February 6, 2018: Santa Rosa Symphony conductor candidate Michael Christie relates to players, audience

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, February 6, 2018

Conductor Michael Christie has amassed an impressive resume since he received an “outstanding potential” prize at the First International Sibelius Conductor’s Competition in Helsinki at the age of 21.

Now 43, Christie is at the top of his game, having forged an international career in Europe, the U.S. and Australia while proving himself a musical adventurer through his innovative programming with the Minnesota Opera, where he has served as Music Director since 2012.

Last July, for example, he conducted the premiere of “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” at the Santa Fe Opera, a project that drew upon talent from the Minnesota Opera. According to the MinnPost, Christie “presided in the pit ... giving careful guidance to the pulsating yet delicate electro-acoustic score by the 40-year-old Mason Bates.”

Stints at symphonies such as the Queensland Orchestra (2001-2004), Phoenix Symphony (2005-2013) and the Brooklyn Philharmonic (2005-2010) round out the career of this former wunderkind, not to mention his 13-year tenure as music director the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder and guest conducting gigs all over the world.

Christie — the fifth and final music conductor candidate to try out with the Santa Rosa Symphony this season as a successor to Bruno Ferrandis — will lead the orchestra this Saturday, Feb. 10, through Monday Feb. 12 in a colorful program of Bernstein, Prokofiev and Dvorak at the Green Music Center. He also conducted the orchestra in January 2015, when he arranged for fiddler Mark O’Connor to perform with his wife in the first half of the program before tackling his own Fiddle Concerto after intermission. The concert ended on a colorful note with Copland’s “El Sálon México.”

“I’m not afraid to look at how the menu of the concert is set up,” Christie said in a phone interview in September. “I really felt like, ‘Let’s wrap it up with something quick, splashy and fun for the orchestra.’”

A former trumpet player, Christie is known for his clear conducting of even the most challenging scores and for his strong rapport with musicians.

“Having played in lots of orchestras gives me a good idea of what the orchestra musicians are experiencing, especially those who are far away from the podium, ” Christie said. “Unlike a keyboard player, I have a pretty good sense of the canon ... and I’ve tried to implement successful rehearsals.”

Christie likes to make small tweaks to traditional program formats in an effort to create a better experience for audiences. He likes to provide variety in programming and to balance the expectations of every audience member in the hall, a challenge he finds as rigorous as it is rewarding.

“When you have about 1,500 people in a space, everybody comes there wanting their own experience,” he said. “Some people just want music. Some people want to know what’s going on. Trying to find a balance is really fascinating for me.”

Here is an edited version of our interview with Christie, who lives in Minneapolis with his wife Alexis, a pulmonary critical care doctor; daughter, Sinclair, 9, and son Beckett, 3.

What will the symphony musicians enjoy about working with you?
I’m very much about making the experience of the concert fun and entertaining, and having an open mind about what people should experience. I’d like to think that I would be able to give the musicians a broad view of the repertory, and hopefully, get them as engaged as possible with the audience there, who really struck me. They’re magnificent. I really felt like the audience was very actively engaged in what was happening, and I felt like they had great pride in the orchestra.
So they can expect artistic leadership and also community leadership ... it’s the music director’s job to be a bit of a curator and help people find different ways through what we’ve selected, and a lot of that is how we interact with the audience and break down the barrier by speaking to them. With the hall and the surround seating, we already have the benefit of people being able to surround the orchestra.

What ideas do you have to engage and grow the audience here, and can you give an example of what you’ve already done with other orchestras?
I have for a long time done interviews of guest artists immediately after they’ve done their concerto, usually at intermission, and give the audience a chance to ask questions. Let’s say there is a 20-minute intermission. The soloist and I will stay out there, and for 10 minutes, we do a Q & A. And the people who want to get a drink and go to the bathroom can leave.

I also did some crazy things. For anyone who wanted to sit on the stage, I’d have them leave their ticket stubs with the usher, and we’d draw their names. It gives people a chance to be a little bit closer to what’s happening.

I’ve got a few other arrows in my quiver that I know work and am really eager to fine-tune them with another group ... There are a lot of compelling artists that do things that aren’t just violin and piano concertos. I worked with a life-size puppeteer, Basil Twist, and he brought all these puppeteers and did a presentation of (Stravinsky’s) “Petrouchka.” I wanted the audience to see that the music is a ballet and is meant to be danced.

In this day and age, everything is so much about the user experience, and as an arts organization, we have to leave a little bit of time in our thinking about designing that user experience ... you have to be sensitive about what actually makes that experience great.

What is your programming philosophy and how do you plan to keep concerts exciting for everyone?
My philosophy overall is that variety is key. Especially with music that the audience might not know. I try to imagine my wife sitting in the audience. What would she get out of this? If the music is obscure and crazy ... then I won’t pick that piece. I try to marry variety with that first listening. What will people get out of it if they only hear it once?

As the music director and curator, you are laying out people’s trail through a museum, and it has to be there for a specific reason. Is it worth doing for them and for us as performers?

Where do you see classical music going in the future, and how would you take this orchestra in that direction?
The future is very community specific ... that’s why I’m putting my chips in the experience basket, because I really believe that there’s not many other opportunities for people to experience live performances of instrumental music.

We can’t just say “Love us because we’re playing Brahms.” It’s got to have more meaning. I just had the feeling, from that week with the orchestra and the audience, that there’s a real sense that people are engaged in the arts there. So you really feel that energy.

There is so much presented in that hall, so it’s not like this is a surprise. It’s a matter of how we do it going forward? It’s going to be a mix of the standards and this enormous palette we get from all over the world and helping people understand what’s going on. That’s an enormous component to being successful.

What instruments do you play and how does that experience serve you in your role as conductor?
I got my degree in trumpet performance at Oberlin, and I’d like to think that ... playing in lots of orchestras gives me a good idea of what the orchestra musicians are experiencing ... and I try to be aware of their needs.

One of the challenges for many California orchestras is that they only play together a couple times a month. How do we establish the relationship with them and decide how we’re going to do things in the hall? How do we get quickly into the mindset of that space?

Those musicians are busy and racing all over, and when they arrive, how do they have confidence in the conductor? For a goal, you want the Santa Rosa Symphony experience for our musicians to be the very best of all the orchestras that they play in.

Why do you want to come to Sonoma County, and how much time can you spend here?
First of all, I was really struck by how the audience and the orchestra felt with each other in that space. It was a very fertile ground.

It’s been a lot of fun being in opera, but at the same time, I’ve got 20 years worth of great orchestral experience, and I want to keep refining that.

The music director needs to be as involved as possible. So I will learn more about what the optimal time commitment would be as the process unfolds.

Being an American music director is a very involved experience. It’s a wild job in a lot of ways. You have to be able to sell the vision and be an ambassador, performer, fundraiser and a bit of a psychologist, not only for the musicians but for the board. You’re a planner and a collaborator with the staff. It’s not a job that anybody gets trained specifically to do. If I got the position, this would be my sixth music director position in my life.

Conducting is your favorite thing. What is your second favorite thing?
amily is at the forefront of everything, but among non-family things, I love flying. It’s a source of great joy, especially as a hobby. I have a Mooney, low-wing, single-engine prop plane. I did my flight training in my early 20s, and got my license when I was 24. If I can fly without stopping for fuel, then I can beat the airlines. But as soon as you have to make a stop, the curve works against you.

Can you talk about the program you’ll be leading?
One of the big things I wanted to do was to be part of Bernstein’s centenary (he was born in 1918), and it’s important for any orchestra to nod its cap and appreciate how important he was. I thought it would be fun to present a piece that is a little bit off the beaten trail (“On the Waterfront”.) It’s jazzy and very lyrical, and there’s a lot of rhythm, which directly correlates with “West Side Story.” It speaks to variety, because he’s a well-known composer, but let’s look at him from a little bit different angle.

The orchestra assigned everybody soloists and gave us some choices about what the soloists were willing to do. The Prokofiev (Piano Concerto No. 3 (performed by Anna Fedorova) is great for the audience and has a lot of vibrancy, and it’s a great showpiece for the pianist.

Then they asked us to look at the repertory from the last five years and pick a standard piece that hasn’t been done in that time frame. That’s the motivation for the Dvorak (Symphony No. 9). That’s what people could imagine me thinking of doing in future programming.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com.

January 11, 2018: Meet Santa Rosa Symphony conductor candidate Graeme Jenkins

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, January 11, 2018

Like Santa Rosa Symphony’s outgoing Music Director Bruno Ferrandis, music director candidate Graeme Jenkins is based in Europe but has spent a great deal of time in the U.S.
Also like Ferrandis, Jenkins knows his way around the string bass and has deep roots in opera, serving as the music director of the Dallas Opera for nearly 20 years. But the similarities between the Frenchman and the Brit stop there.

The 58-year-old Jenkins, a choral and orchestral conductor who specializes in Mozart and the Viennese classics, will lead a program of Haydn, Mozart and Bartok from Saturday through Monday, Jan. 13 to 15, at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall.

The mostly Classical-era program will provide a palate-cleanser from the music performed so far this season, which has leaned heavily toward big, Romantic works by composers such as Berlioz, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.

One of his most famous mentors — Sir Peter Hall, a theater, opera and film director who died in September at age 86 — set Jenkins on the “less is more” path a long time ago, and he has never veered very far from it.

“Sir Peter Hall really insisted on integrity to the piece, and that is the heart of what I do as a conductor,” Jenkins said. “So that the music speaks its truth to the audience.”

Jenkins, who has conducted all the major UK orchestras and other opera companies such as the Vienna State Opera, uses restrained gestures when he conducts to communicate the sound that he wants to the orchestra.

“If you watch the greatest conductors ... they shape the music with their hands,” he said. “If you want (Gustavo) Dudamel — somebody doing huge and flamboyant gesture — that’s maybe what Santa Rosa needs. But if you want someone to delve deep into the music, that’s where I might fit in better.”

A self-made musician, Jenkins is the son of a banker and a hard-working housewife and fell under the spell of music as a young boy. He was able to excel, he said, due to Britain’s top-notch musical education system. His training started at Dulwich College, a private boarding school in South London; and continued at the University of Cambridge, where he read music; then at the Royal College of Music in London, where he studied conducting.

“I come from a family where there wasn’t much music, but for some reason I loved classical music,” he said. “I’m a product of education bringing people to music.”

His career took off when he was appointed Music Director of the Glyndebourne Touring Opera from 1986 to 1991. “I was very, very lucky,” he said. “After doing a festival in Brighton, the Glyndebourne Touring Opera asked me to come there, and I was there for seven years, with (Bernard) Haitink and (Sir Simon) Rattle.”

Jenkins is the fourth and penultimate candidate to audition with the Santa Rosa symphony this season to take Ferrandis’ place. A final decision made by the board will be announced in March.
Here is an edited version of our interview with Jenkins, who lives in Dorset, England, with his wife, Joanne. The couple has two daughters: Martha, 27, and Isabella, 25.

What will the symphony musicians enjoy about working with you?
I hope, in that week, that some form of spark will come between the rostrum and the musicians. Without talking, without enormous movements from me, the music will speak for itself.

From the very first down beat, I’ll know if there’s the concentration and level of professionalism that wants to go further. I’ll start with the Bartok (Concerto for Orchestra) and those quiet phrases, and I’ll know from the intonation from cellos and bass how we’re going to get on.

In my first job, I was wonderfully tutored in committee, letting everybody talk, getting the feeling of the room, and then suggesting an approach ... it’s much better to have everybody involved. That’s the same way when you conduct an orchestra. Yes, you dictate the tempo, but you need to nurture the person in the back of the second violins and the new student in front, and remind the jaded members that the music is life-giving and remind them what it was like when they first did it.

What ideas do you have to engage and grow the audience here, and can you give an example of what you’ve already done with other orchestras?
That’s very hard to answer without being in California and seeing what is needed. I’ve seen what the planning has been and the educational works that have already been done. It’s actually sitting down with the board and audience and asking, “We have this marvelous orchestra, what do you want to do with it and how can we grow an audience?”

In Dallas, it was very much working together with board members and audience and singers. It’s pointless saying, ”We must do this,” without knowing and nurturing what is going on there.

What is your programming philosophy and how do you plan to keep concerts exciting for everyone?
It’s making every piece you do as exciting as possible. To take the orchestra to the absolute limits of what they can do and beyond. We must not become a museum culture. We must find new composers and new works. Why was it Haydn wrote 104 symphonies? Everyone wanted to hear something new.

Now the obsession is to hear everything everybody knows already. I don’t go into the same restaurant and eat the same meat with the same sauce. I want to try all kinds of things ... There are many different shades of cabernet sauvignon, depending on how much time in the barrel and the bottle. It’s the same with music. You want to try and develop different great varietals of the time.

Where do you see classical music going in the future, and how would you take this orchestra in that direction?
Classical music is in a difficult place at the moment, in that media does not take it seriously and everyone is calling it elitist. For me, it’s never been elitist. In Germany, every child at age 4 goes to see a production of “The Magic Flute.” It’s not difficult. And what is vital is that one keeps the support from the board and community to keep prices low so that anyone who wants to can afford to go.

The traditional standard repertoire should not be unknown. One should know the works of Mozart and Beethoven. But in America, that’s a challenge. So one has to tell the audience, “What we’re doing is really important, and you must come and hear it.”

And if one is to do an hour-long Shostakovich, you have to say “This is what you need to know,” and do a symposium ahead of time.

Why do you want to come to Sonoma County, and how much time can you spend here?
What I’m good at is running things. I enjoy guest conducting, but I enjoy being part of an organization and working with people. Although I have conducted orchestras, I have never been a music director of a symphony orchestra.

I would hope I would continue the work that Jeffrey Kahane did. I would certainly have a part-time residence there ... you’ve got to get to know the community, get involved with the student groups and talk to board members.

I think it’s important that I continue my European career as well. But what I adore about America — what is still great — is that if you say to a group of people, “Come on, we need to do this,” they will back you, and there’s still an extraordinary enthusiasm about ‘Go West, young man,’ and let’s achieve something.

What instruments do you play and how does that experience serve you in your role as conductor?
I kicked off on the piano, harpsichord and organ ... and I also played the double bass and did timpani, so I have a rudimentary knowledge of strings, then timpani and percussion. Once I got into Cambridge, I was a choral scholar, and I sang Evensong (evening prayer) every night of the week. That taught me how to sight read, and I know how to accompany the voice. You try to create an orchestral sound with the piano when you accompany people, so you really learn how to make it sound like an orchestra.

Conducting is your favorite thing. What is your second favorite thing?
I adore salmon fishing in the rivers. (In August) I was recording Verdi in Glasgow for Decca, and then I had a week fishing on the east coast of Scotland. I’m very new to this, but I’ve had casting lessons and now I get my fly into the river. No Internet. No noise. Incredibly beautiful scenery ... it’s really important, in this stressful world, that one can go completely away from things.

Can you talk about the program you’ll be leading?
I chose an extraordinary symphony (No. 100) that was premiered in London by Haydn ... Music is so often telling a story, and in Haydn’s “Military” Symphony, there’s a story in the second movement; perhaps Mozart’s best piano concerto (No. 21, to be performed by pianist Orli Shaham); and an extraordinary piece by Bartok (Concerto for Orchestra) written in New York City during an unhappy and difficult time of his life. He was thinking of his homeland and wonderful times back in Hungary. On the West Coast of America, that music will speak for myself.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

November 26, 2017: Santa Rosa Symphony conductor candidate Andrew Grams a multitasker at heart

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, November 26, 2017

Baltimore native Andrew Grams started multitasking at an early age. While studying conducting at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, for example, the Juilliard-trained violinist was also hopping on trains to perform with the New York City Ballet Orchestra.

So the diverse challenges of directing a modern symphony orchestra — equal parts baton technique, public speaking and community outreach — do not daunt the 40-year-old conductor, who currently serves as the fourth music director of the 67-year-old Elgin Symphony Orchestra in Elgin, Illinois, just 35 miles northwest of Chicago. The orchestra is roughly the size of the Santa Rosa Symphony and draws upon musicians from all over the region.

Grams will lead the Santa Rosa Symphony this Saturday through Dec. 4 at Weill Hall during a program of Berlioz, Ravel and Rachmaninoff entitled “A Luscious Euro Sound.” The conductor is the third of five finalists trying out this season to succeed Music Director Bruno Ferrandis (other interviews and reviews so far can be viewed at pressdemocrat.com).

In addition to his in-depth string knowledge, Grams is known for creating a close relationship with the community, which has translated into a successful run so far with the Elgin Symphony.

“As time goes on, I have found more and more of my time being used in community development and relationship building rather than sitting in one’s cave, poring over scores and searching them for the deepest meaning,” Grams said in a phone interview. “I’ve dedicated myself to that in Elgin … and I am happy to say that over the course of my four-year tenure, we have grown both audience and revenue every single year.”

The Elgin Symphony Orchestra sold the highest average number of classical concert tickets in its history during the 2016-17 season, according to the Chicago Tribune. Grams believes the success of the orchestra is in part because of his personal accessibility.

“One of the things that I like to do is to get rid of the idea, the stigma, that exists in most people’s minds about what going to a symphony is,” he said. “I strive in my communication ... to make everyone know that music is for everyone. All should feel welcome.”

Grams, who served as assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra for three years, guest conducts all over the world, from the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra London to the Oslo Philharmonic. His conducting style is elegant and animated, ranging from power punches to smooth balletic sways.

Here is our edited interview with Grams, who was named the 2015 Conductor of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras:

What will the symphony musicians enjoy about working with you?
I create a working atmosphere that is positive and encouraging. The most important thing, and the thing that translates into an exciting performance, is when everybody strives for something that lies just beyond their easy grasp. It’s about trying to find that expressive region, where people are doing everything correctly …but striving for higher levels of the particular qualities required by the music, whether it be clarity, atmosphere or sustained intensity.

What ideas do you have to engage and grow the audience here, and can you give an example of what you’ve already done with other orchestras?
Since I’ve only had one orchestra, my experience is limited … but I am a person who is encouraging and inviting and warm and welcoming. I strive in my communication, whether it be in print or one-on-one conversations or speaking to the audience from the stage, to make everyone know that the music is for everyone … and if you come, you can come as you are and the only thing we ask is to come with open ears. Everybody has permission to not like what they’ve heard and to feel as if they can express that.

One of the things I’ve tried to do is to make sure I and the community establish trust. I am going to make sure they hear what they really like to hear, and also, that if I give them things that they don’t recognize, that they trust me that I’m not going to throw them into the deep end of the pool without some sort of floaties on the arm … And I always try to give the audience a framework for understanding.

What is your programming philosophy and how do you plan to keep concerts exciting for everyone?
This goes hand and hand with community relations and with me being who I am. I like to program stuff that I think is cool … a lot of the stuff that I think is cool, everybody else thinks is cool as well. So I’m not introducing wildly new, crazy, off-the-wall things.

I’m not saying we won’t go to places that will stretch people’s ears. But my programming starts off with, “Let’s all get to know one another.” And that goes for me and the orchestra. How an orchestra plays together is a very intimate thing, and it’s easier to understand one another when you are on familiar ground.

Where do you see classical music going in the future, and how would you take this orchestra in that direction?
I see the future being very bright, because many of the generations younger than mine have grown up with access to the widest gamut of music and information. And I think that a lot of the young people, those we generally call millennials, have grown up with a curiosity about the world.

The struggle comes because that curiosity does not always come with longtime loyalty. And so, we’re going to have to spend a lot of time learning about each other, and we are going to have to be flexible with our offerings, looking at it from a perspective that is not backward-looking. Tradition does have its place, and it’s important, but it cannot be adhered to without regard to new trends.

Why do you want to come to Sonoma County, and how much time can you spend here?
There are many things I find attractive. One is being wanted and considered, which is a great honor and privilege. It’s an affirmation of the quality of my work.

Another thing is the Green Music Center, since it is modeled on Ozawa Hall out of Tanglewood, which was one of the first truly special halls that I ever had the privilege of performing in when I was a Tanglewood fellow. I thought it was one of the greatest places to work ever.

California is a state that I have spent some time in, but the West Coast has a very different feel to me as a person who has spent a number of years in the Midwest and is originally from the East. It would be very, very exciting to get to know people who are there and who inhabit such a beautiful area, who live and work and craft things …whether it be wines or artisanal this, that and the other. All these things you really only find in California, with abundance.

Frankly, I really like working with the musicians of the Sacramento Philharmonic, and a lot of them play in Santa Rosa, so this will also be very nice.

I would spend a significant amount of time outside of concerts getting to know the community, from the City Council to all of the people who are in charge of a community. That’s extremely important. It’s time well spent. An orchestra should have relevant offerings for its community that support the community … you can’t know that until you know the community, and you can’t know the community by standing on the stage.

