The conductor of the Olympia will give the final performance

By GRAHAM PEREDNIA gperednia@yelmonline.com

Longtime Olympia Chamber Orchestra conductor Claudia Simpson-Jones will step off the podium after a concert on June 4.

With a simple flick of the wrist, she succeeded in transferring the pure emotion of the pages of sheet music into the soul of the audience.

“It’s a great experience,” said Simpson-Jones. “I think it should be part of a well-balanced life.”

Simpson-Jones, of Yelm, has conducted the Olympia Chamber Orchestra for 12 years. She started directing when she was in high school and fell in love with it.

After retiring from an airline pilot, she returned to being a maestro with the chamber orchestra.

She is now leaving the conduct of the orchestra to travel the country in her camper van with her four cats.

“My close friends are scattered across the United States,” she said.

These friendships are not the only reason for the trip. Simpson-Jones visited several cities in the United States during her tenure as an airline pilot, but she never really saw the country from the ground.

“I’m going to sit down and enjoy the view,” she said.

Although she retires from the chamber orchestra, she does not retire from conducting. Next summer, Simpson-Jones will direct the opera Evita based on the life of Eva Perón, an Argentinian political activist from the 1940s and 1950s.

Prior to conducting this opera, she will guide the chamber orchestra through a range of musical compositions ranging from “English Folk Song Suite” by Vaughan Williams to classical pieces like “Swan Lake Suite”.

“Everyone will recognize the music of Swan Lake,” said Simpson-Jones. “It has been used as a background in music for films and plays. “

There are two kinds of conductors, she said. One guy designates himself as the conductor and the musicians are below them; the other thinks of being part of a team with the musicians of the orchestra.

“I see him as part of a team,” Simpson-Jones said.

Over the years, she and her team have grown closer. Retiring was not an easy decision.

“It’s bittersweet,” Simpson-Jones said. “We’ve come a long way and the orchestra members are my friends.

The orchestra has given Simpson-Jones the title of “Conductor Emeritus”, which means that she retains the title of conductor after her retirement, in order to honor his contributions.

With the departure of Simpson-Jones from conducting, the orchestra is looking for someone to step in and conduct out of a passion and love for music.

“This particular orchestra is completely voluntary,” said Simpson-Jones. “It must be done for love.”

When not leading or planning trips across the country, Simpson-Jones gives private singing and conducting lessons at St. Martin’s University. She cultivates and inspires the next generation of conductors there. While not all of those she teaches get into conducting, some will. It’s worth it, she said.

For kids who dream of conducting and who twist their wrists with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Simpson-Jones offered this advice.

“Don’t give up on the dream; we have to preserve it, ”she said. “We don’t want this to become a lost art.”

About Roy B. Westling

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