Orchestra Kentucky

Orchestra Kentucky announced today plans to celebrate its 20th anniversary along with details about an outdoor concert scheduled for August 28th to take place at the National Corvette Museum Amphitheater.

The plan to bring a live performance back to the community on August 28th was developed in conjunction with and approved by local health professionals and government authorities. Attendance will be socially distanced, utilizing roughly one quarter of the available seating inventory, require masks under the order of the governor, and have health screenings upon entering the venue.

The concert theme will be SUMMER MOVIE BLOCKBUSTERS and will include blockbuster scores from Jaws, Grease, Back to the Future, and more, plus a patriotic finale featuring Stars and Stripes Forever. The concert will also feature the first live performance of Indivisible. Indivisible was originally released by Orchestra Kentucky on July 1, 2020 as a new original patriotic song written by Dick and Mel Tunney featuring award-winning artists as well as Orchestra Kentucky musicians. Since its release less than two weeks ago, and after receiving national media coverage, the song has now had over 38,000 views.

Current season ticket holders will be able to make an advance purchase of tickets starting today, July 16th. In addition, those who choose to make a donation to Orchestra Kentucky in honor of its 20th anniversary may also purchase advance tickets as of the 16th while individual concert tickets for the public will go on sale Monday, August 3rd. A limited number of tickets are available starting at just $20 and may be purchased online at OrchestraKentucky.com or by calling the Orchestra Kentucky administrative offices at (270) 846-2426 between 9am to 5pm weekdays. A rain date of August 29th has been set. Orchestra Kentucky would like to ask for consideration to be taken if planning to attend the concert if exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, sneezing, shortness of breath, loss of smell, etc.).

Orchestra Kentucky is also making plans for additional outdoor concerts throughout the fall and the remainder of the year while keeping a watchful eye on the progression or hopeful decline of the pandemic.

Leading up to the August 28th concert, Orchestra Kentucky invites you to join them in celebrating its 20th anniversary. Starting July 16th, the Orchestra will be sharing the excitement for its anniversary through a variety of online and traditional media outlets showcasing the history of and appreciation for Orchestra Kentucky. As well, the Orchestra is encouraging community members to consider showing support by making a monetary donation in honor of its anniversary to help kick off the next 20 years of Orchestra Kentucky performances. Donations are requested to be made starting July 16th and will be celebrated with a final Giving Day on July 31st. Supporters can track the progress of incoming donations via the Orchestra Kentucky website (orchestrakentucky.com/celebrate).

In addition to monetary support, the Orchestra is also providing a number of additional ways to engage in the 20th anniversary celebrations. Community members can provide a testimonial online, help spread the word about the celebration activities via social media (Facebook: /orchestraky, Instagram: @orchestrakentucky, Twitter: @orchky, #20YearsStrong, #OneNoteAtATime), or serve as an Orchestra Kentucky 20th Anniversary Ambassador (visit orchestrakentucky.com/celebrate for details).

The History of Orchestra Kentucky

Orchestra Kentucky was founded in the summer of 2000 with no funds and just a vision of two friends, Jeff Reed and Mike Thurman. Both are musicians and saw the need in the Bowling Green community for an orchestra of professionals. They contacted several friends, some who were musicians, some not, and met several times to discuss the possibility of starting an orchestra. Those friends were Duncan McKenzie, Evan Walters, Chuck and Janet Smith, and Greg and Helen Motter. The decision was made to organize and start an orchestra with Jeff Reed as music director. Mike was elected president, Chuck was elected treasurer, and Helen secretary. The group chose the name Bowling Green Chamber Orchestra to reflect its small size. On January 22, 2009, the group was renamed Orchestra Kentucky to reflect its larger size and increasing reach into the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Local musicians were contacted, and the group rehearsed every Monday evening for several weeks at Royal Music Company before the first concert on September 11, 2000. The first concert was presented at Christ Episcopal Church in Bowling Green. Approximately 150 people attended the concert, which included music of Wagner, Handel and Mozart. Two businesses contributed enough money to get the group started (Republic Bank and Jim Johnson), but several musicians agreed to play without being paid. Enough funding was found to take the group through the first season, a constitution was written, the orchestra was incorporated, 501(c)(3) status was obtained, goals were set and the orchestra was on its way.

A milestone in the orchestra’s history was the decision to present a rock band and vocalists with the orchestra. Jeff organized a group of local rock musicians, later named The Rewinders, and had Pam Thurman and Chuck Smith transcribe the orchestral parts. The first concert of Beatles hits sold 450 tickets, with nearly 2,000 tickets sold in the sixth year of the show. New shows have been added every season since then.

2001-2002 was the first season the orchestra sold season tickets (a total of fifty-nine!). Each season after that, season ticket sales increased, with over 1,200 being sold in the 2018-2019 season. The budget increased from $30,000 for that second year to nearly $1.3 million for 2018-2019. Attendance at concerts went from 150 to 200 the first season to an average of 750 to 800 in 2018-2019.

