PERRYSBURG — Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Perrysburg Symphony Orchestra, music director and conductor Travis Jürgens brings a wide variety of music experience to the organization.
The orchestra celebrated its 60th anniversary with a concert on Oct. 22 and has a full slate of new events that exemplify the variety of his skills and background. The music spans chamber to ballet — and an ESPN Halloween special that was aired on “Monday Night Football” during the 2011 season.
“I think making music gives me more energy. I feel most at home when I’m making music,” Jürgens said. “When I’m conducting an orchestra I feel like I’m meant to be there and it energizes me. It’s very fulfilling for me. Playing piano and conducting a choir, all the variety is very refreshing. I have a lot of variety in the music I make.”
He was hired in July of 2018, after guest conducting in 2016. Since being hired he has expanded the number and variety of events they play.
“Live music is just so important for a community. It’s really a way to strengthen ties in the community and draw us closer together, really nourishing souls with live music,” Jürgens said. “It’s really a beautiful thing to see live music, because oftentimes, those can be greater than the best recordings. You can record it, but when you hear it live it’s really a different experience.”
The first of the changes added was the three-month chamber orchestra series that starts in January.
“We are able to reach the community more, provide more live music and keep the musicians performing more regularly,” Jürgens said of the reason the Perrysburg Symphony Orchestra is important and different.
Also added is a new solo competition for high school students. They send in a video for the first application and then the finalists play to a jury in February, with the winner performing with the full orchestra in April.
They also have side-by-side concerts with the Perrysburg Junior High orchestra. The last one was in 2019, and they will resume in 2022.
“The main thing that makes us different is that we are connected to the community. The Perrysburg Symphony Orchestra is the only professional orchestra, or large ensemble in Perrysburg, so the community really owns it. We are very careful to schedule events that don’t conflict with other programs, like the Toledo Performing Arts Center,” he said. “We have different kinds of programs and engagements and different kinds of soloists.”
This isn’t Jürgens’ only job.
“I spend a lot of time on the road,” he said.
He is also director of music ministry at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Brunswick, the largest Catholic parish in the Cleveland Diocese. Both of his sons, ages 6 and 8, sing in the their children’s choir.
“With 10,000 members, it’s a big parish. There are several masses every weekend, plus … lots of weddings and funerals — it keeps me busy,” Jürgens said.
He is choir director, pianist and organist. They use more contemporary music, so there is more piano than organ. They also have hand bells and youth choir. They have conductors specific to those groups, but he does fill in there as well.
Jürgens pushes the Perrysburg Symphony to be creative, as a group. The symphony will be collaborating with the Perrysburg Chorale, doing Antonio Vivaldi’s hymn “Gloria” Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Perrysburg Junior High.
This isn’t the first time he has done a large multi-group collaboration.
“I have conducted other choirs and orchestras, when I was music director of other orchestras, like the Philharmonia of Kansas City. I was there for six years. We did Beethoven’s 9th.”
He also did several collaborations during his five years with the Ohio Northern University Symphony Orchestra.
Jürgens has an extensive educational background in music. He earned his bachelor’s degree in piano performance at Indiana University, his master’s in orchestral conducting from the University of Illinois, and an artist diploma in orchestral conducting from the University of Denver. He has also studied at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien and the Institut für Europäishe Studien in Vienna, Austria.
The Perrysburg Symphony typically has four large shows per year. In 2021, their first in-person and full audience event of the year was on July 4 at Levis Commons, followed by the Toledo Zoo Music Under the Stars event in August. They are slated to do those events again next year.
After the December concert with the chorale, there will be the series of three chamber music concerts in January, February and March, followed by the season finale.
During the pandemic, performances continued, with a little creativity.
“We actually found a way to keep going during the pandemic, safely and responsibly. We did have some livestream concerts, and we also had a chamber concert and we did the April concert, socially distanced with masks to a limited audience, but live streamed, and another similar chamber concert in May,” Jürgens said. “So we were able to keep the train moving.”