What instruments do you play and how does that experience serve you in your role as a conductor?
I play the violin, and I can get around on a French horn and trombone, albeit somewhat badly … one of the most terrifying experiences of my life was playing second horn for Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony. The trio is for the first row of woodwinds and second horn, which functions as a third bassoonist. You feel extremely naked.

Conducting is your favorite thing. What is your second favorite thing?
As I’ve gotten older, I cherish the opportunities to be still and do nothing. It’s difficult to do because there are so many distractions, but one of the things I like about flying … is that it is time that I don’t have to do anything. I don’t watch movies, I don’t listen to music and I don’t read. I sit still and enjoy the sounds of air rushing over the skin of an aluminum tube flying at 3,000 feet.

Can you talk about the program you’ll be leading?
This program offers a lot of expression. All three pieces have just a tinge of sadness and a little bit of tragedy.

The “King Lear” Overture (by Berlioz) is wildly exuberant and manic — hey, it’s King Lear — but there’s a bit of tragedy, too.

In the Ravel Piano Concerto (No. 2), the second movement is absolutely beautiful, a quasi-sarabande, with lovely expression, but it doesn’t make you smile. It’s not a smiley E major, which is just amazing that he was able to do that.

Rachmaninoff is never a smiley composer — there’s the “Dies Irae” (a leitmotif for fate and death) — and it really is a culmination of a lot of drive and thrust and intensely held feelings, but it’s never completely exuberant and bright and sunny.

The program has a sadness in the smallest possible dose — it colors everything just a little bit.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

October 18, 2017: Santa Rosa Symphony to welcome conductor candidate Mei-Ann Chen

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, October 18, 2017

Conductor Mei-Ann Chen is no stranger to the Bay Area classical music scene.
For the past four or five years, Chen has led the San Francisco Symphony in its annual Lunar New Year concert, relying on her extensive knowledge of the Asian repertoire.
In January 2016, she served as a guest conductor for the Santa Rosa Symphony, where she led An-Lun Huang’s festive “Saibei Dance” along with works by Dvorak and Tchaikovsky.
That concert made a positive impression on symphony musicians and subscribers alike. So it was not surprising when the symphony announced last fall that Chen had been chosen as one of five conductor finalists to audition for a chance to succeed Music Director Bruno Ferrandis.
After her first orchestra rehearsal as a violinist at age 10, Chen said she ran home to tell her parents she wanted to be a conductor. Since then, she has single-mindedly pursued her “impossible dream,” teaching herself conducting when she could not find a teacher.
“I was a stubborn little girl,” she said. “I wanted to play the largest instrument in the room … so I memorized all my parts and fixed my eyes on the conductor.”
Born in Taiwan, Chen studied music in Taipei and was ready to enter college when she was granted an audition with well-known British conductor Benjamin Zander, who was leading the New England Conservatory Youth Philharmonic on a tour of Asia. After hearing her play, Zander offered her a scholarship to the New England Conservatory. She received a double master’s degree in conducting and violin from the conservatory, then went on to get a doctor of music arts in conducting from the University of Michigan.
From 2002 to 2007, Chen served as the Music Director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic in Oregon, then was appointed assistant conductor of the Atlanta and Baltimore symphonies. From 2010 to 2016, she served as music director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Since 2011, she has led the Chicago Sinfonietta and spends half the year guest conducting all over the world.
First responders
This weekend, Nov. 4-6, all eyes will be on Chen as she returns to the Santa Rosa Symphony podium to lead Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture,” Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Armenian pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, Jennifer’s Higdon’s “blue cathedral” and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, “Italian.” The symphony has dedicated its 90th season to the first responders and those who have lost homes in the wildfires and will provide free tickets for the remaining concerts to both groups.
Here is the edited version of our interview with Chen, who was named one of Musical America’s 2015 Top 30 Influencers.
What will the symphony musicians enjoy about working with you?
I like to think of the symphony orchestra as an enlarged chamber group. I grew up as a violinist ... so I really view the musicians as my fellow musicians who are making chamber music with me. I hope that they feel inspired. It is daunting to have a unified interpretation between 60 to 80 musicians ... They are not just there to follow my directions. We make the music together.
What ideas do you have to engage and grow the audience here, and can you give an example of what you’ve already done with other orchestras?
What we have learned in Chicago is that sometimes the audience may not know they enjoy certain things. So you have to build that trust. If you talk about fate, you’ve got Beethoven No. 5, Tchaikovsky No. 4, but there may be other works they may not know and love and enjoy. So I try to build in audience engagement with the concert theme.
We did a really out-side-the-box program in Chicago, collaborating with a wonderful marching band called Mucca Pazza (Mad Cow), and we created a battle of the bands program. In addition, before and during intermission and post-concert, we created a battle of the beers to tie into something that’s very specific to the region. It might get people really curious about what the symphony is doing.
Everybody knows Dvorak’s New World Symphony, which was inspired by ... spiritual, gospels and Native American music.
The world premiere was 1893 in Carnegie Hall. After the slow movement, the whole audience in Carnegie applauded nonstop for several minutes. So I brought in a youth choir and gospel choir to sing spirituals between the movements, before and after the slow movement ... It is a risk to interrupt the music. But in both Memphis and Chicago, the audience had four standing ovations, because the spirituals were so moving, and it gives you a deeper appreciation of those melodies. I think what the audience informed me is that it’s very educational for them to put things in context.
Grow audience
In symphonic engagement, if you don’t grow your audience, you are decreasing your audience ... the Chicago Sinfonietta is one of the few orchestras in the country that is growing. When we did Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloé,” it was with a video suite by an astronomer, José Francisco Salgado. Recently, we did a 10-year-anniversary program with his work, and it included a movement from Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” where he showcased a video he made called “Around the Earth in 90 Minutes.” And he created a video for Holst’s “Planets.” That was one of our most attended concerts, because the whole family came, with kids ranging from very young to high school and college.
What is your programming philosophy and how do you plan to keep concerts exciting for everyone?
I would listen to your community. I don’t want to assume I know Santa Rosa ... Can we commission a piece that is quintessential to Sonoma County and capture that in a multi-media way that other orchestras could play?
Programming is very much like designing a menu. It has to be balanced. It has to be visual as well as tasteful. And it has to work with each other. We have what we call the meat-and-potato portion of our repertoire — some of the old masters that stand the time of time — those are absolutely core not only to the health of our musicians’ artistry, but as an important part of drawing in audience who grew up hearing this repertoire.
Dvorak’s New World Symphony is an old work, but how can we shine a new light on it? We can also create a narrative and a connection. You’ve got to make it digestible but enjoyable and in some way thought-provoking.
Where do you see classical music going in the future, and how would you take this orchestra in that direction?
The important word is relevance. When it doesn’t reflect our community, it’s going to lose its appeal. And
relevance depends on what is relevant to Santa Rosa. Not every program has to have more educational components, but every program has to be a discovery of something. It’s about how to attract people who are curious and want to talk about the symphony. That has a very direct impact on your ticket sales and on how well the orchestra is going to thrive.
Three performances
You already have an incredible community, in terms of support for the symphony ... you have really amazing support, coming in for three performances, with all three almost packed. Keep cultivating it and make sure it’s an accessible art form for as many people and age groups as possible.
Why do you want to come to Sonoma County, and how much time can you spend here?
Of course I had heard about the county and the wine before my first visit. But it was nothing compared to when I was actually there ... It was shocking how good everything was, not just the food but the quality of life there. I would move there in a heartbeat. I love Chicago, but I started my career in the Pacific Northwest, and I miss that part of the country in terms of getting close to nature, and protecting nature and the environment.
I would be based out of your area because there’s another side ... it’s so much closer to Asia. I could take a direct flight to Taiwan, and it’s only 11 or 12 hours, vs. 16 or more from Chicago.
You are a violinist. What other instruments do you play and how does that experience serve you in your role as a conductor?
If you look at the orchestra, the number of string musicians is likely to be over half, so being able to speak string language is very helpful ... they know I can push for string colors that may be very unique.
That’s not to say I didn’t take up other instruments. I knew I wanted to be a conductor at age 10, so I took classes with the wind, percussion and brass instruments. I grew up in the orchestra and feel very much at home.
When I see myself disappear, in the sense that we are all onstage, moving and making music, smiling at each other, that’s really beautiful ... I call it the circle of energy. For me, it is about being the music. We are trying to be that music, whether it’s sad or joyful or shocking or telling a story. We are the embodiment of the sound.
Conducting is your favorite thing. What is your second favorite thing?
No question. It’s detective novels ... there’s a lot of parallels between studying a score and solving a crime. The composers left clues for us to figure out their piece. It’s solving the puzzle and the mystery.
Artistic voice
Can you talk about the program you’ll be leading?
I wanted to create a very interesting, four-piece program that is a journey. In the first half, both composers (Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky) are trying to find their artistic voice. The Shostakovich was a commission for the October revolution, and it was modelled after Glinka’s Overture to “Ludmilla,” which was important. I just loved this piece.
In the second half, Jennifer’s “blue cathedral” is one of the most performed contemporary works ... I have championed her works, and this one has never been done in Santa Rosa.
And then there’s Mendelssohn’s “Italian” symphony ... It’s really interesting for me to see this cross-cultural German capturing the Italian spirit. He had a very short life and was fortunate to travel in his early 20s, and that’s where a lot of his inspiration came from ... he has a special place in my repertoire.

October 2, 2017: Santa Rosa Symphony begins its public 'auditions' with conductor candidate Francesco Lecce-Chong

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, October 2, 2017

As the Santa Rosa Symphony rehearses for their 90th anniversary season opener this coming weekend, the musicians, management and subscribers are also preparing for a unqiue twist on the season: a speed-dating marathon with the five music director finalists who will publicly “try out” on the podium over the next five months. One of them will be chosen to replace outgoing Maestro Bruno Ferrandis, who resigned earlier this year to live in Paris fulltime and pursue guest conducting opportunities throughout the world.

Think of “The Dating Game” meets “The Bachelorette,” with a few surprising twists from Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle” thrown in for fun. The process is a bit nerve-wracking for everyone, as first dates tend to be, but it holds the promise of fresh, exciting energy hitting the concert stage this season and beyond.
Take Francesco Lecce-Chong, who will conduct a program of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Mason Bates during the Santa Rosa Symphony’s opening concert set this coming weekend. Just 30 years old, the graduate of New York’s Mannes College of Music got his start as associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and has already earned critical acclaim for leading dynamic, forceful performances. After being chosen as one of five finalists for the Santa Rosa post, he was snatched up by the Eugene Symphony in April as its new music director.

Lecce-Chong plans to finish up his current commitments in Pittsburgh within a year (he’s assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra) and has already moved to Oregon.

Although it may not be rocket science, music directors today need to know their way around a wide range of skillsets, both on the podium and o. Some may stand out for their beautiful conducting style and efficient rehearsal techniques. Others may shine brightest as a public speaker, touching the audience and the community at large with their passionate oratory.

Then there is the charisma factor, similar to “sex appeal,” and equally hard to dene. This kind of leader can lift an organization to a new level with electrifying concerts worthy of buzz, engaging education and outreach projects that keep new audiences coming back and fundraising efforts that help oat all of those boats.

To give you a preview of the five finalists, we interviewed each candidate over the phone, asking each of them the same questions in an effort to reveal their unique personalities and musical approaches. We will publish their responses before each of their appearances and collect all the interviews on our website, so you can check back before a final decision is made in March.

Here is an edited version of our interview with Lecce-Chong, who has worked with orchestras around the world, from the San Diego Symphony to the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

Q. What will the symphony musicians enjoy about working with you?

A. I think I take a very collaborative approach to what I do. Obviously, the conductor has to make decisions. But there is a way of working that encourages people to be themselves and bring out their own character in the music, and to work together to create something bigger. I’m not trying to convince the orchestra of my vision. I’m trying to help us come together about what this piece is about. To be able to harness that and make sure you are still creating a cohesive sound and journey in the piece is very important as well.

Q. What ideas do you have to engage and grow the audience here, and can you give an example of what you’ve already done with other orchestras?

A. It’s such a tough issue ... and there has not been a golden bullet solution found. Every community is individual and has its own mix of people and partnerships and economy. I think there was a time where orchestras all tried to do the same thing and come up with the same solution. I think that is not the case now, which is wonderful, and orchestras realize they need to create unique programming for their community and to connect with it.

Most of my work has been on the education and community side of things ... There is something spectacular about bringing music to people who might not be able to find it on their own, and on the education side, bringing it to people who are hearing it for the first time.

A classical subscription concert is not going to be the same as a youth orchestra concert, but there’s no reason why it can’t be as connected ... and why not have interaction with the audience?

But the most important thing for me is that you have to know your community ... All the fancy stuff we’re doing — Is there enough diversity? Are we reaching out? — all those are important, but we need everyone to buy in. So the job of the music director is to galvanize that, and the really successful ones have done that.

Q. What is your programming philosophy and how do you plan to keep concerts exciting for everyone?

A. What’s unique about being a music director is that you are responsible for curating 300 years of music ... and sometimes if we get caught up in our vision, we end up missing out on some of that amazing repertoire.

Initially, my strength was Beethoven and Brahms and Schumann and Mahler, all the core repertoire ... but I was an undergraduate composition major. So I have an interest in new music and what is happening in the music world today ... and it doesn’t all sound the same. There’s a lot of great music being written now, and we should be exploring all that’s happening.

The most recent thing I studied was play conducting (conducting from the harpsichord.) All music through Haydn was led by someone on an instrument. That repertoire changed for me once I stopped trying to conduct it ... and it’s a passion of mine to have this spontaneity in the music.
Every performance is different, and it’s amazing and so enlivening. So it’s been great to throw that into the mix.

At the end of the day, I want to create a concert environment that is fun, exciting and encourages dialogue, where people feel free to not like something on the program .. . just like we go to movies we don’t like, and we complain about it, but we don’t stop going to the movies.

Q. Where do you see classical music going in the future, and how would you take this orchestra in that direction?

A. I’m not worried about the orchestra world. I know there’s a lot of bad news about orchestras, that we are struggling, and it’s part of us being a little late to the change. We got comfortable, and now we realize we are a service organization. We provide arts and culture to everyone, not just those who have the money or time to afford it. That was a tough switch to make. I’ve come full circle on that. Things are a little difficult now, but we’re poised to move forward, and the Santa Rosa Symphony is in a fantastic position, with all these multi-tiered youth orchestras under them, and these in-school music programs that are incredibly important.

The more I learn about the Santa Rosa Symphony, the more I see it as doing all the right things and really poised to be on the forefront of classical music. They have a wonderful concert hall, an orchestra that is performing triples (three concerts in a set), which is incredibly unusual even among large orchestras ... but doing something like that is how an orchestra grows and improves, and it also leaves a lot of room for growth.

At the end of the day, the future of orchestras is going to rely on their community. Hopefully, we will continue to have these big angel donors, but we can’t only rely on that. We have to remember our purpose, in today’s world, is to inspire and enrich people’s lives, and to bring people together and connect.

Q. Why do you want to come to Sonoma County, and how much time can you spend here?

A. I was born in San Francisco, and my parents just moved back to the Bay Area. I have so much family there. A lot of them will have the chance to see me conduct in October ... that also makes it easy for me to say that I will have a residence in Santa Rosa.

Obviously I had a long talk with Alan Silow to make sure I could still be a candidate after I got the job with the Eugene Symphony ... We’re long past the days where the conductor can just y in. I want to fulfil a vision of being a leader in the community and be able to make things happen outside of rehearsals and concerts.

Q. What instruments do you play and how does that experience serve you in your role as a conductor?

A. As a pianist, it allows me to work with vocalists and play chamber music, and anytime I do 17th- and early 18th-century repertoire, I get to be part of the music-making. My background as a composer makes a big difference in how I look at new music, and how passionate I am about making sure we bring out music that is good and connects with our audience.

I played violin, viola and clarinet all through high school. The benefit of knowing you want to be a conductor that young is that you realize that you need to be proficient at a couple of instruments.

Q. Conducting is your favorite thing. What is your second favorite thing?

A. My life has escalated so fast over the past couple of years that it’s been difficult becoming well-rounded. The one thing I haven’t had to let go is that I love reading. I’m an avid reader of early modern literature .... any big, thorny novel is a great way to kill a couple of hours at an airport.

Q. Can you talk about the program you’ll be leading?

A. I’m really excited to bring the Mason Bates piece ( “Garages of the Valley”) since he’s from the Bay Area ... and I was there when it was being written. (Pianist) Joyce Yang (who will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3) was one of my rst soloists in Milwaukee, so I’ve known her very well. And the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 is a great way for me to work with the orchestra, to get to know them and let them get to know me.

If you plan to attend this concert, please feel free to share your thoughts with us through an e-mail.

francesco lecce-chong
Age: 30. Born April 20, 1987
Home base: Eugene, Oregon.
Partner: His girlfriend is a harpist with the New World Symphony in Miami
Current positions: Assistant Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Music Director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Eugene Symphony.

Performance dates: 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Oct. 8 and 8 p.m. Oct. 9. Lecce-Chong will give a free, pre-concert interview one hour before each performance. To view a video of the conductor, go to srsymphony.org.

Where: Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park

Tickets: From $29

Reservations: 707-546-8742 or srsymphony.org.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56. 

June 23, 2017: Santa Rosa High trumpet player David Green wins trip to play Carnegie Hall

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, June 23, 2017

So far, the trumpet has taken Santa Rosa High School sophomore David Green on quite a ride. It started in 2015 with a tour of Asia with the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra and its conductor, Richard Loheyde. “I kept going from there,” Green said.

His mother, Cherie Green, described it another way: “He was hooked.”

The musical adventure continued last summer when he was chosen to participate in a three-week, intensive training program in New York for the inaugural National Youth Orchestra 2 (NYO2). As one of four trumpet players and one of the three youngest musicians there, he took workshops and performed with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra while visiting the Met Opera and the Juilliard School in between subway rides and bites of giant New York pizza slices.

“We ate lunch with the Philadelphia orchestra musicians and constantly asked questions,” Green said. “I learned an insane amount … at the end, we spent three days in Philadelphia and performed at Verizon Hall (home of the Philadelphia Orchestra).”

This summer, Green will head back east from June 30 to July 23 for another three-week stint with the 78-member NYO2, where he will once again bond with fellow musicians and participate in private lessons and chamber music, rehearsals and performances under the guidance of members of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

“This year, we’re going to Philly first and will perform in Verizon,” he said. “Then we’re going back to New York to play in Carnegie.”

Green and his colleagues in the NYO2 will not only get to make their debut at Carnegie Hall, performing side-by-side with the Philadelphia Orchestra, but will accompany special guest vocalist and bassist Esperanza Spalding, a young, fast-rising star of the jazz world. They will also have an opportunity to interact with some of the local, young musicians.

The NYO2 program, aimed at musicians ages 14 to 17, is an extension of Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra of the USA, a three-week training residency that provides similar training to young adults ages 16 to 19, who also get to go on a tour of the music capitals of the world. Both Carnegie Hall programs are free and aimed at expanding the pool of young musicians across the country equipped to succeed at the highest level.

Green fits that description to a T. His goal is to study trumpet performance at a university or conservatory, then win a seat as a principal trumpet in a major orchestra. Green started taking trumpet lessons in third grade and has never looked back. He now practices three hours a day in addition to daily rehearsals for the SRHS band, bi-weekly practice sessions for the SRJC Jazz Band and weekly rehearsals of the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra.

“He’s uncommonly focused on a single goal,” said Mark Wardlaw, head of instrumental music at SRHS, who has taught Green since middle school. “He’s unwaveringly committed to the discipline that pursuit requires … his private trumpet teacher, the highly respected Daniel Gianola-Norris, once told me that David ‘makes me realize what it is to be truly talented.’”

Trumpets have been played throughout history for religious and cultural rites and as well as for all kinds of military communication. Eventually, the brilliant color of the instrument made its way into concert and jazz halls, where its piercing power in the high register has been artfully mastered by trumpeters ranging from Wynton Marsalis and Alison Balsom to Dizzy Gillespie and Arturo Sandoval.

“Your lips have to buzz really, really fast to hit a high note,” Green explained. “It takes perfect position and control.”

That’s actually been a challenge for Green, who a few years ago, was told by one of his teachers that he had to change his embouchure — the way he applies his mouth to the mouthpiece of the instrument.

“You want the white flesh to be supporting the rim of the mouthpiece, and the lip should be inside,” he said.
“It’s been really hard. I took a few days o, and it was back to long tones and low notes, and I’m still working on my range.”

Although born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Green and his family moved to Santa Rosa when he was just 1 years old. His father, Don Green, is chief of occupational medicine at Kaiser, and his mother, Cherie Green, is a physician and full-time faculty for the Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency program. He has a 12-year-old sister, Sophie, who plays the oboe.

