American conductor, author and composer Leonard Slatkin said the role of an orchestra in the 21st century isn't just playing, it's about developing future audiences and performers. Fletcher Rudd, 52 years Slatkin's junior, couldn't agree more.
Rudd, and a highly qualified team of musical performers, last month coalesced to form a string ensemble - the first of its kind in Mansfield, known as the Next Gen Chamber Players.
"We announced we were coming to Mansfield in early May, so we're relatively new," Rudd said.
The idea came to Rudd when a musical ensemble he was acquainted with from Keene disbanded.
"Last season one of its former members tried reviving the group and moving to Mansfield," Rudd said. "It didn't work so we went our separate ways."
What didn't go away was Rudd's passion for music and the desire to create an exceptional ensemble.
"I was thinking, ‘lets finish this project, let's go to Mansfield' and see who might like to host an orchestra; let's see how the community feels about it."
Rudd said he remained confident based on the news he'd heard that Mansfield ISD is starting a strings program beginning in the fall when school begins.
"It's encouraging news," Rudd said. "Students will have an orchestra in their backyard. We're making plans. Once we get closer to August, we hope to get with the school district and have a back to school event."
Rudd said most of the musicians who participate in the ensemble are scattered throughout the Metroplex and attend at universities like the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas Christian University, University of North Texas and Texas Women's University.
"Early I put the word out we were looking for a home, concert space...for help," Rudd said. "First Methodist Mansfield Worship Arts Director Dr. Scott Ferrell reached out and said he'd like to meet and discuss our future goals."
Right away the church opened their arms to them Rudd said.
“Fletcher reached out to me looking for a place to rehearse. When he told me he wanted to be based in Mansfield and assist our new MISD strings program, I was all ears,” Ferrell said. “I mentioned ever since I started working in Mansfield, I've wanted a string ensemble; even tried to start one myself early on, but was unsuccessful.”
Ferrell said he was impressed with Fletcher’s desire to help young people during the summer months.
“So far we're having a great time helping each other out,” Ferrell added. “A small group of his players have been playing for our worship services at 11am on Sunday morning and five of them will be playing our production of Oklahoma! on July 22-23 and July 29-30.
Ferrell said they’re “very excited” to be supporting the new ensemble in Mansfield and hope our community will “show up in droves” to support them as well.
"Honestly, that was the biggest milestone," Rudd said. "That someone was offering us incredible support. Concerts will be in the chapel which is perfect in size and a lovely intimate setting. The stage is not too far from the audience; it'll be a great fit."
Rudd said auditions are already taking place for the upcoming season beginning in August.
The first concert will be a string quartet performance where Rudd will be playing cello with other members of the Next Gen Chamber Players in August. The foursome will be performing Antonin Dvorak's "American" String Quartet. There will be five additional concerts starting with the fall premiere in October; the winter show in December; a concert in February and April; and the finale in May on Memorial Day.
Most of the time the ensemble will host 20 musicians total with a cap at 30.
"Anyone can try out including high school students as long as they are capable of playing at a high level including advanced pieces," Rudd added.
As for the name of the group Rudd said he wanted it to be "catchy."
"Most of us are millennials; I wanted something that reflected that," he said. "It's a name people won't forget."
The message behind their musical performance, Rudd said was to be professional but not "elitist."
"We want it to be a little more laid back, have it open where we can interact with the audience throughout the concert," Rudd said. "Though we are non-profit, we want to be an organization people want. I feel since there's not been an orchestra presence before in Mansfield there's demand for it."
Rosalie Gilbert, Cultural Arts Coordinator for the Mansfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she was excited to have an orchestra in town.
"I'm a professionally trained harpist myself, so this is very near and dear to my heart,' Gilbert said. "We're delighted to support Fletcher and the Next Gen Chamber Players in any way we can."
The first season will be free and open to the public.
"We have a passion," Rudd said. "We want to educate and serve the community."
Lance Winter: 817-390-7274
Did you know?
That Next Gen Chamber Players will be premiering pieces throughout the season by its Resident Composer, Kevin Day. Day is a senior at Texas Christian University majoring in Performance and Composition. He's written over 120 works and the group is extremely excited to have him on board as its first composer-in-residence for the upcoming season.
Reach out to Fletcher:
Fletcher Rudd, Artistic Director & Conductor