Springfield, Ohio - Following in the footsteps of famed Leonard Bernstein, whose big break came when a conductor became ill at the last minute before a concert, Wittenberg University junior Erin Mowrey made her professional music debut as the harpist with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra (DPO) this weekend. The significance of Mowrey's moment in the spotlight was enhanced by the fact that she also celebrated her 21st birthday as she performed with the DPO during the opening number, Kodaly's "Peacock Variations," with Music Director Neal Gittleman at the helm.
The principal harpist for the DPO took a leave of absence for the 2002-2003 season and the harpist hired recently to play during the absence was unable to perform during this weekend's concerts. Mowrey, of Toledo, Ohio, received an invitation to perform with the DPO about 10 days ago and had just one week to learn the music. She also had to juggle two rehearsals and a dress rehearsal in addition to her required Wittenberg coursework.
"It is a scary situation for any seasoned performer to fill in at the last minute because one is not able to practice and prepare," said Steven Winteregg, a professor of music at Wittenberg. "It takes a special person who is able to 'fill the breach' so to speak and to allow the concert to go on. This is really a tribute to Erin's musicianship and character," he added.
At Wittenberg, Mowry is a double major in economics and music with a minor in management. While she currently plays harp for the Miami Valley Symphony and the Wittenberg Symphonic Band, this was her first experience with a professional orchestra - an impressive leap after only four years of studying harp. While in college, Mowrey continues to study privately with Joan Seymour of Fairborn, Ohio. Her first year of instruction came under the direction of Nancy Lendrim of the Toledo Symphony.
"I cannot believe I've been given such an opportunity to play with so many gifted musicians," Mowrey said. "Feelings of nervousness, anxiety and excitement were all around me as I prepared for this challenge."
Upon graduation from Wittenberg in 2004, Mowrey, who also founded the current Wittenberg women's golf club and serves as its president, plans to attend law school.
Her parents, John and Pat Mowrey of Toledo, were unable to be in the audience for their daughter's debut on Memorial Hall's stage but she is certain "they cheered me on back in Toledo." She also had the proud support of one of her Wittenberg economics professors, Frederick Tiffany, who was clapping for Mowrey as an audience member and regular DPO attendee. Mowrey currently has professor Tiffany for intermediate microeconomic theory. Suppose her grade might be boosted by a stellar performance? It was her birthday after all.
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