Jefferson Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 71st regular season on Oct. 15. Credit: Courtesy photo

Once the leaves start to fall from the trees and the weather gets a little cooler, a lot of things begin to change. We start wearing different clothes and shoes, we think about things like snow tires and whether the heater is working in the car, disconnecting the garden hoses and putting away the BBQ grill. We also start to move a lot of our outdoor activities indoors and there always seems to be a change in the focus in everything we do.

I don’t know if it’s just a throwback to when we were all kids and summer was the “fun” season and we had to buckle down and get a bit more serious about everything once the school year started, but there always seems to be a bit more formality to a lot of our activities during the fall and winter. This came to my mind when I started looking at the details of this week’s event I’m going to highlight in today’s column. It’s a concert from a group that performs year-round, but their summer programs are a lot different than their regular season performances and so are the locations. During the warm weather, the group does concerts in the parks with picnic blankets and present a lighter style of popular music. But once their regular season rolls around, they tend to move into performing the real-deal classical music by all the legendary composers and feature guest artists who never fail to dazzle their audiences with superb musicianship and technique.

Yes, its time for our Jefferson Symphony Orchestra to kick off its 71st regular season and the program they have selected is going to feature a terrific combination of fun and serious music with an amazing piano soloist and the official debut of their new conductor and musical director.

It’s happening at the Green Center on the Colorado School of Mines Campus at 3 p.m. this Sunday, Oct.15.

The concert will be featuring Aaron Copeland’s El Salón México which was inspired by his first visit to Mexico City in 1932. His friend Carlos Chávez took him to a colorful nightclub called “El Salón México,” and Copland immediately “felt, in a very natural and unaffected way, a close contact with the Mexican people. It wasn’t the music I heard, but the spirit that I felt there, which attracted me.” So, he set about composing something he hoped would capture the whole vibe of the place and since then, it’s become an audience favorite.

Also on the program will be Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, also known as The New World Symphony. This piece was composed back in 1893 while he was the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America. It premiered in New York City and has become one of the most popular of all symphonies ever composed. Fun fact here, Astronaut Neil Armstrong took a tape recording of the New World Symphony along during the Apollo 11 mission, and sort of became the soundtrack for the first Moon landing, in 1969.

But the highlight of the opening concert is going to be George Gershwin’s most famous composition, Rhapsody in Blue that’s about to celebrate it’s 100th birthday. It was on Feb. 12, 1924, that an audience-packed New York’s Aeolian Hall first got to hear it. But there was one problem. Gershwin had forgotten he was supposed to write a concerto until just two weeks before when he saw the concert’s ad in the New York Tribune. So, he had to kind of throw this thing together. The iconic opening clarinet glissando was only done as a joke during the dress rehearsal and Gershwin had not yet actually even written down the solo piano part. He made it up live in the concert.

But, Rhapsody in Blue was an audience hit, with its first recording selling over a million copies, a huge number for the time. And that solo piano part? Well, that has since become the most dramatic part of the entire thing and for this concert, it’s going to be performed by Guest Artist, Pianist Katie Mahan, who adds her signature flair in what promises to be a stellar performance.

All of this is going to be conducted by Dr. Arturo González, who will be making his debut as the new JSO Music Director and Principal Conductor.

Tickets are available in advance by going to and run Adult $27, Senior (60+) $22, Student (ages 12-17) $10 and Children (11 and under) $5.

So, put on your long pants, grab a coat and we’ll see you there!

John Akal is a well-known jazz artist/drummer and leader of the 20-piece Ultraphonic Jazz Orchestra. He also is president of John Akal Imaging, professional commercial photography and multimedia production. He can be reached at

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