Chamber music adds upbeat element to couple's retirement

An unquenchable love of music has made Cleta Dillard's retirement a lot happier and a lot busier.

The Oklahoma native moved to Dayton six years ago with her husband, Walter, a professor of zoology, eight years after they retired from the University of Oklahoma. They spent two years traveling and living in Europe, then returned to the West.

Remembering the fun they had as part of a chamber music society in Norman, Okla., the Dillards started looking around for one here.

They didn't find a society, but they did find the Reno Chamber Orchestra, just a little more than an hour away.

Cleta Dillard said they became season ticket holders as soon as they discovered it.

"We love chamber music, and thought we would have to go to Sacramento or San Francisco to hear it," she said.

"But there's a chamber orchestra here, and we were blown away by the quality of the music."

Dillard, a retired academic adviser, has become the secretary for the Reno Chamber Orchestra.

"I'm the recording secretary," she said. "I'm the official secretary for signing documents and stuff like that, but my main job is the chairman for the special-events committee."

Dillard described chamber orchestras as a small orchestras, quartets, quintets and the like.

"Chamber orchestras performed things that were written when Mozart and Beethoven were living," she said.

"Chamber music is usually small, intimate-type music. It's much smaller than a philharmonic."

Dillard said she gets a lot of satisfaction when she sees young people at Reno Chamber Orchestra events.

"We played last year at the Winemakers' Dinner, and one little girl said, 'I've never been to a place where they had this kind of music.'"

She added that the organization is working hard to keep tickets affordable for students.

"Music is a big part of our lives," she said. "We love it, and it's worth the effort."

The Dillards have two adult daughters who live in Atlanta, and though the girls are not as active with chamber music as their mother, Cleta said, they still enjoyed it.

"They grew up with music," she said. "When I go down there, we go to concerts."

Dillard, who is also active in St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Carson City, said the couple chose Dayton as their retirement home because, though they each wanted something different, they both got what they wanted.

"We picked the high desert," she said. "He moved to the desert, and I moved to the mountains. We always wanted to live in the West. All we looked at was high-desert communities."

"The Realtor said, 'Let me show you Dayton, and that was it," she said. "He wouldn't look at any other property. We just love it."

Dillard had been working hard on Derby Day, a Reno Chamber Orchestra fundraiser at the Hidden Valley Country Club last weekend, and will continue her efforts to introduce people from all over the region to chamber music.

"The music is the main thing," she said. "We would like to have people from Carson City, more people from surrounding areas, coming to our concerts. We have about six concerts each year."

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111, ext. 351.


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