News Column

MSSU music professor takes on programming for Pro Musica

September 8, 2013


Sept. 08--If you have never listened to the sweet sound of a classic string quartet or heard 17th-century music played on Baroque-era instruments, then Brian Fronzaglia has a challenge for you.

"I would encourage people to come give it a chance to see how intimate it is," he said. "It is my wish that everybody who reads this article comes to at least one Pro Musica concert. Give it a chance."

Fronzaglia, a musician by both profession and hobby, has taken the helm of programming as Pro Musica Joplin kicks off its 33rd year and prepares for its first concert of the season next week.

The organization was founded in 1981 by Cynthia Schwab to bring classical music to the Joplin area. Originally called the St. Philip's Concert Series, it presented one concert during its inaugural year.

This year's lineup features eight concerts -- most are free -- playing in several local churches and at Missouri Southern State University.

To keep up with its growing success and to create a succession plan for the next few decades, Pro Musica recently underwent some administrative changes, according to Joe Kirk, president of the board of directors. Schwab became the founder-director emerita, while the board brought on Bonnie Yetter as managing director to handle the nuts and bolts of the organization's operations.

The board found its artistic director in Fronzaglia, a percussion professor and director of athletic bands at Missouri Southern.

Music lover

Fronzaglia, a former member of Marimba Sol de Chiapas and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps, was the founding director of the Kansas City Royals' "Royal Thunder" drum line, which performed at the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, and a founding member of the St. Louis Rams' "Battering Rams" drum line. He has worked for the Yamaha Sounds of Summer camps, the Grumo Music Festival in Italy, the Flint Institute of Music and Penn State University.

Fronzaglia -- who, at 33, is the same age as Pro Musica -- seemed to be a natural fit because music has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He said he began piano lessons at age 4 and had drumsticks in his hands by age 5. His first cassette tapes were the music of George Gershwin, and the first record he owned was the soundtrack to "West Side Story."

"Growing up, I was always involved in music, and for me, the pop stuff, I listen to it but ... I have always been drawn to that classical side," he said.

Kirk said Fronzaglia was brought on with Pro Musica because of his musical experience, background, enthusiasm and youthfulness.

"I think he brings a breath of fresh air in that he's young," Kirk said. "He's bringing a perspective to Pro Musica that we haven't had before: What do our young adults want to hear? How can we develop programming to reach the young adults? There's a wide range of people who are between 20 and 40, and what is it that they would like? I think we're just looking at Brian to take us to that next level."

As artistic director, Fronzaglia will be responsible for the season's lineup of artists and for handling all the technical requirements related to their performances. This season includes the annual Joplin Pops concert as well as a large symphony orchestra concert, but Pro Musica's primary focus is bringing chamber music to the community.

Upcoming season

Chamber music is music composed for small ensembles, with one musician per part, and is typically performed without a conductor, according to Chamber Music America, a national service organization for professional musicians. Historically, chamber music referred only to Western classical ensembles, such as string quartets. It has since been expanded to include contemporary and traditional jazz ensembles as well as world genres of music.

Fittingly, Fronzaglia said there is something for everyone in the Pro Musica concert series -- instrumental ensembles, vocal ensembles and even a performance this year by the symphony orchestra of Haifa, Israel.

Describing music as "the pathway to the soul," Fronzaglia said chamber music allows listeners the opportunity to slow down, relax and experience music as they might never have before.

"The thing that chamber music brings is the ability to connect with another person on a much deeper level," he said. "It's quite incredible if you watch someone perfect their art form, and I think that's the exciting thing for us to provide because the quality of groups and artists that we bring here are second to none."

Fronzaglia is quick to give credit to others. Pro Musica is going strong after 33 years because of the passion and dedication of Schwab and other staff, he said. Yet they're all working toward a common goal -- to bring music to Joplin residents.

"The ability to work with Pro Musica and really help Missouri Southern and Pro Musica just to open up the door, the floodgates to more creative and performing arts -- that's exciting to me," he said.

First concert

The first performance in Pro Musica's current season will be Strata Trio -- consisting of a clarinet, violin and piano -- at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at First Baptist Church, 633 S. Pearl Ave. Details: 417-625-1822.


(c)2013 The Joplin Globe (Joplin, Mo.)

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