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Salisbury Symphony eyes Kannapolis

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó A symphony in Kannapolis?
The idea is music to David Hagy’s ears.
Hagy, the music director and conductor for the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra, has been toying with the idea of expanding to Kannapolis.
The development of the N.C. Research Campus, a $1.5 billion science complex in downtown Kannapolis, and the city’s accompanying demographic shift present an opportunity, Hagy said.
“One of the dreams of the orchestra in the future is to make an impact into the Kannapolis area,” he said.
Potentially, the orchestra could perform one night in Keppel Auditorium as the Salisbury Symphony, then give the same concert the next night at the Research Campus as the Kannapolis Symphony.
“We really think that Kannapolis is a natural audience for us,” said Bays Shoaf, president of the symphony’s board of directors.
The idea of expansion came up about a year ago, Shoaf said. Hagy has met repeatedly with leaders from the city of Kannapolis and the Cabarrus Arts Council.
Kannapolis City Manager Mike Legg said Hagy and Linda Jones, executive director for the symphony, are “visionaries” and “think about the big picture.”
The symphony already performs with Kannapolis-based Piedmont Dance Theatre, one of the premiere artistic groups in Cabarrus County. The two teamed up in 2007 and 2008 to present “The Nutcracker” to sold-out audiences in Salisbury.
They performed at Catawba College because Kannapolis doesn’t have an appropriate venue. A.L. Brown High School’s auditorium, which seats 1,900, can’t accommodate a full orchestra.
However, plans for the 350-acre Research Campus, where three scientific buildings opened last year, include a performing arts center.
Construction at the campus has stalled due to the credit crunch, but Legg said developers still hope to include a performing arts center that would double as a location for scientific conferences.
“We hope to be a viable part of keeping that hall in the plans,” Hagy said.
Campus founder David Murdock, the billionaire owner of Dole Food Co., supports the arts, Shoaf said.
“We would eventually approach him as far as the venue,” he said.
Expanding to Kannapolis would require significant community support and private funding, Hagy and Shoaf said. Legg agreed. “It’s not the function of the city to establish a local symphony,” he said. “This would need to be a community effort.”
Hagy had hoped to introduce the symphony to Kannapolis this summer with an outdoor concert similar to Pops at the Post, but he couldn’t come to an agreement with the city over funding.
Legg said they’ll try again next year. All parties are proceeding cautiously.
“If this were to happen, I think it will happen slowly, starting with outdoor venues and summer pop concerts, building a relationship with the community,” Legg said.
Hagy has even considered performing at the baseball stadium in Kannapolis.
Kannapolis has a good relationship with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, which performs every year for the summer concert series. That would continue, Legg said.
And Kannapolis has more support for the arts than meets the eye, he said.
“It’s kind of a hidden phenomenon,” he said.
The move would give Kannapolis an orchestra without starting from scratch and could lower the fundraising burden in Salisbury, Hagy said.
Sharing musicians, administration and infrastructure would cut costs for both cities, he said.
“We know that Kannapolis is growing, and there are going to be a lot of cultural opportunities available there,” Shoaf said.
But both Shoaf and Hagy said Salisbury comes first.
“We have a very loyal audience here,” Shoaf said. “Our first priority is Salisbury-Rowan, but there is a chance to expand and we’re looking into it.”

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