The Wilmington Symphony Orchestra instilled a lot of heart and community spirit into their performance at the Wilson Center this past Sunday. As usual with a WSO concert, the lobby was filled with the warm hum of friends and family uniting, chattering in anticipation of the evening’s musical enchantments. The pre-show music provided a wonderful background for the excitement while also providing an entertaining spectacle in its own right. The Wilmington Symphony Rockestra (a branch of the Wilmington Symphony Youth Orchestra, directed by Lisa Gattuso) treated the incoming audience to classical renditions of classic rock tunes, such as Deep Purple‘s ’70s anthem “Smoke on the Water.”

As the crowd took their seats, WSO’s executive director, Liz Scanlon, took to the stage and made a short, touching speech. Projected on a big screen above the orchestra was picture; it showed a young girl during what appeared to be a violin lesson with a bright, loving teacher. Scanlon talked about how meaningful the WSO youth programs are. She then noted that the young girl in the photo was none other than the evening’s soloist, Molly Hines, when she was just 4 years old! Hines’ return to Wilmington, Scanlon said, shows the “cyclical nature of what we do.”

Scanlon then turned our attention to the teacher in the photograph, Lorraine Westermark, a widely beloved violin teacher and gifted musician. Westermark passed away earlier this month, though her husband, Hans, sat front and center as the audience honored his late wife. Scanlon, on behalf of WSO, dedicated the evening’s performance to Ms. Westermark.

Westermark was perhaps most known for founding the Suzuki Talent Education of Wilmington. Suzuki, as an educational practice, treats music like language; kids start young, they learn to listen, to play, to communicate, and to read. Scanlon called Westermark “the grandmother of Suzuki.” The Wilson Center erupted in applause for this local musical hero.

Westermark wasn’t the only teacher honored during Scanlon’s introduction. Beverly Andrews, also in attendance, was mentioned for her incredible work with young, local musicians. Andrews, who also served 14 years as concertmaster for WSO, reinforced the notion that WSO’s educational programs cycle back into the community. The biggest takeaway from the night might have been the scale and the proficiency of Wilmington’s youth music programs — parents and kids in the area should really take advantage of such an invaluable resource.

The concert began with a performance of Brahms‘ Serenade No. 2 in A, op. 16. Composed in 1859, Brahms dedicated the piece to German violinist Clara Schumann, recently widowed after the loss of her husband, famed German composer Robert Schumann. WSO brought a renewed energy to the piece, balancing its forcefulness and its playfulness with grace. The second movement, Scherzo: Vivace, barreled out at the audience, building up to a quick and powerful ending! The musicians effortlessly moved into the following two movements, Adagio non Troppo and Quasi Meneutto, playing with a spirited delicacy. In the final movement, Rondo: Allegro, the orchestra most craftily balanced these two forces, taking the energy from a jaunt to a full gallop with ease.

After the intermission, the orchestra welcomed soloist Hines to the stage. She came out in an elegantly flowing green dress and took her spot center stage — the audience was primed to be blown away! Beethoven‘s Violin Concerto in D, op. 61 has a bumpy history. It was a flop at its premiere in 1806 and went relatively unknown for nearly half a century. Today, it has become one of the most well-known violin concertos of all time, and Hines’ performance went above and beyond expectations. The piece calls for extremely long runs, fast-paced and slurred to make them sound smooth. Those who sat close to the stage could observe her intricate finger work, which in and of itself was as mesmerizing as the music that it produced. Hines played with passion, fusing emotions and technical ability into something truly enchanting.

After the concerto ended, the crowd jumped to their feet in vigorous applause. Jane Radack, a violinist in the orchestra whose daughter was a close childhood friend of Hines, gave the soloist a beautiful bouquet of flowers in celebration of her triumphant return to Wilmington. Hines left the stage and returned for three sets of bows because the applause just kept coming. It was a touching moment and closed an already meaningful night.

The Wilmington Symphony Orchestra exudes a powerful sense of pride in the community, and the events they put on reflect that. Their concerts would please music lovers of all levels. From the most professional musician to the most casual listener: with the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra, you can trust it will be a worthwhile time!