Grand piano headlines 30th anniversary season

The Columbus Indiana Philharmonic launches a key season Sept. 17.

A keyboard one as well, you might say. The seven-date ticketed schedule highlights the organization’s new gift: a world-class Shigeru Kawai Concert Grand Piano, donated by Enkei America Inc.

The local, 75-member professional orchestra’s season marks its 30th, created in 1987 from what essentially was the Columbus Symphony Orchestra umbrella agency called Columbus Pro Musica in order to create a professional ensemble, rather than a mostly volunteer one. The name of the organization was changed to Columbus Indiana Philharmonic in 1995, partly because people in the music world regularly confused the group with a Columbus, Ohio orchestra.

Music director David Bowden scrapped original plans for the new season when the new piano was announced in February. The instrument will be center stage in four of the season’s performances.

Twenty-six-year-old pianist Sean Chen performs Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3” at the opener at Judson Erne Auditorium in Columbus.

Nationally known jazz vocalist and pianist Ann Hampton Callaway, slated for an Oct. 29 show, has generated understandable preseason buzz, according to the Philharmonic staff. And Bowden has gushed publicly over having Timothy Noble, former baritone star for years at the Metropolitan Opera, sing the title role in the classic “Elijah” scheduled April 1.

The conductor acknowledged that he had to work on Noble a bit since the vocalist originally turned down the idea by telling Bowden he was no longer doing such performances. Noble currently serves as vocal music professor at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

The 2016-17 season

All concerts at Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St. in Columbus unless otherwise noted. Here is a list of guest artists and their highlight.

Sept. 17 — Guest artist Sean Chen performing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3.”

Oct. 29 — Jazz vocalist and pianist Ann Hampton Callaway composing an impromptu song from audience suggestions.

Nov. 19 — Guest artist Dan McKinley, formerly of Columbus, performing Carl Rütti’s “Organ Concerto.” First Christian Church, 516 Fifth St., Columbus.

Dec. 11 — Philharmonic Holidays with country-pop group The Wright Brothers, presenting holiday tunes at 3 and 7 p.m.

Feb. 4: Pianist Di Wu performing tunes from George Gershwin and Maurice Ravel.

April 1 — Baritone Metropolitan Opera soloist Timothy Noble performs as the title character in Felix Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.”

April 29 — Teen piano phenom Elliott Wuu performing Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Piano Concerto No. 2.”

May 26 — SALUTE! free outdoor concert honoring military veterans, 7 p.m., Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans, second and Brown streets in Columbus.

Ticket prices: Single tickets range from $5 to $55, available at or by calling 812-376-2638. Tickets available at the door for some concerts.

Package deals: Family Fun Pass, for a $25 membership fee, entitles concertgoers to heavily discounted ($10 adult and $5 child, compared to $50 and $25 for A zone tickets) “best seats available” at any concert in the season.

Philharmonic by the numbers

$76,000: First annual budget in 1987

$817,000: Annual budget today

500: Average concert attendance in 1987

850 to 900: Average concert attendance today

75: Typical number of musicians on stage for a concert

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.