Symphony Stays Connected with Online Program

Concerts may be on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, but an online program will showcase the members and guests of the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.

The music director, Randall Craig Fleischer, will host a streaming show on Aug. 22 that will feature interviews with artists who have played with the YSO. Performances by members of the orchestra will also be part of the show, which will also be the start of an online auction with singular prizes.

The 60- to 75-minute show will begin at 7 p.m. on the YSO’s Facebook, YouTube and Instagram pages.

Fleischer will host the show live, introducing the prerecorded segments. It will be fast-paced and fun, he says.

Guest stars interviewed by Fleischer comprise:

• Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, who was part of Fleischer’s Rocktopia show.

• Phil Keaggy, the Youngstown native and  Christian music star who was part of rock act Glass Harp.

• Mairead Nesbitt, the energetic violinist of Celtic Woman who also starred in Rocktopia.

• Jodie Benson, a Broadway star who voiced the title character in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

• C. Brian Williams, founder and director of Step Africa.

• Kishna Davis, an opera singer.

• Carol Wincenc, classical flutist.

• Zuill Bailey, Grammy-winning cellist.

The idea for the gala online show and auction got rolling a couple of months ago, when Fleischer and Patricia Syak, president of the Youngstown Symphony Society, were talking about ways  to compensate for the canceled regular performances.

“We put out a call to orchestra members to see if they would just video themselves at home playing a piece of music and send it to us. And we would stream it on our social platforms,” Syak says.

The musicians enthusiastically embraced the idea. So they decided to take it to the next level.

“We looked at some who performed with us over the years and asked if they would have an interview with [Fleischer] about their career and their time with the YSO,” Syak says.

Fleischer conducted the interviews via teleconference from his Los Angeles home and edited them. “It has been very time consuming producing this show,” he says. “It’s amazing how brilliant artists like these are still busy and enterprising even during a pandemic.”

Fleischer prepared for the interviews by not only familiarizing himself with his guests’ careers, but by studying how successful talk-show hosts engage with their audiences.

After taping the interviews, he edited them. Youngstown-based Advantage Video Productions has been hired to put the show together.

Fleischer says he is creating livestream gala shows for the Anchorage Symphony and the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, which he also directs. But he is ready to get back to making music live.

“Eager isn’t the word,” he says. “I’m aching. I’ll never find the words to express how much I miss making music live. It’s been my life for years.” is the company that will host the online auction. All items up for auction can be perused there in advance.

Fleischer will introduce the items up for auction.

“Randy will talk about an auction item, or we’ll have photos of the items, and people can call a number and place a bid,” says Syak. “The auction will run online for one week [until Aug. 26]. At the end the highest bidder will be notified that they won. Auctria will then get their credit card number [for payment] and then notify us.”

One of the more unseal items on the block is a hand-carved wooden fish that contains many small carvings of animals inside of it. Jim Dunlap, who is a violist for the YSO and also runs a home-building company with his sons, created it.

Dunlap said it is a Noah’s Ark. “It’s a big fish, 16 inches long,” he says. “I hollow the back out and there’s all these little animals in it, and of course, Noah.”

Dunlap has made four of the sets, one for each of his sons.

“When [Fleischer] called me about making something [for the auction], I said, ‘I’ll do another one,’ ” Dunlap says. His granddaughter, Emily Dunlap, an art student at Youngstown State University, painted it.

In addition to carving and building houses, Dunlap’s other passion is music. “I got in the symphony when I won a violin competition in 1955 and I’ve played with them ever since,” he says.

Dunlap and some other YSO members also have a chamber music ensemble. “We do it just for ourselves, once a month,” he says. “We have fun doing it.”

Other items that will be up for auction are:

• An eight-day Viking River Cruises tour of Europe valued at $7,000.

• A gift certificate from Mountaineer Casino and Resort.

• A signed guitar that Phil Keaggy used on his 1978 tour with Glass Harp and on some recordings.

• A drumhead signed by Eric Singer of KISS.

• Various works of art.

• A week at a condominium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

• Gift certificates from Giant Eagle.

• Wine.

• Music lessons by YSO members.

• Performances by YSO members at the place of the auction winner’s choice.

Pictured: Jim Dunlap, a musician and homebuilder, carved his “Noah’s Ark,” which is one of the items up for auction.