By MARLA PISCIOTTA ∙ For The State Journal
SHEPHERDSTOWN — In March 2008, the Two Rivers Chamber Orchestra, or 2RCO, made its debut before a standing-room only audience in the Frank Arts Center of Shepherd University.
It began under the inspiration of Mark McCoy.
"McCoy solicited funds and 37 founders contributed $1,000 each to fund the first season," said Neal Barkus, president of Friends of Music Inc.
The chamber features between 30 and 45 musicians from the Baltimore-Washington area, 85 percent of whom are professional musicians. Some musicians are faculty members at Shepherd University.
Barkus said the sound coming from this small orchestra is comparable to a large orchestra.
He said a person attending a performance at the 450-seat Frank Arts Center often feels like they are in the lap of the musicians as they play.
"You can pick out the individual sound of the instruments," said Barkus. "The type of music played requires one or two instruments of the same type. For instance instead of 10 trombones and 10 French horns, we have one or two like instruments."
Since its debut in 2008 2RCO has performed nine concerts. The group has been invited to Italy, Switzerland, England, France, Ireland and Germany and it performed at Carnegie Hall, the great cathedrals of Europe, the Montreux Jazz Festival, Giants Stadium and a host of other venues.
"Almost every concert has a principal guest who does a solo with the orchestra," said Barkus.
The orchestra is getting ready to enter a new phase, however. McCoy is leaving the orchestra and the board of directors of Friends of Music is looking for a new conductor.
So far, they have auditioned Tara Simoncic and Steven Szarkowski as guest conductors. A third guest conductor, Jed Gaylin will be auditioning this fall.
Barkus said following the Gaylin audition the board will take input from the members of the orchestra and from the community before they make a decision on choosing the new conductor.
Barkus said he didn't' know what type of music the new conductor will like, but he hopes it's similar to what McCoy liked.
"Dr. McCoy really likes what he calls new music from Latin America and Mexico," said Barkus.
Barkus said McCoy feels some classical music like Beethoven and Bach got too far from singing and dancing.
"McCoy felt the music separated itself from the people," said Barkus. "He said music should be as much fun as possible."