The orchestra tunes up. The music director enters the room to applause, takes the podium, lifts the baton. And the music fills the auditorium.

Anna James Miller

Executive Director of Bremerton Symphony Association

Anna James Miller and the Bremerton Symphony Association

The orchestra tunes up. The music director enters the room to applause, takes the podium, lifts the baton. And the music fills the auditorium.

Could you hear this same song on YouTube? Sure. But do you get the same effect? Not even close. And that’s why someone who doesn’t already know the music in the appropriate context is likely to close the app after five seconds.

Only when you attend the symphony in person can you understand the experience: the atmosphere created by music that has been played for decades or centuries. It’s music you feel with your entire being, not just sounds that come through earbuds or noise-cancelling headphones or even a surround sound system. In fact, researchers have shown that attending one of these concerts reduces stress, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, and even blocks pain through the release of endorphins.

Here in the Kitsap region, the Bremerton Symphony Association is one of the local performing arts organizations that provides that experience for us, and we have Anna Miller, the association’s executive director, pulling the strings behind the scenes to bring the musicians and audience together.

The business of producing art

Through her early career as a ballet dancer and instructor in Seattle, Anna saw firsthand that artists need someone to take care of the business aspect of making their art available to the public. She developed a passion for the business side while working for the Seattle Opera in arts administration, and she has brought her expertise in arts leadership here to Bremerton.

“In order for the arts to survive, we have to run it as a business,” Anna explains.

While the music directors choose their own music, Anna takes care of the project management: leading the strategic planning, marketing and development efforts; ensuring that the various repertoires are gathered into programs and printed for the performances; and taking care of the other myriad duties that go along with running the organization.

An opportunity to uncover new talents

Anna shares her knowledge and experience through internships with artists and others who want to learn the administrative side of the business. “Whenever I’m hiring people or working with volunteers, I try to find out why they’re excited and passionate about getting involved, and what their goals are. Then I try to help people meet their goals as much as I can.

“I love teaching people what I do and helping them discover some aspect of it that they’re really good at, that they never thought of before.”

Bremerton Symphony Association funding

She also makes sure that the money needed to run such a big organization is available when they need it. “It’s all nonprofit,” she explains. “It takes about $350,000 a year to run all the programs we do. We reinvest it all into the artform we’re making.”

Some of the money comes from ticket sales. There’s also a tuition fee for participants in the youth program, although scholarships are available for those who need financial assistance to join. However, a lot of the support for the organization comes from donations, private grants and public money.

Writing grant proposals is a skill that Anna particularly enjoys. “That’s a passion for me, when I get to do the storytelling, sharing with people why art and music are so important, and how part of our work here at the symphony is to preserve that art form so that our future generations can enjoy it.”

The leadership of the Bremerton Symphony Association

The Bremerton Symphony Orchestra, the Bremerton Symphony Chorale, and the Bremerton Youth Symphony are the three programs under the umbrella of the Bremerton Symphony Association. Anna ensures that we get the full benefit of the artistic talents of the music directors and artistic staff:

Alan Futterman – Music Director, Bremerton Symphony Orchestra

LeeAnne Campos – Music Director, Bremerton Symphony Chorale

Tigran Arakelyan – Music Director, Bremerton Youth Symphony

Derick Polk – Director, Bremerton Youth Jazz Ensemble

Gary Dahl – Associate Conductor, Bremerton Symphony Orchestra

The musicians of the Bremerton Symphony Association

“We have doctors and teachers and lawyers,” Anna tells me. “All different ages. We’ve had multi-generations within the orchestra at the same time. We’ve had people who were parent and child playing together or siblings or husband and wife. It’s just really cool that it brings people together in that way.

“Anybody who has a year or two of playing experience is eligible to apply for the youth program. They fill out a form and do the placement audition. Everyone’s accepted as long as they’re old enough and have a little bit of experience.”

The adult programs are open to musicians who can sight read music, are comfortable playing advanced pieces with practice, and are able to commit to rehearsals.

The programs fluctuate depending on participants. One year, for example, there were five ensembles, and another year, there were around 150 young people in the youth program. There are jazz and classical ensembles for musicians between the ages of 10 and 20, as well as the adult symphony and chorale.

Joining the Bremerton Symphony Association

You don’t have to be a musician to become a part of the Bremerton Symphony Association. There are employment and volunteer opportunities. You can also join through membership, which comes with a number of perks in addition to performance tickets. Sponsorships are also available.

The upcoming season

There are 12 opportunities to experience the totally immersive effects of live orchestra and chorale music through the Bremerton Symphony Association this season. Enjoy all the positive health benefits of the performances, and the sense of community that comes from sitting in the midst of your friends and neighbors, mingling with them before and after the concerts.

You can find the calendar for the upcoming programs, beginning with Classic Masterworks on October 20th at 7:30 p.m., and purchase single tickets or a season package at Bremerton Symphony Association.

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Photo of Beth Wilson

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