Guest conductor Dwayne Corbin leads the Juneau Symphony through rehearsals. Corbin has a history guest conducting and performing with the symphony.(Courtesy Photo | Taylor Mills)

Guest conductor Dwayne Corbin leads the Juneau Symphony through rehearsals. Corbin has a history guest conducting and performing with the symphony.(Courtesy Photo | Taylor Mills)

Juneau Symphony includes familar tunes, faces in season opener

Old favorites picked for guest conductor, soloist and first two pieces

The Juneau Symphony is kicking off the 2018-19 season with crowd-pleasers.

Guest conductor Dwayne Corbin, who guest conducted during the 2014-15 season and has a history performing with the symphony, said beginning the first concert of the season with “America the Beautiful” and a suite from “Carmen” is a calculated move to help the audience connect with classical music.

“I wanted to do a piece that would be an audience favorite,” Corbin told the Capital City Weekly shortly after speaking to the Juneau-Gastineau Rotary Club during its Thursday morning meeting.

Corbin, who is also an associate professor for George Fox University in Oregon, said one complaint he often hears leveled at classical music is that without vocals to key in on, it can be difficult for casual listeners to find a focal point, so the Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 concerts include especially melodic, memorable pieces.

He said if people recognize any piece of classical music, there’s a good chance they know “Habanera” from “Carmen.”

“There’s going to be very tuneful melodies, and it will be a treat for your ears in that way,” Corbin said.

“America the Beautiful” also pays homage to veterans given the concerts’ proximity to Veterans Day.

Symphony President Stan Lujan said starting the concert season with Corbin is also meant to start the season off well.

“He’s played in our symphony,” Lujan said. “We really love Dwayne. He’ll set the tone for the season. He’s really our anchor.”

The not-as-well-known works that constitute the second half of the upcoming November concerts will offer a “visceral” depth of emotion meant to appeal to listeners, Corbin said.

“It’s got a lot of passion, and sometimes takes really intense turns in emotion,” Corbin said

The concerts, which coincide with the symphony’s annual silent auction, also serve as a counter to the idea that classical music is a genre on its way out.

“That’s been a myth for at least 100 years,” Corbin said. “That’s not true.”

He said a vibrant Juneau arts community and the strength of the symphony helps disprove it and so does seeing a performance in-person.

“The energy of live music cannot be replaced,” Corbin said.

In addition to Corbin, the concerts will include another face familiar to Juneau — violinist Lisa Ibias will be a featured soloist in works by Saint-Saëns and Arvo Pärt.

Lujan said he’s excited she will be part of the concert.

There’s a chance for the general public to be included in a future concert, too.

Symphony Vice President Beth Pendleton expressed excitement for silent auction prizes that will be up for grabs at the concerts that will allow a bidder to pick up a baton.

“Folks can bid on conducting a number in the June pops concert,” Pendleton said.

More guests to come

Concerts in January, April and June will also feature guest conductors.

This is because of the June departure of the previous music director Troy Quinn.

Pendleton said Thursday morning the search is on to find a permanent replacement, but it’s still in its early stages.

“We’re just starting what is a three-year process of selecting a new music director and conductor,” Pendleton said.

She said a lot of interest is expected in the ongoing search, and applications are already coming in.

Three finalists will be selected to conduct a concert next year, and an announcement of a new music director is expected in 2020, Pendleton said.

Aside from Corbin, this year’s guest conductors include Tigran Arakelyan, William Todd Hunt and Yaniv Attar, respectively in January, April and June.

Know & Go

What: Juneau Symphony Symphonic Songs concert.

Where: Juneau-Douglas High School

When: 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, and 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 11.

Admission: $15-$35, and available online through, or at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center or Hearthside Books.

• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or

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