While attending Matanzas Elementary School, Green started taking private trumpet lessons and participated in the school’s well-regarded band program under music teachers Andy Darrow and Isaac Vanderveer.

“No drums, that was my only restraint,” said his mother, Cherie.

In the fifth grade, he joined the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Preparatory Orchestra and started studying with that ensemble’s brass coach, Daniel Gianola-Norris, who is also a member of the Sonoma State University Faculty Brass Quintet.

After working his way up to the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Repertory Orchestra, where he played principal trumpet, he attended the Cazadero Music Camp in the summers of 2013-2015 and made it into the All-State Junior High School Jazz Band in 7th and 8th grades, where he won a $500 scholarship.

After getting into the SRS Youth Orchestra, he started taking online lessons with David Bigler of the Philadelphia Orchestra in order to prepare for the concert tour of China.

At the NYO2, he will be working with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, a native of Costa Rica who serves as music director of the Nashville Symphony and principal guest conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra.

“He was really funny and had a lot of good analogies,” Green said. This summer, in addition to NYO2, he plans to go to the Interlochen Trumpet Institute and work with Santa Rosa Symphony Principal Trumpet Doug Morton and David Burkhart of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on upcoming auditions, including one for the San Francisco Youth Orchestra.

Next year, he will be old enough to try out for the National Youth Orchestra of the USA, which will be touring to Asia with San Francisco Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas.

One of the secrets to his success is time management and efficiency.

“I plan out my day and set goals, and I try to get three hours a day of practice,” he said. “Last summer at NYO2, trumpet player David Bilger gave an inspiring master class about being a musician. He said, ‘The better you get, the better the job gets.’”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56

April 27, 2017: Violin virtuoso Vadim Gluzman to hold free masterclass at Green Music Center

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, April 27, 2017

Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman, who will perform with the Santa Rosa Symphony for its seasonal finale on May 6-8, will hold a free masterclass at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 4, at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall. The Stradivari violin virtuoso will give an open lessons to two Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra students: concertmaster Alex Chui and Miranda Ronan, both 14.

The public is invited to the open lessons, during which a participating student performs a solo work and is coached by Gluzman. The audience listens and learns and is able to pose questions.

Born in the Soviet Union, Gluzman studied with Zakhar Bron in Russia, Yai Kless in Israel and Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School in New York City and was mentored by the late violinist Isaac Stern.

Gluzman, whose latest CD features Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concertos No. 1 and 2, will perform Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 with the symphony on his 1690 “ex-Leopold Auer” Stradivari violin, on loan to him through the Stradivari Society of Chicago.

To reserve a ticket to the free masterclass, call 707-546-8742 or stop by the symphony’s Patron Service Office, 50 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa. The Green Music Center is located on the Sonoma State University campus in Rohnert Park.

March 23, 2017: Santa Rosa Symphony ‘brings on the strings’ with principal string players

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, March 23, 2017

For their concert program this weekend, the Santa Rosa Symphony, under Music Director
Bruno Ferrandis, will ask a few of its principal string players to step in front of the orchestra
as soloists.

Concertmaster Joe Edelberg, a 20-year veteran of the symphony, will be joined by Principal
Violist Elizabeth Prior in Mozart’s timeless gem, the Sinfonia concertate for violin and viola.
Principal Cellist Adelle-Akiko Kearns will perform Fauré’s “Elégie,” a delicate work full of

The works written for solo instruments solo vehicles will be sandwiched between a
contemporary work, Alan Hovhaness’s “Meditation on Orpheus,” and two works by Sibelius:
his brooding and rarely heard Symphony No. 4 and his upbeat “Finlandia.”

Kearns and Prior both joined the symphony five years ago and, like Edelberg, play in a wide
range of ensembles all over the Bay Area, from Monterey and San Jose to the San Francisco
ballet and opera.

Prior, a native of South Africa who lives in San Rafael, will play her Giuseppe Tarasconi viola
from Italy for the Mozart work. She initially was attracted to the viola because of its deep,
rich sound.

“It’s a modern, Italian instrument with a very flexible sound,” she said. “It has a big sound,
and it resonates very well, and it also has a warm, sweet sound. It’s not as nasally as some
violas ... it’s got more brightness.”

Although she started out as a violinist, Prior’s heart was not in playing the violin, a stressful
and often difficult instrument to play.

“I was always attracted to what the inner voices were doing rather than playing the tune,”
she said. “So I demoted myself to the second violin, and then I tried the viola.” 

She is looking forward to playing the Mozart Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola
because she considers the piece as “absolute masterpiece,” with a slow movement that is
particularly beguiling.

“The whole things is like a conversation between violin and viola,” she said. “Mozart really
brings out the sonority of the viola ... He gives the viola the response that brings the
conversation to a deeper level.”

Both the violin and viola play the introduction to the work with the orchestra, so Prior does
not expect to be nervous when she dives into the solo part.

Because the two solo parts are written like separate pieces, the main challenge will be
listening to each other and creating a smooth ensemble with the orchestra, she said.

“I probably will have a moment of fluttering, but I am so looking forward to it,” she said. “I
feel so lucky and honored to play this piece.”

Kearns, a native of San Francisco who started studying the violin at a Suzuki school at age 3,
also was put off by the sound of the tiny violin.

“They are squeaky, and I would drop it on the floor,” she said. “Then I saw a video of Yo-Yo
Ma playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto ... and I thought it was the most beautiful thing ever.”

In the fifth grade, she brought home a cello from school, and that became her life’s passion.
She went on to study performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Kearns will be playing Fauré’s “Elégie” on her French cello, which is about 100 to 150 years
old. She stumbled upon the cello in Japan when she needed to borrow an instrument to
play a concerto.

“I instantly clicked with it,” she said. “It has a very pretty sound with a lot of different colors
... it’s very responsive and sings really nicely and projects well too.”

The Fauré is a short piece that the French composer originally wrote as a slow movement
for a Cello Sonata, which never came to fruition.

“It’s a piece that I probably studied when I was 12 years old,” she said. “It’s a piece that little
kids can start playing, but it has a lot of emotional depths that you can’t fully understand
until you are older.”

Among cellists, Kearns counts Mstislav Rostropovich as her all-time favorite. She played in a
master class for him during college, accompanied him in an orchestra at Tanglewood and
watched him from the audience many times.

She also has played in an orchestra behind Yo-Yo Ma. Once at a party, she got to play Ma’s
DAvidov Stradivarius, the same instrument that the late Jacquelin Dupré played and the
one he famously left in a taxi.

While violists are known as jovial, easy-going folks, Kearns said cellists tend to be a little
more eccentric.

“There’s a little element of craziness in cellists,” she said. “We’re all kind of drama queens, a
little bit. But some of my closest friends are cellists.”

Kearns said leading the cello section of the Santa Rosa Symphony is a joy because all the
players are all top-notch. She also enjoyed serving on the search committee for a new
music director, even though it meant making extra trips all the way up from San Jose for
regular meetings throughout the season.

“It was really fun to be part of the process,” she said. “And I’m thrilled about the candidates
we chose."

You can reach Staff writer Diane Peterson at 707-521-5287.

January 5, 2017: Berlin Philharmonic harpist performs with Santa Rosa Symphony

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, January 5, 2017

The concert harp is an incredibly complex instrument, with thousands of moving parts housed within a 6-foot-tall wooden frame that is under so much pressure, it can implode if not played regularly.
In an orchestra, the ancient and much-revered instrument often plays a supporting role, embellishing the melody with its shimmering flourishes but rarely stepping out as the star. This weekend, however, the Santa Rosa Symphony under Music Director Bruno Ferrandis has invited Marie-Pierre Langlamet, principal harpist with the Berlin Philharmonic, to perform two well-known solo works for harp: Claude Debussy’s “Danses Sacrée et Profane” for Harp and Orchestra, and Alberto Ginastera’s vibrant Concerto for Harp and Orchestra.
“It’s one of our best concertos,” Langlamet said in a phone interview from her home in Berlin. “It shows the many facets of the instrument.”
The program, entitled “Heavenly Harp,” opens with Rossini’s Overture to “The Thieving Magpie,” one of the composer’s best operatic overtures, and culminates with two suites from Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé,” one of the most famous French ballets.
Met at school
Ferrandis first met Langlamet while both were attending the Conservatory of Nice along with Ferrandis’ brother Jean, a professional flutist.
However, they really got to know each in New York, where Ferrandis was studying conducting at Juilliard and Langlamet was working as deputy principal harpist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under James Levine.
“I am bringing the best harpist in the world to play two of the most famous harp pieces,” Ferrandis said proudly of his childhood friend.
Born in Grenoble, Langlamet grew up in Nice in a music-loving family with a sister who played the guitar. She started studying harp when she was 8. Her first choice had been piano, but the piano class was full, so she chose another instrument that could produce many notes at a time.
“It was (important) for me to play all the voices, and I could play it alone,” she said of the harp.
“There are not so many instruments like that .... It really was my dream instrument.”

Langlamet received her first musical training at the Conservatory of Nice with Elisabeth Fontan-Binoche, then went on to win top prizes in two international competitions by the time she was 16. At 17, she was hired as principal harpist in the Nice Opera Orchestra.
“I was very lucky and had an excellent teacher, with many good students with major positions all over the world,” she said of her quick rise to professional musician.
“I was quite fast learning and motivated, and I loved it.”
Studied in Philadelphia
A year after joining the Nice Opera Orchestra, she gave up her position to continue her studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where she was able to learn from other musicians and play chamber music.
“In France, it’s very separated ... We train soloists, at least at that time,” she said. “In France, there’s lots of solfège and theory. At Curtis, it’s whatever works. I was suddenly thrown into another world of other musicians.”
Since 1993, Langlamet has worked as principal harpist at the Berlin Philharmonic, making many recordings with the orchestra while performing worldwide as a soloist with ensembles such as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande.
In 2016, Langlamet performed the Ginastera concerto with several orchestras to mark the centenary of the Argentinian composer’s birth.
The virtuoso concerto, commissioned in 1956 and premiered in 1965 by the Philadelphia Orchestra, veers away from pleasing melodies and harmonies of the 19th-century harp repertoire.
“It’s a big piece with a big orchestra behind the harp, and it should be a challenge,” she said.
“It shows the many facets of the instrument ... as a folk instrument and percussion instrument, with lots of rhythm. It’s hot blooded.”
Diffculty completing
The work was supposed to be premiered in 1958, but the composer had diffculty completing it because of the instrument’s limitations. It can only play seven of the 12 pitches in a chromatic scale at a time.
“It was postponed again and again,” she said. “And fortunately, the Spanish player, Nicanor Zabaleta, heard the story and flew to Buenos Aires and sat with the composer to help him through the process.”
After intermission, Langlamet will perform “Danses Sacrée et Profane” by Debussy, who helped put the harp on the map with his many works for the instrument. The nine-minute piece will provide a dramatic contrast to the Ginastera piece.
“The harp was well understood by Debussy, and he didn’t try to push it beyond its borders,” she said. “It’s never overpowering.”
To make the piece work, Langlamet said, the harp needs to be amplified.
“It was written for the chromatic harp, not the pedal harp I will be playing,” she said.
“It was a commission by Michel Pleyel, who was trying to commission for this new instrument, with white and black key strings, with no pedals. It’s very intimate.”

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

January 5, 2017: Orchestra to play at memorial service for Eugene Shepherd

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, January 5, 2017

A full orchestra, led by Cindy Weichel and Bob Williams, will perform at the memorial service for veteran violinist Eugene Shepherd at noon Saturday, Jan. 7, at Santa Rosa Bible Church.

Shepherd, an influential teacher and conductor, died Dec. 15 at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa at 96 after suffering complications from surgery after a fall.

Shepherd served as concertmaster of the Santa Rosa Symphony for 33 years and founded what became the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Youth Orchestra. During 21 years of teaching instrumental music at Cook Junior High, he mentored many of the leading music teachers working in Sonoma County today, including Sonoma State University’s Director of Bands Andy Collingsworth.

A string quartet will perform at 11 a.m. for the visitation at the church, 4575 Badger Road. The noon memorial service will feature classical and big band music performed by current musicians and alumni of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the Baroque Sinfonia and the Sonoma County Junior Symphony.

Two of Shepherd’s most successful students also will perform at his memorial service. Violinist Gary Pozzi, who played with Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks and who changed his name to  Sid Page, will play Henry Mancini’s “Two for the Road.” Violinist Anthony Martin, who performs with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco, will perform with the orchestra assembled for the service.

The orchestral program will include Elgar’s “Elegy” for strings and the third movement of Brahms’ Third Symphony, plus a few big band tunes.

During his basic training in the Air Force, Shepherd was invited by bandleader Glenn Miller to join the Air Force show, “Winged Victory,” on Broadway. The violinist later toured the country with the show and won a speaking role in the movie version.

In honor of Shepherd’s military service, bagpiper Martha Yates will play “Amazing Grace” and trumpeter Dan Norris will play “Taps” at the memorial service.

A reception will follow at the church.

Donations in Shepherd’s memory may be made to Lawrence Cook Middle School, 2480 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa 95407, Attention: Jessica Santana.

December 15, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony names a development director

by North Bay Business Journal, December 15, 2016

The Santa Rosa Symphony has announced the return of Ben Taylor, now as development director. Taylor previously worked in the symphony’s education department for 12 years, lastly as director of education.

Taylor has more than 10 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, with a focus on program design and building community relationships. He has been music director for the Albany Community Chorus and the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Santa Rosa.

Also a composer, Taylor’s works have been performed across North America and China by ensembles such as the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra, Festival Choir of Madison, Wis., and the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra, according to the symphony. He has also sung tenor in Philharmonia Baroque, Berkeley Symphony, Sonoma Bach and the Folger Consort.

“It feels like coming home to family,” Taylor said in the announcement. “It’s very comfortable.”

Currently in its 89th season, the symphony’s performance schedule includes 21 Classical Series concerts (seven sets), seven Discovery Dress Rehearsal concerts, a three-concert Family Series and a four-concert Pops Series, as well as special concerts.

December 1, 2016: New Santa Rosa Symphony choral director tackles ambitious program

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, December 1, 2016

Most everyone is familiar with Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Bells,” which opens with a holiday scene: “Hear the sledges with the bells — Silver bells! What a world of merriment their melody foretells!”

However, Rachmaninoff's setting of the intensely onomatopoetic work — a choral symphony written in
1913 for choir, vocal soloists and symphonic accompaniment — may be a new discovery for many
attending the Santa Rosa Symphony’s concerts this weekend.

“It is not a piece that I have performed before, but I’ve heard it before,” said Jenny Bent, who was named this year as the new Santa Rosa Symphony choral director, taking over the reins from Robert Worth in February. “It’s vocally demanding, and it requires an advanced level of musicianship. These also make it musically satisfying.”

For the past five years, Bent has served as the full-time Director of Choral Activities at Sonoma State, a post she also inherited from Worth. For the 40-minute, four-movement work, she has been rehearsing with about 75 singers drawn from the SSU Symphony Chorus and the SSU Chamber Singers. Bent will also direct an additional 40 singers from the Santa Rosa Junior College Choir, who are rehearsing with their SRJC Choral Director Jody Beinecke.

“We have had some combined rehearsals,” she said. “I’ve been going to the SRJC rehearsals to make sure we are doing all the same phrasing and articulation.”

Although Rachmaninoff originally wrote “The Bells” from a Russian translation of the poem, the choirs and soloists will sing the words in English, which makes it easier to remember but carries its own diction challenges.

“Musically, you have to add voice to certain consonants like D,” Bent said. “You have to say duh. Especially in a hall that size, that can be challenging.”

The piece, like the poem, follows the circle of life, from birth and childhood to old age and death. Oddly enough, the sounds of sleigh bells, wedding bells, alarm bells and mournful iron bells are all made with horns, woodwinds, harp and strings, but not one percussive bell.

“Each movement conveys a different emotion,” Bent said. “They are totally different, with different colors, feelings and so many different ways that the choir and orchestra can musically express themselves.”

The first movement, “The Silver Sleigh Bells,” recreates the excitement and joy of childhood, while the
second movement, “The Mellow Wedding Bells,” offers the guarded optimism of newlyweds.

“The first movement is very playful, with the sleigh bells,” Bent said. “Although the second movement about wedding bells evokes an overall sense of reserved joy and hope, I hear a hint of mourning.”

That mourning may be due to Rachmaninoྫྷ’s incorporation of the ancient melody, “Dies Irae,” traditionally used by composers to convey the doom of Judgment Day. It was one of his favorite compositions.

“The third movement (‘The Loud Alarm Bells’) is a little more bellicose and brash, and it’s by far the most difficult movement,” Bent said. “The fourth movement (‘The Mournful Iron Bells’) explores the many dark and terrifying emotions one can experience as death approaches. However, it closes in a manner that sounds ... like a comforting lullaby.”

In the program, Ferrandis wove “The Bells” together with three other works to create quite a bit of literary resonance.

The concerts open with American composer Augusta Read Thomas’ “Prayer Bells,” written in 2001, and Elgar’s “Enigma Variations,” written in 1899 as character sketches of the composer, his wife and 12 of their friends.

“Enigma is also the title of one of the most famous poems by Poe,” Ferrandis said. “And Augusta Reed
Thomas has written an entire opera, ‘Ligeia,’ from a Poe story. So she has a strong love for Edgar Allan Poe.”

The concert will close with Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise,” a song without words for soprano composed and published in 1915 as the last of his “Fourteen Songs.” It is sung using any vowel of the singer’s choosing.

“That’s a very well known piece,” Ferrandis said. “So that’s the bonbon at the end.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

November 25, 2016: SR Symphony Expands the "It’s Elementary!" Program

by Sonoma County Gazette, November 25, 2016

Santa Rosa Symphony’s It’s Elementary! music enrichment program for youth has expanded to include a sixth Sonoma County elementary school. The program is offered to qualifying Sonoma County schools for a term of two years each. During those two years, the teachers and students in the school are enrolled free of charge in the five main educational programs offered by SRS to schools throughout Sonoma County. The following programs are provided without cost to the students in the It’s Elementary! program.

The Elementary School Listening Program provides a 5-minute daily listening piece and scripts to go with each day. The children hear the same piece of music each day for 5 days, with scripts that vary slightly from day to day. For instance, the name of the composer is repeated during the week. By Friday, the script asks the students if they remember the name of the composer. This program is available to all schools in Sonoma County on a fee basis, and is free of charge to the schools in the It’s Elementary! program.

“The kids and teachers love the Listening Program! I was surprised to discover how much they look forward to it each day. Students will remind their teachers to play the music if they don’t start at the appointed time. The listening program gives students time to center and focus, which supports the development of mindfulness. Mindfulness practices cultivate emotional resilience, self-awareness and empathy, which are essential life skills and traits we all need,” commented Betha MacClain, Principal at Jack London Elementary School and a member of the Santa Rosa Symphony Board of Directors.

The Meet Our Families Assemblies bring in four chamber groups representing the four orchestra families (strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion) to perform in each It’s Elementary! school over the course of the two years. The programs are interactive and lively. For example, the percussion trio actually brings bucket percussion for the students to try. At the end of the second year, one of the three youth orchestras of the Symphony performs in each school. This final concert is a great way for the students to see kids approximately their own age performing. This program is provided free of charge to the It’s Elementary! schools, and is available to other schools for a fee.

Kaesa Enemark, former Steele Lane Elementary Principal, said of the program, “Steele Lane students and staff loved the personalized concert. It was adorable to see the students in awe of the music and musicians. [It] warmed my heart as I sat on the cafeteria floor amongst my wiggly first graders and kindergartners. I almost wept with happiness.” 

Youth Discovery Cards provide a free ticket for each child and one adult companion to attend dress rehearsals of the Santa Rosa Symphony classical series concerts at the Green Music Center throughout the year. These complimentary tickets give children an opportunity to see the orchestra at work! Youth Discovery Cards are made available free of charge to ALL elementary schools in Sonoma County. 

The Free Concerts For Youth program brings students to the Green Music Center during the school day for a concert by the SRS Youth Orchestra, Repertory Orchestra or the Santa Rosa Symphony. The Symphony underwrites the cost of transportation to the concerts for schools in the It’s Elementary! program; other schools provide their own transportation to these free events.

Each year the final Free Concerts For Youth includes a segment called IGNITE! Teachers learn how to teach fundamental music concepts to their students using a curriculum provided by the Santa Rosa Symphony with support from SRS Education staff. The curriculum prepares students to play recorder or sing along with the orchestra. The cost of this program, including the loan of recorders for the students to play, is free for the schools in the It’s Elementary! program. Other elementary schools in Sonoma County can also participate in the IGNITE! program through the SRS.

