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Milwaukee’s southwestern suburbs of Franklin, Greendale, Muskego, Greenfield, Oak Creek and their neighbors received an incomparable gift last year when Christine Flasch, a well-known local opera singer/conductor, voice instructor and musical performance advocate, chose to dedicate herself to bringing top-notch, professional musical performances to a variety of venues in communities that had been musically underserved for years.

In fact, the name “Southwestern Suburban Symphony” is almost a misnomer. This new musical enterprise is so much more than a symphony, which invokes images of large groups of musicians in tuxedos and formal dresses performing classical and pops instrumental music, usually without benefit of vocal accompaniment or actors.

The Southwestern Suburban Symphony (SWSS) is a nonprofit organization that brings nationally-recognized professional musicians to perform instrumental concerts, both with and without vocalists, for the general public and for young people in our community.

The SWSS was launched in August 2015 with “Glorious Gershwin,” a spectacular debut concert at the new 850-seat Saber Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin. A huge success, this concert, which combined a 57-piece orchestra with a 40-voice chorus, was followed in January 2016 by a fully staged, one-act children’s opera entitled “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” which drew nearly 1,000 patrons to two performances at Hales Corners Lutheran Church.

Flasch and her group switched gears yet again in April when the SWSS’s Big Band group brought an enthusiastic crowd to the Reiman Auditorium in Greendale for “Simply Sinatra,” a retrospective of hits celebrating Sinatra’s 100th birthday.

A symphonic concert of music from ‘West Side Story” is scheduled for September, as is a fully staged operatic performance of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” in January 2017.

“People in the suburbs often don’t want to drive downtown to enjoy the arts because of the expense of parking and the hassle of road construction, so I want to bring the music closer to where people live. We now have excellent local venues to support these kinds of events,” Flasch said.

“This is a dream come true for me. I am a classically trained musician who wants to share my love for fine vocal and instrumental music of many styles with my neighbors,” she added.

“I have a big vision that we can make the southwestern suburbs an unexpected arts destination and I am very excited about it,” Flasch said. “I would like to dedicate the remaining years of my professional career to building programs in the southwestern suburbs that will bring focus and attention to the arts with a special emphasis on educational programs for children.

“We are recruiting the finest performers from the MSO, the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra and other top professional orchestras in the area, as well as performers from around the country. First quality is what our audiences can expect at every SWSS concert,” Flasch added.

The SWSS is passionate about providing the community with fine entertainment, and is actively seeking business and individual sponsors, as well as foundation grants. “We also plan to hold at least one fund-raiser per year. Approximately 45 percent of the cost of an average performance is covered by ticket sales so it is important that the people of Milwaukee’s southwestern suburbs ‘own’ this effort,” she said. “We invite our neighbors to help us bring the very best to the southwestern suburbs.”

Flasch and her 30 current volunteers and board members are creating a grassroots, but first-rate organization for an entire region.

For more information about joining the SWSS or purchasing performance tickets, visit www.swssymphony.org.

Flasch holds a Master of Music in vocal performance from Syracuse University. She enjoyed a national operatic career, then became a full-time chorister with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City for eight seasons before returning to the Milwaukee area.

After launching a career in academia in Chicago and Milwaukee, she became the founding director of Music by the Lake, a summer festival at George Williams College of Aurora University where she produced and directed 13 years of opera, operetta and musical theater productions as part of a season that has presented top classical, pop and rock artists for 16 years. ak Creek and Franklin

are located just 20 minutes from downtown Milwaukee with a wealth of diverse fine and casual dining, world-class theater, an outstanding symphony, and the Calatrava designed Milwaukee Art Museum that has been called an Eighth Wonder of the World. The summer months are filled with the 10-day Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival, numerous ethnic festivals and free outdoor music concerts in many neighborhoods and parks.

In the local community, the Fourth of July celebrations, street fairs, tree lighting ceremonies at the winter holidays, and many more church and local organization events fill the calendar.

The area also includes local movie theaters and community theater groups.

The entertainment and cultural opportunities in the area are wide and diverse.

The biggest problem is deciding which to enjoy this weekend!

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Town Square Publications
Edward Jones