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Gilbert with the Eroica Ensemble

Much of that is owed to Michael’s own reputation — over the course of his career, he has served as a teacher, mentor and guide for several generations of fellow musicians. “For Eroica, that’s a great thing, because there are all these colleagues, contemporaries and friends whom he has worked with and helped over the years … who want to come to Memphis to support him,” Anthony says.

The topflight talents who have recently performed with Eroica include New York Philharmonic veterans like clarinetist Stanley Drucker and violinist Sanford Allen, as well as National Orchestral Institute director James Ross and pianist/composer Cyprien Katsaris.

Musically, Eroica’s selections are deeply personal for Michael, and emphasis is placed on formative favorites like Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, as well as on old masters like Beethoven and Mozart. “One advantage of us Southerners is that we start with a basic love of music,” Michael says. “We don’t have a French bias or a Russian bias or an Italian bias or a Finnish or German bias. We’re in a position to more or less like everything we consider good.”

Eroica’s spring 2011 season opens this month (March 19) with a concert featuring Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61, and Haydn’s Symphony no. 103 in E-flat Major, and then, following the orchestra’s final performance in June (which will include Mozart’s Symphony no. 40 in G Minor), it will be on hiatus until its new program of concerts resumes in the fall.

As Eroica continues to evolve and gain financial support from the local and regional arts community, the future for the ensemble appears bright. “What we’re doing is still in the beginning stages — and it’s not being done with the idea of becoming some ?massive operation,” Michael says. “The goal for us is to connect with the people. When I was a kid, there was more of a feeling in the country about supporting culture. I think that’s still very important. If we can make it so everyone in society feels included, it would be a wonderful thing. The music is there to share.”