Georgia Symphony’s move hits a high note for Marietta
by Dick Yarbrough
August 31, 2013 01:03 AM | 2826 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
When one of the biggest issues facing Marietta is trying to find a place to park in downtown, consider yourself fortunate. I invite you to visit my hometown of East Point. The good news is you can always find a place to park in East Point. The bad news is there is nothing to see once you are there. Much of downtown has been razed.

And then there is this: The city of East Point’s government recently learned almost $200 million has gone missing in the past 12 years. The mayor suspects some department heads and possibly even some city council members could be responsible. A couple of weeks ago, giggling from the audience offended a council member who had the offenders arrested and the subsequent ruckus left a hole in the chamber wall.

East Point recently fired City Manager Reggie Taylor after eight months on the job. Taylor, as you will recall, was the executive director of the Marietta Redevelopment Corporation before his ill-fated move south and is the latest in a string of city managers there.

East Point has no Square, no Strand Theatre, no local newspaper to keep an eye on the shenanigans of city government, no business or political leadership, no vibrant arts community. Once Marietta’s equal, East Point reminds me of author Gertrude Stein’s comment about seeing her hometown of Oakland, Calif., after having been away for many years: “There is no ‘there’ there.” That pretty much sums up my home town.

Contrast that with what is happening here in Marietta. I told you last week about the Marietta ChalkFest, sponsored by the Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art taking place this weekend as a part of Art in the Park. It is predicted that about 40,000 people will visit the Square between now and Monday evening.

Next Saturday evening, the Cobb-based Georgia Symphony Orchestra will be a part of Marietta High School’s dedication ceremony of the new $8.5 million Performing Arts Center auditorium. The performance will honor the late Helen Lee Garner Mackey, a longtime supporter of the GSO and a 1952 Marietta High graduate.

It is no secret that the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, which has called Kennesaw-based Mount Paran Christian School its home since 2006, could be moving permanently to Marietta High very soon. The symphony’s executive director, Susan Stensland, told me this week that all that is needed to finalize the deal is a vote by the GSO board of directors. She said to expect an announcement at next Saturday evening’s concert.

What a great thing the move would be for both the symphony and for young people interested in furthering their musical education. David DuBose, arts director for Marietta City Schools and manager of the Performing Arts Center, has played a key role in the negotiations and says such a move would make the Marietta City School system “educational partners” with the Georgia Symphony who would locate their offices, their music resources, and personnel into the school’s facilities and classrooms. That would mean direct interaction between the symphony professionals and the students in Marietta City Schools in terms of lessons, master classes and clinics.

DuBose says, “The GSO being in residency potentially raising the level of instrumental music instruction in Marietta City Schools to unprecedented levels and “would move Marietta City Schools and the Marietta community towards profound excellence in the arts and arts education.”

The 60-member Georgia Symphony, which began operations about 63 years ago on Church Street, is one of our area’s crown jewels. I have had the good fortune to participate in several of their Celebrity Lunches, which are a major source of fundraising for the GSO. It would be difficult to find a more dedicated and enjoyable bunch of volunteers anywhere — even though they always try to sneak broccoli on my plate.

What makes the upcoming relationship between the GSO and Marietta City Schools particularly meaningful is the positive impact on the symphony’s youth orchestra which was founded only seven years ago and is the largest in the Southeast, with more than 400 members. Stensland tells me that while the youth come from 11 counties in the area, a large number of them are students in the Marietta City School system.

The arts are not only alive in Marietta, this agreement between the Marietta City School system and the Georgia Symphony Orchestra means things should get exponentially better in the future.

While the community gets set to welcome our local symphony to its new home in the Performing Arts Center at MHS, my old hometown of East Point is trying to find who took $200 million from the public till, deal with a dormant downtown, giggling hecklers and a hole in the chamber walls.

Clearly, Marietta has hit the high note.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.
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