It’s Elementary! partner schools are chosen based on criteria set by the SRS, which take into account the kind of music education already available to the students and the percentage of the students considered to be disadvantaged. As a result of increased understanding of the importance of the arts in the core curriculum being shown at the both state and district level within California, the SRS has seen a leap in interest in the It’s Elementary! program here in Sonoma County. In 2015, the Symphony decided to increase the number of schools in the program to a total of six per year; nine schools applied for the three new spots. Steele Lane Elementary, Helen Lehman Elementary and Jack London Elementary are in their second year. Bellevue Elementary, Olivet Elementary Charter School and Woodland Star Charter School joined the program this year. With the addition of Woodland Star, the It’s Elementary! program has expanded geographically to include Sonoma.

November 3, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony names finalists for new music director

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, November 3, 2016

The Santa Rosa Symphony announced the names of its five music director finalists Thursday evening during a private event held at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall, where the symphony serves as the orchestra in residence.

The five finalists, who were chosen from a wide field of applicants and represent three different nationalities, will be introduced to the audience during the 2017-2018 Santa Rosa Symphony Season as guest conductors and potential successors to outgoing Maestro Bruno Ferrandis.

“This music director search has been an amazing, world-wide endeavor, with 60 well-quality applicants, whom we researched and vetted extensively,” said Jim Hinton, Music Director Search Committee Chair.

The search committee, made up of five board members, four orchestra members and Santa Rosa Symphony Executive Director Alan Silow, have spent months pouring over resumes, viewing videos, conducting phone interviews and even flying across the country to view some of the candidates
in action.

The finalists will try out during the first, five concert sets of the 2017-2018 season, and the selection will be announced by March 2018. Each candidate will spend about eight days in Santa Rosa, conducting all rehearsals and performances and meeting with community leaders, media, board members, staff and musicians.

The new music director’s tenure will begin with the 2018-2019 season. Outgoing Music Director Bruno Ferrandis will conduct the final two concert sets of the 2017-2018 season.

This weekend at the symphony’s performances in Weill Hall Nov. 5-7, the audience will be able to watch a video showcasing each finalist screening 90 minutes before each of the three concerts.

Here are the five finalists, in the order in which they are scheduled to conduct:

Francesco Lecce-Chong — Oct. 7, 8 and 9, 2017
A native of Boulder, Colorado, Lecce-Chong began conducting at the age of 16 and graduated from the Mannes College of Music in New York with a B.A. with honors in piano and orchestral conducting. He also holds a diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied as a fellow with Otto-Werner Mueller.

He is based in Pittsburgh and currently holds the positions of Assistant Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra.

As a guest conductor, he has worked with orchestras around the world, including the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C., and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

As a composer, Lecce-Chong embraces innovative programming and supports arts education. As a conductor, he has earned a reputation for dynamic, forceful performances that have earned him the Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award and The Presser Foundation Music Award.

Mei-Ann Chen — Nov. 4, 5 and 7, 2017
Born in Taiwan, Mei-Ann Chen is considered one of America’s most dynamic guest conductors, with a reputation as a compelling communicator and educator who has redefined the orchestra experience with her innovation and imagination.

Since 2011, she has served as music director of the 2016 MacArthur Awardwinning Chicago Sinfonietta in Chicago, where she is based. She also serves as Artistic Director and Conductor of the 2016 National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Orchestra Festival.

A sought-after guest conductor around the world, she was named one of Musical America’s 2015 Top 30 Influencers and won the 2012 Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras. Chen served as guest conductor of the Santa Rosa Symphony in January 2016, where she
made a positive impression on both audience members and musicians.

Chen has served as assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony and Baltimore Symphony under the aegis of the League of American Orchestras, and with the Oregon Symphony.

Andrew Grams — Dec. 2, 3 and 7, 2017
A native of Severn, Maryland, Grams began playing violin age 8 in the public school system, Grams attended the Baltimore School for the Arts and won a position in the violin section of the New York City Ballet while enrolled at the Juilliard School in New York.

He pursued conducting at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied with Otto-Werner Mueller, and served as assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra from 2004-2007, where he worked under the guidance of Franz Welser-Most.

Grams is currently music director of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra in Illinois, where he has built a reputation for long-term orchestra-building and community outreach. His tenure there was recently extended through 2022. He lives outside Cleveland.

Known for his combination of intensity, enthusiasm and technical clarity, Grams has led orchestras throughout the U.S. and the world, from the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony to the Orchestre National de France and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

Graeme Jenkins— Jan. 13, 14 and 15, 2018
English conductor Graeme Jenkins is an opera, choral and orchestral conductor who is known for the breadth of his repertoire and interpretations of Mozart and Richard Strauss as well as for conducting major choral works.

After studying at the Royal College of Music in London, he was appointed Music Director of the Glyndebourne Touring Opera from 1986 to 1991, where he assisted Bernard Haitink and Sir Simon Rattle. He also served as music director of the Dallas Opera from 1994 to 2013. He was Principal Guest
Conductor of the Koln Opera from 1997 to 2002.

Jenkins has conducted for major UK orchestras such as g the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as for European orchestras such as the Lyon Symphony. Last year, he conducted two productions at the Vienna State Opera, marking his 184th opera production of 117 different titles worldwide.
He lives in Dorset County in southern England.

In the U.S., he has worked with the symphony orchestras of Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Minnesota, Utah and San Antonio. He has collaborated with the University of North Texas and Southern Methodist University in Texas on a 10-year project of Handel oratorios.

Michael Christie — Jan. 10, 11 and 12, 2018
A graduate of Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in Ohio with a B.A. in trumpet performance, Christie currently lives in Minneapolis with his wife Alexis, a physician, and their two children.

Equally at home in the symphonic and opera worlds, Christie first came to international attention in 1995, when he was awarded a special prize for “Outstanding Potential” at the First International Sibelius Conductors’ Competition in Helsinki, Finland. Following that competition, he was invited to
become an apprentice conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin State Opera.

Since 2012-2013, he has served as music director of the Minnesota Opera, where he has shown a deep commitment to bringing new works to life, such as the 2011 premiere of Kevin Puts’ Pulitzer-Prize winning “Silent Night.” In August 2012, he was named by Opera News as one of 25 people believed to
“break out and become major forces in the field in the coming decade.”

Christie is known as a thoughtfully innovative conductor who is focused on making the audience experience entertaining and enlightening. According to the New York Times, “Michael Christie is a music director open to adventure and challenge.”

Christie served as guest conductor of the Santa Rosa Symphony in January 2015, where he led a performance of fiddler Mark O’Connor’s own “Fiddle Concerto.” A licensed pilot for more than 15 years, he often flies his Mooney Airplane Company single-engine aircraft to conducting engagements across the U.S.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56

October 28, 2016: Weaving music with myth at Santa Rosa Symphony talks

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, October 28, 2016

This season, fans of the Santa Rosa Symphony will get a close-up view of the psychological and mythic underpinnings of classical music during a handful of preconcert lectures presented by Kayleen Asbo. The cultural historian has two masters degrees — in psychology and piano performance — and a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies.

For the past decade, Asbo has lectured at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes all over the Bay Area, weaving together myth, psychology, poetry and history with her own intense passion for classical music.

“I give a glimpse into the minds of the composers and the choices they make and what it symbolizes to them,” said Asbo, 48. “That brings the music to life. Without that, it’s like going to a movie in a foreign language without subtitles.”

Last December, Asbo gave a stirring, preconcert lecture for the Santa Rosa Symphony’s performance of Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony. This season, she will give four preconcert lectures, starting with the upcoming concert set on Nov. 5-7, featuring pianist Orion Weiss.

This season she plans to analyze composers within the framework of two Greek gods: Apollo, the god of music and mathematics, represented by Classical composers such as Haydn and Mozart; and Dionysius, the god of ritual madness and religious ecstasy, represented by Romantic composers like Lizst and Schumann.

“It’s Sting vs. the Rolling Stones, elegant vs. unbridled,” Asbo said. “In the (Nov. 5-7) concert, they are all crazy Dionysians ... Liszt became a monk and an exorcist. The Bartok piece has been known to drive people insane; Schumann was mentally ill. It will be a very juicy program.”

Here’s a look at Asbo’s journey, from her childhood as a budding pianist to her ultimate career as professor of music at the San Francisco Conservatory, workshop leader and lecturer around the country and the world.

Q: How did you get started in music?
A: I began asking for piano lessons when I was 3, and I finally got my heart’s desire for my seventh Christmas. We didn’t have money for an instrument, so I’d ride my bike to my grandmother’s home after school to practice.

At 12, I performed the Mozart Concerto in A Major with the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra. At 16, I performed the Third Beethoven Concerto with the Santa Barbara Symphony. I was on track to becoming a serious pianist. Then, at 18, I suffered a very serious hand injury from overuse.

I have harpsichord hands, very small. I was told I would never play again. I lost my full scholarship to UC Santa Barbara and lost the use of my hands to tendinitis.

Instead, I went to Smith College and studied English literature and women’s studies and finished my degree in development psychology at Mills. I wanted to work with children.

When I was finishing my bachelor’s degree, I went to the Mendocino Music Festival and listened to an open rehearsal of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a piece I have an intense visceral connection with, and I remembered how much joy I had known as a soloist myself. I bought an upright piano and did physical therapy. Then I got accepted at the San Francisco Conservatory and studied piano performance with Paul Hersh.

Q: How did you transition into teaching and lecturing?
A: I’ve taught preschool, done research in child development, and I was teaching 30 to 40 piano lessons a week. There were fabulous musicians who also were trying to make a go of it and not making it. It was so sad to see a gap between students who wanted to learn and teachers who didn’t know how to bridge the gap. So for the past 18 years, I’ve taught a course at the San Francisco Conservatory on the Psychology of Teaching Music.

Q: How did you connect with the Santa Rosa Symphony?
A: I started teaching nine years ago for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC Berkeley, Dominican University and at SSU’s Oakmont campus. There are several symphony board members who live in Oakmont, and it developed into a nice working relationship.

Q: What is your goal for the symphony lectures this year?
A: The talks are designed to give a deeper look. We’ve almost lost the reference points for what composers are doing. We’ve lost a lot of cultural references. If you don’t know the myth of Orpheus, you won’t know what’s going on with (Alan) Hovhaness’ “Meditation on Orpheus” (in the sixth concert set).

For the future, it’s important that classical music is not a bust. It’s a music for the deepest passions within and gives us a way to touch the depths of the human experience. My hope is that people will fall in love with the music and composers but will also discover something about themselves.

Q: How do you prepare for your lectures?
A: I never speak with notes. I memorize the material so that I can be in the moment. I try to make people fall in love, and I do that by finding what I’m passionate about.

Q: Are you working on anything else for the Santa Rosa Symphony?
A: I love what the symphony is doing for youth. The developmental window for music closes at age 9, according to neurological studies on the plasticity of the brain. Like a foreign language, you won’t have the same comfort and naturalness after that. If we lay down the basics of those pathways in children’s minds, they will be there.

The symphony’s Simply Strings program takes a cue from El Sistema (Venezuela’s string program for underprivileged youth). I’m doing a music history series at the Petaluma History Museum, and 20 percent of the proceeds will go to Simply Strings.

Q: Do you still perform?
A: I will do benefit concerts for a cause I believe in, but it can’t be only a concert. I have to weave the story into it or it’s not satisfying. For me, music is a sacred thing, so it needs to allow people to have a transcendent experience or be in the service of humanity.

Q: Why do you regard music as sacred?
A: Music is meant to benefit the world. It’s about human depth. I want people to connect to the essence of their humanity, not just enjoy and appreciate its aesthetic qualities. It’s not just entertainment. It helps us remember what is beautiful, true and good.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

October 5, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony presents new and familiar faces, repertoire

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, October 5, 2016

When Music Director Bruno Ferrandis strides to the podium to kick off his final full season with the Santa Rosa Symphony this weekend, the 56-year-old conductor will be pulling out a familiar bag of tricks designed to dazzle and delight.

During the symphony’s 89th season, famous friends will be joining him as soloists; programs will have radical contrasts in styles; colorful works will draw from theater, opera and dance; and a few contemporary works will balance out familiar warhorses by Brahms and Beethoven.

“The most important to me are the allusions to opera, theater and ballet,” Ferrandis said in a phone interview from his home in Paris. “I like to mingle the arts — I like that mix of the world — and not to be in an Ivory Tower.”

New faces this season include Jenny Bent, who directs the SSU Symphonic Chorus and has been named the new Santa Rosa Symphony choral director; and music historian Kayleen Asbo, who will give four out of the seven pre-concert lectures.

“It’s nice to change traditions and to evolve,” said Ferrandis, who will host the first pre-concert lecture in October with his brother, flutist Jean Ferrandis; with harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet in January; and with violinist Vadim Gluzman in May.

This year marks the 11th season for Ferrandis, who shepherded the orchestra through its tricky transition into Weill Hall in the Green Music Center five years ago while overseeing the hiring of a new generation of young players.

“I’m so proud because we built it up, brick by brick,” he said of the orchestra. “There was a renewal and an increasing improvement and popularity of the orchestra.”

This November, the symphony’s 10-member search committee is expected to announce names of the five finalists as Ferrandis’ successor.

After the finalists try out during the 2017-2018 season, Ferrandis will return for the final two concerts to bid adieu to the orchestra, the staff and the people of Sonoma County at the end of 2018.

“I will terribly miss Northern California, the wines, the people, the scenery and the Pacific Ocean,” he said. “I have a strong relationship as an artist with the public. In Europe, you don’t have that unless you stay 30 years in the same place.”

A final decision on Ferrandis’ successor will be announced in February 2018, said Alan Silow, executive director of the Santa Rosa Symphony.

“The audience will give their feedback through an online survey,” Silow said, “and the board makes the final decision.”

Meanwhile, here’s what to expect during this season’s Classical Series:

“The Magic of the Flute,” Oct. 8-10

Ferrandis’ younger brother, flutist Jean Ferrandis, returns to perform two works with the orchestra for the season opener: the Mozart Flute Concerto No.1 and Bernstein’s haunting “Halil,” a work for flute and chamber orchestra written in 1981 to commemorate a young Israeli flutist who was killed in 1973.

“Jean said, ‘We have to do “Halil,” ... because we both had ties with Bernstein at the time,” Ferrandis said. “It’s very melodic, but then you can feel the explosions of war.”

The flutist last performed with the symphony in 2012, during the orchestra’s final concert at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. Since that time, he has become a tenured professor of music at CSU Fullerton.

“He’s more seasoned and adapted to California now,” Ferrandis said of his brother.

Rounding out the program will be Beethoven’s light-hearted but not lightweight Symphony No. 8 and Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from “Peter Grimes,” an appealing piece that gives a nod to Ferrandis’ love of opera.

“Keyboard Brilliance,” Nov. 5-7

One of the world’s most virtuosic pianists — 35-year-old Orion Weiss — will perform the Bartok Piano Concerto No. 2, a thorny challenge for soloist and orchestra alike. The Hungarian, who also played the piano, is considered one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.

Opening the concert will be a work by another Hungarian pianist, Lizst’s symphonic poem, “Les Préludes.” The symphony will close the concert with Schumann’s “Symphony No. 2,” one of Ferrandis’ favorite works, also written by a pianist.

“I’m a Gemini, and he’s the epitome of a Gemini — very mercurial, impetuous and hard to predict,” he said. “The first theme is solemn, but the finale is bursting with joy.”

“Poetic Bells,” Dec. 3-5

There is a hidden, literary theme in this vocal concert — American poet and short story writer Edgar Allen Poe.

The concert includes Edward Elgar’s beloved “Enigma Variations,” which is also the name of one of Poe’s most famous poems, “An Enigma.” Rachmaninoff’s choral symphony, “The Bells,” features the SSU Symphonic Chorus directed by Jenny Bent and is based on a poem by Poe.

“We are going to sing it in English, for practical reasons,” Ferrandis said. “To memorize it in Russian is more complex.”

The concert opens with “Prayer Bells” by contemporary composer Augusta Reed Thomas and concludes with a tasty bonbon: Rachmaninoff’s beloved “Vocalise” for soprano and orchestra, featuring soprano Jenni Samuelson.

“Heavenly Harp,” Jan. 7-9

Ferrandis invited Berlin Philharmonic Principal Harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet, an old childhood friend who attended conservatory with him, to perform two contrasting concertos: the Ginastera Harp Concerto and the Debussy’s “Dances Sacred and Profane.”

“The Ginastera is very technical and percussive and dance-like and Argentinean,” he said. “On the contrary, the Debussy is very mellifluous and lyrical.”

And to add to the French flavor, he added two suites from one of the most famous French ballets, Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloé,” and an operatic curtain-opener, Rossini’s Overture to “The Thieving Magpie.”

“Tales of Lovce,” Feb. 11-13

As a love letter to Shakespeare, the symphony will present two works inspired by his most famous tragedy, written by two of the best orchestrators in the world. As the curtain-opener, Ferrandis chose Berlioz’s Introduction to “Roméo et Juliette,” and as a closer, he will conduct Prokofiev’s Selections from “Romeo and Juliet.”

“That’s my theatrical touch,” Ferrandis said. “The Berlioz piece is quite famous but not played that often.”

The centerpiece of the concert will be Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, a mighty masterpiece performed by Italian pianist Alessio Bax. In October 2014, Bax came to Santa Rosa to accompany violinist Joshua Bell in a gala recital hosted by the symphony.

“Bring on the Strings,” March 25-27

A showcase for a few of the principal string players in the symphony, this concert highlights Concertmaster Joe Edelberg and Principal Violist Elizabeth Prior in Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante and Principal Cellist Adelle-Akiko Kearns in Fauré’s “Elégie” for Cello.

After intermission, Ferrandis chose to perform two works by Sibelius: His audacious Symphony No. 4, written during a dark time of his life before World War I; and his sparkling “Finlandia,” a popular tone poem that evokes the natural splendor of the composer’s native country.

As a mirror of the symphony’s meditative quality, the concert will open with Alan Hovhaness’ “Meditation on Orpheus.”

“Orpheus is the god of mysteries, rituals and magic,” Ferrandis said. “And the Sibelius symphony is extremely mysterious as well.”

“Vadim Returns!,” May 6-8

Russian-Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman, who opened the symphony season in 2008 with the Beethoven Violin Concerto, returns for this all-Russian program, tackling the athletic heights of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2.

The program opens with Khachaturian’s Suite from “Masquerade,” a piece written for a stage play by Russian playwright Mikhail Lermontov. The season finale will be Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11, “The Year 1905,” written in 1957 about the insurrection against the Tsar.

“All three composers knew each other very well,” Ferrandis said. “It was a small circle of famous Russian composers.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

August 10, 2016: St. Vincent Violinist Jin Headed to Brown University

by Argus Courier, August 10, 2016

One of the most talented young musicians in the North Bay is headed for Brown University in Rhode Island — to study international relations.

Calvin Jin, a St. Vincent de Paul High School graduate, has won honors for his violin virtuosity from Oakland to Santa Rosa, but he doesn’t plan on making music a career.

“I’m certainly going to keep playing, but I don’t think music will be my profession,” he says. “I’m looking at taking a business approach to my international relations study.”

Entering college, Jin takes with him an array of academic and music awards.

In his four years at St. Vincent he was a National Honors Society Member and a member of the California Scholarship Federation. He performed many hours of volunteer services, most, but not all, music related. Outside the realm of music he provided tech support for the Korean Presbyterian church in San Rafael and was an administrative intern for the Petaluma Historical Museum.

He used his musical talents to serve as an administrative intern for the Santa Rosa Symphony, organized and performed in “The Young Soloists’ Night in Sebastopol.


There is more — much more.

Jin won the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition in 2015 and 2016; took second in the Music in the Vineyards Solo Instrumental Competition; was third in the United States Open Music Competition Instrumental Ensemble Senior Division; won the Senior String Division in the Etude Competition; won the Music in the Vineyards Solo Instrumental Competition; and was the winner of the Napa Valley Youth Symphony Concerto Competition.

He was concertmaster for the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra, concertmaster for the Young People’s Chamber Orchestra; co-concertmaster for the Napa Valley Youth Symphony; first violin for the Napa Valley Youth Symphony’s Chamber Ensemble; and concertmaster for the Sinfonia String Orchesta.

He found time to serve as president of the St. Vincent French club and was a key member of the nationally recognized St. Vincent debate team, earning a National Forensic League Degree of Excellence Award.

Did we mention that he was Valedictorian of the St. Vincent de Paul High School graduating class of 2016?

That Jin is a violinist at all is something of a compromise. His mother, Ji-Young Jin, started him playing the piano at about age 6. 

“My mom found out it wasn’t easy teaching her own son,” Jin explained. “We found a friend who was a violin teacher, so we decided to try that.

