MILTON, Ga. — Todd Zhang thinks Milton ought to be known for something more than horses and large tracts of land. He wants the city to be known for music.
Zhang, who moved to Milton a year ago, has been tasked with creating and leading a Milton Symphony Orchestra under the banner of the Milton Arts Council nonprofit.
It is an ambitious mission, but Zhang believes it is a worthy effort.
“Milton is a unique city and environment, and we want to enrich the culture and life here,” he said. “A lot of people in this area don’t know too much about classical music, and that makes me feel even more interested to do this work. With performances and education, we can provide people an opportunity to know about classical music.”
Zhang knows firsthand the virtues of music. His son, William, is a piano prodigy who recently won first place in the 2019 American Protege International Piano and String Competition against participants from 17 countries. Zhang said his son took to the piano himself and immediately found a love for performing and music, and it is his hope that a Milton symphony orchestra can inspire the community.
Zhang said the orchestra will include professional musicians, talented performers who make their living outside of music and highly skilled high school and collegiate musicians. He said the orchestra would perform twice a year in October and around Christmas. The first performance is slated for Oct. 5 at the city’s Crabapple Fest.
“It is not the typical sit-down with full attire boring orchestra play,” Zhang said. “We want to be creative and fun.”
There are also plans to offer a music class for kids to inspire the next generation of performers.
To bring the Milton symphony orchestra plans to fruition, funding is needed. While Zhang said around $3,000 has been raised, more is needed before the first performance. Funding needs to be secured for a rental tent, a sound system, chairs and other equipment and a small stipend for the 30 to 40 musicians in the orchestra.
Zhang has sought funding from Milton and Fulton County through its Arts & Culture wing, but neither group has allocated financial support in its budget yet.
Private donations have been received, however, and Zhang is looking to incentivize businesses to donate funds. Zhang said businesses can sponsor individual music pieces, and the orchestra can promote firms through social media.
He also believes the orchestra could have an economic boost for the city by attracting non-residents to Milton for performances.
“We want to attract people from Alpharetta, Roswell, Woodstock, all of the places around here,” Zhang said.
The impact would go far beyond dollars, though, Zhang said.
“We are doing something that will make all of us and our children better human beings and make our community a better place,” he said. “Culture is the soul that allows a community to grow. We really believe that.”
Those interested in joining the orchestra or volunteering can visit miltonculturalarts.org.