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Wood River Orchestra’s New President Has Been There Since the Beginning
Saturday, November 4, 2023


The Wood River Orchestra was comprised of just a handful of musicians plus a few guests when Janice Moulton took part in the orchestra’s first concert in 2008.

Now, on Sunday, she will take her place as president of an orchestra that has grown to 30-some members and performs pieces that are leaps and bounds above what the orchestra played at its inception 15 years ago.

“We have evolved in the level of our playing through our years of practicing together,” said Moulton, who is taking the reins from longtime president Lynne Heidel. “Music that once seemed too difficult and out of reach, we are now able to successfully perform.”

The orchestra will show off its polished look this weekend when it takes a deep dive into the works of 19th century Austrian composer Franz Schubert. The free concert will start at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 5, at the Wood River High School Performing Arts Theater at Hailey’s Community Campus.

Moulton, a school librarian, dreamed of being part of a community orchestra after moving to the Wood River Valley in 1999. She started playing violin in fourth grade and continued playing in middle and high school orchestras in her hometown of Logan, Utah, before joining the orchestra at Ricks College in Rexburg.

After college, she joined a community orchestra back in Logan, alongside her violin teacher, uncle, high school conductor and other musicians before she moved to the Sun Valley area.

“I enjoyed the camaraderie and level of playing with seasoned musicians,” she said. “When I moved away a few years later, I was sad to lose the opportunity of playing in an orchestra.”

Fortunately for Moulton, eight years later in 2007 Sue Mendelsohn, Andy Lewis and Mitzi Mecham announced they were starting a community orchestra in the Wood River Valley. Moulton was quick to dust off her violin.

“We met in the back room of Notes Music Store located on River Street. It wasn't too long before we outgrew that space and had to find somewhere new to practice. Eventually we ended up in the Wood River High School music room,” she said. “The music room has everything we need; lots of space, chairs, music stands, and percussive instruments, all of which are essential in gathering a group of musicians to rehearse and play a wide variety of music.”

It doesn’t hurt, Moulton added, that Andy Lewis and the orchestra’s current conductor, Brad Hershey were both high school orchestra teachers as they have encouraged their students to join the orchestra, bringing youth into the group.

After a sneak preview for a Souper Supper audience, the Wood River Orchestra performed its first official concert on May 4, 2008, at The Liberty Theater.

“I remember how we struggled at first to play a song,” she said. “We played ‘Bolero’ fine in rehearsal but made a few mistakes in the concert that gave our hearts a start. But I don’t think the audience knew.”

In fact, the concert met with rave reviews from a well-attended audience, who encouraged Moulton and the other musicians to keep on making music.

Since, the orchestra has performed at the Sun Valley Opera House, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Our Lady of the Snows, Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood, the Argyros Performing Arts Center, St. Charles Church and the WRHS Performing Arts Theater, along with several other smaller venues.

“As is typical of organizations, our numbers have grown and diminished over time,” said Moulton. “Currently, we are growing, but we are far from full. Our goal has remained to recruit musicians of all ages and abilities to create beautiful music together that can be performed for our community free of charge. I know there are so many more musicians in our valley and I encourage every one of them to come join us--we’re a very friendly and welcoming group.”

Moulton says she hopes the orchestra can continue to develop the same camaraderie with student musicians as hers did for her in her youth.

“By having student musicians join us, the Wood River Orchestra gets the benefit of added members to create a fuller orchestra. And it gives the students the opportunity to play alongside a group of dedicated musicians. Over the years there have been many high schoolers who have returned to our group. Currently we have two musicians: Lucy Griswold on viola and Jorgen Lawrence on violin, both of whom played with us in high school. We are elated that they are back and are playing with us once again!”

As orchestra president, Moulton said, she hopes to continue the orchestra’s mission of “enriching the souls of those who play as well as those who listen.”

“The Wood River Orchestra will continue to give musicians of all ages an opportunity to play, while giving the community an opportunity to listen—and that’s a beautiful arrangement,” she said.

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