“Initially it was quite hard. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I do now.”

That has changed. Jin now enjoys his part in playing the music he loves.

“My musical taste has always been classical music,” he explains. “I find joy in playing music I enjoy. It is an honor to play the works of great composers.”

He acknowledges that he practices “quite a lot,” but is quick to note it is not a sacrifice.

“I love music and I want to play the great works,” he said. “If I am going to play them, I might as well give it my all.”

His church, the Korean Presbyterian Church in San Rafael, has been a big part of Jin’s life, not only spiritually, but musically. He plays at the church, sometimes accompanying by his mother as she plays the piano, and also gives free private lessons to children in the church who cannot afford private teachers.

Jin is technically not a native Petaluman, but he is about as close as you can get, moving with his parents from San Diego before he had reached his second birthday.

His elementary education was at a Montessori school and later Harvest Christian School. Given that background, it was only natural that he continue his education at a small private high school, and Jin said he enjoyed his time at St. Vincent, where everyone knows everyone else.

Now, it is on to the next big step in his life — Brown University — where music will remain part of his life, but education will sit in the first chair.

July 25, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony brings music appreciation to underserved

by North Bay Business Journal, July 25, 2016

By Alan Silow, North Bay Business Journal

In the middle of a 2014 school day, a group of second grade Shepard Elementary students from the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Simply Strings ensemble confidently walked onto the stage of the new Weill Hall and readied their violins and bows to play a Beethoven composition.

On stage with them were some of the Bay Area’s most seasoned classical musicians of the Santa Rosa Symphony (SRS).

Nearly 1,000 of their peers in the audience joined Simply Strings in their performance, playing recorders and singing a joyous rendition of Beethoven’s infamous theme “Ode to Joy” at the Symphony’s Free Concerts for Youth.

This may be an unusual scene in the 21st century for children — even adults — to be exposed to and embrace classical music.

But for the Santa Rosa Symphony, our goal is to inspire a lifelong love and appreciation for music and moreover bring about positive social change.

Since its founding in 1928, the Santa Rosa Symphony has helped keep the musical arts alive in Sonoma County. Now the Resident Orchestra of the Green Music Center, the symphony is the third-oldest such professional group in California and the largest California regional symphony north of Los Angeles, growing through the years from a community ensemble to a nationally-known,award-winning orchestra.

But beyond the concert hall, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s reach is seen — and heard — far throughout Sonoma County.

The symphony’s mission is to serve the community we reside in through far-reaching music education and community engagement programs in the North Bay. In that role, it has been a key provider of free or low-cost music education and instrument training programs for more than 70 years, currently serving 20,000 children and youth across the North Bay including Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties.

The Sonoma County Economic Development Board reported that arts education in the county’s 40 school districts has declined in recent years and access to arts education is uneven from school to school. According to the report,“Arts education in Sonoma County is an equity issue.”

Through our numerous free or low-cost music education programs, the symphony works hard to offer solutions to Sonoma County’s arts education equity gap. Our Training Young Musicians program provides youth with intensive music training coupled with exciting performance opportunities through instrument training classes and four youth ensembles, and our growing Music in Our Schools programs, are bringing music education back into the county’s underserved schools.

The symphony strives not only to provide our youth with quality music training but to help them develop crucial life skills for a successful future. Our newest music education program, Simply Strings, provides free, intensive music training for Santa Rosa’s underserved elementary school students. Inspired by Venezuela’s free music immersion program El Sistema, it has dual ambitions of serving as both a music training and a social development program, using music to help students achieve academic success, emotional health, and positive social skills.

“This is a very special kind of program that is not offered anywhere,” a Simply Strings parent said. “Not only do I like the program but I also like all the results that music brings to an individual, like how she can develop capacities, can start to see the world from different points of view, and can grow and have good self-esteem and value herself.”

In addition to providing music education for our youth, the symphony aspires to make classical music accessible to our entire community, reaching out to populations that might not otherwise be able to attend.

Each season we give away hundreds of tickets to local schools, young musicians and, through our new Social Impact program, to recipients of local, youth-oriented social service agencies.

Through a fruitful partnership with the Sonoma County Library System, the symphony has developed a free performances series begun in 2015 of informal and educational concerts by our musicians. Hundreds of people have attended these library performances, enjoying hour-long programs designed for children and adults.

The symphony opened its doors to the community for a free concert in July 2014 at Weill Hall as a gift to the community in appreciation for 87 years of support. The free concert featured SRS with special guest artists Mariachi Sol de México, considered one the nation’s premier mariachi ensembles. This jubilant event drew more than 5,000 people from the community including new audiences from the Latino community. Given the overwhelming popularity of the event, the symphony now offers a free summer concert for the community annually in partnership with the Green Music Center.

In sum, our music matters. In this day and age of discord and division, we serve as a fundamentally important unifying force. Through the transformative power of our music, we change lives for the better and provide renewed hope that the next generation can build a better world.

May 5, 2016: Pianist Gabriela Martinez ends Santa Rosa Symphony season on jazzy note

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, May 5, 2016

Pianist Gabriela Martinez ends Santa Rosa Symphony season on jazzy note

Pianist Gabriela Martinez was born in Caracas, Venezuela, into a family boasting five generations of female pianists who trace their roots back to Spain. Learning to play piano was as natural to her as learning to tie her shoes.

“I started studying with my mom at her school,” she said in a phone interview from her temporary home in Portland, Ore. “Learning music was very interactive, and I was also learning about composers and history and theory.”

In Caracas, Martinez grew up surrounded by nonstop orchestras and classical music concerts. She played her first piano concerto when she was 6 and made her debut with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra when she was 10.

“I’m always so in awe when I go home and play with them,” she said of the orchestra named after her country’s national hero. “There is always a concert there, and it’s always sold out. Everyone wants to listen to classical music.”

Now 32 with a 1-year-old daughter of her own, Martinez will make her debut with the Santa Rosa Symphony under Music Director Bruno Ferrandis this weekend in a program that features Gershwin’s beloved Piano Concerto in F, along with two works inspired by Spain: Debussy’s “Ibéria” and Ravel’s “Rapsodie espagnole.” Three dance episodes from Bernstein’s “On the Town” musical open the “Jazzy Impressions” program, the final concert series of the 2015-’16 season.

Gershwin’s 1925 concerto, which was premiered with the composer himself at the piano keys, stirred up a bit of controversy when it was premiered by the New York Philharmonic.

“Stravinsky loved that piece, and he thought it was genius,” Ferrandis said. “But Prokofiev detested it.”
The work somehow manages to straddle two worlds, synthesizing the structure of a classical concerto with the improvisational feeling of jazz.

“This (the concerto) was commissioned in 1924 when Gershwin had no training on how to orchestrate,” Martinez said. “So he bought books on theory and became self-taught in everything that he needed to write this piece.”

Although Gershwin wrote his ground-breaking “Rhapsody in Blue” a year earlier, that work was more rooted in jazz and the orchestration was done by Ferde Grofé, composer of the “Grand Canyon Suite.”
In the Gershwin concerto, the orchestra has a very important part to play. Martinez compared the collaborative effort between soloist and accompaniment to the give-and-take of chamber music.
“It has a very special, unique freshness and poetry to it,” Martinez said. “It’s halfway between classical music and jazz ... It maintains a feeling of rubato (flexible tempo), but always has a constant blues beat and pulse to it.”

The brash first movement offers a study in contrasts, with a noisy opening that dissolves into a lyrical, delicate theme. But the heart of the work is the bluesy second movement, featuring a string of beautiful cadenzas and intricate solos for the winds and brass.

“Every instrument really gets to explore the melodies,” she said. “It’s really interesting to hear the back and forth between the orchestra and the piano.”

For the finale, Gershwin weaves themes from the first two movements together with new material to create a driving, rhythmic showpiece for both piano and orchestra.

“It’s just this energetic, huge movement,” she said. “It has lots of references to ragtime.”
The challenge for Martinez is to make sure she stays true to what the composer wrote and the spirit of the work.

“A lot of Gershwin’s music has the improvisational feeling ... but he’s very specific and writes in everything that he wants,” she said. “So it has a lot of freedom, yet all the cadenzas are written out, with tempo changes, dynamics and timing.”

Martinez and her family left Venezuela when she was 12 so that she could study piano at Juilliard in New York City.

“I did the pre-college program ... then stayed for undergrad and a master’s in musical performance,” she said. “I’m still working on a doctorate in performance from Halle, Germany. I just love learning, and I never want to stop.”

Martinez is married to an attorney and normally lives on the Upper West Side of New York, but she moved to Portland for a year so that her husband could clerk for a judge.

“It’s been a fun year of adventure,” she said. “And the food carts are amazing.”

When she arrives in Sonoma County for the first time, Martinez said she wants to explore the region’s renowned red wines and artisan cheeses.

“I’m a cheese person, but I don’t discriminate, and I love food in general,” she said. “I recently discovered Cowgirl Creamery. I love their Mt. Tam ... It’s delicious.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

April 14, 2016: SR Symphony unveils 2016-’17 Family series

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, April 14, 2016

The Santa Rosa Symphony Family Concert Series will celebrate its fifth anniversary in 2016-2017 with three concerts held from October through April at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall.

The three-concert series has been newly named in honor of opera singer Peggy Anne Covington, who left her entire estate worth more than $1 million to the symphony in 2015. Covington began her career with the San Francisco Opera in 1959. After she retired, she and her husband moved to Windsor and attended the Santa Rosa Symphony concerts for several years.

The Peggy Anne Covington Family Concert Series launches on October 16 with “Land of Make Believe,” a program based on musical works created to tell stories, from “Mother Goose” to “Harry Potter.” Roustabout Theater will help bring the program to life, and children are invited to dress up as a character from their favorite story.

The series continues of Jan. 22, 2017 with “The Listener,” which explores the relationship between audience and musicians through a comic tale about a conductor and two, rambunctious audience members. The Magic Circle Mime Company will help bring the tale to life.

The series concludes on April 30, 2017 with “Presto, Mambo!”, an interactive concert that explores Latin rhythms through the tale of Max, a boy who explores the lands of Latin American with his new friend, Mambo the dog. The Platypus Theater will show the audience how to dance to the lively music.

All concerts take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. Pre-concert activities include an Instrument Petting Zoo, where members of the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Ensembles help introduce children and adults to their instruments.

Subscriptions are $45 adults, $30 for children 12 and under. To subscribe, call 546-8742. Single tickets will go on sale on Aug. 8. srsymphony.org.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

April 9, 2016: Chris Smith: Take time to applaud the Santa Rosa Symphony

by Chris Smith, The Press Democrat, April 9, 2016

 My late friend Tom Barnett of Healdsburg was a foodie and a musician with special insight into two types of people.

As a former restaurateur and a real-estate broker focused on restaurant sales, Tom appreciated how terribly hard most restaurant owners work. And as a violinist, he valued to the point of reverence the daunting training, practice and talent that goes into a performance by a symphony orchestra.

Once at the Green Music Center he mentioned that he’d never head out of the hall until the Santa Rosa Symphony was fully applauded and cheered and acknowledged. He figured that it would short-change the orchestra were he to start for the door before the conductor left the stage.

I can’t help but think of Tom when I see symphony patrons bolt from their seats with a program’s final note. And I certainly thought of him as I read a note from Nancy Gross:
“For 60 years I have been enjoying the Santa Rosa Symphony, even during the last year of Mr. (George) Trombley’s reign, 1956-1957. Now it is amazing sitting in Weill Hall watching Bruno Ferrandis and our superb orchestra.”

Then Gross cited “one huge complaint.”

“Even before Bruno is off the podium after the last piece people start traipsing out of the auditorium in a rude advance to the exit doors.” She has no quarrel with folks with disabilities heading out before the mass exodus, but thinks it shows “a lack of courtesy and civility” by everyone else who dashes before “the Maestro glides off stage after the last bow.”

Bravo! Tom would say.

March 30, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony announces 2016-2017 Pops Series lineup

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, March 30, 2016

 The Luther Burbank Center for the Arts and the Santa Rosa Symphony announced the lineup for their 2016-2017 Symphony Pops Series this week, comprising four concerts led by Principal Pops Conductor Michael Berkowitz.

 The new season, which marks the 12th year of the collaborative pops series, runs on four Sundays from October 2016 through April 2017 at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road.

“We’ve got another fantastic lineup of concerts and renowned guest artists set for next year,” Berkowitz said in a press release. “I’m particularly looking forward to opening my personal music library to curate the first concert of the season, which will feature a range of popular hits.”

The season begins on Oct. 23 with “Maestro’s Greatest Hits,” including works from Broadway and Hollywood to Leonard Bernstein and Henry Mancini. Berkowitz will play drums on Buddy Rich’s “West Side Story Suite,” which features vocalist Jonathan Poretz.

A special holiday program on Dec. 11, “A Charlie Brown Christmas Concert,” will reprise songs from the 1965 classic “Peanuts” animated special as well as other traditional Christmas chestnuts. Pianist Jim Martinez and his quartet will join the symphony in paying tribute to the famous songs written or arranged by Vince Guaraldi.

Cabaret star Ann Hampton joins the symphony on Feb. 19 to present “Ann Hampton Callaway Sings The Great American Songbook.” The Tony-nominated star will sing the timeless classics of George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter and others.

To close out the series, the series will present “Country Legends,” featuring the songs of country music icons such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and others. Nashville vocalists Patrick Thomas and Rachel Potter will join in the tribute.

Concerts are held at 3 pm. Sundays. Season ticket packages, which include all four concerts and pre-concert talks, are available now. Single tickets will go on sale in August. For ticket information, go to lutherburbankcenter.org or call 546-3600.

March 2, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony announces 2016-17 season

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, March 2, 2016

The Santa Rosa Symphony has announced the orchestra works and soloists of its 89th performance season in 2016-2017, the final full season with Bruno Ferrandis as music director.

The season, which marks the symphony’s fifth year as resident orchestra at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, will be bracketed by the return of flutist Jean Ferrandis during the opening concert in October and the return of Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman during the final concert in May.

For the seven Classical Series concerts, Ferrandis has programmed a blend of both familiar and unusual works drawn from a variety of musical genres, including nine that are new to the orchestra.

“I have focused on programs that bring familiar masterpieces together with my own favorites from the classical repertoire, many of which have not yet been performed by the Santa Rosa Symphony,” Ferrandis said in a press release. “My goal is to bring together music from a variety of musical forms in each program. The works presented this season include opera overtures, ballet suites, beloved concertos, symphonic masterworks and brilliant vocal works.”

The symphony’s popular Family Concert Series has been renamed the Peggy Anne Covington Family Concert Series in honor of the late opera singer and philanthropist, who left her entire estate to the Santa Rosa Symphony.

The Symphony Pops Series led by Michael Berkowitz will continue on four Sundays from October through April at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts.

Here is the line-up for the symphony’s Classical Series for 2016-2017. Each concert is performed at 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Monday at Weill Hall in the Green Music Center at the Sonoma State University Campus.

Oct. 8 to 10: “The Magic of the Flute” features flutist Jean Ferrandis in Bernstein’s “Halil” nocturne for flute and orchestra and Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1. The concert opens with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from his opera, “Peter Grimes,” and concludes with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8.

Nov. 5-7: “Keyboard Brilliance” features young pianist Orion Weiss in Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The program opens with Liszt’s symphonic tone-poem, “Les Préludes,” and ends with Schumann’s Romantic masterpiece, his Symphony No. 2.

Dec. 5-7: “Poetic Bells” showcases the Santa Rosa Symphony Choir led by Jenny Bent and vocal soloists in Rachmaninoff’s choral symphony, “The Bells,” and Jenni Samuelson in his “Vocalise” for soprano and orchestra. August Read Thomas’ “Prayer Bells” and Elgar’s beloved “Enigma Variations” round out the program.

Jan. 7-9: “Heavenly Harp” showcases harp virtuoso Marie-Pierre Langlamet in Ginastera’s Harp Concerto and Debussy’s “Dances Sacred and Profane.” The program opens with Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie” and concludes with the orchestral suites from Ravel’s ballet, “Daphnis and Chloé.”

Feb. 11-13: “Tales of Love,” a Valentine’s Day program, showcases pianist Alessio Bax in Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, plus Berlioz’s overture to his opera “Roméo et Juliette,” contrasted with selections from Prokofiev’s 20th century ballet, “Romeo and Juliet.”

March 25-27: “Bring on the Strings” celebrates the talents within the symphony, including Concertmaster Joseph Edelberg and Principal Violist Elizabeth Prior in Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola. Principal Cellist Adelle-Akiko Kearns will perform the solo in Faure’s “Elegie” for cello. The evening concludes with two works by Sibelius, his mysterious Symphony No. 4 and beloved “Finlandia.”

May 6-8: “Vadim Returns!” celebrates the sound of violinist Vadim Gluzman as he performs Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 on his 1690 “ex-Leopold Auer” Stradivarius. The concert opens with Khachaturian’s Ballet Suite from “Masquerade” and concludes with Shostakovich’s dramatic Symphony No. 11.

Subscriptions will go on sale on March 7. Individual tickets go on sale Aug. 8. For more information on the various subscription options and the Family Concert Series, go to srsymphony.org or call 546-8742.

For information on the Symphony Pops Series, go to lutherburbankcenter.org or call 546-3600.


February 19, 2016: Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine gives delicacy to Beethoven

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, February 19, 2016

 When Rachel Barton Pine performs a violin concerto, she not only writes her own cadenzas but avidly researches everything about it so she can play it as the composer originally intended.Take Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, written during the composer’s middle period in 1806, when the Classical era of Mozart was fading away and the Romantic period of Mendelssohn was on the rise. Rather than use the heavier style of the Romantics, Pine prefers to take the lighter, understated approach of the Classical era.

“This concerto was written for Franz Clement, who was a delicate, refined player,” the 41-year-old violinist said in a phone interview from her home in Chicago. “Because this more muscular style was taking over, the Beethoven concerto never found its footing and wasn’t embraced by the violinists of its time.”

However, 40 years after it was written, the great Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim realized the concerto’s worth and brought it back into the spotlight after it had languished in relative obscurity.
Pine, who has recorded the Beethoven with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, will join the Santa Rosa Symphony under Music Director Bruno Ferrandis this weekend to perform the beloved violin concerto during a program entitled “Strokes of Genius.” Anton Brucker’s unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D minor will close the concert with a passionate flourish.

Those who are accustomed to hearing a more Romantic interpretation of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto — featuring more vibrato, stretched tempos and what is affectionately referred to as “schmaltz” — may be surprised to hear Pine’s lighter, breezier interpretation.

“In the Classical period, the tempi are a little bit more flowing, not broad and stretched out and weighty like in Bruckner and Mahler,” she said. “I won’t have a wide, gushy romantic vibrato, but it will be there, because I have to give warmth and projection to the sound. But in the use of bowing, I try to create the Classical period touch.”

Pine first heard the concerto when she was 6 and already studying the Haydn Violin Concerto in G Major.

“My introduction to its ‘big sibling’ was a revelation,” she said. “I instinctively sensed that the Beethoven was the pinnacle of violin concertos.”

Pine grew up in a working-class neighborhood of Chicago with a father who remained unemployed for most of her childhood, so her family constantly struggled with finances. Her mother home-schooled her starting in the third grade so she could practice during school hours and spend time with her friends after school.

“It was a very stressful and tenuous existence,” she said. “That made it really hard on my mom because of the sacrifices she was making to help me pursue my dream.”

Later, when she was on the brink of a major career at 21, Pine was caught in the doors of a Chicago commuter train, which closed on the straps of her violin case as she was getting off. The train dragged her 200 feet, severing her left leg and mangling her right foot.

After two years of recuperation, she learned to walk again with a prosthetic leg.

Her early challenges served her well, however, giving her the strength to greet that accident with a steadfast optimism that things would work out.

“Maybe for somebody else it would have been transformative,” she said, “but for me, it was just, ‘Here is another obstacle.’”

While Pine was growing up, she often won scholarships for lessons, but there were always extra costs — piano accompaniment fees, sheet music, strings — that required additional funds from supporters. So she enjoys giving back to others through her own foundation.

“We’re unique in that we pinpoint young musicians who are talented but struggling, and we pay for all that extra stuff,” she said.

“We’ve helped more than 70 young artists.”

Accompanied by her husband and 4-year-old daughter, Pine tours the world with her violin, performing from Finland to Alaska, and always tries to do some community outreach. Sometimes she goes into schools and talks about how to listen to music, other times she gives master classes for young people learning how to play.

“I’m really up for anything,” she said. “I’ve had orchestras send me to the local watering hole where the business people go for lunch, to get them excited about the concert. Others send me to hospitals.”
She also regards concert hall performances as a continuation of her outreach work and her main mission, which is to nurture people’s souls.

