Concert Review: “Joshua Gerson Leads KSO in Beethoven, Strauss, and Tchaikovsky” by Alan Sherrod

Check out the review Alan Sherrod wrote of this week’s masterworks performances with the fabulous Paul Huang and guest conductor Joshua Gersen.

Of Strauss’s “Death and Transfiguration” Sherrod wrote:

Gersen uncovered every shred of sadness in the piece, given substance by beautiful work from the KSO woodwinds. The solo violin (concertmaster William Shaub) carries a lyrical theme which peacefully returns a bit later in the flute (Hannah Hammel). Eventually, the sadness is overcome by the transfiguration, a soaring and luminous ending that was endowed with both mystery and majesty by Gersen and the orchestra.



Read the full concert review here.

About the Musicians of the KSO, Part II

If you were at this week’s masterworks performances, hopefully you received a handout from the Musicians of the Knoxville Symphony.  We are really enjoying greeting and meeting audience members face-to-face, as we usually only see them as a faceless crowd from the stage. We have such wonderful supporters, followers, and concert attendees who really care about the musicians that make the music!

Leafletting II

Musicians of the Knoxville Symphony greet and welcome audiences, and share with them informational leaflets.

About The


Last year we gave some 230 performances over our 35-week season: some were in concert halls, of course, but many were in classrooms, churches, hospitals, libraries, bars, museums, and parks from downtown Knoxville to rural areas throughout our region. Over the past few years, the KSO has established 4 new acclaimed concert series, built a nationally-recognized music and wellness program, and expanded educational outreach. KSO musicians’ presence in these unique settings underscores Knoxville’s tremendous growth and adds to Scruffy City’s character.

Four years ago, the orchestra took a giant step forward when the Principal Woodwind Quintet (WWQ) was brought from part-time to full-time, a move that was made possible by a generous grant from the Aslan Foundation. The grant expires at the end of this season, and the musicians of the KSO remain optimistic that we will secure the futures of these 5 musicians in our next contract. This will enhance the artistic integrity of the orchestra and ensure continuation of the wonderful WWQ concert and educational programming that has enlivened our community.

We are so proud to be working harder and reaching more members of our community than ever before, however our increase in work has not always been mirrored by our benefits. In the last three years, our work load has increased over 15% but our wages have barely kept up with inflation.

In addition to the time we spend practicing at home and at KSO rehearsal and performances, 94% of our part-time musicians and 56% of our full-time musicians work 1 to 7 other jobs to make ends meet. As the KSO’s offerings grow, many musicians have less time for other jobs, without an increase in income from their KSO employment.

Throughout the negotiation process, we are encouraging our management to move forward in their support of musicians, so that we can sustainably provide a growing orchestra for a growing Knoxville. Your voice of support and input is crucial to us. Please join us online at

Leafletting II a

Musicians of the Knoxville Symphony greet and welcome audiences, and share with them informational leaflets.


KSO Principal Woodwind Quintet Faces Uncertain Future

Another KSO Q-Series performance, featuring the KSO Principal String Quartet and Principal Woodwind Quintet, is in the books! The Square Room was filled to capacity! Since the status of the woodwind quintet’s future is uncertain, we wanted to share some information with you about the quintet. Please like, share, subscribe, and help us spread the word about the important work the quintet does in our community.

kso wwq in school

In their first year, the Principal Woodwind Quintet found themselves being conducted by an elementary student while their teacher assisted on cymbals.  How many thousands of students have been reached by the WWQ since then?

You may have seen us behind a sea of strings at Masterworks, Chamber Classics, and Pops concerts, or perhaps you are a regular at our Q-Series at the Square Room where you’ve gotten to know us personally.

However, the Knoxville Symphony Woodwind Quintet’s work extends far beyond the concert hall. As part of our full-time jobs with the KSO, the WWQ provides valuable services to our community performing for elementary and middle school classes, for students at the University of Tennessee, and even for enthusiastic audiences at bars, restaurants, and other venues around town. The WWQ’s presence in these unique settings underscores the tremendous growth in Knoxville and adds to our Scruffy City’s character.

The Knoxville Symphony’s five principal woodwind positions became full- time four years ago when the KSO received a generous grant from the Aslan Foundation – a grant that also subsidized ticket prices and helped to support the Chamber Classics series.

The grant expires at the end of this season, and the WWQ remains optimistic that the KSO will secure the positions permanently in our next contract, which is currently being negotiated. Without that assurance, the principal winds may return to part-time status, losing vital benefits, and might have to seek alternative primary employment or pursue positions elsewhere. With the loss of full-time status, the wonderful WWQ educational, promotional, and concert programming that has enlivened our community may diminish  or disappear.

Throughout the negotiation process, we are encouraging our management to move forward, not backwards, and provide a growing orchestra for a growing Knoxville. Your support and input is crucial to us. We’d be grateful if you’d show your support online at:

The KSO ended last season in the black for the 11th straight year with a little additional  help from the Principal Woodwind Quintet.

Learn more about the KSO Musicians, Part I

Gatlinburg Benefit group

Here are a few interesting facts about the KSO Musicians. Please share with your friends, family or any other supporters of the KSO Musicians. On our website, you can donate, subscribe to our newsletters, and learn more about the many musicians that make our organization one of Knoxville’s greatest gems.

