"Music can change the world." ~Ludwig van Beethoven
The Powder River Symphony had its beginnings as the Gillette Community Orchestra on November 23rd, 1986. The orchestra, consisting of band and orchestra students from local schools and other community residents, was formed in September to give members a chance to play in a full orchestra. Susan Barry (the first strings instructor in the Campbell County School District) was the first conductor of the 25-member orchestra.
In the summer of 1987, Maestro Curtis Peacock became the conductor of the newly incorporated Powder River Symphony. The symphony performed in local schools and churches until March 19, 1989, when the newly opened Cam-Plex Heritage Center Theater became the group's new home. Concerts are still being held at this venue, as the Heritage Center is one of the largest publicly accessible performance facilities in the region, with a stage designed for multi-use, adequate lighting and support areas capable of hosting a full symphony orchestra.
The Symphony was founded on the belief that, "Great music should be available to everyone." The Mission of the PRS is threefold: to enrich the cultural lives of adults, expand the musical horizons of children and provide an outlet for the creative talents of musicians living in northeast and central Wyoming. The PRS traditionally serves the citizens that reside throughout the area of the Powder River Basin--Campbell, Crook, Weston, Johnson, Sheridan and Northern Natrona and Converse counties. Students in this area do not have easy access to performances and guest artists. As a primary cultural resource for the area, the PRS provides outreach into the schools with professional artists and conductors, as well as providing professional development for music educators.
In the autumn of 2006, Mr. Steven Trinkle became the second conductor of the PRS--a position he would hold for five years. During his tenure, changes were implemented in keeping with the Mission statement and to this end, all children 18 years of age and under are admitted free to the concerts when accompanied by a paying adult, and more recently, Gillette College students are able to attend free of charge by showing their ID card. Mr. Trinkle also took advantage of local radio stations and public access television prior to each concert and subsequent airing of performances after the events helped to increase the audience viewing the concerts and listening to interviews.
The Powder River Symphony was pleased to welcome its third conductor, Mr. Norman Gamboa, for the last concert of their 25th Season in the spring of 2011. Today the PRS consists of approximately 40 local musicians (citizens and students from Campbell County) who volunteer their time and talents, and the group is still supplemented by professional paid musicians from the surrounding area.
Besides funding from local support and grants, the PRS holds two major fundraisers during the Concert Season. The first is the Ghostly Gallop 5K & 10K Fun Run and Walk, which is held the last Sat. morning before Halloween. Attendance has continued to grow the past three years, and all are welcome...even dogs! Awards are given out for the Best Costumes, as well as shirts and medals for those who race and walk. The Parade of Homes is held either the first or second Sunday afternoon in Dec. It has become an annual event in Gillette to help kick off the Holiday Season and the money raised helps go toward scholarships for High School Seniors who have participated in the Symphony.
For more information about the Powder River Symphony, be sure to take a look at the symphony facebook page. Concert information is listed here, as well as prices for concerts, information about the fundraisers, pictures of the musicians and who to contact in case of questions.