Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Symphony’s next season features classics, new works, blend of genres

Next season’s Spokane Symphony calendar includes classics like “Rhapsody in Blue,” Joseph Haydn’s “Creation,” Beethoven classics and new ventures, like a TikTok-famous conductor, a 2024 Grammy-award winning song and artificial intelligence experimentation.

“What we try and do at the symphony is put together a menu,” Spokane Symphony music director James Lowe said. “What I want is anyone in Spokane to pick up a brochure and say, ‘Oh that looks great, I like the sound of that.’ ”

Here’s what the symphony will dish up:


The season will open with Masterworks 1: “The Turning World” on Sept. 14 and Sept. 15, featuring guest pianist Awadagin Pratt.

“We have Max Richter, a living composer, who, if you don’t know the name, you’ve certainly heard his music,” Lowe said about the opening night song “On the Nature of Daylight.” “It’s really cool, minimalist, really beautiful stuff.”

Pratt will perform Jessie Montgomery’s “Rounds,” which won a Grammy this year.

The opening night is capped by Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

On Oct. 5 and Oct. 6, the symphony will offer Masterworks 2: “Scotland the Brave,” a night of music inspired by the “untamable” country. Songs includes Felix Mendelssohn’s Third Symphony, Aileen Sweeney’s “Glisk” and Christopher Rouse’s Gaelic-inspired flute concerto, featuring the symphony’s principal flutist Julia Pyke.

Masterworks 3: “An American Celebration” on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3 will be led by Morihiko Nakahara, the South Carolina Philharmonic’s conductor (and a former Spokane Symphony resident conductor)with guest pianist Sara Davis Buechner. The night will honor the 100th anniversary of “Rhapsody in Blue,” and will open with the “Celebration Overture” of local composer Greg Yasinitsky. In a nod to dance, the second half of the night will feature John Adam’s “Cha Cha for Chairman Mao” and Leonard Bernstein’s work from “On the Town,” depicting sailors on shore leave in the Big Apple.

In 2025, Jan. 18 and Jan. 19 will see Masterworks 4: “Beethoven vs. A.I.”

“I’m personally most excited about this,” Spokane Symphony marketing director Kathy Gustafson said. “There will be a town hall before the show about AI,” she said. “It’s really good, but also really scary.”

In partnership with local software engineer IntelliTect, audiences will hear AI’s completion of the third movement of Beethoven’s unfinished 10th Symphony set against the work of composer (and human) Barry Cooper.

The night will be capped with Beethoven’s own “Eroica” Symphony, which Lowe says is set apart from the Cooper and AI compositions.

“The genius of him really shines out,” Lowe said. “But what I’m curious about is did a human complete it better or AI?”

The town hall will allow the audience to debate AI’s influence.

“This is an issue that’s going to affect all of us in the next few years,” Lowe said, “and I’m just curious to see how our audience will feel about it.”

For Masterworks 5: “Daybreak of Freedom” on Feb. 1 and 2, the Spokane Symphony Chorale, directed by Meg Stohlman, will join Lowe and speaker Kitara Johnson-Jones in showcasing Beethoven music surrounding the theme of victory, Williams Dawon’s “Negro Folk” Symphony and Joseph Schwantner’s “New Morning for the World” set to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches.

Lowe called Schwantner’s piece, “a real challenge” for the percussion section, which will undergo quite the test with multiple percussionists retiring from the symphony in May.

“Just this last week, we appointed an entirely new percussion section,” Lowe said Tuesday.

On March 1 and March 2, former Spokane Symphony assistant conductor Shira Samuels-Shragg will make her Masterworks debut with Masterworks 6: “L.A. Stories” and Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony. The night will be opened with Quinn Mason’s joyous “Toast of the Town.” Guest violinist Gabrielle Després will join to play Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Hollywood-inspired violin concerto.

Concertmaster Mateusz Wolski, led by Lowe, will play Max Bruch’s First Violin Concerto, as part of Masterworks 7: “Mateusz Plays Bruch” on March 29 and March 30. The concerto has dominated the violin repertoire since its first performance, “much to the annoyance of its composer.” The night will also showcase the First Symphony of Jean Sibelius.

