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Tonight’s Program

The Music of Billy Joel starring Michael Cavanaugh


Tonight’s program will be announced from the stage

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SWS Playbill Winter2020

From the Board

Alyce Gardner

Alyce Gardner

Board Chair

Dear Friends,

Happy 40th anniversary Southwest Symphony! What an amazing 4 decades it has been filled with inspiring music. I am personally honored to have been a part of the symphony for almost 10 years both as a violinist and administrator. This legendary group of dedicated music professionals has tirelessly volunteered their time, resources and energy into keeping music alive in our community. There's no doubt - there is no substitute for live music.

We now have a unique opportunity to pledge our sustaining support. I invite you to become a friend of the symphony and give whatever you can. Your donation is critical to our future now more than ever. There are many ways to give including the 40 for 40 Campaign or through the Crescendo Club. Every dollar makes a difference. All the details can be found on our website at

Please don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions about the symphony, you would like to become a donor, or maybe you just want to chat about your favorite composer. We are here to serve our community and we deeply appreciate your support as we continue to bring YOU music that enriches and brings joy to your life.

Here’s to another great 40 years!

Meet the Maestro

Lucas Darger

Lucas Darger

Lucas Darger returns for his fifth season with the Southwest Symphony. The Symphony has flourished under his leadership, and his innovative programming and dedication to excellence has resulted in sold-out performances becomes a regularity. Artistry has reached new heights, ticket sales have more than tripled, and the symphony has added to its educational outreach programs, giving free concerts to more than 3000 local elementary children. He has forged new ties within the community, increasing collaborations both in and out of the concert hall with local arts groups as well as other non-profits, and has established a pre-show tradition that allows students and local musicians incredible performance opportunities. He is a passionate conductor and musician and strives to achieve expressive performances that captivate and energize audiences.

Darger began his conducting career when he was just sixteen years old, and has gone on to conduct orchestras across the United States. He earned a Master’s degree in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Iowa, where he studied with the renowned Dr. William LaRue Jones, and he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Violin Performance from the University of Utah, where he also studied conducting with Dr. Robert Baldwin. Afterwards he was accepted as a fellow at the prestigious Pierre Monteux School for Conductors in Hancock, Maine.

Special Guest Biography

Michael Cavanaugh

Michael Cavanaugh

Michael Cavanaugh is the new voice of the American Rock & Roll Songbook and a charismatic performer and musician made famous for his piano/lead vocals in the Broadway musical Movin’ Out. Handpicked by Billy Joel to star in Movin’ Out, Cavanaugh evokes a style rivaling the Piano Man. He appeared in the show for three years with over 1,200 performances and received multiple accolades. The show culminated in 2003 with both Grammy and Tony award nominations.

Michael began playing at age seven, when his parents bought their first piano.  Encouraged by family and friends, and inspired by his hero Billy Joel, Michael formed his first band at age 10 and began playing local functions, fine-tuning the craft that would become his chosen career. His first full-time gig as a musician was an extended engagement in Orlando, Florida, at a piano bar called Blazing Pianos. In January of 1999, Michael received an offer that would unknowingly change his life: an opportunity to play Las Vegas at the famed New York, New York Hotel and Casino. It was there that Billy Joel spotted Michael and joined him on stage one fateful night of February 2001.  It only took two songs before Billy was convinced that he had found his new Piano Man: Michael Cavanaugh. Michael closed up shop at New York, New York and moved to New York City to work alongside Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp to shape the Broadway Musical that would be called Movin’ Out.  In the lead role, he received both Tony and Grammy nominations.

With the close of Movin’ Out at the end of 2005, Michael began touring in his own right, creating a show that reinterprets the modern pop/rock songbook. Michael soon became one of the hottest artists in the private events market, and he continues to perform worldwide for company and charity events as well as sporting events including many PGA tour events, the SuperBowl, and the Indy 500.  His interpretation of the modern rock/pop songbook led to Billboard calling him “The New Voice of the American Rock and Roll Songbook,” and he was recognized by Reuters as Entertainer of the Year for the private events market.

It wasn’t long before symphony orchestras discovered Michael’s talents and audience appeal. He accepted his first orchestral booking, “Michael Cavanaugh – The Songs of Billy Joel and More,” which debuted in April 2008 with the Indianapolis Symphony and continues to tour today.  In October 2008, he signed with Warner/ADA to distribute his first CD, In Color.  In June 2010, Michael debuted his second symphony show in the Generations of Rock series titled “Michael Cavanaugh: The Songs of Elton John and More” and then debuted his third symphony show, “Singers and Songwriters: the Music of Paul Simon, Neil Diamond and James Taylor,” in 2012.  In 2015, he debuted his fourth symphony show: “Rockin’ Christmas with the Pops.”  He continues to tour all four symphony productions along with performing with his band in performing arts centers and other public venues.

“The Way I Hear It”, his second commercial album, was released in April 2017, and it debuted at #17 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.

In 2020, Michael Cavanaugh reached the POLLSTAR Live75, which is the top 75 active touring acts in the country.

Orchestra Members

Violin I

Rachel France, Concertmaster

Debbie Hafen, Assistant Concertmaster

Lacey Young

Amber Morris

Julie Valadez

Cassidee Torres

Natalie Nelson

Kristen Kjar

Violin II

Joie Whittaker, Principal

Lichelle Jones, Assistant Principal

Andrea Luikart

Debbie Thornton

Bette Adams

Melanie Nielsen

Tammy Tremea

Amy Gray

Hannah Hymas


Linda Ghidossi-DeLuca, Principal

Shay Manley, Assistant Principal

Katherine Hales

Norman Fawson


Ka-Wai Yu, Principal

Peter Romney, Assistant Principal

Sandy Gustaveson

Debra Vradenburg

Jessie Coombs

Kent McDonald

Leslie Jack

Joe Duwel


Denise Jones, Principal

Amy Gardner

Edwin Candland


Jane Dastrup


Cassandra Flinders

Beth Lingwall


Kendyl Johnson, Principal

Rhonda Rhodes


Melissa Bennion, Principal

Greg Johnston


David Hay, Principal

David Lintz

Leslie Lintz

Tabitha Nygaard


Amy Paterson, Principal

LuWayne Barber

Samuel Dickson


Timothy Francis, Principal

Steve Davis

Kirk Jones


David Salisbury


Jay Nygaard

Zac Webb

Larry White


Lucas Darger

Music Librarian

Julia Monson

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