Erin Lunsford Norton’s recent arrival in McGinley Square coincides with growing ties between Jersey City and her employer, the New Jersey Symphony.

Lunsford Norton is vice president of artistic planning for the NJS, which celebrated its centennial year with a concert in Jersey City during Independence Day weekend.

The event had been scheduled to take place outdoors in Liberty State Park, but the menacing weather prompted organizers to spread advance word on social media that the venue had been shifted to the Margaret Williams Theater on the campus of New Jersey City University.

More than 400 turned out for the free concert at NJCU, which was supported by the city’s Arts and Culture Trust Fund.

NJS’s Chamber Players will be back in Jersey City Thursday, July 13, at 7 p.m., for a three-part “Sounds of Summer Series” downtown in Hamilton Park. The first event will feature will feature seven works performed by Jersey City’s own Nimbus Dance Company. Should it rain, the event will be moved to the Brunswick Center at 189 Brunswick St.

A week later, on July 21, Nimbus will collaborate with NJS’s Artistic Director, Xian Zhang, at the Tanglewood Music Festival when Zhang guest conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Copeland’s Appalachian Spring choreographed by Nimbus Artistic Director Sam Pott.

Also scheduled as part of the Hamilton Park series will be a “Bollywood-themed” performance on July 27. Guest artists will perform selections from India’s popular film genre plus original works for string quartet by Bollywood composer Pyarelal Sharma. The evening’s program is curated by Kulture Kool.

The final Hamilton Park concert in the series is slated for August 10 when NJSO’s resident artistic catalyst and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain joins the chamber players for a mix of classics and his own compositions.

In marking its first 100 years, Lunsford Norton also notes that the 66-member NJSO “has gone above and beyond” to embrace inclusion and diversity through recent initiatives.

One example is the orchestra’s commissioning of new works by emerging composers recruited through the orchestra’s Edward T. Cone Composition Institute in collaboration with Princeton University. 

Works by four such composers will be given world premieres by the NJS July 9-15 at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater in Newark.

Lunsford Norton said the orchestra received 167 applications from composers from around the world to participate in the Institute’s apprenticeship program. Those selected get to hear their music rehearsed and performed by the NJS and participate in feedback sessions with the conductor and musicians.

The orchestra is also sponsoring the Colton Conducting Fellowship “designed to support early-career Black and/or Latinx musicians and conductors representing populations that have historically been underrepresented on the podium.” Applications for the 2023-2024 season will be accepted shortly.

Lunsford Norton, a Tarheel whose mother Beth Lunsford, recently retired as piccolo player with the North Carolina Symphony, began her musical journey as a student of piano at age five. A few years later, she segued to the flute, then to bassoon, completing her music degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015.

As she pondered her future in the music job market, Lunsford Norton said she realized it could be “an incredibly difficult path finding my way into a professional orchestra,” so she shifted to artistic planning as an alternate route. 

“It was a great way to maintain an attachment to the players without practicing bassoon four hours a day,” she quipped.

She began her behind-the-scenes apprenticeship, handling administrative details for the Grand Teton Music Festival in 2015; helping plan the performance season for the Utah Symphony and Opera, 2015 to 2018; then, back to her home state, working for the North Carolina Symphony, 2018 to 2022.

And, in August 2022, she was hired by the NJS where she hopes to grow some roots along with the orchestra players who recently inked a new labor contract good through 2027.

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...