Spotlight on Stephen Phillips, Patron and Volunteer
For this Spotlight we feature patron and volunteer Stephen Phillips. In coming months we’ll continue to spotlight other patrons, musicians or leaders within the CSO and Pops community.
“At a very early age I was introduced to and learned to appreciate and value classical music,” said Stephen Phillips after one of his usual shifts volunteering in the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra offices. This love for music drew him into to becoming a CSO subscriber for the last 20 years, and a regular volunteer since his retirement as a Client Service Manager from Fidelity Investments in 2014.
Growing up in a musical family in Rochester, New York, Steve began playing piano at a young age and started on trumpet at age 10. He played trumpet for school bands and orchestras, and feels very fortunate that many of his music teachers were graduates of the prestigious Eastman School of Music. In sixth grade, he won a competition that earned him the chance to play on stage with the Rochester Philharmonic . “I’ll never forget the experience of playing on that stage,” he said. He went on to study piano at Allegheny College and continued playing trumpet in the amateur orchestra while an undergraduate.
Steve earned his Master’s degree in piano accompaniment from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (he knows several current CSO musicians from his classes), and worked as a musician in the region after that before beginning his financial services career.
Since he began volunteering with the Orchestra, his duties have ranged from stuffing ticket envelopes to helping prepare scores for the library, where his music background is particularly helpful. He served as an usher and greeter during LUMENOCITY in both 2014 and 2015, and has worked in several administrative departments assisting with organizational and research tasks. Steve is usually in the office three days per week. “I’m thrilled to be living in a city that has such a fine orchestra, and that I can help them out by volunteering,” he said.
The most rewarding part, he said, is knowing the value of the work he’s doing for staff members. “They are just really appreciative, which I’m so grateful for.”
As a subscriber, Steve tries never to miss Mahler symphonies or other works that feature brass or big orchestral sound, as well as performances featuring pianists. He also loves coming away from a concert with a new favorite work that he was otherwise unfamiliar with, simply because it was played masterfully by the CSO.
When not volunteering or attending CSO concerts, Steve also serves as the chair of the Music on the Avenue recital series at St. John United Church of Christ in Bellevue, KY. The series, about to enter its 17th season, takes place on five consecutive Friday evenings in February and March. These free concerts feature instrumental and vocal chamber groups performing classical, jazz or even popular music. This coming season will include the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers, MUSE (Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir), the Ohio River Brass Quintet and his own piano trio (see caption).
An active member of his church, Steve sings in the choir, plays in the bell choir and helps coordinate weekly and monthly activities for seniors, while also making time for the gym. He also challenges himself to perform a solo piano recital for friends and family every two years, even taking it on the road to Pittsburgh and Rochester.
“I get inspiration from my parents and other family members to live my life in such a way that I’m giving back to help others,” he said. “I was always inspired by the way my aunt would always greet people at parties, at church, everywhere—going out of her way to make strangers feel welcome. I’ve taken that on to reach out to people, try to be friendly and make people feel welcomed and valued; and that makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.”