David Levy, a professor of music at Wake Forest University, celebrates the announcement of Beethoven Rocks Winston-Salem in style, Thursday at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts.

Some birthdays take longer to celebrate. Winston-Salem’s arts organizations — 32 of them so far — have joined a yearlong celebration of the 250th birthday of composer Ludwig von Beethoven, an effort called “Beethoven Rocks Winston-Salem” that promises to be exciting and uplifting. It’s part of a worldwide initiative led by organizers in Bonn, Germany, the city of Beethoven’s birth, to recognize his lasting, influential contributions to music and art.

“This collaboration is a grass-roots effort that brings people together who are involved in every aspect of the arts in our community, including music, film, dance and literature,” said Mary Beth Johnson, one of the organizers of the effort and chief operating officer for the Winston-Salem Symphony, during a press conference at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts last week.

“We’re still hearing from groups, and even businesses, that have heard about our plans and want to get involved,” she said. That’s good. It’s certain that the contributions of Winston-Salem’s talented arts community — through organizations that include Bookmarks, Authoring Action, Sawtooth, SECCA, UNC School of the Arts and Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks — will be inspired and inspiring. But we still hope more artists and organizations will find ways to participate. It sounds like a big deal, and a whole lot of fun.

Plans call for at least one event during each month of 2020, organizer James Allbritten, the general and artistic director of Piedmont Opera, said. The first, Beethoven’s Liederabend, will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Wake Forest University. It features Steven Scheschareg, a bass-baritone from Vienna, Austria, and Peter Kairoff, pianist, chair and professor from the WFU Department of Music. The concert is free.

Later this year, the Piedmont Wind Symphony will perform “Extreme Beethoven,” and the Piedmont Opera and the Winston-Salem Symphony will collaborate on “Fidelio,” Beethoven’s only opera, in the fall.

In addition to musical concerts, Aperture Cinema will show the documentary films “In Search of Beethoven” and “Concerto: A Beethoven Journey,” as well as the feature film “Immortal Beloved.”

For more information and a list of events, go online to

Mercedes-Benz of Winston-Salem deserves our gratitude as the presenting sponsor of Beethoven Rocks. Company president David Neill said that he’d been looking for a project that would benefit the community as a way to celebrate his company’s 50th anniversary year, so he leapt at this opportunity.

“Art is the fabric that weaves us together and makes this a great community,” Neill said. Amen to that. An initiative like this takes a lot of planning to execute well, and we have no doubt that our local arts community can pull it off in style. We hope organizers will extend their reach as far as possible. There’s no reason a little street busking couldn’t be thrown in.

It’s difficult to imagine a more universally acclaimed artistic figure for a widespread collaborative effort like this, either. The first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony comprise what is likely the most well-known musical phrase in human history. His sophisticated and innovative compositions are filled with every passionate facet of the human experience. His musical genius has influenced not only classical and romantic period music, but probably every other genre.

“It’s interesting to note the older and more isolated he got, the more profound his artistic output was,” David Levy, a world-renowned expert and music professor at Wake Forest University said. “There’s something in Beethoven that touches everyone.”

We agree. So tell Tchaikovsky the news: for the next year, the City of Arts and Innovation will join the world in celebrating Beethoven.

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