New executive director looks forward to working with DeKalb orchestra

As Alan Hopper assesses his first efforts as a musician in junior high school, he recalled, “I wasn’t very good.” Failure to measure up to his own musical standards didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for music or prevent him from launching a career that included playing with symphony orchestras in Florida and Virginia and performing on at least two recordings.

Hopper not only mastered the bassoon—the instrument on which he initially questioned his ability—but during his more than 40-year career he would not only play principal or second bassoon with several regional orchestras but would teach bassoon and other instruments at the university level. He was recently named as executive director of DeKalb Symphony Orchestra.

Executive director is the orchestra’s only paid position—the others are filled by volunteers. The job will involve developing financial structures and discipline, as well as fundraising, audience development strategies and other tasks. “I’m not sure of everything it will entail. The role is still emerging,” he said.

Hopper, who throughout his career in the arts has been a performer, teacher, and administrator, said he has found that he’s good with numbers. Although he said he probably could have been a successful accountant, he enjoys putting his financial talent to work coupled with another passion—music.

Although there’s an excitement to performing, Hopper said, he enjoys other aspects of the business as well. “There’s nothing like giving a performance that brings an audience to its feet. I get a thrill from that every time, but it’s also great to be able to support an orchestra from behind the scenes.”

The senior positions he has held with six organizations, Hopper said, allowed him to provide “leadership that changed both the culture and direction of those institutions.” The role of executive director, he said, places him in a collaborative environment, working with musicians, donors, board members and the community to create a successful season.

Hopper said he was delighted to find that DeKalb Symphony Orchestra has “a real board,” adding, “These are not people who join the board because it looks good on a resumé. They work hard and they care about the orchestra.”

Although much of his new position will be administrative, it positions him to be around the music he enjoys, Hopper continued.

Experiencing music as an audience member is different from experiencing it as an orchestra member. As an orchestra member, you are listening to the other musicians from the perspective of your role in the performance. As an audience member, I have learned to enjoy listening to the music in a different way.”

Hopper, who estimates that he owns between 400 and 500 classical CDs, said, “I always loved classical music. In fact, I love most music. I’m not crazy about some contemporary music, but in every creative undertaking—painting, writing, dance—there will always be some artists who have you asking, ‘What the heck are they going for here?’”

Hopper, who describes himself as semi-retired, said he and his wife have not yet decided whether they will give up the north Florida residence that is their primary home. “We come to Atlanta a lot and it’s not a bad drive when the weather is good. We love Atlanta, except for the traffic,” he said.

“I am eager to settle into my new position and get to know the entire DSO family—board members, players, subscribers, enthusiastic audiences, donors, as well as all the community members who have not met us,” Hopper said.DeKalb Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1964 and has more than 80 musicians, most of whom are volunteers. It is in residence at Georgia Perimeter College in Clarkston and performs regionally.


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