At a time during the holiday season when many look forward to some quiet time and even some time off, Christine Kastner fi nds herself in the very thick of it in her new position, which started right after Thanksgiving. After an extensive national search and selection process, The Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra (FSO) has named Kastner as its new president and CEO to “direct” the business aspect of North Carolina’s oldest continually funded orchestra.

“Right here at the beginning, I jumped right into two concerts,” said Kastner, referring to the performance of Handel’s “Messiah” with the Cumberland Oratorio Singers at First Presbyterian Church on Dec. 4 and the orchestra’s festive Holiday Extravaganza on Dec. 10. “There’s no slow time to get up to speed as far as what needs to be done for the concerts!

”Kastner, who has lived in Fayetteville for 13 years, most recently served for three years as the executive director of Cape Fear Studios and views the move into her newly created position with the FSO as a “fairly smooth transition in some respects.”

“I’m using a lot of the same granting agencies, and I’m already familiar with the Fayetteville and the Cumberland County community,” Kastner said.

Maestro Fouad Fakhouri, music director and conductor of the FSO, notes the importance of Kastner’s connections to the area.

“I think she’s very, very capable, I’m very, very optimistic for our future, and I am very much looking forward to working with her,” said Fakhouri. “She understands community and has a proven record. It’s a win-win to have her come work with us.”

“I think the symphony in Fayetteville — and all symphonies really — are having to reach out and explore new audiences and become more accessible for people. It [the classical music culture] can be somewhat intimidating for a lot of the population, so we want people to realize that it doesn’t need to be intimidating. One of the projects we have for spring is actually to invite, through a grant of the N.C. Arts Council, the 21- to 40-year-old set to some dress rehearsals so that they’ll start to feel comfortable and be able to actually interact with the musicians and with Maestro Fakhouri.

“We’re exploring several new ventures with the school system and with young people because that’s our future audience. All third graders in Cumberland County get to come hear the symphony perform Peter and the Wolf,” she said. “There’s been curriculum developed in the school that the music teachers do with the children before they come.”

Kastner steps into her new position in challenging economic times but remains optimistic about the symphony’s continued success and growth through coordinated efforts with other arts organizations

.“Well, there are challenges for all arts organizations right now,” said Kastner. “Funding is reduced at the state and federal level, granting agencies are tapped to a greater extent and have a hard time meeting the needs, so there are defi nitely funding challenges, and we’re not alone in that. But we hope by partnering with other organizations we can overcome some of those funding challenges by combining our audiences and our supporters and tapping some new grant sources.”

Kastner sees a bright future for the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra as it continues to ensure its12-21-11-symphony.jpg artistic excellence while broadening its audiences and reaching young people though diverse performance venues and educational programs.

“I’m very excited, and I think there is a lot of potential for growth for our symphony. They have reached a point where Maestro Fakhouri has elevated the artistic programming, and now we need to bring the operations in line with the artistic programming to allow for even more expansion.”

For more information on the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra and its upcoming performances, visit www.fayettevillesymphony.org, call (910) 433-4690 or email info@fayettevillesymphony.org.

Photo: Chris Kastner

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