The Vista Center for the Arts, 15660 N. Parkview Place, and the Arizona Philharmonic are teaming to grow together.
Surprise is now the official second home for the Arizona Philharmonic, which debuted as a regional orchestra for central and northern Arizona in 2016.
The Vista will host five performances during the 2021-22 season, and plans call for more in years to come.
The first concert is set for Saturday, Oct. 30, with the baroque orchestral performance of “Brandenburg and Beyond.”
The musicians will be back for a Christmas performance Dec. 18, and three more shows set for early 2022.
All shows begin at 3 p.m.
Tickets for individual concerts, or season tickets offering savings for the five-concert season, are available at thevistaaz.com/azphil, or by calling 623-523-8888.
Individual tickets are $25 plus $5 in fees.
In addition to the five-concert series in Surprise, AZ Phil will perform five concerts at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center in Prescott, beginning Oct. 31.
“We consider Surprise to be our second home,” said AZ Phil Executive Director Henry Flurry. “We see this as a strong opportunity for both organizations. It enables us to offer a wider variety of programming.”
It’s AZ Phil’s fourth season, but it’s been an inconsistent start because of COVID-19. The second season was cut down because of the pandemic and the third season was shortened to only five shows total in the Prescott area.
To some playing at the first Surprise show, it’ll be their first opportunity to play in front of paying customers in 16 months.
“From our perspective, building up our name recognition in Surprise is going to take years,” Flurry said. “But it’s a long-term commitment.”
Most of AZ Phil’s musicians come from Phoenix and Flagstaff, with a few sprinkled in from Tucson and California.
“I think our biggest goal is to raise folks’ awareness,” Flurry said. “The cool thing about Surprise is it on the edge of Phoenix, not smack in the middle of the arts scene.”
A close affiliate of AZ Phil recently moved to Surprise and let the orchestra know about The Vista now that the Dysart Unified School District has transformed it into a professional facility.
“We were looking to expand our programing,” Flurry said. “It seemed like a good regional fit for us.”
That led to conversations with DUSD Director of Community Education John Williams, who was enthusiastic about bringing in programming that was presented as a series.
“He really wanted to create a destination for the arts at The Vista,” Flurry said. “It’s nice to come in from the ground up.”
Flurry said he hopes the shows are a “transformative experience” for the fans who attend. He said it’s the quality of musicians and the programming together that will do for them.
“We have a repertoire that’s engaging and beautiful that shows off the instruments and the performers,” Flurry said. “We want people who listen to our music to be moved.”
For those who want to be relaxed at the show, take note: That’s not what they’re aiming for.
“We want people to be on the edge of their seats — moved to tears,” Flurry said. “We’re definitely not trying to put people to sleep.”
The musicians themselves range up to about 44 people this year. A typical orchestra show for AZ Phil has about 10 more, but the group is still be slightly cautious with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It still enables a little bit of spacing on the stage,” Flurry said.
Williams said he likes that it’s an Arizona-based group coming in.
“We really want to create a foundation of local artists in our community that are providing an opportunity at a professional level for our community,” Williams said. “Henry has a tremendous background. It was really a no-brainer partnership for us. We would love for them to call The Vista their home here in the Valley.”
Williams said the school district is interested in a long-term partnership.
“A benefit to them is a benefit to us, when the community figures out who the AZ Phil is,” Williams said. “We’ve got to grow it. Honestly, our goal No. 1 is campaign awareness. We have to convey to our local community that we’re not just a high school auditorium.”
He believes once people see a show at The Vista, they’ll be back for more since expectations will have changed.
“Once we grow that base of patrons and they know this is the venue they want to go to, we’ll be in very good shape in the future,” Williams said.
The Vista is banking on a large group of patrons coming from senior-living areas, which may be more inclined to take in orchestral music.
“That’s a large portion of our patron base,” Williams said of areas such as Coyote Lakes, Happy Trails, Sun City Grand and Arizona Traditions. “We want to provide a product for them that they want to enjoy. We want this to be their performing arts center.”
Williams said The Vista received rave reviews from customers who attended the two-day Country Music Festival in mid-September.
“People really were blown away, saying, ‘Man, I didn’t know. This is a nice venue,” Williams said. “Usually they see country music outside in the heat. Now it’s air conditioned and nice, comfy cushions.”
“There’s a positive response to the diverse menu we’re providing.”
Jason Stone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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