The Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra 55th Anniversary Season opens with the Fall Classics Concert at 4 p.m. Sunday in Bethel College Memorial Hall. Music director/conductor Thomas W. Douglas of Pittsburgh leads the orchestra on works by Beethoven, Bernstein and Handel. Oboist Catherine Mitchell of Wichita is the featured soloist.


The Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra 55th Anniversary Season opens with the Fall Classics Concert at 4 p.m. Sunday in Bethel College Memorial Hall. Music director/conductor Thomas W. Douglas of Pittsburgh leads the orchestra on works by Beethoven, Bernstein and Handel. Oboist Catherine Mitchell of Wichita is the featured soloist.

The program “Fifty- Fives” begins with Leonard Bernstein’s Candide Overture composed in 1955 followed by Handel’s Concerto no. 3 in g minor, written when the composer was fifty-five years old, played by NMKSO soloist who just turned fifty-five. Finally, the magnificence of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 3 “Eroica” opus 55, sets the tone for a wonderful celebration on the inaugural concert of the orchestra’s fifty-fifth year.

Thomas W. Douglas begins this season as NMKSO’s new music director having conducted more than 175 musical theater, opera, symphonic and oratorio productions. He also is Music Director for Music Theater of Wichita, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, and has been the Chorus Master of the Canton Symphony. His guest conducting includes the Dallas Symphony Chorus with conductor Eduardo Mata, the Edgewood Symphony, and the Pittsburgh Philharmonic. 

Thomas conducted the first Swiss production of Webber’s Phantom of the Opera in Switzerland and Ain’t Misbehavin in Malaysia. He has enjoyed the stage roles of Amonasro in Elton John’s Aida and Caiaphas in Jesus Christ Superstar among others. He has been a vocal soloist with the Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Canton Symphony, and sings frequently with jazz legend, Joe Negri in his Mass of Hope. Thomas has conducted many Pittsburgh premieres including Bernstein’s Mass, the classic silent films The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Phantom of the Opera with live orchestra and chorus, the U.S. premiere of David Chesky’s The Agnostic, and the rousing Camina Burana Africana.

Catherine “Catie” Mitchell  has been playing oboe and English horn in the Wichita area since 1977, including regular performances with the Wichita Symphony, Wichita Music Theatre, and Grand Opera of Wichita.  She is principal oboist and was a recent soloist with the Wichita Wind Ensembles Professional Band. Catie has degrees from Wichita State University and has been adjunct professor of oboe at Friends University since 1992 where she plays in two faculty chamber ensembles, the Tower Woodwind Quintet and Quartteto da Camera. Since 2007 she has been building a Mary Kay business. She is married to Mike and has three daughters and two grandchildren.

Fifty-five years ago, on May 7, 1956, the Newton Civic Chorus and Orchestra were incorporated, beginning over a half-century of symphonic music in Newton.

Beginning as an orchestra to accompany the Civic Chorus in the mid 1950s, NMKSO evolved into the community orchestra for Newton and the surrounding area. The current name, Newton Mid Kansas Symphony Orchestra, was adopted in 1971 during reorganization. The orchestra has performed two classics concerts per season throughout most of its history, expanding to add a Pops Concert, Choral Concert, and Summer Chamber Music Concert in more recent years. In 2008 NMKSO added their popular Young Soloists Competition, giving high school and college students the opportunity to play with a full symphony orchestra.

Several music directors and numerous guest conductors have led the orchestra during the past fifty years including co-founders Elvera Voth and the late Gary Fletcher. Other former music directors are Gerald Kiger, Randall Zercher, Diego Sanchez Haase, and Daniel Hege, who held the position for thirteen years. Current music director Thomas W. Douglas begins his first season with the orchestra this year. 

Don Kehrberg served as orchestra manager for nearly twenty years, expanding the player base and implementing the festival format with rehearsals and concert occurring over a weekend, a format that works well for out of town musicians and continues to be the standard. Current manager Jill Gatz has served for nine years in the position.  Nearly five hundred musicians are on the roster of current and alumni players, including former high school, college, community, and professional musicians. 

The Newton Mid Kansas Symphony Orchestra recognizes all past and present players and board members during this hallmark season. The support of the community and area businesses is vital to the longevity of the organization. Grounded in the history and traditions of the past, NMKSO advances into the future with a commitment to performing and advocating the performance of great symphonic music in the community.

Tickets for the Fall Classics Concert are $12/$10 advance for adults; $6/$5 advance for students; with free admission for children younger than 12 accompanied by an adult .Tickets are available at Ten Thousand Villages, Faith and Life Bookstore, and at the door the day of the concert. A 55th Anniversary Celebration reception following the concert is hosted by the NMKSO board. For more information contact NMKSO at 283-0814 and www.nmkso.org.