For someone who doesn’t live here, David Bowden has had a pretty impressive influence on the quality of life in Columbus. Along the way, he’s also developed into one of the city’s most effective cheerleaders.
Bowden, who lives in Bloomington, is celebrating his 25th year as musical director of the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic. In some respects, it is a dual anniversary. He has been the sole conductor in the orchestra’s history. The two elements have grown together to provide the city with a nationally recognized ensemble that has broadened its reach to include a range of ages and social backgrounds.
While retaining an emphasis on classical music, the philharmonic has been able to reach beyond its traditional audience by embracing sounds with more universal appeal.
That repertoire has been broadened to include popular and even country music.
Typical of this outreach has been the highly successful Salute concert that has drawn thousands of veterans and their families to the courthouse lawn on Memorial Day weekend.
Bowden’s involvement with the philharmonic is personal, one that extends to his appreciation for his adopted home away from home. His engaging personality has transformed the traditional view of an orchestra conductor into one who is seen as being in tune with his audience.
Far from striking a pose as some sort of distant and commanding figure at the head of a musical ensemble, he endeavors to include the audience in the performance — from pre-concert chats, often with featured artists, to explanatory asides during performances.
That intent to involve the audience has been expanded in his participation with the philharmonic’s educational programs in area schools.
The achievements of the past 25 years have been remarkable given the up and down vagaries of the economy and the limited reach of traditional classical orchestras.
That the philharmonic has been so successful is unique given that most cities this size don’t even have orchestras.
Those achievements have been the result of contributions from several individuals and institutions, but without David Bowden, few of them would have been possible.