WENATCHEE — Over a year since they last performed in front of an audience, members of the Wenatchee Valley Symphony Orchestra are excited to return to the stage.

The 2021-22 season kicks off Saturday with the group’s “Diamonds” concert featuring works by Mozart, Haydn and Finzi. This season is noteworthy, as it’s the ensemble’s 75th anniversary season.

This performance is dialed back from the concert initially planned in June, which would have featured the full orchestra. Instead, to reduce the number of musicians, a total of 59 musicians will perform, though there are plans for up to 94 to perform in concerts later in the season. Saturday’s show includes the string section, four woodwind instruments and cellist Jenaesha Iwassa Browder.

This performance represents something of a homecoming for Browder.

A Wenatchee native, Browder was a member of both the Icicle Creek Youth Symphony and the Wenatchee Valley Symphony. She later went on to receive a master’s degree in cello performance from Rice University in Houston, Texas.

“I think that when you’re a kid, a lot of the ideas that you have about studying music and, you know, you’re going to grow up to be a part of an orchestra and stuff, the only real context that you have from that is the symphony that you know,” Browder said. “It’s kind of fun to be able to go away and come back to like, such a familiar environment in an entirely different role than I was before.”

Also expected to perform is Jenaesa’s dad, Juel Iwaasa, who serves as music program director at Wenatchee Valley College. Jenaesa said her dad took up bass over the summer.

“He’s actually conscripted me and my siblings into a lot of orchestra gigs and playing at the college where he works,” Jenaesa said. “I grew up doing that a lot.”

Stan Fishburn, the orchestra’s principal percussion player and member for 25 years, said it’s exciting to see someone he’s watched develop as a musician flourish.

“Jenaesa I’ve known for a long time,” Fishburn said. “I’ve worked with her when she played in the orchestra and when she played in the youth symphony. And she’s just a fabulous person and an amazing player.”

Saturday’s performance will feature a live audience, something that several performers said they have sorely missed.

Though the orchestra held several stage performances during the 2020-21 season, they were conducted digitally. While the orchestra will once again offer a livestream of the performance, members said they’re excited for the energy that comes from playing before a live crowd.

“When you perform for a real audience, there are interactions that happen before and during,” Fishburn said. “I think it’s especially noticeable when we were doing virtual concerts. You’d finish a piece of music, and it was just done.”

Tom McNair, the principal trombone player and orchestra member for about 10 years, said this orchestra is the most fulfilling one he’s been a part of.

“The team effort to pull together and do what we know is a good concert is extremely satisfying,” McNair. “We always feel good after our Saturday night concert is over, and it feels just like a family.”

Though the season opener is truncated, the musicians expressed confidence that future concerts will feature a full ensemble. And while most of the performers are not professional musicians, McNair said community members should still come to hear the group.

“I feel like our orchestra is a really good community orchestra, and it’s because we have a really, really good conductor and leader in Dr. (Nikolas) Caoile,” McNair said. “People should come out and hear what a really good community orchestra sounds like.”

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