How the Las Vegas Philharmonic Found Its Home at The Smith Center

The first time Anne Mazzola saw a Las Vegas Philharmonic performance at The Smith Center, it fulfilled her childhood dream of attending a world-class concert.

“When the Las Vegas Philharmonic performs at The Smith Center, it’s sheer magic,” says the Vegas resident, who longed for years to recapture the thrill from a school field trip to the Kennedy Center. “I can feel the vibrations in the air as strings, percussion and woodwinds all play their part. To be able to sip a glass of wine, sink further into the mohair velvet seat cushions, close my eyes and just feel enveloped by all this passion - it's simply breathtaking.”

The Las Vegas Philharmonic has delivered many such powerful experiences since it officially became a resident company with The Smith Center in July 2011.

This gave the orchestra a stage to call home at a leading performing arts center, providing an enhanced experience for patrons and a new versatility to present groundbreaking performances.

“I simply can't imagine the Las Vegas Philharmonic anywhere else,” Mazzola says. “I could not give up the gorgeous acoustics and the vitality of what the philharmonic has grown to be in this dazzling setting.”

Before The Smith Center

Becoming a resident company didn’t happen overnight.

Before The Smith Center opened, the Las Vegas Philharmonic had already served as Las Vegas’ acclaimed professional orchestra since 1998.

Created by a group of philanthropists to elevate arts and culture for community members, the orchestra acquired Southern Nevada’s leading musicians and performed in Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

“Providing the residents of Southern Nevada with a professional orchestra to give rich, cultural experiences and education opportunities were the founding pillars for our organization,” says Michele Madole, the philharmonic’s vice president of Communications and Development.

Once community leaders brought their dream of The Smith Center to fruition, becoming a resident company fit the philharmonic’s growth as an organization.

“The Smith Center deserved to have a resident orchestra of our caliber, and likewise, our orchestra deserved to be in Reynolds Hall with its masterful acoustics and overall magnificence,” Madole says.

This coincided with the end of the orchestra’s two-year search for a new conductor — culminating with the hiring of Donato Cabrera, who prioritizes taking “bold strides” with expanding the group’s programming and audience, Madole says.

Cabrera has since led the philharmonic to utilize The Smith Center’s facilities for staging large-scale, unprecedented productions.

“The Smith Center affords us a world-class performance hall, and allows us to offer our patrons a true experience from the time they enter the lobby to the time they exit,” Madole says.

From Masterpieces to the Movies

Patrons won’t soon forget many of these experiences at The Smith Center.

The philharmonic delivered the thundering intensity of masterpiece Carmina Burana by filling the stage with the Las Vegas Master Singers, the UNLV Concert Singers and Chamber Chorale, and even members of the UNLV Department of Dance.

The philharmonic has also expanded the classical music fanbase, by packing the center’s Reynolds Hall with performances of film scores by John Williams and Danny Elfman.

Mazzola can attest to the broad appeal of film music. Her husband refused to attend classical performances, until the philharmonic performed the “Psycho” film soundtrack for a Halloween concert, accompanying the film playing on the theater’s enormous screen.

“Russ experienced how powerful live classical music could be,” Mazzola says. “It was a night he still speaks of.”

Making History

The philharmonic made headlines in 2019, when it performed the first concert in Las Vegas history that featured five acclaimed violinists each performing on a Stradivarius violin.

“We showcased five of the rarest, most exquisite Stradivarius violins on earth,” says Madole of the orchestra’s three-day Stradivarius Festival that included a variety of performances.

The philharmonic has also played alongside many renowned solo artists, including top Vegas performers such as “Jersey Boys” star Travis Cloer and “Phantom of the Opera” star Kristen Hertzenberg.

“We’ve been deeply fortunate at the amazing guest artists that we’ve been able to bring to the stage with our orchestra,” Madole says.

Las Vegas resident Cathy Brooks’ favorite performances include the orchestra’s collaboration with world-renowned music group Pink Martini and vocalist Storm Large.

After attending most philharmonic performances over the past seven years, Brooks believes having a home at The Smith Center has helped the philharmonic realize its full potential.

“Every concert at The Smith Center with this orchestra is special to me,” she says. “The fact that I step into the lobby and know so many people and we get to share this magical music together, the accessibility of the musicians and the philharmonic's leadership... it's all just amazing.”

Waiting to Raise the Baton Again

With The Smith Center’s temporary closure, Mazzola misses every moment of philharmonic concerts there, spanning the energy of the valets, the smiles of the ushers and the thrill of the performance.

“When Reynolds Hall is completely silent, right before conductor Donato Cabrera begins to wave his baton, there is an electric hush over everything,” she says. “Everyone sitting in these comfy, plush velvet seats is about to experience an adventure that will stay with them for a lifetime.”

She will never take an evening out for granted again, she adds.

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