by Sonja J. Keith

The National Symphony Orchestra will be making Arkansas its home one week in March, and the news is music to the ears of many throughout the central region of the state .

With about 100 in attendance, the announcement was made July 2 at a press conference held at the Reynolds Performance Hall at the University of Central Arkansas. Participants included Gov. Mike Beebe, U.S. Representative Vic Snyder and UCA president Lu Hardin.
Dr. Rollin Potter, dean of the UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication, welcomed those attending and explained that about two years ago, he was watching an NSO concert on TV when he saw a notice about the residency program. He researched the program, began making inquiries and enlisted support.
“It’s a very special day for us,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to have this in the state of Arkansas.”
Joy Pennington, director of the Arkansas Arts Council, officially extended the invitation to Associate Conductor Emil de Cou and Patricia O’Kelly, managing director of NSO media relations. They officially accepted the invitation.
The conductor’s remark that he owned a Hewlett Packard printer – a reference to the announcement that Conway would be getting an HP facility – prompted a laugh from those in attendance. He added, “From my heart, the residency program is one of the most important things that the national symphony does throughout the year.” He explained that orchestra members are “giving back” to the United States while learning more about each state they visit.
Both Hardin and Beebe recognized Potter for his hard work in pursing the residency program. Hardin explained that while UCA was the conduit, the entire state, including thousands of students will benefit. “This is a coup,” he said. “It is a coup for the arts in the state of Arkansas. Thank you National Symphony for coming to Arkansas. Thank you for this wonderful, wonderful gift of education. No state will be or has been more grateful.”
In 1992, the National Symphony Orchestra of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts began a project unique throughout the world: The American Residencies. The NSO accepts one invitation each year, making a state or a region the focus of a host of activities.
Last year’s residency was in South Carolina.
Each state prepares a list of requests, ranging from in-school appearances to workshops for teachers to full orchestral concerts, and prioritizes them for the National Symphony Orchestra, with the orchestra fulfilling as many of those requests as logistics, scheduling and budgetary limitations allow. 
The Arkansas Arts Council and UCA will jointly coordinate all residency activities. There will be six orchestral concerts in the state, including an NSO Young People’s Concert in Helena.  Funded by grants, all ticket proceeds from the concerts will remain in Arkansas to support local arts organizations.