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Photo by Brad Cansler / Kayoko Dan is music director and conductor of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, which opens its 87th season on Thursday night.

The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera embarks upon its 87th season this week with Russian composers at the forefront, women composers spotlighted throughout the season and a Broadway bombshell waiting in the wings. Add one of the most recognizable symphonies in the Western world and sprinkle with a little Disney magic, and you have the makings of a memorable year.

The 2019-20 season has "so many noteworthy programs," says Samantha Teter, CSO executive director, citing the focus on female composers in the Masterworks and Chamber series as especially important to her.

"We're offering a spotlight on the contributions of women in classical music, in addition to featuring several female guest artists such as Gloria Chien and Mela Dailey," she says.

Music director and conductor Kayoko Dan says she was inspired by composer Rob Deemer's initiative with Institute for Composer Diversity for adding the female composers to this year's lineup. Housed at the State University of New York at Fredonia, the institute offers a widely hailed Composer Diversity Database, which allows users to browse through almost 4,000 composers, and a newly updated ICD Works Database, which enables searches for individual compositions.

Deemer has said the databases have been a way to combat the "inherent bias against underrepresented composers. "Until now, students in elementary, junior high and high school have rarely if ever been introduced to women composers and composers of color, except as special outliers," he told I Care If You Listen, a blog and video platform devoted to contemporary classical music.


Individual tickets range from $15 to $85 for Masterworks and Pops concerts, $28 to $80 for the Disney special event. Chamber concerts are $28 for adults, $15 for students.

For Masterworks only, children 17 and younger can attend for free with a paid adult.

For all series, discounts are available for students and music educators.

Subscription tickets also are available.

To purchase, go to or call the box office at 423-267-8583.

"The situation doesn't improve at the university level, so by the time most musicians have completed their training and achieved a professional career, they have little to no exposure to and experience with composers outside the canon — especially women composers and composers of color," he said.

Dan says she sees the CSO initiative as a small part of a larger movement.

"Much like a ship, it is much easier to steer a smaller ship than a larger vessel," she says. "I believe a regional orchestra like ours should take more of a lead in changing the programming practice in the orchestral world to address the lack of diversity in our field."

The season opens Thursday with a Masterworks concert highlighting the works of Russian composers Shostakovich & Rachmaninoff.

"Throughout the season, you will hear beloved masterworks such as Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" and Ravel's "Daphnis and Chloe," Dan says. "In addition, we are featuring seven female composers, including Lili Boulanger, Wang Jie and Gabriela Lena Frank to name a few."

Beethoven's Fifth on Jan. 23 will be a chance to hear familiar music, even if you don't know it by name. The work's opening notes — da-da-da-daaaa — are some of the most iconic in all of music.

The Chamber Series will include Beethoven's Symphony No. 2, Mozart's Quintet for Piano and Winds, Mozart's Symphony No. 41 and "The American Four Seasons" by living composer Philip Glass. The Chattanooga Ballet will also choreograph and perform to Stravinsky's "Apollo Musagète."

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Tony Award-winning singer/dancer/actress Bernadette Peters will entertain in an October Pops concert with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera. / Photo by Andrew Eccles

The Masterworks and Chamber series concerts also will feature notable soloists, Dan says, including Steven Lin on Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, Thomas Landschoot on Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 1 and Gloria Chien on Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2. The CSO Chorus, Lee University Chorale and UTC Chamber Singers will be featured in April for the performance of "Dona Nobis Pacem," Latin for "grant us peace."

Breaking from the formal compositions, the CSO will offer a slate of five Pops concerts, one of which is already creating buzz among patrons as well as the musicians.

"As a Broadway lover myself, I couldn't be more thrilled to have the amazing Bernadette Peters with us in October," Teter says.

Peters is one of Broadway's most critically acclaimed performers with two Tony Awards (out of seven nominations) and three Drama Desk Awards (out of nine nominations).

Known for its diverse and rich programming, the Pops Series also will bring beloved film scores to life in "Lights! Camera! Pops!" and give audiences the opportunity to hear some of rock 'n' roll's greatest hits in a new way with "The Music of Billy Joel & More." The series will also include a favorite holiday music tradition, "Home for the Holidays," as well as the popular annual swing concert, "Big Band Fever."

Finally, a special event in the spring, Disney in Concert: A Tale as Old as Time, "will certainly delight all generations," Teter predicts, especially since a 2016 Disney performance sold out.

"I couldn't be happier about the season, and I hope that the community embraces all that we have to offer," she says.

Contact Lisa Denton at or 423-757-6281.


CSO 2019-20 season

Masterworks Series: Concerts take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Tivoli Theatre.
* Sept. 26: “Shostakovich & Rachmaninof” (opening night)

* Oct. 24: “Miraculous Mandarin”

* Nov. 21: “Daphnis and Chloe”

* Jan. 23: Beethoven’s Fifth

* March 5: Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2

* April 2: “Dona Nobis Pacem”

* April 30: “Pictures at an Exhibition”

Pops Series: Most concerts take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays in the Tivoli Theatre. “Home for the Holidays” adds a 3 p.m. Sunday performance. “Big Band Fever” is Friday and Saturday night.
* Oct. 12: “An Evening with Bernadette Peters

* Dec. 21-22: “Home for the Holidays”

* Feb. 14-15: “Big Band Fever”

* March 21: “Lights! Camera! Pops!”

* April 18: “The Music of Billy Joel & More”

Chamber Series: Concerts start at 3 p.m. Sundays in the Chattanooga State Community College Humanities Theatre.
* Oct. 6: “Haydn & Glass”

* Nov. 3: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2

* Jan. 12: “Mozart & More”

* March 15: “Apollo & Jupiter”

Special event: Two Saturday performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. at the Tivoli Theatre.

* March 28: Disney in Concert: A Tale as Old as Time