“It’s not just about a show and being on stage in a fancy dress,” she said. “The meaning of being a musician is to uplift people’s spirits with the power of music.”

Along the way, Pine has also made it her mission to champion the cause of obscure musicians such as Maud Powell, who she describes as “America’s first internationally acclaimed violin soloist.”

“She had a real trail-blazing career and social values, which are so inspiring,” Pine said. “She was still a forgotten figure when her biographer sent me a copy of her biography.”

Pine has also championed African-American composers and musicians from all over the world who have been playing classical music for centuries. She credits the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago for raising her consciousness.

“This not somebody else’s music,” she said. “It’s so important for the future of classical music to have diversity so that we can have many voices enriching our art form, and keep it alive and evolving.
In addition to performing as a soloist, Pine plays Baroque violin and viola d’amore with her own, period-instrument ensemble, Trio Settecento.

“When I was 14, I sought out a specialist and got up and running on the phrasing and the Baroque bow,” she said. “It was a really creative outlet, and I’ve also done folk and rock music.”
In fact, Pine is a passionate fan of Heavy Metal rock music, especially of the “Thrash” and “Doom” sub-genres exemplified by bands such as Megadeath and Anthrax.

“I love to spread the word that I am a rock music fan,” she said. “You don’t have to choose between the genres ... I’ve met many of my favorite bands, and they listen to classical music.”

For the Beethoven concerto, Pine will soar in the upper register with the instrument on loan to her for life: the Joseph Guarnerius del Gesu (Cremona 1742) violin, known as the “ex-Soldat” because it was chosen by Brahms for his prodigy, Marie Soldat.

Even more rare than the Stradivari violins, the violins made by the Guarneri family are known for their rich, deep tone, especially on the low G string. That may not help the violinist much in the Beethoven concerto, however, since most of the work is written in the upper register.

“There’s a purity that it demands, because it’s so exposed,” she said of the concerto.

“Everything has to be beautifully shaped, pristine and sparkling, but also gorgeous. You can only aspire to come close.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.



January 14, 2016: Conductor Mei-Ann Chen wows in Green Music Center performance

by Chris Smith, The Press Democrat, January 14, 2016

Conductor Mei-Ann Chen wows in Green Music Center performance

Had Taiwan-born conductor Mei-Ann Chen made any bigger a splash in her guest appearance with the Santa Rosa Symphony, vacuum trucks would have been summoned to Weill Hall.
Terrifically animated, precise, joyful — Chen delighted the audiences and captured the hearts of orchestra members already bracing for the departure in 2018 of Bruno Ferrandis, their celebrated French music director since ‘06.

“More than a few players implored her to throw her hat in the ring,” said clarinetist Mark Wardlaw.

Chen mentioned to some at the Green Music Center that she has some impending career options, as she’ll leave her post as music director of the Memphis Symphony in May.

Hey, anything could happen. Chen is a seriously rising star much in demand.

But Tim Beswick, the symphony’s director of artistic operations, allowed that Sonoma County’s enthralled response to Chen “did not go unnoticed by the search committee.”

AS A TEEN, the former Mary Orsborn, now Mary Beseda, earned work-experience credit by acting as a teller at Exchange Bank.

Seconds after she graduated from Santa Rosa High, the bank hired her on. That was in 1974.
Mary met and came to work closely with Dona Vercelli-Godwin, who’s been with Exchange Bank since 1969. They’re the dynamic duo and institutional memory in the Electronic Banking department.
When they retire this month, Mary and Dona will have put in a total of 89 years with the bank.

Their manager, Byron Webb, a bit emotionally tender just now, praised Mary as a force for good in the community who always put the customer first and who possesses a personality “that grabs you and pulls you in.”

Dona, he said, “is an old-school worker; she comes to work and she works.” But also, said Webb, she makes work more fun for everyone around her.

Exchange Bank, which last year turned 125, will continue on, somehow.
LOSING HIS TRUCK was bad enough for Ken Risling. But in the back of the white Ford pickup stolen Friday in downtown Petaluma was the electrician’s livelihood — all of his tools and gear.
He dutifully reported the theft to police, but then he did something that proved far more effective. He wrote about his lost work truck on Facebook.

There followed, he said, “a remarkable phenomenon that I was totally stunned by.”
Risling’s Facebook friends shared his post with people who shared it, and on and on. He soon was notified of several sightings of his truck.

And on Monday his phone rang: A school bus driver in Vallejo was standing in front of the stripped Ford. She’d learned of the theft from a Facebook post in where? Montana.

All of his tools are gone, but the thief left Risling, who’s also quite a musician, “a raincoat, a couple of CDs and my glasses case. I was glad about that.”

He was pretty much bursting with gratitude for all the help and concern when others offered to loan him a truck and tools, then opened a GoFundMe appeal that so far has brought him more than $4,200.

“I gotta tell you,” Risling said. “I can’t stop myself from crying, just talking about it. It’s the most amazing thing.”

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

January 10, 2016: Polly Holbrook, former SRS concertmaster, dies at 79

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, January 10, 2016

Polly Holbrook, longtime symphony violinist, dies at 79
Polly Holbrook, a longtime violinist with the Santa Rosa Symphony who served as concertmaster from 1983 to 1996, died at her Santa Rosa home on Jan. 2 after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 79.
Holbrook was treated for breast cancer three years ago and learned last month that it had metastasized, her family said. Knowing she didn’t have long to live, she signed up for hospice and quickly planned a party to gather family and friends around her on Jan. 1 and 2.

“She said, ‘The hell with a funeral and a wake; I want to be at my own party,’ ” said her sister-in-law, Ena Estes of Las Vegas, who had been taking care of her for many months. “We had a celebration of life and invited everybody.”

Holbrook playfully called the gathering a “Pity Polly Party,” greeting death in the same playful manner she had lived her life.

“She was so much fun to be around,” Estes said. “We traveled everywhere together, laughing and giggling. Everybody loved Aunt Polly.”

Born in 1936 in Santa Rosa, she had a single-minded passion for the violin, even as a little child. Her musical aspirations were supported by her mother, Elizabeth Estes, a pianist and church organist, and her father, Orville Estes, who played the trombone.

Holbrook started taking violin lessons around the age of 5 from Helen Payne Sloat, a longtime Santa Rosa Symphony violinist and teacher.

“Some little girls wanted a doll,” Holbrook told the Press Democrat in 1996. “I wanted a violin.”
When she was 7, Holbrook’s father changed jobs and her family moved to San Francisco, where she continued her musical education.

At age 12, Holbrook was chosen to be a guest soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, led by conductor Rudolph Ganz. She played a Bach concerto. At age 14, she played the Bruch Violin Concerto with the San Jose Symphony, led by conductor Gason Usigli.

While attending Washington High School in San Francisco, she sang in the a cappella choir. At age 15, she had what she later described as a life-changing opportunity to tour for two weeks playing music at convents, schools and mental health institutions.

 She studied choral music at San Francisco State, intending to go into teaching as a career, but halted her education after meeting her husband, Don Holbrook, who was in the Navy at the time. The couple met at church and married in 1955, raising two sons.

When Don got a job as a court reporter for Sonoma County Superior Court, the family moved to Santa Rosa and Holbrook started playing violin again, joining the Santa Rosa Symphony in the fall of 1964. The couple built a home in the Larkfield area that same year.

Under Santa Rosa Symphony conductor Corrick Brown, Holbrook served as principal second violin from 1967 to 1970, assistant concertmaster from 1970 to 1983 and concertmaster from 1983 to 1996, helping the orchestra transition from Brown to its new music director, Jeffrey Kahane. She also served as the symphony librarian from 1974 to 1984.

“I can remember looking at her at all the rehearsals and concerts, and she had a beatific look,” said Polly Fisher, former manager of the Santa Rosa Symphony. “She had a wonderful relationship with the Browns. The Browns mentored her, and they brought her to a different level.”
Holbrook started helping with auditions in 1970. As concertmaster, she spent hours working on the bowings before each concert series. She retired from the symphony in 2000 after 36 years.

“Building a symphony orchestra requires developing a great string section,” Brown said. “When Polly Holbrook came to Santa Rosa, it was a godsend. The success of the orchestra owes a great deal to her.”
Holbrook also taught violin, played weddings and was an active chamber music player, performing with the Santa Rosa Chamber Players, the Boyd Piano Quintet and with her dear friends, pianist Norma Brown and cellist Shirley Chilcott.

She also spent many summers boating on the Russian River with her family.

“Amazingly, she found time to drive a water-ski boat with her sons behind and her blonde hair blowing,” said Chilcott. “She and Don were also avid supporters of their sons’ sports activities.”
She is preceded in death by her husband, her brother John Estes and granddaughter Jennifer Holbrook.
In addition to her sister-in-law Ena Estes, she is survived by her sister, Betsy Ludwig of Penn Valley; her sons Brad Holbrook of Greenbrier, Ark., and Mark Holbrook of Sacramento; nine grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

No memorial service is planned. Donation in her memory may be made to North County Hospice, 205 East St., in Healdsburg or to the Santa Rosa Symphony, 50 Santa Rosa Ave.

January 7, 2016: Stradivarius player Caroline Goulding to perform with Santa Rosa Symphony

by by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, January 7, 2016

Though she is only 23 years old, violinist Caroline Goulding has played a nearly 300-year-old Stradivarius for the past five years.

Known as the General Kyd Stradivarius, the circa 1720 instrument made in Cremona, Italy, produces a beautiful sound that, in its utter perfection, reminds her of a god or a goddess.

“Every string glows with beauty,” she said in a phone interview from her parents’ home in Florida. “It’s more of a Fred Astaire than a Gene Kelly. Fred Astaire is almost a magician, he’s so smooth and effortless and charming. Gene Kelly has more of a visceral quality.”

Over time, however, the instrument seems to have evolved under her fingers, integrating some of dancer Kelly’s athletic earthiness into the ethereal spirit of Astaire.

“Maybe it’s all a reflection of what I’m putting into it,” she said. “I would love to dance with Fred, but I’m captivated by both in very different ways.”

Goulding and her mercurial violin will join the Santa Rosa Symphony this weekend, Jan. 9 to 11, to perform a Kelly-esque, athletic work, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major. Led by guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen, the “Pastoral Pleasures” concert opens with An-Lun Huang’s festive “Saibei Dance” and closes with Dvorak’s folksy Symphony No. 8.

For Goulding, at least, the challenge of the Tchaikovsky is to carefully monitor the energy she puts into the work.

“That piece is all about endurance, because basically, it’s like running a marathon,” she said. “It’s about how you utilize your energy in the piece so it makes sense physically, musically and technically … and so you don’t wear out.”

The composer originally dedicated his concerto to renowned violinist Leopold Auer, who politely demurred the honor, declaring it unplayable. During the work’s premiere, critic Eduard Hanslick wrote that “the violin was not played but beaten black and blue.”

The work kicks off with a tender introduction by the orchestra that sets up a dramatic entrance for the soloist, who starts off in a leisurely fashion with the lyrical first theme. The solo part soon accelerates, however, gaining steam through a series of daunting double-stops, trills and arpeggios, plus a bone-crushing cadenza, that light a fire under the solo part as well as the orchestral accompaniment.

Even the gentle second movement, featuring minor-key melody aching with melancholy, leaps impulsively into the finale, a dancing rondo that requires more finger-aching pyrotechnics.

“I love all of Tchaikovsky,” said Goulding, who currently lives in New York City. “I was just listening to ‘Swan Lake’ today. The Tchaikovsky concerto is very dance-like, in a ballet way.“

As a child growing up in Port Huron, Mich., Goulding listened to her older brothers playing trumpet and saxophone and was so inspired that she demanded an instrument of her own when she was a little over 3 years old.

“At that age, the options were limited,” she said. “It was either the violin or the piano.”

When Goulding was 11, her family relocated to Cleveland so she could continue her violin studies with Paul Kantor, who had taken a post with the Cleveland Institute of Music.

As a young student, she also trained at summer festivals, from Marlboro and Yellow Barn in Vermont to the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, where she won first prize in the concerto competition at age 13.

The following year, she made her first appearance on the TV program, “From the Top: Live from Carnegie Hall,” hosted by pianist Christopher O’Riley. At age 16, after a 2007 appearance with the Cleveland Pops, she was offered a three-album recording deal with Telarc.

“It was a natural progression,” she said of her career. “I’ve always known that I wanted to do it, so it was following the flow of life.”

Her first album, recorded with pianist O’Riley, is a collection of beloved violin works by Fritz Kreisler, John Corigliano, Vieuxtemps and others. Simply entitled “Caroline Goulding,” the album garnered a Grammy nomination and made the top 15 in Billboard Magazine.

A second Telarc album, “From the Top at the Pops,” came out in 2009, featuring Goulding in a performance of the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 as well as the Mendelssohn Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings, both with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

In 2009, Goulding was awarded first prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2011.

Also in 2011, she started studying with famed violin teacher Donald Weilerstein at the New England Conservatory. Then she went on to take lessons from violinist Christian Tetzlaff at the Kronberg Academy in Germany, an international cultural institution for highly gifted young string players.

“I graduated from the Kronberg Academy in June, but I still take lessons from Mr. Weilerstein and Christian Tetzlaff,” said Goulding, who spends about half of her year performing in Europe and the other half in the U.S.

Tetzlaff, in particular, has influenced her because of the unique way in which he approaches each piece.

“What I really respect is his artistic openness and creativity, but also his commitment to what is there in the score,” she said. “He attempts to take all of the influences out and start from scratch.”

Since she is still very young, Goulding said she is open to trying all kinds of classical works, from the baroque period to the contemporary era.

“You don’t know what you like until you try everything,” she said. “I’m taking what comes, and I’m open to it.”

In her spare time, she enjoys reading, walking, eating with friends and enjoying a good cup of coffee at a cafe, where she likes to people-watch. But she hasn’t quite gotten around to learning how to cook.

“I like to go out and spend money on good food,” she said. “I like to live the epicurean lifestyle, without the work.”

But the rising young star still continues to work hard on her Stradivarius violin. Though it produces a perfect sound, the maturing artist is beginning to understand that even perfection has its flaws.

“That’s a weakness in itself, because life is messy, and music is messy,” she said. “Yes, art reflects beauty, but maybe art reflects life, and the beauty is that life is not always beautiful.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

January 4, 2016: San Francisco North Bay business briefs: SRS NEA Grant

by North Bay Business Journal, January 4, 2016

San Francisco North Bay business briefs: 
Santa Rosa Symphony recently received a Challenge America Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in the amount of $10,000. The symphony will use this award to support performances, a workshop and related outreach activities featuring Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez during the symphony’s 88th season finale in May 2016.

Healdsburg Center for the Arts has a variety of opportunities for visual artists to exhibit their art in the gallery. Along with our six to eight juried exhibitions, it offers opportunities for artists to rent display space. Starting in January, it is taking applications for gallery artists.

The city of Santa Rosa announced a series of community meetings to be hosted by its Community Advisory Board (CAB) in an effort to obtain public input on the city’s Capital Improvement Project (CIP) budget for 2016–2017. Community meetings will be held 5:30–7:30 p.m. Jan. 4, Bennett Valley Senior Center, 704 Bennett Valley Rd.; Jan. 7, Finley Community Center, Willow Room, 2060 West College Ave.; Jan. 11, Oakmont East Community Center, 7902 Oakmont Dr.; January 14, Steele Lane Community Center, De Meo Room, 415 Steele Ln.; Jan. 21, Roseland Elementary School Library, 950 Sebastopol Rd.

Napa County has become the 33rd county to join VOTECAL, the new statewide voter registration system. As all 58 counties move to the system by spring 2016, VOTECAL will treat voters as state voters rather than county voters. That means those who move from one county to another in California can remain eligible to vote without having to re-register. VOTECAL also will allow eligible driver license and state ID card first-time applicants, and those renewing their licenses or changing their address, to be registered to vote automatically at the DMV unless they choose not to register.

The city of Novato has a new online business license renewal system to facilitate the renewal process. Owners can now renew their business license online by visiting novato.org/BL and select the option to renew online. Just use your business license number and security code that is printed on your renewal notice to log in and pay your renewal fee by credit card via its new secure payment system. Cash or check payment options are still available in-person or by mail.

In December, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved a Living Wage Ordinance. Sonoma County is the seventh county in California to adopt local legislation raising wages for county employees and contractors. Effective July 1, all county employees and individuals working for private sector employers who contract with the county will be required to earn a base minimum pay rate of $15.00 an hour when conducting work for the county. Non-profit service contractors will be phased into the ordinance, beginning at $13.00 starting July 1, 2017, and reaching $15.00 per hour on July 1, 2019.
Health Care

Marin Cancer Care, co-manager of the Cancer Institute at Marin General Hospital, was one of 10 health care institutions across the country included in a recent study published by the Harvard Business Review. The article described the impact of high-emotion services in cancer care delivery, and explored non-clinical practices positively influencing the quality and effect of patient care. Researched by Dr. Leonard Berry, Ph.D., professor at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University and senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the study selected cancer centers known for their clinical quality and high-emotion services, which address the compassionate and sensitive delivery of diagnosis and treatment.

Kaiser Permanente announced plans to open the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine as part of the organization’s ongoing effort to lead in meeting America’s demands for 21st century health care. The school will redesign physician education around strategic pillars that include providing high-quality care beyond traditional medical settings, acknowledging the central importance of collaboration and teamwork to inform treatment decisions, and addressing disparities in health. The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019 and will be located in Southern California, where physicians-in-training will be immersed in an environment of cultural and economic diversity.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded more than $4.4 million in federal funds to four health centers in Huffman’s Second District for 2016. With these federal grants, health centers in Humboldt, Marin, Mendocino and Sonoma counties will be able to continue providing primary care to populations in need.

OpenTable, a leading provider of online restaurant reservations and part of The Priceline Group, unveiled the 100 Best Restaurants in America for 2015. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states. Included in the top 10 is St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Santa Rosa. Other North Bay restaurants include: Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford; Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville; The French Laundry, Yountville.

Nonprofit organizations interested in applying for grant funds from the Napa County Arts and Culture Advisory Committee can begin submitting their proposals Jan. 5. Applicants will be able to apply for funds under the visitor management guidelines for tourism promotion activities as well as the capacity building program guidelines. Completed applications must be received no later than March 1. Only registered 501(c)3 organizations working in Napa County’s arts and culture sector are eligible.

Mend Programmatics Inc. of Novato recently closed its software and application creation partnership with mobile engagement platform company Fanfare Entertainment’s Apollo Health division in Burlingame. The deal will provide software and applications for Mend and its endeavors to create technology for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Family-owned Cline Family Cellars in Sonoma launched a new multichannel national brand campaign called Are You Inclined. Rolled out in December in national print advertising, retail promotions as well as on-line, Are You Inclined will include a new social media contest that rewards participants for sharing their experiences with Cline Family Cellars wines. Running through March, participants can use Instagram to post photos of themselves in situations where they are enjoying one of Cline Family Cellars’ wines. The most creative and original entry will receive a $250 gift certificate from Cline Family Cellars and a gift basket from The Olive Press.

Napa’s Crimson Wine Group (OTCBB: CWGL) opened The Estates Wine Room, an urban tasting room located in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

Consumer Products
Indoor Climate Control launched icchvac.com as an informational portal that features educational resources on subjects such as property value benefits from air conditioning repairs, heating repairs and emergency service and many other helpful tips that can save money and provide the best results for property improvement projects at any budget.

Quality Counts, Sonoma County’s quality improvement rating system as led by First 5 Sonoma County, designated 4Cs programs as high quality, with 4Cs preschools rated in the top tier. It is a five-tier rating system that rates the quality of early education programs. Preschools and child care centers were rated on early learning environment and teacher/child interactions, which research show is the strongest indicator for child’s school readiness. 4Cs was awarded $160,000 in recognition of the high ratings, which it will invest in professional development programs for preschool staff.

Terra Firma Global Partners entered into a three-year agreement of financial support with Prestwood Elementary School in Sonoma. Terra Firma is sponsoring “Prestwood Direct,” the funding mechanism to enable a host of school programs that the school would otherwise be unable to afford.


December 15, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony Receives Prestigious NEA Grant

by Sonoma County Gazette, December 15, 2015

Santa Rosa Symphony Receives Prestigious NEA Grant

Challenge America Award will support community outreach activities related to the “Jazzy Impressions” Classical Series season finale concert set featuring pianist Gabriela Martinez in May 2016

The Santa Rosa Symphony (SRS) recently received a Challenge America Award from The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the amount of $10,000.  The SRS will use this award to support performances, a workshop and related outreach activities featuring Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinezduring the Santa Rosa Symphony’s 88th season finale in May, 2016.

