July 09, 2014 - Downtown Oxford experienced music on a grand and elegant scale last week when the Lapeer Symphony Orchestra returned to perform as part of the summer concert series in Centennial Park.
Playing cellos are (from left) Paul Engard, of Grand Blanc, Susan Wizinsky, of Metamora, and Joe Snider, of Flint. (click for larger version)
But unlike last year, this time the group had two Oxford musicians with it – one returning to a passion from his youth and one hoping to embark on a career in music.
Flautist Will Hale and violinist Daniel Sottile, a 2011 Oxford High School graduate, contributed their talents as the orchestra performed everything from the theme music to "Star Trek," James Bond and "Indiana Jones" to the scores of Broadway classics such as "Phantom of the Opera," "West Side Story," and "Les Miserables."
In honor of Independence Day, the orchestra opened the show with the Star Spangled Banner and closed with Stars and Stripes Forever.
"The fact that the orchestra plays here is really good for the Oxford community," Sottile said. "It exposes more people to classical music and brings a little bit of culture into the (town). It's really great."
Inspired by last year's rousing performance in Centennial Park, Hale, who's an engineer for Chrysler, auditioned for the Lapeer Symphony Orchestra soon after and was accepted.
"It's kind of a bucket list thing," explained Hale, who's lived in Oxford for about 20 years. "I'm older and coming back to (playing the flute)."
Hale started rehearsing with the group in August and began performing in public during the Christmas season.
"It's been fun," he said. "I jumped right in and really got into it."
Hale's musical journey began as a boy who enjoyed playing "the bottles."
He was referring to the practice of making music by blowing across the mouths of bottles filled with varying amounts of liquid.
From that crude instrument, he "skipped recorder and went right to the flute."
Hale started playing when he was about 8 years old and continued performing while attending high school in the U.S. Panama Canal Zone. His father was a federal employee working there.
He stopped playing in college to meet the demands of his engineering courses.
"The workload was (such that) you had to focus on that," he said. "So, sports went away and music went away."
Hale left the flute behind for about 30 years.
He picked it up again about two years ago after visiting Elkhart, Indiana, which "used to be the flute capital of the world."
"My flute was made there in the 1970s," he said. "That really kind of got me going. I started dabbling (with the flute again) after that."
Hale visited the old factory, but it was no longer manufacturing flutes as all the work had been outsourced overseas.
All that remained was a sales office, but the folks there put Hale in touch with one of the laid-off flute-makers who was able to breathe new life into his old instrument.
"He's done several since then for me," Hale said. "He does great work."
Hale hopes seeing him play and hearing his story will inspire others who have left their musical days behind to "dust off the instrument, get it tuned and oiled, and start again."
Musical talent apparently runs in Hale's family as his daughter Olivia, a senior at OHS, plays the viola.
"She's a very good violist," he said.
While Hale is busy rekindling an old love, Sottile, 21, is keeping his skills sharp as be prepares for a career in music.
He's been with the Lapeer Symphony Orchestra for about two months now. It was Hale who got him involved.
"Earlier in the year, Mr. Hale had contacted me about possibly writing a piece for Lapeer," Sottile said. "I wrote a piece that will probably (be) premiered in (December). I liked the orchestra, so I decided to join it."
Sottile is currently attending the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he's studying music composition.
Although he's unsure exactly what he'll do with his degree, his options are not limited.
"There's a lot of opportunities," Sottile said.
He's been playing the violin for 13 years.
"One day, I decided I wanted to play the violin because I thought it was a really cool instrument," Sottile said. "It's a beautiful instrument. It was very appealing."
At school, he plays with the U-M Philharmonia Orchestra.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.