The orchestra has performed in Russellville, Scottsville, Glasgow, Hopkinsville, Madisonville and Somerset, Kentucky. The Rewinders have performed in Alabama, California, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, Maine, North and South Carolina,

During the 2005-2006 season, the C-3 (Children’s Cushion Concerts) series was added. These concerts were held on Sunday afternoons at the train depot for children ages 2 to 9. Perry Penguin, Orchestra Kentucky mascot, always made an appearance and led the children in a parade. The Young at Art series was added for the 2009-2010 season. Programming was geared towards families and anyone else who feels like a kid.

In 2005 the orchestra presented the first annual free Fourth of July Star-Spangled Spectacular on the Western Kentucky University campus at the Guthrie Tower. The concert and fireworks display was repeated annually, with crowds totaling more than 15,000 people.

The orchestra has developed an educational outreach into the community, including the establishment of a youth orchestra in 2001, and a String Academy in January of 2003. The youth orchestra organization is comprised of two groups with approximately 70 student members. The String Academy has had as many as 130 students enrolled and seven teachers on its staff. Adult educational outreach includes pre-concert programs on various aspects of the music to be performed. These Pre-Concert Chats with the Maestro are held in the Renshaw Education Center at The Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center at 6:45 pm, before most Variety Series concerts. Talks have also been presented at various clubs and retirement homes in the area.

The Bowling Green Chamber Players is also a part of Orchestra Kentucky and consists of small groups of musicians who go into the schools for educational programs and who perform for various community events, weddings, and receptions. The orchestra also has a small select chorus, the Orchestra Kentucky Chorale, who sing in various programs as needed.

In 2005 a much-needed group was organized to raise funds and provide volunteer support for the orchestra. Called The Encore, the group raised over $40,000 at its 2007 Notable Art event, at which painted instruments were auctioned to benefit the orchestra. The Encore has also organized fundraising parties around performances by The Lettermen and Glen Campbell.

Why is this orchestra growing when orchestras all over the United States are going bankrupt? The reason is that it is run like a business. The orchestra believes that consumer-oriented programming is the key to success. Creative programming, which includes popular classical works as well as show tunes, bluegrass, and other innovative ideas, brings a diverse group to the concerts. Jeffrey Reed, Orchestra Kentucky music director, believes that music can entertain as well as educate, and this has been the core of the orchestra’s success. He sees himself as an evangelist for music. Audiences may attend concerts to hear familiar classical works and popular standards, but they are also introduced to works that may challenge them.

Orchestra Kentucky also subscribes to the “Purple Cow” marketing theory of best-selling author Seth Godin. The theory says that people are used to seeing brown or black and white cows—they are not remarkable. But if one sees a PURPLE cow, one stops and looks because it is remarkable. They will then tell all of their friends. The same is true of orchestral programming. The usual concert of an overture, concerto and symphony is no longer remarkable. Consequently, audiences for traditional orchestral fare are shrinking. But when an orchestra mixes classical standards with bluegrass or with show tunes is unusual—a purple cow—and will catch people’s attention. The ensuing word of mouth increases ticket sales.

Some sample programs have included Handel’s Messiah with Mannheim Steamroller Christmas arrangements, and a cross-over bluegrass composition commissioned for bluegrass band and Orchestra Kentucky programmed with Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Some consider this pandering to the masses, but Orchestra Kentucky has seen a diverse audience enjoying all genres of music, including the works of Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and others. Our mission is to “Change lives. . . one note at a time,” and if that means programming music that people want to hear, and sharing the good news about great classical works, than we have accomplished our mission.


Founded in 2000, Orchestra Kentucky of Bowling Green is south central Kentucky’s professional orchestra. Its members have performed with ensembles such as the Cincinnati, St. Louis, Dallas, Nashville, Charleston and Louisville orchestras. With over 1,600 subscribers in a community of approximately 60,000, the orchestra attributes its success to innovative programming, designed to appeal to a variety of audiences.

Orchestra Kentucky has backed legendary entertainers, including Neil Sedaka, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Paul Williams and The 5th Dimension. It is involved in commissioning new works by popular performers, premiering compositions by Neil Sedaka, Keith Emerson, Peter Tork, Jimmy Webb, and PDQ Bach.


Jeffrey Reed, music director, founded Orchestra Kentucky in 2000. Since then, he has conducted orchestras in Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, South Korea, Milan, Italy and St. Petersburg, Russia. He has twice conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Albert Hall. Bestselling author and marketer Seth Godin singled Reed out in his best-selling study of new creativity, “Small is the New Big.” Godin praised his “clever” concerts and praised the “totally different way” Reed approaches programming. In 2015, the University of Louisville named Reed its Alumni Fellow for the School of Music in recognition of his distinguished work in his chosen field. In 2008, he received the Jefferson Award for public service in South Central Kentucky.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.