New manager takes charge of symphony's Youth Orchestras

July 6, 2010

Kara Patterson

Post Crescent

The 2010-11 concert season brings notable changes for the Fox Valley Symphony Youth Orchestras, including a new manager and the addition of a third ensemble for advanced student musicians.

Fox Valley Symphony violinist Melissa Gurholt of Darboy stepped into the Youth Orchestras administrative role July 1. Gurholt, 40, fills the position that opened when Lynn Lichte, 63, retired in June.

During her three years as manager of the Youth Orchestras, which last season encompassed the Youth Symphony for grades nine through 12 and the Philharmonia Strings for grades seven through 10, Lichte designed a Youth Orchestras Web site, formalized the musician recruitment process and helped plan for the additional ensemble, the Philharmonia Strings Chamber Ensemble.

"Lynn Lichte clearly raised the bar of our expectations … and Melissa can take that from there," said Fox Valley Symphony executive director Marta Weldon.

The Philharmonia Strings Chamber Ensemble, a bridge group for Philharmonia Strings musicians who are in training to join the Youth Symphony, debuts in fall with about 15 students.

"I was listening to what our conductors have to say," Lichte said. "The conductors and our executive director felt this might be an important link for the growth of our program and best for the students to help prepare them."

Weldon said Lichte, a past executive director for the Appleton Boychoir, possesses knowledge of the community that is an asset to the Youth Orchestras.

"She had already done fundraising and marketing work for the Boychoir so with all of those old contacts, she took the marketing and the promotion and the awareness of the Youth Orchestras to a whole another level in the Fox Valley," Weldon said. "She worked to create a really solid database of all music educators at every level. It's as if I had another executive director sitting in my office on our staff. She helped me make new connections in the community I wouldn't otherwise have made as quickly."

Gurholt isn't entirely new to the role. She oversaw the Youth Orchestras as an interim manager in 1999.

Most recently, as the symphony's education programs manager, Gurholt oversaw the symphony's Partners in Education program, a music outreach to the community's third-graders.

Her expanded job responsibilities as youth and education programs manager allow her to continue those duties and add on management of the Youth Orchestras.

"I have to say that really my strongest goal is just to continue the awesome work that Lynn has done and continue that strong leadership," said Gurholt, who also has served as a violin and viola instructor and has played in a Partners in Education string quartet.

The Youth Orchestras' 2010-11 concert season kicks off with a fall concert Nov. 7.

Gurholt, who played with the traveling Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra as a student musician, said her vision for the Youth Orchestras includes the possibility of Youth Symphony performance tours.

"What's really exciting about the kids is we are introducing them to some fantastic repertoire, and these will be some of their first experiences with playing really great music," Gurholt said. "As a person who's gone through that, you never can forget that. I'm so excited to see how they react and how they grow."

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