A hush falls over the crowd as the conductor raises the baton. With a few brief taps on the music stand, the musicians raise their instruments in rapt attention. Then, confusion sets in. The person standing before the symphony isn't Robert Bernhardt, Chattanooga Symphony and Opera's (CSO) music director and conductor for the past 17 years.
Who is this mystery maestro? Well, that depends on you.
In a first-ever "Celebrity Conductor Contest," the people will elect one of four community leaders to preside over - and conduct - a portion of "Pops on the River." The annual concert, held July 3, usually attracts around 40,000 spectators. This new kingly position will be determined by communitywide voting beginning later this month.
With a $20 donation, you can purchase one vote and help elect one of the following candidates: Jeff Styles, Jim Catanzaro, Carolyn Thompson or Linda Friberg.
Contenders were nominated by the CSO's volunteer guild based on their community leadership and involvement with the symphony. Funds raised from this project will support CSO education and outreach efforts including their Young People's Concerts, which reach more than 5,000 students each year. The Ensembles in Schools program, which introduces area school children to instruments of the orchestra, will also benefit.
The winner of the "Celebrity Conductor Contest" will be announced at the CSO's annual gala, held this year on May 14 at the Chattanooga Trade and Convention Center.
Ladies and Gentleman, Cast Your Ballot! Visit www.chattanoogasymphony.org beginning March 22 to cast your vote for your favorite guest conductor. A $20 donation will purchase one vote, with proceeds going to CSO's outreach and education efforts.