EDITORIAL: Sowers took us on symphonic journey

Apr. 27—When Maestro Richard Sowers started his illustrious career in Anderson in 1984, the theme song for "Ghostbusters" had just become popular. The music for "Jurassic Park" had not been written.

Yet over the years, those easily identifiable scores crept into the biennial Halloween-themed concerts performed by the Anderson Symphony Orchestra. Like the orchestra members, Sowers wore a costume — a different character to fit each selection.

The two themes also popped up in the April 20 encore ending Sowers' final night as conductor and artistic director of the Anderson Symphony Orchestra, a role he first took on in 1989.

So, who they gonna call now?

There are five finalists for artistic director. Each will serve as guest conductor for one concert during the coming 2024-2025 season, the ASO's 57th. The audience at the Paramount Theatre will receive surveys to help determine the next director.

Until that process is complete, perhaps a full year away, this community can celebrate Rick Sowers, creator of the Halloween and family concert concepts. The maestro's 35th season served as a memorable showcase for his favorite classical and pops scores and brought several nationally known AU alumni back to pay tribute to their mentor.

Born in Pittsburgh and raised in Las Vegas and Richmond, Indiana, Sowers received a four-year scholarship to attend the Indiana University School of Music. He earned his master of music in conducting from Colorado State University, and in 1993, was selected outstanding music alumnus.

But before that, showing his deep roots in central Indiana, he became professor of music at the Anderson University School of Music in 1984.

While also teaching classes, he founded the Anderson Symphonic Choir, conducted the women's chorus and men's choirs, and was the conductor of the Chamber Orchestra for 15 years.

He retired from AU in 2021.

For years, he and his wife, Nancy, and their three sons lived in Anderson. In retirement, he and Nancy moved to Chicago to be closer to family.

With 35 years at the helm of the ASO, Sowers is believed to be among the four directors with the longest tenure worldwide, behind Zubin Mehta of the Israel Philharmonic, John Eliot Gardiner with the English Baroque Soloists and Ivan Fischer with the Budapest Festival Orchestra.

In other words, he likely has the longest tenure serving one orchestra in the United States.

Anderson has been blessed to have him.

So has Noblesville, where Sowers was director of its symphony orchestra until it was shuttered over financial concerns in an era when many orchestras are forced to close down. Sowers, however, and the 60 or so musicians and hundreds of patrons kept the music alive in Anderson.

Now there will be a new chapter in Anderson's musical heritage.

Sowers transformed his musical skills — French horn player, organist, singer, educator — into our symphonic journey. We hope he looks back on those 35 years with pride.

We know he'll remember these years as he was given two Olivia Willard watercolor paintings April 20. One was of Reardon Auditorium, site of his first concerts; the other was the front of the Paramount Theatre with a marquee announcing his final concert.