ASHTABULA AREA ORCHESTRA – HISTORY
On March 9, 1982, a group of local musicians met to play chamber music with the intention of forming a string orchestra. Harbor Band Director and cellist Oliver Kaura originated the orchestra. Clarinetist William Church served as the first conductor, followed by the late Karl Meinhardt.
Second Congregational Church kindly allowed the group to use their building for rehearsals. Later, the group moved to Bethany Lutheran, followed by a move to First Presbyterian. Each week the ambitious players — five violins, one viola, two cellos, one string bass, and several wind and brass instruments — “chipped in” to buy the sheet music used during rehearsals.
The then named Ashtabula Chamber Orchestra held its first concert on October 24, 1982 at First Presbyterian Church. The program included selections by Bach, Shubert, Bizet, Handel, Mozart, Strauss, and Hamlisch. Three years after the first concert, and after negotiations with Kent State University, the all-volunteer group became the “orchestra in residence” for the university, playing for commencements and other area programs.
Soon after, the group hired its first paid member: professional Music Director David Borsvold of Cleveland. With his impressive credentials in hand, David Borsvold worked diligently for six years for very little pay to shape the group into an orchestra. Eventually it became a non-profit (501-C3) organization, with a Board of Directors. The musicians and support group, now known as the Ashtabula Area Orchestra , Inc. (AAO), was also established.
In 1992, Mr. Borsvold resigned to accept another position, but his work with the group was noticed and helped to attract Michael Gelfand, Professor of Music at Dana School of Music, Youngstown State University. Under Mr. Gelfand’s direction, the group grew musically and in numbers to over 55 musicians, many of whom are professionals coming from the Cleveland, Youngstown and Erie areas.
In the fall of 2008 the AAO appointed one of its founding members, flautist George Doviak, to serve as the orchestra’s fourth Music Director and conductor. He led the group for seven seasons, as it began its residency at Lakeside High School’s new Performing Arts Center.
In 2016, Mr. Doviak stepped down and passed the baton to our current Conductor and Music Director, Timothy Carlson, who was principal trumpeter of the Orchestra. Carlson coaches and performs with several regional brass ensembles, and has been a band director for over 29 years at Grand Valley and Elmwood Local Schools.