We are members of the Knoxville community! We are from all over the USA and the world — our KSO musicians have relocated an average of 1122 miles to play with the KSO. We don’t just play music here—we participate actively in the community through teaching, hobbies, causes, and churches. We also volunteer throughout the community in organizations like Boy Scouts of America, Clarinets for Conservations, Justice Knox, Meals on Wheels, Bridge Refugee Services, and various animal rescue organizations, and as foster parents, just to name a few!

Did you know the average KSO musician has been playing their instrument for 34 years?! KSO Musicians hold an average of 2.3 degrees from many of the finest music schools around such as Yale, Juilliard, Cleveland Institute of Music, Cincinnati Conservatory, Eastman School of Music, Curtis Institute of Music, and Oberlin Conservatory among many others.

KSO Musicians have an average of $47,000 dollars invested in instruments, music, and equipment. These investments are required to win and hold a professional job with the KSO. Their combined costs far exceed $2,000,000!

KSO is a fully professional orchestra that contracts both full- time and part time musicians. Our 24 full-time players make about $30,000 per year while most of our part-time players make less than $7000 per year working for the KSO. During the symphony season we only have Mondays off, and we routinely work nights, weekends, and some holidays.

WE LOVE CATS! 61% of KSO Musicians are pet owners and our cats outnumber our dogs 4 to 1!


“Review: KSO’s ‘Red, Hot, & Bolero’ – A Feast for the Eyes and Ears” by Alan Sherrod

Bolero review image.jpg

Our presence leafletting and greeting audiences was also not lost on concert reviewer, Alan Sherrod. A long-time symphony goer and critic who has reviews some of the top orchestras in the world, Alan writes:

As it turned out, Maestro Aram Demirjian could not have picked a better program to showcase the orchestra’s individual players, just at a time when the KSO musicians are seeking a well-deserved visibility—and making their case in contract negotiations with their management.

We have indeed spent many months in contract negotiations making our case with KSO management. We are still quite hopeful it will be resolved soon and favorably for both sides.

Read the full review here:

See us greeting and leafletting the audience in this post.

See the leaflet we shared with the audience in this post.

KSO Review: “Sexuality and Sensuality at the KSO” by Harold Duckett


Our presence greeting and leafletting the audience was not lost on concert reviewer Harold Duckett.

As Harold writes about our contract negotiation:

Whatever the differences that separate the two entities, it’s time to quickly resolve them.

We couldn’t agree more.  Here’s hoping we will have a contract in place soon to protect the musicians and secure their livelihoods.

Read the full concert review here:

See the leaflets we shared with the audience at this post.

Meeting some of our great audience members

This weekend was a special treat for us to meet and greet our masterworks audiences. We enjoyed sharing information about the musicians that make up the Knoxville Symphony, and we also getting to know our amazing supporters. If you haven’t been to a KSO concert recently, you’re missing the best show in town!

Here are a few more shots of us in action:

Why Support the Symphony?

KSO Masterworks Mason Bates

Why should you support the symphony?

Why should you even come HEAR the symphony?

Hearing some of the greatest music ever created is a fantastic reason. Hearing something new to spark your imagination, inspire your creativity, give your mind a rest from projects and stresses… those are all great reason.

But what does a symphony orchestra symbolize? In a time of great divisions within segments of our population, a symphony orchestra can be a mascot for unity. Music has always brought people together, but a symphony orchestra is special. Where else do you find dozens and dozens of highly trained musicians, with decades of training and experience coming together to create one fleeting moment of live music?

Each player is an athlete that maintains a rigorous practice regiment to be able to perform their instruments at the highest level. If you haven’t considered the athletic nature of playing an instrument, spend 30+ minutes holding your right arm in the air, moving it side-to-side without rest or pressing cold lifeless metal against your lips for a couple hours. Each musician then prepares weeks or even months for any given performance, learns the idiosycracies of their individual role in the composition, steeps themselves in the traditions and expectations of the composer, and awaits the direction and guidance from the podium on exactly how the piece is to be performed.

When it comes to rehearsals, players have to be highly prepared at the first rehearsal in order to then fit themselves seamlessly into the larger machine that is the symphony orchestra. Players exchange ideas, both verbally and musically. Throughout the process, the compositions are delicately flavored by the conductor, like a master chef preparing a three-course meal.

And all of this is done for the audience, to create a magical and ephemeral moment of communion.  Lifetimes of dedication and countless hours of preparation come together to create the music that drifts off the stage to your ears. Musicians from all over the world come together to create the sounds that ring in your ears and excite you.  Hundreds of years of tradition meet living, breathing composers to create an experience you can have nowhere else.

A symphony orchestra IS a mascot for unity.  We hope you will unite with us at a concert soon!

How much does that cost?

Another common question for musicians, “How much does your instrument cost?” Of course we know the extravagant costs of a Stradivarius, but even modest instruments of professional quality can cost handsomely. Add in supplies like strings, rosin, bow hair, tools and cane to make reeds, and routine maintenance and up keep… well, it can be quite an expensive endeavor to play professionally.