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Celebrating 20 years of the MIT Summer Philharmonic Orchestra

Conductor George Ogata '92 honored for his years of service at MIT Professional Education-sponsored event.
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Bhaskar Pant, executive director of MIT Professional Education, presents MITSPO conductor and music director George Ogata with an award of excellence for his years of service.
Bhaskar Pant, executive director of MIT Professional Education, presents MITSPO conductor and music director George Ogata with an award of excellence for his years of service.
Photo: Andy Shao

On the evening of July 15, MIT alum George Ogata '92 led the 98-piece MIT Summer Philharmonic Orchestra (MITSPO) through Hector Berlioz’s "Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14" to a full house at Kresge Auditorium. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the annual free-admission performance sponsored by MIT Professional Education and offered to the MIT and greater Cambridge community.

“Our 20th anniversary concert was a capstone performance building on previous successful seasons. As director and conductor, I was proud of — and stunned by — the hard work and energy displayed by the musicians,” says Ogata, who also serves as music director and conductor of the Reading Symphony Orchestra based in Reading, Massachusetts. “Not only was this a singular performance, it was a celebration of the fine collaboration with MIT Professional Education, whose dedicated support over all of the past 20 years made that very evening even possible. We are truly grateful.”

The evening opened with Ogata being honored with an award of excellence from MIT Professional Education and endorsed by the MIT Music and Theater Arts section for Ogata’s decades of service to the community. Bhaskar Pant, executive director of MIT Professional Education, presented Ogata with the award after his opening remarks.

“George had minored in music while studying at MIT; little did anyone, including George, know at the time he graduated how he would turn that background into a major annual contribution to the MIT and Cambridge music-loving communities. We at MIT Professional Education feel proud to have been associated with the annual summer performance of this all-volunteer orchestra ever since its inception. This year’s 20th anniversary performance was absolutely mesmerizing in its quality, energy, and vastness of sounds. George and the orchestra deservedly received a standing ovation at the end that did not want to stop! We are so glad we could surprise George with a recognition award before the night began,” said Bhaskar Pant after the performance.

While pursuing his biology degree at MIT, Ogata began serving as the concertmaster of the MIT Symphony Orchestra, a position he held for seven years. In 1995, Ogata founded MITSPO as a way to provide local musicians from the MIT and the greater Boston community an opportunity to rehearse and perform orchestral music during the off-season summer months. Back then, it was a much more humble operation: Ogata’s parents printed the program flyers and personally stapled them across the MIT campus and all over the rest of Cambridge to advertise the performance. Today, Ogata’s MITSPO concerts fill up Kresge Auditorium, a 1,200-seat venue, with permanent fans and new attendees brought in every year.

Six major rehearsals and countless hours of private practice went into preparing Berlioz for this year’s performance. “Berlioz's 'Symphonie Fantastique' is a piece I have always wanted to perform with MITSPO. Known as a virtuosic piece for a virtuoso orchestra, it’s one of those musical icons I said to myself, ‘When we're ready….’” says Ogata. “Well, this year, we were indeed ready — ability, spirit, and all!”

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