This outreach project is intended to share classical music with the Sonoma County Latino community. Martinez, a music education advocate, will conduct a free bilingual “musical career day” workshop for elementary school violinists, participate in an open rehearsal for the community, and participate in 3 pre-concert talks before each Classical Concert performance. Organizations such Big Brothers Big Sisters of the North Bay, the YWCA Sonoma CountyCalifornia Parenting Institute, the Boys and Girls Club Central Santa Rosa, and Hanna Boys Center – selected for their ties to local, underserved communities – and local elementary schools will assist with targeted outreach and free ticket distribution for the main stage performance at the Green Music Center.

In its first 50 years, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded more than $5 billion in grants to recipients in every state and U.S. jurisdiction, the only arts funder in the nation to do so. For its first funding round for fiscal year 2016, the NEA has announced awards totaling more than $27.6 million, including this Challenge America award to the Santa Rosa Symphony.

The Challenge America category supports projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. Challenge America grants are comparatively small investments that have a big impact in their communities.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The arts are part of our everyday lives – no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like the one from the Santa Rosa Symphony offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

About this Challenge America grant to the SRS, Executive Director Alan Silow said: “This grant from the NEA expresses national confirmation of the importance of the work the Santa Rosa Symphony is doing in Sonoma County to inspire and engage people with the highest-quality musical performances and to develop compelling educational programs focused on the local community.”

INFO: National Endowment for the Arts

About the Santa Rosa Symphony
Santa Rosa Symphony, the Resident Orchestra of the Green Music Center, is the third-oldest professional orchestra in California, and the largest regional symphony north of Los Angeles. Bruno Ferrandis, who began his tenure in 2006, is the fourth Music Director in the organization’s history. The Santa Rosa Symphony (SRS) is committed to core values of artistic excellence, innovative programming and community service. This year the SRS contributed over $4 million into the local economy.

Currently in its 88th season, the Symphony’s performance schedule includes 21 Classical Series concerts (7 sets), 7 Discovery Dress Rehearsal concerts, a 3-concert Family Series and a 4-concert Pops Series, as well as special concerts. The Symphony is also recognized for having one of the most comprehensive music education programs in California, serving nearly 23,000 youth annually.
Collaborations with schools and organizations across Sonoma County have gained SRS national attention and support. Awards include an American Symphony Orchestra League MetLife Award for Community Engagement and a first place award for adventurous programming in the 2012-13 season from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

December 3, 2015: Holiday choral music to look forward to in Sonoma County

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, December 3, 2015

 There’s an informal choral music season every year around the holidays, and the singers of the North Bay have been warming up to perform the best of the holiday lot.

The Santa Rosa Symphony kicks off the annual choralpalooza this weekend with three performances of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony conducted by Music Director Bruno Ferrandis, alongside four vocal soloists and the Santa Rosa Symphony Honor Choir.

“It ends incredibly joyfully, so it’s very uplifting,” said Choral Director Robert Worth, who is rehearsing his own Sonoma Bach Choir as well as the Santa Rosa High School Concert Choir and the Sonoma State Symphonic Chorus for the concert. “They only sing in the fourth movement, but it’s the focal point of the piece.”

Worth is celebrating his 20th and final year conducting the Santa Rosa Symphonic Honor Choir during the annual Santa Rosa Symphony choral concert before the holidays. He has helped prepare the symphonic choir since 1995, when the symphony’s then-conductor Jeffrey Kahane first asked for a high-level choir to help perform Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms.”

“It’s been a great collaboration, and we’ve done a lot of great productions,” said Worth, who plans to focus now on early music with his Sonoma Bach Choir. “I felt like this would be a good thing to go out on.”

Beethoven’s 9th has been compared to a mirror, reflecting a different meaning for each of its admirers, from Protestant hymn-writers to Marxists and Nazis.

In his book, “The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824,” Harvey Sachs argues that Beethoven’s 9th is a quest for freedom from the repression of the European government and a broad “declaration in favor of universal brotherhood.”

Here are the details of the symphony concert, along with a smorgasbord of other choral concerts that celebrate the season:

The Santa Rosa Symphony presents Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, 6, and 7, at Weill Hall. The concert opens with a folk song cycle by Luciano Berio. $25-$85. 546-8742 or santarosasymphony.com.
Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

November 26, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony Is in the Pink, Financially

by Mark MacNamara , SF Classical Voice, November 26, 2015

For the 88-year-old Santa Rosa Symphony these days everything is in the black, it’s all coming up roses, although it’s true that the acclaimed music director Bruno Ferrandis has just announced that after 12 seasons he has decided to move on following the 2017-2018 season.

Why leave now? “I feel it is important in the modern era for both directors and symphonies to experience the influence of many different musical personalities,” he has been quoted to say, and added that he wants to collaborate more with living composers. In sum, Ferrandis, originally an Algerian émigré, now living in Paris, intends to get back on the road and resume his role as a guest conductor, which has lead him to concert halls from Tel Aviv to Tokyo.

“I love the guy,” Alan Silow told us. Silow is the symphony’s executive director. “Bruno has been enormously collegial. He has brought a special sensibility, with music from ballet, film, dance, opera, and has also introduced our audience to a number of new works. He’s really raised the profile of this orchestra, both regionally and nationally.”

Still, it won’t be hard to find a replacement in what has become one of the more successful regional orchestras in the country and recently added three musicians to its lineup. And that’s due to Silow, who takes great pride in the fact. His strategy, over the last 12 years, has been to establish financial protocols to better escape the winds of recession. One move, for example, was to subsidize the core of classical programming with family concerts, pops, and the like, which, as Silow put it, absolutely must break even, at the very least.

Another change was in negotiating guest artist contracts. “I enjoy and to some degree excel at negotiation,” Silow told us, “and so we took a much stronger tack and brought those costs back to a more reasonable range.” Silow says that the art of negotiation has been simply to represent the symphony accurately, always careful to explain that while the symphony doesn’t have the budget of the San Francisco Symphony, it is graced with Weill Hall in the Green Music Center and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience.

A third change was to propose, for the first time, a board responsibility statement, in writing, in effect a one-page list of responsibilities. One of those responsibilities was to solicit or contribute $10,000 annually to the symphony. The 38-member board approved and the results have been dramatic, and somewhat unexpected. The move drew in prominent community leaders and helped to professionalize the organization. But more to the point, in 2001-02 total board giving amounted to $70,000. In 2014, the amount was $450,000.

In addition, the board authorized restrictions on how endowments could be used. A cap was applied in 2003, which reflected the view that “to really grow the endowment, we’re not taking any more than five percent a year based on a three-year rolling average of the stock market evaluation.” A recent three-year campaign was completed in just two years, and raised $4 million. In 2002, the symphony’s endowment was worth $1.5 million; now it’s worth more than $10 million.

As for programming, Silow points out that his close relationship with the artistic director has allowed the organization to steer between the shoals of programming that’s too expensive and programming that has little appeal to the community. Indeed, the art of programming for Silow is “community engagement, and the ability to be relevant.”

To that end, the symphony has in the last year orchestrated a series of three outreach concerts, under the rubric of Festival of Remembrance. One was a day of the dead concert last fall; another, in February, honored Japanese-Americans who had been interned during World War II. That included Japanese composer and a local Taiko drumming ensemble. A third concert last April featured Jewish composers who perished in the Holocaust. That concert included a film, with interviews with survivors as well as a Klezmer band.

Another community outreach program involved chamber music ensembles performing at local libraries and then, finally, a free community concert at Weill Hall which was directed toward the local Latino community and drew 5,000 people. It was a record attendance.

“I think the reason we’ve been successful,” says Silow, is because the board understands the notion of ‘no pain, no gain’.  Because of the recession in 2002 there were a lot of financial challenges and when the board understood what those were they were very amendable to making the needed changes to bring us back to sustainability.”

Mark MacNamara (macnamband.com) is a San Francisco-based journalist who has written for such publications as Salon.com, Vanity Fair, The Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Nautilus. In recent months in SFCV, among other pieces, he has written about a music director accused of embezzlement; a profile of conductor Alondra de la Parra; an essay about the controversy over ‘trigger warnings’ for college courses; a report on a strike at the Metropolitan Opera; and a feature about the housing problem for artists in San Francisco.

November 25, 2015: Bruno Ferrandis to Depart from Santa Rosa Symphony

by citysound.bohemian.com, posted by charlie, November 25, 2015

Santa Rosa Symphony board president Sara Woodfield recently announced that music director and conductor Bruno Ferrandis will end his tenure with the Symphony when his contract expires at the end of the 2017-2018 season.

Ferrandis, only the fourth musical director in the Symphony’s 88-year history, plans to pursue an international role as a guest conductor.

Of the decision, Ferrandis said he hopes to conduct more opera, collaborate with contemporary composers and travel the world. He also thanked the community in Sonoma County for their “fabulous faith and support for the Santa Rosa Symphony over so many years.”

Highlights of Ferrandis’ time with SRS include the Symphony’s move to the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall in 2012. Also, in 2013, the Symphony was awarded an ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, in recognition of Ferrandis’ balance of traditional classic repertoire with newer works.

Woodfield also announced the Symphony’s board of directors will begin an international search for the next music director, with finalists conducting five of the seven classical concerts in the 2017-2018 season before Ferrandis leads the orchestra for the final two concerts, both of which are sure to be filled with personal favorites and emotional works.

November 19, 2015: Maestro Bruno Ferrandis is leaving the Santa Rosa Symphony

by Geraldine Duncann, axs.com, November 19, 2015

The board of directors has just announced that Maestro Bruno Ferrandis is leaving the Santa Rosa Symphony at the end of the 1017-2018 season when his contract runs out. This will end a twelve season relationship between Bruno Ferrandis, the Santa Rosa Symphony and music lovers of the North Bay community. Under Maestro Ferrandis leadership and guidance, the Santa Rosa Symphony has become one of the leading symphonies in the country.

Ferrandis said in an interview from his Paris home that he was leaving the symphony for artistic reasons. “An artist must be challenged. If he’s not challenged, his art is going away,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Paris. “It’s the same for the orchestra. I think an orchestra needs change … it’s good to have somebody fresh, with new ideas.”

With his usual curtesy, he will remain Music Director for two more seasons which will provide the time to conduct an international search to find just the right person to replace him, and once found, allow for a comfortable transition.

When he announced his decision, Maestro Ferrandis said he wished to express his gratitude to the patrons and supporters of the Santa Rosa symphony. In doing so he said, : “I want to thank first the people of Santa Rosa and throughout Sonoma County for their love and fabulous faith and support for the Santa Rosa Symphony over so many years. It was an amazing feeling to be welcomed by you! I also appreciate the enormous opportunity I was given to have been Music Director for the Santa Rosa Symphony during the transition to Weill Hall at the Green Music Center during my seventh season.”

For the 2016-2017 season, the Maestro has, as usual, planned a outstanding series of classical programs, all of which he will of course conduct himself. The 2017-2018 season will be primarily dedicated to interviewing prospective replacements, and when found, easing them into Bruno’s shoes. Five finalists from the search will be chosen and each will conduct a program. Bruno himself will conduct the final two programs of the season.

As the symphony moves through this process there are still many months ahead during which North Bay music lovers may still celebrate Maestro Ferrandis’s artistry and charismatic personality, so take advantage of the remaining time and be sure to make your way to Weill Hall and take in a few of the concerts under his direction while you still have the opportunity.

November 17, 2015: Bruno Ferrandis to leave Santa Rosa Symphony after 2017-’18 season

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, November 17, 2015

The Santa Rosa Symphony announced Tuesday that Bruno Ferrandis, the fourth music director in the 87-year history of the orchestra, will step down when his contract expires at the end of the 2017-2018 season.

Paris resident Ferrandis, 55, said he made the decision that he will end his tenure after a dozen seasons because of artistic reasons.

“An artist must be challenged. If he’s not challenged, his art is going away,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Paris. “It’s the same for the orchestra. I think an orchestra needs change … it’s good to have somebody fresh, with new ideas.”

Ferrandis, who joined the symphony in 2006, helped usher the orchestra from the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts into its new home at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall in 2012. In 2013, the orchestra won an award for its adventurous programming from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP.)

“The transition was a critical process, and it was something that Bruno led very well,” Santa Rosa Symphony Executive Director Alan Silow said. “And I think he has broadened the horizons for the audiences with an integration of contemporary music with beloved repertoire.”

Silow said the 10-member search committee, made up of four orchestra musicians and five board members plus Silow, will hold its first meeting in December. The committee will eventually select five finalists, who will try out with the symphony during the first five concert sets of the 2017-2018 season. Ferrandis will conduct the final two concerts of that season.

During the 2016-2017 season, Ferrandis was granted his request to conduct all seven concert sets, rather than the customary six out of the seven (with one led by a guest conductor).

“It’s my last full season with the orchestra, and I wanted to get the whole season,” Ferrandis said. “It’s a little bit self-gratifying. It’s like someone splurging on a good dessert.”

Silow said Ferrandis’ exit is timed well, with the orchestra playing at a high level, support for the orchestra strong and its finances on sound footing. He credited the conductor’s winning personality for helping elevate the orchestra.

“One can never underestimate Bruno’s charm … and personally, he worked so well with me,” Silow said. “He’s very collegial, and I think that really helped a lot in sharing how well we have done during his tenure.”

Ferrandis said that stepping down from the Santa Rosa post will allow him to do more guest conducting and opera conducting. However, he said it will be difficult to leave the orchestra, as well as the audience.

“The audience loves their music and are curious and patient with me introducing new music,” he said. “But it’s a good time for me to be going.”

Ferrandis succeeded Conductor Laureate Jeffrey Kahane, who served as Music Director for 10 seasons. Before Kahane, Conductor Emeritus Corrick Brown served as Music Director from 1957-1995. George Trombley founded the Santa Rosa Symphony in 1928.

When Kahane announced his departure in 2002, Silow had already joined the symphony as its executive director. He called the announcement of Ferrandis’ departure “a bittersweet deja vu,” and praised both music directors for being respectful and giving sufficient time to find a replacement.

“Back then, we brought in someone based in Paris who had been a conductor for 20 years, and that illustrated that the respect had grown considerably for the organization as a whole,” Silow said. “It worked well then … it should work again.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 ordiane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.


November 5, 2015: Pianist with Santa Rosa Symphony likes to mix old and new

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, November 5, 2015

Pianist Pedja Muzijevic is not content to play music from just one era. Instead, he often juxtaposes modern works by composers like John Cage and George Crumb with the classics by Bach and Haydn.
The Bosnian-born musician also presents staged works with dancers and serves as arts administrator for the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York, which presents innovative, multimedia works in dance, theater and music.

“I love mixing the old and new,” he said in a phone interview from his home in New York. “Otherwise, we’re in an artistic ghetto where people just play either old or new music, and I feel that they both benefit from each other.”

The pianist will demonstrate his multifaceted tastes and talents this weekend when he performs with the Santa Rosa Symphony at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall. The three-concert set opens with a modernistic work by Gyorgy Kurtag for piano and orchestra, then switches to the Romantic era with Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor and Brahms’ monumental Symphony No. 1 after intermission.

The Kurtag work is titled “...quasi una fantasia ...” which may be a tip of the hat to Schumann’s “Fantasie,” one of the composer’s greatest works for solo piano. The second movement also offers a Schumannesque title, “Wie ein Traumeswirren” (“Like the Confusions of a Dream,”) a reference to a piece from Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 12.

“I was interested in juxtaposing these worlds,” Muzijivec said of the Kurtag and the Schumann works. “The Kurtag touches on Schumann ... but if it’s there in the music itself, I certainly haven’t noticed it.”
Born in 1926, Kurtag is perhaps the most famous living Hungarian composer. (His compatriot Gyorgy Ligeti died in 2006.) He works in tiny snippets, and his soundscape offers stark contrasts, from the eerie and ethereal to the bombastic and brash.

“He’s a miniaturist ... but he has a great dynamic range,” the 51-year-old pianist said. “There’s one movement that’s almost an act of desperation and in your face, but the fast one is close to being almost inaudible.”

The Hungarian composer is also famous for his spatial experiments with music. In “...quasi una fantasia...,” some members of the orchestra will be placed strategically throughout the hall.
“It’s the opposite of audience participation, because the musicians invade the audience,” Muzijevic said. “It’s a nice thing to explore, and it’s only nine minutes long, so it can’t be too painful.”

While regarded as a standard of the repertory, the Schumann Piano Concerto in A Minor is not heard as often as more popular concertos by Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.
“Somehow it sort of falls in between,” he said. “It’s not a show-off piece, and it’s very difficult. So you get the work but none of the glory for it.”

One of the challenges for the pianist is that the piano plays almost nonstop throughout the three movements. Also, the notes do not fall easily under the fingers, as Schumann was guided more by expression than ease of execution. Still, it has its allure.

“It’s not restrained, and in the second movement, it’s so intimate, it draws people in,” he said. “It’s very lyrical, and I can’t get enough of it.”

The pianist also admires the originality of the writing, especially the way Schumann opens the first and second movements.

“It’s not in any mold,” he said. “The piano bursts out after the first note of the orchestra, and in the second movement, the piano starts in this tentative way, getting your toes into the water, surging up, and then a question mark.”

Muzijevic was born in Sarajevo but left in 1980 for Zagreb. In 1984, he came to the U.S., where he studied at Juilliard in New York and first met Santa Rosa Symphony Music Director Bruno Ferrandis.
“I haven’t seen him since the late ’80s, and I’m so looking forward to seeing him,” he said. “I’m also very excited to see the hall, which looks beautiful in pictures.”

While he hasn’t been back to Bosnia since he was 16, Muzijevic does perform in Croatia from time to time. But the breathtaking beauty of the coast of Bosnia has remained with him.
“The mountains being so close to the shoreline is very specific and not very frequently seen,” he said. “To me, there’s some similarity with Northern California.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 ordiane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

October 14, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony Adds New String Positions, Fills Vacancy

by Mark MacNamara, San Francisco Classical Voice, October 14, 2015

In a letter to his father in the spring of 1781, Mozart noted a recent performance by the Vienna Symphony, which had “40 violins, the wind instruments all doubled, 10 tenors [violas], 10 double basses, eight violincellos, and six bassoons.”

An embarrassment of riches compared with “the age of cuts,” when American orchestras are shedding union musicians, hiring freelancers, or closing down altogether. Note the Fort Worth Symphony, which drew this entry in August on the blog, Slipped Disc, about how “the musicians are out of contract and the admin is demanding job cuts.”

And so you wonder what’s going on in Santa Rosa. How could that symphony be adding musicians? 

The Santa Rosa Symphony has brought in three new string positions and filled a vacancy, to bring the orchestra to a new total of 81 musicians. The symphony, which opened in 1928, is the third-oldest professional orchestra in California and the largest regional symphony north of Los Angeles. The musicians are members of American Federation of Musicians Union Local 292; many play with other orchestras, including Marin, Berkeley, Monterey, Modesto, and the San Francisco Opera and Ballet.

The new musicians include Aromi Park, first violin, seat 14; Genevieve Micheletti, second violin, seat 12; and Jon Keigwin, contrabass, seat 7. The open position went to Jesse Barrett, playing second oboe and english horn.

Barrett studied at Boston University and the University of the Pacific and plays with the Merced Symphony, the Reno Chamber Orchestra, and Symphony Napa Valley. Park studied at the San Francisco Academy Orchestra, the University of Memphis, the New England Conservatory, and Ewha Womans University and is a former musician with both the Arkansas Symphony and Memphis Symphony Orchestras. Micheletti studied at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Rice University, and plays with the San Francisco Academy Orchestra and the Stockton Symphony. Keigwin studied at the Curtis Institute of Music and plays with the Berkeley Symphony and the Sun Valley Summer Symphony.

Bruno Ferrandis, the symphony's music director and conductor since 2006, can only laugh when you ask him how the symphony is adding musicians at a time when most are cutting positions. “I am only an artist,” he told us last week.”I am not the one to ask. But the reason is simply because we are very healthy financially; we have loyal audiences and we are in a world class concert hall.”

That would be the Green Music Center, on the campus of Sonoma State University. The center includes 240-seat Schroeder hall and the 1,400-seat Weill Hall, which opened in 2012 and was deeply inspired by Vienna’s Musikverein, as well as Symphony Hall in Boston.  The Green Center, which caters to jazz as well as classical music, attracts an audience that far exceeds the national average for attendance at classical concerts.  More than 100,000 people came last year to attend concerts or music education programs.    

“If you don’t take chances,” Ferrandis explained, “the result is a dying, stagnating organization.  It cannot stand. We will continue to focus on a program that mines both old and new.  We have two premiers coming up, which will be challenging but also offer an opportunity to discover something new.”

