Letter from Jennifer Parker-Harley

I am writing in response to the article about the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the picture of me and my colleague, Mindy Ewing, that was printed on the front page of the Sunday (June 1) Metro section. It is important that members of the community know the backstory of the picture - not only was I moved to tears after what might have been the final concert of the Columbus Symphony, but because of the orchestra's current situation, my family and I will be leaving town.

I came to Columbus in 2000 after winning an audition at which 99 other flutists from across the country were present. At that time, the CSO was considered a 'destination' orchestra - an excellent group of musicians with very little turnover in personnel (resulting in their musical cohesiveness), fair compensation, and based in a very livable city. It is as part of this orchestra that I learned the ropes -I played all the major repertoire, I played in Carnegie Hall, I played under world-class conductors, I was the soloist in the Mozart Flute Concerto in G with the orchestra in January, 2008. These were all formative, growing experiences for me and through them all I was supported by the warmth and cameraderie that characterize this group.

As a member of the community at large, I put down roots. I arrived here as a newlywed and went on to own a home and give birth to two children at St. Anne's hospital. I began teaching at Otterbein College in 2003 and in my tenure there taught students that have gone on to teaching jobs in area public schools. I voted. I paid taxes. I built a life here.

This year, as the problems of the orchestra began to escalate, it became necessary to look elsewhere for employment. I am one of the six members of the orchestra who will be leaving Columbus, as I was recently appointed Assistant Professor of Flute at the University of South Carolina. My tears, as photographed after what may have been the CSO's last concert, were for more than the caption indicated. Even though I was born and raised in SC, Columbus has become my home. I am saddened beyond words to leave such a great orchestra and so many fine colleagues.

Like me, members of the orchestra have come here from across the country and the world to make this city their home. Many of my colleagues have spent their entire careers here, contributing to the orchestra, but also to the community through teaching, raising children, voting, paying taxes, buying homes. If the board does not do what is necessary for musicians to survive, the city will continue to lose these highly educated, contributing citizens.

Most, if not all of us, began music lessons as very young children. We have devoted many years, much time and countless dollars to the pursuit of beauty and expression through music. Here, in this city, we have provided a world class model of orchestral playing that has had a ripple effect on the cultural life of the entire region. I urge the citizens of Columbus and the board to consider what the community will lose, as, like me, other musicians are forced to move away in order to pursue their life's work.

Dr. Jennifer Parker-Harley
Second Flute, Columbus Symphony Orchestra/Assistant Professor of Music, University of South Carolina

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