Hixson leads LASO spring concert

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Opera > Program contains overture from “Carmen” which will be at S.F. Opera soon

By Gina Velasquez

The Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra will hold its spring concert in May and it will be conducted by Don Gerheart. The concert master will be Los Alamos High School alum Rachel Hixson.
The spring concert will be 7 p.m. May 2 at the Crossroads Bible Church. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
The program will consist of the following: Overture to Nabucco from Verdi, Carmen Suite No. 1 from Bizet and Symphony in D Minor from César Franck.
For Hixson, the program is a wide-range mix of classical rhythms and scales. She said she is looking forward to the duties of maintaining the orchestra and helping colleagues tune and bow their instruments.
“It is an excellent program,” Hixson said. “It is filled with fun overtures and Carmen is the perfect introduction to the Santa Fe Opera production coming up this season.”
Gerheart also said he enjoys the range of tempos in Carmen, such as the overture to the bull fighting scene in the opera to the march-like beats.
Gerheart admits the program is long and challenging. “It’s a nice variety of ranges,” he said. “Franck’s work is an extensive piece with many changing modulations.” The piece is several minutes long and switches from string to wind instruments.
There are complexities to all the works in the program. “It was a lot of music for us learn,” Hixson said of the “Overture to Nabucco.”
The orchestra is filled with members of the community with different levels of skill sets. Gerheart said the program meets the needs of both based on their experience. “The orchestra provides an outlet to utilize their talents,” he said.
The program is a collective effort with the musical director and the musical committee to decide on a program. The community members who participate spend more than eight weeks rehearsing for the concerts. There are two a year — one in the winter and one in the spring.
Gerheart is a retired band director and is currently the executive director of the New Mexico Educators Association. He has taught younger students in elementary and middle school around Los Alamos.
He began working with LASO in 2011 as a replacement conductor for the Holiday show, as well as in winter 2012 and spring 2013. He has been the permanent conductor since then.
Hixson has been playing the violin for 21 years and has been a part of LASO since 2008. Before then, she had participated in some concerts with LASO during her high school years. She won a scholarship through LASO in 2001.
She started playing the violin in the fourth grade while attending Chamisa Elementary in White Rock, under the direction of Helen Klare. “My dad said I just came home one day and said I wanted to play the violin,” she said.
Over the years, she has privately trained with many music afficinados around town, including Tom and Charmaine Webber and Marion Pack.
She has led the orchestra for the Los Alamos Choral Society as well.
She credits her mom and dad for encouragement to stick with it when things sometimes became difficult. She has an undergraduate degree in music from New Mexico State University and a masters degree in geography from Arizona State University.
She resides in Los Alamos and now works at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
In recent years she has played in the San Juan Symphony, the Roswell Symphony and a Santa Fe string chamber group, ESSO, in addition to the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra.