

In Mozart & Milhaud on Saturday, January 6, the orchestra performs pieces including Milhaud’s Le boeuf sur le toit, which resembles Brazilian bar music. Guest artist Darci Gamerl will play the English horn for the world premiere of Courageous Lights by James Lee III.

“It’s an eclectic program that features music that people know and like and a lot of pieces that people have never heard before,” Meyer says.

American Rhapsodies is the title of the Saturday, March 9 performance. This concert includes Dvorak’s American Suite and Symphony No. 2 by German-born composer Kurt Weill, who is known for his satire, social commentary and seminal works in the development of the American musical.

In addition, the program features the Georgia premiere of Boyer’s Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue, with guest artist Jeffrey Biegel on the piano. The pianist conceived this work to celebrate the centennial of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which the orchestra will perform to conclude the program.

Meyer says Beethoven 5, scheduled for Saturday, April 20, was canceled two years ago because of covid. In addition to Symphony No. 5, the orchestra performs Augusta Symphony Dirk Meyer which represents the energy and commerce of the main arteries in cities in general and specifically the main thoroughfare of her hometown Atlanta. Guest artist Paul Huang joins the Symphony on the violin.

This series concludes on Saturday, May 11 with Symphonic Jazz. The four-piece program includes the United States premiere of Wars’ City Sketches. The Polish immigrant, known as the King of Jazz, wrote countless Hollywood scores for film and television.

Pops! Series

From country to swing, holiday songs to popular ’80s tunes, the Pops! Series is a source of patriotic pride.

“All of the Pops concerts are heavily oriented toward American music,” says Meyer.

Country Hits: Songs From Nashville on Thursday, September 28 celebrates country artists past and present. The concert features music by country legends like Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash as well as contemporary stars such as Garth Brooks and Kacey Musgraves. Two of Nashville’s brightest young vocalists also will perform alongside the Symphony and Music City’s most in-demand instrumentalists.

 Joe Gransden and His Big BandOn Thursday, October 19, the Symphony takes a nostalgic look at the dawn of the MTV era with Decades: Back to the ’80s. This concert promises a power-packed evening featuring some of the decade’s No. 1 hit songs. Think “The Power of Love,” “Time After Time,” “Material Girl,” “Another One Bites The Dust,” “Footloose” and “Addicted to Love.” Fans of Madonna, Debbie Gibson, Huey Lewis & The News, Phil Collins, Queen and Joe Cocker will delight in the repertoire.

For the first time in years, the Symphony revives an old favorite with the Holiday Pops concert, Sounds of the Season, on Thursday, December 7. The orchestra plays alongside Joe Gransden and His Big Band, and concert-goers can ring in the season with classics from “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” to “Silver Bells.”

Augusta Synphony“With Sounds of the Season, we’re hoping to bring back a holiday tradition for Augusta,” Meyer says.

The Symphony showcases another bygone era with The Great American Swingbook on Thursday, February 15. With her four-octave range, vocalist Dee Daniels performs a century of hits featuring music by Swing legends Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong.

In the final Pops performance, the musicians offer a choreographed 3D celebration of the country’s national parks and major cities in America’s Wonders on Thursday, March 21. Striking imagery will be displayed on a giant screen as the Symphony guides the audience through beautiful American landscapes and cityscapes.

“We’ve never done a 3D experience before,” Meyer says.

Family Concerts at Columbia County

Augusta SymphonyHolidays With the Symphony on Sunday, December 10 brings the return of the popular Family Concerts at Columbia County. Instead of its annual Halloween concert, however, the orchestra performs Animals With the Symphony on Sunday, March 10. From buzzing bees to braying donkeys, this work by French composer Camille Saint Saens is a humorous musical suite of 14 movements.

These concerts are 45 to 50 minutes long, and Meyer gives a verbal introduction to each piece.

Throughout the season, he hopes audience members enjoy works they know and love as well as music that may be new to them.

“I believe they will get a kick out of the programs,” he says. “I’ve been here long enough that I hope people trust me now.”

The family concerts begin at 4 p.m. at Hardin Auditorium. All of the other performances begin at 7:30 p.m. at Miller Theater. For more information, visit augustasymphony.com.