Lee’s Summit Symphony; A delicate flower in a vibrant garden

June 28, 2013 

I consider myself a very lucky person to be living in this great city. I have been around long enough and have met enough talented people that I have been able to observe the growth of this community in the areas of art and culture.

I often wonder what William B. Howard would think about this bustling community, a community of dreams and dreamers and the wear-with-all to make things happen. As he went about the business of developing his city and making sure that it would be strong and successful, I am sure that arts and culture would have been something that he would have wanted to see flourish. Coming from a wealthy Southern family, he would have been exposed to concerts, art and the finer things of life.

Early accounts of the Howard family household describe Mrs. Howard as having musical performances in her parlor at her colonial home located between Strother and Woods Chapel Road. In those days, there were many wealthy families in the area who would have attended. Other folks in the area who were not affluent as the Howards would have had mouth organs, mandolins or fiddles played by family members as they sat on their front porches enjoying the evening as folks did in those days.

As Lee’s Summit grew, we had the manual pump organs that were owned by many churches. It was reported in the Prairie Banner, our first local newspaper, that Mrs. Emma Blair had a beautiful piano shipped from St. Louis to her home located on Market Street. The piano was described at the first piano in town.

Arts and culture were fostered by the early teachers that we had in our community. Those young ladies would have inspired their students by singing their ABC’s or nursery rhymes. Churches and their wonderful hymns and Sunday schools offered another opportunity for music and art.

Matt Irvine came to Lee’s Summit in the 1870s and built an opera house. Well-known performers entertained our citizens. Being located on a railroad made it easy for performers to arrive and leave shipping their instruments and costumes with them.

What I am getting at is that arts and culture had been a progression in our community. It has always been around; even more today and reaching a phoenix in the Lee’s Summit Symphony Orchestra. We are all proud of our symphony. I am not sure how many people realize the hard work that has gone into nurturing this wonderful gift to our community.

As most of you know, the late Phyllis Hamilton and Russ Berlin had a dream. It took lot of folks throughout the 10 years of the Lee’s Summit Symphony’s existence to keep the dream alive. The Friends of the Lee’s Summit Symphony has been crucial to the success of the symphony. Folks like Gary Fruits, Jane Carpenter, Dorothy Purtle, Barbara Prestage, Shirley Shaffer, Pat Manes and a score of others have sold cookies, ladled punch, decorated, sold tickets and planned events all for the love of the Symphony. Handsome symphony member Don Shaffer even wore shorts, a tux jacket and poured champagne at an event, much to the delight of the ladies. The board of directors stayed the course making the tough decisions that make an organization strong.

I have attended many performances over the years. I watched the symphony grow and get stronger and stronger. The addition of the wonderfully talented Mike Metheny has been the icing on the cake. I could not attend the Saturday performance due to family commitments but I was with them in spirit. I am proud of our Symphony. It keeps our hearts full of good music and gives musicians of all ages an opportunity to give the glorious gift of music to our community.

I can imagine Phyllis Hamilton and William Howard doing a high five as they proudly look down on the accomplishments of this fine group of musicians.

Kathy Smith has lived in Lee’s Summit for 24 years and is the Property Manager for Summit East Plaza Apartments. She is president of the Lee’s Summit Historical Society, chair of the Lee’s Summit Preservation Commission and on several other boards and commissions throughout the city.

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