Written by Robert Hunt Simonds, Principal Second Violin
For this initiative, I am teamed up with Dr. Jim Watters, RIT’s senior vice president of finance and administration. It is a pleasure to welcome Dr. Watters to the RPO family. We first met in January at the Grammy Watch Party hosted by RIT and MAGIC Spell Studios. Fueled by the optimism surrounding our Grammy win that evening, we had a lively and productive talk about the future. That evening, both Dr. Watters and RIT’s president, Dr. Munson, spoke of their commitment to the arts—specifically the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra—and how our two institutions might pursue a fruitful, collaborative relationship. Since then, Dr. Watters and I have enjoyed wide-ranging conversations on everything from effective institutional basics to the imaginative brainstorming.
RIT is at the forefront of our community’s progress and imagination and Dr. Watters is at its helm, overseeing operations here in Rochester, and also in Europe and Dubai. RIT has also been a leader in navigating how to move forward in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. RIT will be reopening its campus in the fall to a full class, and its researchers are already back on the job, working to establish policies that will be imperative in providing a safe learning environment. Many of the components to implement this fall under Jim’s supervision.
Just as an educational institution like RIT has myriad complexities, a full-time orchestra also has countless components that the average audience member might not be aware of. As a new RPO board member, Dr. Watters was surprised to learn how many diverse programs we play every season, and the equally diverse audiences we play for. I have shared with him the unique path most musicians take before arriving at an institution like the RPO, and we’ve discussed the orchestra’s work in education, outreach, and now digital media.
These conversations have convinced me that—especially in these challenging times—RIT and the RPO can forge a mutually beneficial partnership that raises up both this community and the art form. The RPO has an opportunity to assert ourselves as national leaders, building a path for creating, sharing, and experiencing the soul of orchestral music through new technologies. I look forward to the journey ahead.