Former Shawnee Mission East orchestra leader starting strings ensemble group in Westwood

Jonathan Lane conducting the SM East Orchestra. Photo via SM East Orchestra Boosters website.
Jonathan Lane conducting the SM East Orchestra. Photo via SM East Orchestra Boosters website.

When student musicians move on to the next phase of their lives, they often find themselves longing to be able to make music with others like they did in their school days. Providing just that opportunity is the goal of a new group being put together by former Shawnee Mission East Orchestra Director Jonathan Lane.

Lane, who retired from the district in 2016 after deciding the contract he was offered represented an untenable increase in responsibilities with no additional pay, has launched a community arts organization he’s calling the Westwood Ensemble. He’s looking for strings players — from current students to those who graduated long ago — to put on a public concert May 10.

“It’s one of those things that kind of just hit me during a brainstorm a month or so ago,” Lane said. “Some of my former students, of all different ages, were saying they couldn’t find an ensemble to play in.”

One of the challenges for people who don’t play music professionally, Lane said, is finding a place to play with others once they’ve left the realm of education, where school orchestras and ensembles are easy to find. He wanted to create a place for people to continue to enjoy making music with others in a collaborative, non-competitive environment. He put up a Facebook page looking for recruits, and has put together a slate of works to practice for the concert next month.

People can find information about the ensemble and how to join here. Lane will lead four 90 minute practices at Westwood City Hall starting next week to prepare the ensemble for the performance. There is no cost to participate in the ensemble.

“I’ll be passing around a big empty pretzel jar for donations to cover the costs for the music and all that,” he said. “We’re kind of going on the fly this time, and will see what kind of interest there is. The hope is longterm we can make it a little more formal, with a board and funding.”