For Masterworks 8: “Let There Be Light” on April 26 and 27, chorale director Stohlmann and her symphony chorale will rejoin Lowe, this time to perform Haydn’s “Creation,” depicting biblical genesis through celestial choruses and vivid orchestration.

“I’m also kind of excited because we have some familiar faces coming back,” Lowe said. “Zuill Bailey is coming back as a soloist.”

The final Masterworks, Masterworks 9: “Tales of Hemingway” will showcase Grammy award-winning cellist Bailey playing the piece that won him Best Classical Instrumental Solo in 2016 for his recording of American composer Michael Duaghterty’s cello concerto.

Ticket subscription for the nine Masterworks concerts range from $162-$558.


The first Pops concert of the year will take place Sept. 28: “What A Wonderful World: Legend of New Orleans.” The night will feature guest trumpeter Byron Stripling’s tribute to musical legends of New Orleans, such as Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson and Al Hirt. Stripling offers a spirited, signature version of, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

On Nov. 9, Pops 2: “Cody Fry,” conducted by Nakahara, features the work of TikTok star and “American Idol” contestant Cody Fry, who will join the symphony.

“If you’re on TikTok, you probably know who Cody Fry is,” Lowe said of the genre-bending composer. “If you’re not, we thought it’d be great, because he’s such a brilliant musician.”

Come the end of December is Pops 3: “Holiday Pops: Christmas at the Movies.” Nakahara will lead the symphony in songs from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Home Alone,” “Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Die Hard,” which, yes, some people consider a holiday film. An audience carol singalong and Santa are among the family-friendly holiday surprises.

On March 15, is Pops 4: “The Music of James Bond and More.” Jingqi Zhu conducts the symphony alongside singers Hugh Panaro and Chloe Lowery with the melodies of Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon, Adele and more.

The final Pops concert of the year, Pops 5: “Pink Martini,” takes place April 5 and 6. Nakahara leads the self-described “little orchestra,” of Portland, as it reunites with Spokane’s “big orchestra.” The music will span jazz to cabaret to retro pop in more than 25 languages.

Ticket subscriptions for the five Pops concerts range from $202-$422.

Other events to watch for

In addition to Masterworks and Pops, the symphony offers a number of series, including Chamber Soirées, at the Historic Davenport in downtown Spokane.

Masterworks & Mimosas offers a sneak peek during Saturday morning rehearsals, during which audiences can watch the conductor shape and refine the weekend’s music. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. at the Fox and tickets include one mimosa, coffee and gourmet pastry.

Other special events include the return of the music of “Harry Potter” (and other Halloween favorites) on Oct. 26; Handel’s “Messiah” at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Nov. 21-23; the Nutcracker Ballet with State Street Ballet in early December (with one sensory-friendly offering); New Year’s Eve with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; a recomposition by Max Richter of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” featuring Spokane DJ rosethrow’s electronica spin on Valentine’s Day; and “Return of the Jedi” film backed by a Nakahara-conducted symphony playing John Williams’ epic soundtrack on May 4.

In a dual centennial celebration, Arbor Crest’s Cliff House estate is turning 100, so conductor Zhu will lead Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” of 1924, with an ensemble of symphony musicians joined by pianist Priscila Navarro and jazz vocalist Heather Villa on June 5. Arbor Crest food trucks, a grill and bar will be open with tables available for purchase.

For those looking to take in music, but not spend money, free symphony concerts run Labor Day weekend at the Liberty Lake Pavillion Park and Comstock Park. Plus, every Thursday at noon before a Masterworks weekend in which music director Lowe is conducting, Lowe gives his “LoweDown” for free at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. His talks include historical context, “juicy gossip” about the composers’ lives, music clips and visuals. Lowe invites a musician from the orchestra to demonstrate and join in the question-and-answer session at the end of the hour.

Symphony season ticketholders have until July 19 to renew their seats. Single tickets for concerts will go on sale to the general public on Aug. 16. Single-sale and season tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the Fox box office at (509) 624-1200.

“The symphony is for everyone,” Lowe said. “If you haven’t been, come and give it a try.”