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Murray Journal

The Murray Symphony is in tune with the city’s residents

Sep 04, 2022 10:48AM ● By Peri Kinder

By Peri Kinder | [email protected]

Music is a universal language that crosses all demographics, creating connection through a shared experience. Michelle Willis, music director for the Murray Symphony, said music also reflects community values and opens doors to imagination.

As a music teacher for nearly 30 years, Willis joined the group in 2018 and is now the principal music conductor for the symphony. Started in 1975, the Murray Symphony is getting close to celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“We’re one of the longer-standing community orchestras here in the valley and we pull musicians from all over, not just Murray,” Willis said. “We bring arts to the community and share the love of music and help people understand different types of music.”

Willis believes music should be accessible and available to everyone in the community. When she first moved to Utah, she lived in Herriman before it had become a big city and there were no arts programs available. She joined the arts council and has been building it ever since.

She said the value of music can’t be measured in a community and she’s excited to lead the Murray Symphony which has a tradition of great selections and performances. Even more than the public, the symphony is necessary for the musicians involved.

“It’s for the members because they don’t do music for a living and they need an escape from their busy work life or raising children. Music is their outlet,” she said. “It gives them a place, not only to practice music, but to form a new family relationship. That’s one of our big things for us, we’re a musical family. We give them a space to express their talent in a very non-judgmental, friendly place.”

After nearly a half-century of performing, the Murray Symphony has gained a reputation for excellence. With 76 musicians, ranging in age from 17 to 85, the symphony is considered non-audition, although auditions are held for principal positions to ensure the musician’s ability and work ethic fit in with the leadership role.

Musicians from as far away as Evanston, Wyoming, play with the group and there is always a waiting list for people who want to be part of the symphony orchestra.

“We’ve been around long enough that they come looking for us,” Willis said. “We get anywhere from 25 to 50 each year saying they want to join and obviously we can’t take them all.”

The Murray Symphony holds five concerts each year and it will be starting an educational outreach program in partnership with the Murray Arts Advisory Board. Elementary students in Murray School District will take part in a performance that includes classroom material that will hopefully build a love for music in the students.

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Willis said the public benefits from hearing live music performed by people who love what they do, and musicians benefit from participating in something they love and building camaraderie.

“They come here and they’re fulfilled,” she said. “It’s something that just brings them joy. They see it builds community and bonds in a special way. It’s just a great place to be and feel each other’s energ….People are realizing we’re here for each other. I think that’s really been helpful to bring us closer.”