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GUEST COLUMN: Go see the RSO. Applaud loudly. Rinse and repeat.

February 9, 2017 GMT

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” — Hunter S. Thompson

Thompson’s prose never failed to engage this writer, whether he wrote on the subject of politics, sports, or music. He’s right, I believe, in his lurid description of the music business, and yet, as in his second sentence, he hints that the music business is also a thing to behold.

After all these years I am still in the music game out here in New Mexico. I composed and performed the soundtrack to a live performance of my talented friend Donald Davenport’s screenplay “Enchanted” at George R.R. Martin’s delightful Jean Cocteau Theatre in Santa Fe, and later this spring I return to Carnegie Hall to make some great music with a dear conductor friend.

I had a long and varied career with the Rome Symphony Orchestra. During my years in Rome, I served the orchestra as vocal soloist, conductor, director of symphonic chorus, board member, narrator, and choral contractor through my two groups at Berry College, The Berry College Concert Choir and The Berry Singers.

My work with the Rome Symphony ranged from thrilling to insane, but such is the way of live music and the yeoman’s work of bringing art to the public.

The Rome Symphony Orchestra has a new executive director, and he is a beloved friend.

Carey Smith is one talented individual. He forged quite a career in Southern California in the area of musical theatre. He performed major roles with some of the best ensembles in the Los Angeles area.

I recently saw Mr. Smith in an Atlanta performance of “My Fair Lady.” Carey’s work was simply brilliant, indeed, I would argue, a tour-de-force of classic musical theatre singing and acting. He was nominated for Atlanta’s version of the Tony Awards, and I hope he returns to the Atlanta stage soon. He’s that good.

Carey Smith is an individual of vision. He paid attention to what made the “ships float” during his years in Southern California, and now in Georgia. He understands what statesmanship is required to produce a high level artistic product, and I believe the board of the Rome Symphony made a terrific decision in bringing Carey aboard their symphonic vessel.

I want the Rome Symphony to succeed on every level. I want Carey Smith to be a success and one day be honored for his work with the Symphony on that “Heart of the Community” stage. Help is needed, however.

Rome and Floyd County, you need to show up. That’s right, you need to find a seat in the beautifully refurbished Rome City Auditorium and engage in some real civic pride. Most of the players up on that stage are your neighbors. They purchase goods in your establishments, buy houses from your realty companies, and drive automobiles out of your car lots. Go see them. Applaud loudly. Rinse. Repeat.

Put down the iPhone. Take the ear buds out of your canals, and realize that live music is something that transforms and illuminates the human experience.

Some of you will drive to Atlanta to see live music but rarely, if ever, set foot in the Rome City Auditorium to hear your fellow citizens perform. Shame.

Throughout our nation, symphonic organizations and other artistic endeavors are struggling, if not failing. One of the phrases I keep reading goes something like, “ … the greying of the audience.” This is interpreted as the fact that young people don’t attend the symphony or the opera.

Romans, change this. Buy a couple of tickets for yourself and then buy a couple for some young folks. Surprise your favorite Schroeder’s waitperson with two tickets for an upcoming performance. Volunteer to keep kids for a struggling young couple and give them a date night to the symphony. You get the picture.

So let’s give three cheers for one of Rome’s great treasures. Executive Director Carey Smith, the long striving administration, and the highly trained and focused musicians that grace the Rome City Auditorium stage all deserve Rome and Floyd County’s support.

Former Roman Harry Musselwhite is the author of “Martin the Guitar” and is an award-winning filmmaker.