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Amid sounds from the symphony's brass quintet at a Monday news conference, the Toledo Symphony announced the return of the "Music Under the Stars" program to the Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre for the summer of 2012.
Kathleen Carroll, president and chief executive of of the Toledo Symphony, said the Toledo Concert Band will continue its tradition of free weekly concerts after a year's hiatus. "Because the Toledo Symphony's mission is to meet the musical needs of northwest Ohio, we applaud the financial partnership of our corporate and community sponsors that keeps these lively performances a beloved summer tradition," Ms. Carroll said in a written statement.
Mercy, a faith-based health-care system that has sponsored the program in past years, is the headline sponsor, with presenting support from The Andersons.
Other sponsors include the Toledo Community Foundation, Huntington Bank, Taylor Cadillac, and the Toledo Zoo.
Andrea Price, president and CEO of Mercy, explained the hospital's interest in supporting Music Under the Stars with a statement Billy Joel once made: "I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music."
And Mercy is in the business of healing and improving the quality of life for its patients, Ms. Price said.
"Music is natural. No matter what culture you are or where you're from, music is a commonality," she said.
Ms. Carroll said the program was put on hiatus last summer because Sam Szor, who conducted the series for nearly 60 years, became ill.
Mr. Szor, however, disputed Ms. Carroll's account, saying in an interview Monday he was well enough to conduct the series last summer.
"It was not my health that was the issue, it was money," Mr. Szor said.
He also said he would have been glad to conduct the Music Under the Stars this summer but was not consulted by the symphony.
He said he is conducting the Toledo Concert Band in a free Independence Day concert July 4 at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont.
Mr. Szor, 82, said he was diagnosed with leukemia five years ago but is feeling fine now.
When contacted after, Ashley Mirakian, director of marketing and public relations for the symphony, said the group was concerned about Mr. Szor's health and thought it may be difficult for him to conduct the series at this time.
"It's a tough thing when you're getting older," Ms. Mirakian said. "It's really best for the series."
Ms. Mirakian said the symphony asked Mr. Szor to participate as a guest conductor, but Mr. Szor said he is unsure if he will.
"I don't even want to be on the stage," Mr. Szor said.
The symphony said each of the six Music Under the Stars concerts this summer will feature a different conductor from area bands, including Bowling Green State University, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan.
"We wanted to infuse the concerts with new energy," Ms. Carroll said. "For so long we had a single leader, and we decided to see what was on the mind of band conductors in the community. We wanted the community to have a hand in the leadership."
Because symphony band music is very similar in basic style, Ms. Carroll said the conductor makes a huge difference in how the symphony sounds, and the new format will allow for much more personalized concerts.
Another addition this summer is the symphony's partnership with TARTA.
The transit authority will offer shuttles to the weekly events from locations in Perrysburg, Maumee, Sylvania, Toledo, and Waterville.
The shuttle will cost $1 a person and will depart for the concerts one hour before they begin and return 20 minutes after they end.
"We are delighted TARTA is involved now," Anne Baker, executive director of the Toledo Zoo, said. "I think we may see some full stands this summer."
The concerts will be on Sundays at 7:30 p.m. beginning July 8.
Contact Mel Flanagan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6087.