Performing Arts Center to Host ‘Partners in Sound’

The time has come for the talented musicians of Wheeling Park High School and the tested professionals of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra to share the stage.

“Partners in Sound” will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 17 in the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center at the high school. The evening will include graduates from Wheeling Park, high school choir members and the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra in a concert to celebrate the performing arts programs of Ohio County Schools.

The concert will feature Wheeling Park graduates Nathan Strasser (class of 2005) performing George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Leland A. Wheeler (class of 2006) narrating Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait.”

The Wheeling Park choir will join the Wheeling Symphony to perform “Over the Rainbow” and the newly commissioned “Patriot Dreams” arrangement variation of “America the Beautiful.”

Former students of Ohio County Schools scheduled to perform with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra include Jamie Carney, Josh Garrett, Justin Jones, Keith Michael, Amanda Fisher Neville, Michelle Pissos, Diane Strasser Platte, Charlie Wilmoth, Aryelle Delgado Shields, Seth Bell and Peter Zatezalo.

Strasser said he is particularly excited to be involved in “Partners in Sound.”

“I am thrilled to be coming home to Wheeling to perform at the new arts center because of what Wheeling Park High School and the whole city of Wheeling have meant to my career and my life,” he said. “What I remember most about participating in the music and theater programs at Wheeling Park are the life-long relationships I cultivated with so many of the students and faculty during my time there. Now that Wheeling Park has state-of-the-art facilities that rival any high school in the country, I’m sure it has to be an extremely exciting time to be a student at Park.”

“I am beyond honored and humbled to join the Wheeling Symphony as well as other WPHS alumni to kick off what is sure to be an exciting new era in the fine arts department at Wheeling Park High School.”

Strasser began the study of piano at age 4 and over the years has received additional training in composition, cello, organ and songwriting. He was selected to perform at the International Music Workshops in Scotland at the age of 8 and in Austria at the age of 10.

At age 19, he was awarded a full scholarship to Arizona State University where he studied classical piano and jazz piano. He also took online songwriting courses from Berklee School of Music.

Strasser’s accomplishments include two-time winner of the Music Teacher’s National Association piano competition for the state of West Virginia; three-time winner of the outstanding soloist award at West Virginia University’s Jazz Festival; recipient of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award and first place in the National High School Music Institute Piano Competition in Chicago. He was the winner of the WVU Concerto Competition. He has performed as a soloist with the Wheeling Symphony, Washington (Pa.) Symphonic Orchestra and on the main stage at the Heritage Music BluesFest.

He has worked as a studio musician at Oceanway Studios, Warner Brothers Studios, Quonset Hut Studio, among others. He also has had his Christmas song, “My Baby Boy,” signed by Universal Music Publishing. He lives in Nashville, Tenn., and serves as music director at Shelbyville First Presbyterian Church.

Wheeler, a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is pursuing an acting career. He has appeared in national and international commercials, a multi-city ad campaign for the NFL, a project for Nickelodeon, a brief cameo in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” starring Tilda Swinton, a low-budget feature film in Brooklyn and several no budget short films. He had a co-starring role in an episode of CBS’s “Blue Bloods.”

He, too, is looking forward to Tuesday’s concert.

“There are many reasons to be proud of the Ohio Valley, and this is just one more. Bringing together the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, some alumni and the high school choir to celebrate this great accomplishment is so wonderful. I am incredibly honored to be a part of the performance. I only wish I was still a student at Park so I could take full advantage of this gorgeous, new facility,” Wheeler said.

Ohio County Schools Superintendent George Krelis said “Partners in Sound” is the type of event organizers of the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center envisioned 16 years ago when the first ideas of the facility were conceived. He said Wheeling Park High School is proud of its music programs, and he is pleased the students have the opportunity to share the stage with the excellent musicians in the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra.

“Partners in Sound is a showcase for the talented musicians Ohio County Schools has produced and the ones it continues to nurture,” Krelis said. “The music programs at Wheeling Park High School and the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra are sources of pride for our community. It’s wonderful that we have an opportunity to put both on the beautiful stage at the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center.”

Wheeling Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Bruce Wheeler said Wheeling Park’s music programs have had a long connection to the symphony through teacher Ben Podolski. “Partners in Sound” is even more special because it is being held in the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center, he noted.

“Ben Podolski started the strings program when he was associate concertmaster of the orchestra.” Wheeler said. “The WSO is proud to have contributed to the excellent string program of Ohio Schools through the outstanding work of Ben Podolski. The orchestra also includes several Wheeling Park graduates who have gone on to become members of the Wheeling Symphony.

“Partners in Sound will feature talented current and former students and a professional orchestra. Having musicians of that caliber will let everyone hear why the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center is such an amazing facility.”

The concert is by invitation; however, a limited number of tickets may be available at the door. For more information, call 304-243-0493.