Performing free public concerts for
more than 30 years
The Lee County Community Orchestra Association was incorporated in 1988 with the aim of providing free public concerts for Sanford and the surrounding area. It was originally sponsored by the Lee County Parks & Recreation Department but has since grown into a membership organization sustained by private donations and an annual grant from the Lee County Arts Council. The orchestra now includes a full complement of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion sections.
The volunteer orchestra relies on a professional music director to choose a repertoire each season, lead rehearsals and conduct concerts. Harlan Duenow was our first director. He was followed by two conductors from Fayetteville, Jonathan Green and Martin Bellar, who each directed LCCO for a few seasons.
After two transition years, one with guest conductors and one with a single-season director, the orchestra enjoyed the stability of leadership brought by Dr. David Oertel, who led the orchestra for thirteen seasons. During his tenure, the number of concerts and their quality both increased. Also:
· The Lee County Arts & Community Center (now the Mann Center) became the main performance site for the orchestra.
· The LCCO transitioned from the Ole Mill Crank-up and Kiwanis Park to outdoor performances at Depot Park.
· A set of Christmas concerts became a tradition with guest soloists often adding an extra dimension to the programs.
Tara Villa Keith became music director in 2009 and served until 2019. Under her leadership, the orchestra saw an increase in the participation of high school students while continuing to welcome musicians of all ages.
The 2019-20 season welcomed two guest conductors, Vincent Povazsay and Wojciech Milewski, while Villa Keith was on maternity leave. The season came to an unexpected close due to COVID-19 and the March and May concerts were cancelled. The season also marked the final one for Villa Keith as music director. Among the many highlights from her tenure:
· LCCO's first annual Instrument Petting Zoo in Depot Park with the help of Kindermusik with Lauren Winkens and Buchanan's Music.
· Through the sale of LCCO commemorative bells crafted by North Cole Pottery, the orchestra raised money to commission Illumination, a piece composed by Mark Petering. LCCO gave the world premiere in October 2013, and received a standing ovation.
· Trumpeter William D. Lawing gave the North American/Western Hemisphere premiere of Joe Wolfe's Trumpet Concerto in March 2018.
· Tuba soloist Kevin Ward gave the North Carolina premiere of Brian Sadler's Journey for Tuba and Orchestra in March 2019,
· LCCO collaborated three times with Sanford's own FOG Blues Band, performing arrangements written by members of the orchestra.
· LCCO performed with the Southern outlaw rock band Cliff Wheeler Band in 2019.
· Staged our most highly-attended guest artist concert featuring Celtic fiddler Jamie Laval in March 2016. Jamie also gave presentations for local elementary and middle school students and taught a fiddling master class for the LCCO musicians.
· LCCO musicians performed solo and chamber works during the Sanford Arts and Vine Festival.
· Provided accompaniment for the fireworks during Sanford's first annual StreetFest (watch a video).
· Gave performances during El Refugio's International Culture Night in the Civic Center.
LCCO performed with a volunteer community choir, local theatre personality Peggy Taphorn, Temple Teens, prominent North Carolina soloists Jacquelyn Culpepper (soprano), Ilana Lubitsch (soprano), and Dan Boye (baritone), and piano duo Mayumi Osada and Elisabeth Malcolm.