Mark MacNamara (macnamband.com) is a San Francisco-based journalist who has written for such publications as Salon.com, Vanity Fair, The Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Nautilus. In recent months in SFCV, among other pieces, he has written about a music director accused of embezzlement; a profile of conductor Alondra de la Parra; an essay about the controversy over ‘trigger warnings’ for college courses; a report on a strike at the Metropolitan Opera; and a feature about the housing problem for artists in San Francisco.

October 7, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony to open season with twin pianists

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, October 7, 2015

Bruno Ferrandis, music director of the Santa Rosa Symphony, sees many different themes woven into the tapestry of the orchestra’s 2015-’16 season, including exoticism and dance, universality and peace, nature and religion.
There will also be plenty of pianists in the spotlight, during the first and last concert sets in October and May and the second concert set in November. But there’s another theme that trumps those minor themes with its major power.
“This is a season of composers at their height,” Ferrandis said, citing the 9th symphonies of Beethoven and Bruckner, Dvorak’s 8th, and Saint-Saens’ third and last symphony. “This is the essence of the essence of these composers.”
The new season, which opens this weekend, will be the symphony’s fourth as the resident orchestra of the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall and Ferrandis’ 10th anniversary season as music director. Both conductor and orchestra are settling nicely into the new acoustical environment of the hall. Last season, they presented an array of energetic. well-executed programs with high-profile soloists that were well attended.
According to Executive Director Alan Silow, there was a record number of single tickets sold both to the Classical Concert Series and the Symphony Pops Series, presented in collaboration with the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts.
“That (single ticket sales) was related to the quality of the programming and the artists,” Silow said. “And for the Saturday afternoon dress rehearsals, the ticket sales have been through the roof.” As a result, the orchestra has been able to expand this year with three new permanent players - a first violin, second violin and a bass player - bringing its ranks up to a total of 81 musicians. A vacancy for oboe/English horn was also filled.
Here is the essence of each concert set of the symphony’s Classical Concert Series. Each concert will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, at Weill Hall. Pre-concert lectures with Ferrandis start one hour before curtain time.
1) “Twin Stars” on Oct. 10-12: The season kicks off with a world premiere of “Pax Universalis” by Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz, one of the most sought-after young composers working in America today. “It’s a 10-minute piece, very colorful, with joy and a pulse,” Ferrandis said. Fairouz, who is currently writing an opera, will attend both the Saturday and Sunday concerts on Oct. 10 and 11.
Twin sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton will perform two double-piano concertos: Mozart’s Concerto No. 10 for Two Pianos, written by Mozart in 1782 to play with his older sister; and Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, a neo-classical work that both revives tradition and revamps it.
Capping the concert will be Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3, an unusual work scored for both organ and four-handed piano. The prolific composer considered it his best work. “I love the spirituality of the slow movement, and the feeling of peace and calm,” Ferrandis said. “This symphony just breathes peace.”
2) “Surround Sound” on Nov. 7-9: Pedja Muzijevic, a Serbian-Bosnian pianist who studied at Juilliard. will tackle two piano works, which are linked together: Schumann’s popular Piano Concerto in A minor; and “Quasi una Fantasia” by Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag, which is named after Schumann’s famous “Fantasie” for piano. “The Kurtag is very sensitive, with a lot of eerie sounds,” Ferrandis said. During the work, orchestral musicians will be placed around the hall, boosting the work’s unusual acoustics.
As a finale, Ferrandis will bring back Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, which was written around the time that the composer met Schumann. The work has been referred to as “Beethoven’s 10th.”
3) “Joy to the World” on Dec. 5-7: Peace and universality will reign during the symphony’s annual holiday choral concert, when Ferrandis will once again lead a performance of Beethoven’s beloved Symphony No. 9 with the Santa Rosa Symphony Honor Choir. (The first time he led it here was in 2009.) To open the concert, he chose Luciano Berio’s “Folk Songs,” which includes vocal songs sun in many different languages. The 20-minute piece is the third, and most famous, work that Ferrandis has performed here by the Italian composer.
4) “Pastoral Pleasures” on Jan. 9 to 11: Guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen, who conducts the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, will lead a global program that pairs “Saibei Dance,” a work by Chinese-America composer Huang Ruo about a harvest celebration, with Dvorak’s folksy Symphony No. 8. Rounding out the program will be Tchaikovsky’s fiery Violin Concerto, performed by Caroline Goulding. a young, award-winning violinist on her way up.
5) “Strokes of Genius” Feb. 20-22: Ferrandis returns to the podium to lead the symphony in two challenging war-horse works. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, performed by violinist Rachel Barton Pine, is “an entire symphony for violin and orchestra,” Ferrandis said. The concert closes with the original three movements of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9, Unfinished. “Bruckner is dying, and he knows it,” Ferrandis said. “At the end of the Adagio he wrote, ‘Farewell to life.’”
6) “Rhythmic Vitality” April 2-4: Dance rhythms punctuate a concert that brings back charismatic cellist Zuill Bailey for a performance of Britten’s Symphony for Cello & Orchestra, written in 1963 and recently recorded by Bailey. The concert opens with a world premiere of Daniel Brewbaker’s “Dances and Dreams of Dionysus,” and closes with the full concert version of de Falla’s ballet, “The Three-Cornered Hat,” based on Andalusian folk songs.
7) “Jazzy Impression” on May 7-9: Dance and jazz rhythms also energize the season finale featuring Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez performing Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, another work written by a composer at the top of his game. Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from his musical “On the Town” open the show, and two Spanish works by French composers provide an exotic ending: Debussy’s “Ibéria” (“Images for Orchestra”) and Ravel’s “Rapsodie espagnole.” “You feel Debussy’s really in the street,” Ferrandis said. “It’s a Spanish feast in the night, and there are lot of colors and rhythms.”
Extra concerts
A gala fund-raiser, featuring a private piano recital by Christina and Michelle Naughton, will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at the Green Music Center. The tribute to long-time symphony supporter Henry Trione begins with a reception and concludes with a gourmet dinner in Prelude Restaurant. Tickets are $300.
As part of the Sonoma Paradiso Family Concert Series conducted by Richard Loheyde, the Santa Rosa Symphony will perform three children’s concerts in Weill Hall this season, starting at 3 p.m. Oct. 18 with “Music from Out of this World.” For tickets and more information, go to santarosasymphony.com or call 546-8742.
The Symphony will perform four concerts at the Wells Fargo Center as part of its Symphony Pops Series, starting Oct. 25 with guest vocalist Dee Daniels performing standards from the “Great Ladies of Swing.” For tickets and more information, go to wellsfargocenterarts.org or call 546-3600.
Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.
Double your pleasure

What: The Santa Rosa Symphony under Music Director Bruno Ferrandis opens its 88th season with twin pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10; 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11; and 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11, Discovery Open Rehearsal at at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10.

Where: Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park

Tickets: $20 - $80 for concerts; $10 youth under 18, $15 adults, for the open rehearsal.
Reserve: 546-8742 or santarosasymphony.com

June 17, 2015: China trip a return for two members of SRS Youth Orchestra

by Eloisa Ruano Gonzalez, Press Democrat, June 17, 2015

Teresa and Mariah Alberigi were only months old when they were adopted from China.
The Santa Rosa girls, now 13 and 16, respectively, will return Wednesday to their birthland for the first time as part of a three-city tour with the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra, where they perform as violinists.

In its second international tour, the orchestra is spending a week in China, performing in concert halls in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

“I’m really excited,” said Teresa Alberigi, who has been playing the violin since she was 3. Born in the Jiangxi province, she said she’s not nervous returning to China but rather excited to be able to spend time with her friends sightseeing. The group will be visiting sites such as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses in Xi’an. Mariah Alberigi, who was born in the Chinese province of Guangdong, said she is looking forward to performing at different concert halls in the country.

“Not many kids our age get to do that,” said Mariah, who has been playing the violin since she was 5.

Their mother, Kathleen Alberigi, called it a “miracle” that her girls, who are home-schooled, will be able to return to China and share with its citizens their love for music.

“For me, personally, it’s my way of saying thank you for the gift they gave us,” said Alberigi, who will be traveling with the Youth Orchestra as a chaperon.

The 48 young musicians, led by conductor Richard Loheyde, will perform works from Americana to classical, including the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2, Morton Gould’s “American Salute,” and “An American in Paris Suite” by George Gershwin. They’ll also be performing the “Torch Festival” by Xilian Wang, a resident composer for the Beijing Philharmonic who will meet and rehearse with the youth group while in China.

“It’s the first time Santa Rosa will be heard, figuratively and literally, in the great concert halls of China,” said Alan Silow, executive director of the Santa Rosa Symphony.

Silow also will be accompanying the group, which was set to board a bus early Wednesday and head to San Francisco for a morning flight. They group will be away until June 25 and plan to post updates and pictures on the Santa Rosa Symphony website.

“To play in these concert halls and see the reaction of these Chinese audiences will be incredibly inspiring for these young musicians,” Silow said.

It’ll also be incredibly nerve-racking, said violinist Adam Dvorak, 15, who will be performing with the orchestra, along with his 14-year-old brother, John, who plays the trombone.“They warned us it’s quite different from audiences from here because the (Chinese) audience tends to talk,” Adam Dvorak said. “It might freak some of us out. Nobody ever talks in our performances.”

The rehearsal with Xilian looks to be another highlight of the trip. “We don’t know if he has a completely different idea on how it should be played,” said Dvorak, who will be a junior this fall at Maria Carrillo High School.

The tour cost a total of $250,000, Silow said. The orchestra was able to cover the expense through fundraising and support from the families, he said.

Kathleen Alberigi said her daughters took part in a summer internship and other programs, setting aside their earnings for the trip. They also played at weddings and other benefits with other members of the orchestra to raise money.

“The community has donated so generously that it’s allowed us to go,” she said. While on the trip, she can’t wait to go with her daughters to the Great Wall, an ancient gateway to China.

“That’s always been one of my dreams — that they play their violins at the Great Wall of China as a thank you,” Kathleen Alberigi said.

“It was the gateway to our daughters,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @eloisanews.

May 26, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra to tour China

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, May 26, 2015

In its second international tour, the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra will travel to China June 17 to 25 to perform in concert halls in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

Accompanied by conductor Richard Loheyde, staff and chaperones, the 50 musicians will also immerse themselves in the Chinese culture through excursions to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Museum and Workshop, West Lake, Yu Garden and more.

The SRS Youth Orchestra, which toured and performed in Eastern Europe in 2009 as part of its 50th anniversary, will perform a “Bon Voyage” concert at 7 p.m. June 6 at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall to support its “Musical Journey Through China.”

The program includes the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2, the first and fourth movements of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 and Morton Gould’s “American Salute.” It also features a world premiere, Toccata for Orchestra, by local composer Benjamin Taylor; and “Torch Festival” by Chinese composer Wang Xilian, who will meet and rehearse with the youth orchestra in Beijing.
Tickets to the June 6 concert are $17 general, $12 for students and seniors. To reserve, call 546-8742 or go to santarosasymphony.com.

Currently in its 56th season, the Youth Orchestra is the most advanced of the four SRS Youth Ensembles. In 2013, violinist Lindsay Deutsch and her Classics Alive Foundation named the SRS Youth Orchestra “Youth Orchestra of the Year.”

May 18, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony and Musicians’ Union Sign Multi-Year Contract

by Press Democrat, May 18, 2015

The Santa Rosa Symphony Association and the Musicians’ Union Local 6 of the American Federation of Musicians have come to agreement on a five-year contract, extending from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2019. The agreement includes: the highest minimum guarantee of paid orchestral services among Northern California regional orchestras; total 14% service rate increase over five years; the addition of three string musicians, one each to the first violin, second violin and bass sections beginning in fiscal year 2015-2016; and the Orchestra Librarian position becomes a union position covered by the collective bargaining agreement. 

SRS Executive Director Alan Silow said, “The management and union teams worked diligently and respectfully to produce a new agreement that reflects a long-term commitment to insuring the artistic and financial health of the orchestra.”
About the Santa Rosa Symphony
Santa Rosa Symphony, the Resident Orchestra of the Green Music Center, is the third oldest professional orchestra in California, and the largest regional symphony north of Los Angeles. Bruno Ferrandis, who began his tenure in 2006, is the fourth Music Director in the organization’s history. The Santa Rosa Symphony (SRS) is committed to core values of artistic excellence, innovative programming and community service. This year the SRS contributed over $3.7 million into the local economy.

Currently in its 87th season, the Symphony’s performance schedule includes 21 Classical Series concerts (7 sets), 7 Discovery Dress Rehearsal concerts, a 3-concert Family Series and a 4-concert Pops Series, as well as special concerts. The Symphony is also recognized for having one of the most comprehensive music education programs in California, serving nearly 20,000 youth annually.

Collaborations with schools and organizations across Sonoma County have gained SRS national attention and support. Awards include: an American Symphony Orchestra League MetLife Award for Community Engagement; and a first place award for adventurous programming in the 2013-14 season from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

March 18, 2015: Pianist Olga Kern To Play With Santa Rosa Symphony

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, March 18, 2015

Russian pianist Olga Kern leads a busy life, bouncing around the world from her home base in New York.

This month alone, she played a concert with the Boston Symphony, a recital in Seattle, then returned back to New York to spend time with her 15-year-old son, Vladislav. After appearing this weekend at Weill Hall, she will return to New York, then head off to Europe.

The pianist will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 this weekend with the Santa Rosa Symphony when she returns to the Green Music Center for the “Blaze of Russian Glory” program. Leos Janacek’s Overture to the opera “Kat’a Kabanova” and the 1945 version of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite” complete the all-Russian program.

When she last appeared with the Santa Rosa Symphony in May 2013, Kern tackled a more familiar piece by Rachmaninoff, his beloved Piano Concerto No. 2, arguably the most popular concerto of all time. After she was invited back, she floated the idea of a two-for-one.

“It’s always very exciting to be able to perform more than one concerto in one night,” she said. “It’s interesting for the public but also for a performer.”

By pairing two early concertos, she will be able to reveal the youthful side of both composers, who offer an interesting contrast of musical styles.

“Rachmaninoff’s first is such a masterpiece,” she said. “The melodies are so gorgeous, and the second movement is a piece of art. It’s one of the best melodies in all of Rachmaninoff’s music.”

For Kern, the challenge of the Rachmaninoff will be communicating the composer’s spirit.

“It’s important to capture the beauty and love and happiness and hope in his music,” she said.

With Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 1, a shorter piece, she will be trying to capture the sardonic side of the 20th-century composer, known for his angular melodies, rhythmic drive and satirical inclination.

“In Prokofiev, it’s a more sarcastic kind of laughter, especially in this concerto,” she said. “This is a very young person who is so excited about life... It’s full of great energy and makes you feel good.”

To keep up her own youthful energy, Kern said she tries to get out and walk as much as possible before a concert.

“I spend my free time walking around and trying to see something interesting, such as a museum,” she said. “It’s always very inspiring to see new cultures.”

Born in Moscow to two classical pianists, Kern gave her first concert at age 7 and won her first international competition at age 11. Her career really took off at age 17 after she won the first Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition.

“I was performing everywhere after that, and I was very well known in Russia,” she said. “It was a really great time for me.”

Kern shot to international fame when she became the first woman in more than 30 years to win the gold medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001.

The pianist was also featured in an award-winning 2002 TV documentary, “Playing on the Edge,” made about the competition.

“It’s really powerful and it shows everything... the different emotions and feelings and all the atmosphere at that time,” she said.

When she is home, Kern spends as much time as possible with her son, Vladislav, a pianist who is studying in Juilliard’s pre-college program. She is looking forward to performing Mozart’s Double Piano with him next season, as well as getting more involved with the Aspiration Foundation she founded in 2012 with her composer/conductor brother, Vladimir Kern.

“We already gave a lot of scholarships to talented musical kids, and we bought some instruments,” she said. “We are also giving special prizes to competitions.”

In 2016, she will serve as the chairman of the jury for the 7th Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition, open to both kids and adults. Her foundation will give a special prize.

In the fall of 2016, she will launch the Olga Kern Piano Competition in Albuquerque, New Mexico, aimed at young pianists on their way up.

“The competition involves the New Mexico Philharmonic in the final round, so this is really exciting,” she said. “They don’t have anything like this in that area, and it’s really beautiful there.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com.

Original Article: www.pressdemocrat.com/entertainment/3653863-181/pianist-olga-kern-to-play?page=1

February 5, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony to tango with Jofre

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, February 5, 2015

Argentinian musician Juan Pablo Jofre studied many kinds of musical instruments in his youth, including drums and guitar, piano and voice, before dedicating himself in his 20s to the bandoneon, a cousin to the concertina.

Now 31, Jofre balances his handmade, German instrument on his knee and performs it at classical concerts, from New York’s Lincoln Center to the venerable Celebrity Series of Boston, as well as at jazz festivals, where he plays his own form of progressive tango music.

“If you play classical music on it, it sounds like an organ in a church,” Jofre explained in a phone interview from his home in New York City. “It was invented to replace the organ in some of the poor churches.”

This weekend, Jofre will squeeze some brand new music from his bandoneon when he performs a world premiere of Pablo Ortiz’s Concerto for Bandoneon and Orchestra with the Santa Rosa Symphony. Jofre said he is proud and excited to debut a new piece written by his fellow Argentinean, Pablo Ortiz, who teaches composition at UC Davis.

The program led by Music Director Bruno Ferrandis opens with another rhythmic work, Danzon No. 2 for Orchestra, written in 1994 by Arturo Marquez of Mexico. Brahms’ sunny Symphony No. 2 in D major closes the program on a lilting note.

A cousin to the concertina, the bandoneon was brought from Germany to Argentina sometime around the turn of the 20th century and quickly insinuated itself into the tango orchestra. Eventually, it became synonymous with the music itself, which is performed to accompany the Argentine dance of the same name.

“If there’s no bandoneon, people no longer consider it tango,” Jofre said. “This instrument is like the stamp for tango music. It’s the main voice. It has the melody, it does the rhythm, it does everything.”
Considered the premier bandoneonista of the modern age, Jofre grew up in the city of San Juan in the center of Argentina, very close to the Chilean border in an agricultural province known for its wine and olive oil. Tango music was always in his ears.

“I grew up with my grandmother, and she used to listen to tango music from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day,” Jofre said. “It got stuck in my head. I had no choice.”

In the 20th century, Argentinian bandleader, composer and tango performer Anibal Troilo was a leading proponent of the bandoneon. Perhaps the best-known composer and performer was Astor Piazzola, who integrated the tango into many of his classical works.

“Tango is very melancholic and relaxed, it gives you time to think, and it’s very inspiring and sensual, too,” Jofre said. “At the same time, it has a lot of classical music influence, and that’s a great combination. People love it.”

One of the challenges of playing the bandoneon is that each button plays two notes: one when you pull the bellows out, and a different one when you push the bellows in. Since the left and right-hand keyboard layouts are different, that adds up to four different keyboards that must be memorized.
“We have to practice two keyboards opening and two keyboards closing,” Jofre explained. “The buttons can play the chords and the melody, like the piano.”

The instrument, named after German instrument dealer Heinrich Band, is a type of concertina that became particularly popular in Argentina, Uruguay and Lithuania. Though similar to an accordion, it has a sound that is a bit “sweeter,” Jofre said.

Composer Ortiz, who was commissioned by the Santa Rosa Symphony, consulted closely with Jofre while writing the new concerto.

“It was a beautiful experience to work with Pablo because he’s super open-minded,” Jofre said. “He was curious about how the instrument works... The instrument is very particular, because the keyboard doesn’t make any sense. “

Unlike the piano, the bandoneon buttons are not arranged in alphabetical order.
“In the piano, you have A-B-C, and you’re always moving to your right, as you go higher,” Jofre said. “In the bandoneon, it’s the opposite. You have a D, and the E is four keys ahead facing down, and it’s the opposite of what you are hearing.”

Written in three movements, the concerto opens with a moderately fast movement that provides a nice contrast to an expressive second movement.

“The first movement is beautiful because he creates very different melodies and different textures between the bandoneon and the other instruments of the orchestra,” Jofre said. “The second movement is a beautiful adagio that is very melodic.”

In the relentlessly fast finale, the composer weaves in a few tango melodies with an exciting orchestral accompaniment.

“It’s very upbeat,” Jofre said. “It’s very attractive and satisfying.”
When the bandoneon arrived in Argentina in the arms of either German or Italian sailors - no one knows exactly when it arrived or who brought it - the music of the tango was already being performed by a guitar playing the rhythm and a flute playing the melody. The bandoneon lent ballast to that sound.
“Back in the 1940s, the tango orchestras had six bandoneons,” Jofre said. “And in Buenos Aires in the ‘50s, the bigger music stores had hundreds of bandoneons.”

In these days of crossover music, with classical musicians such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing the tango, Jofre has gotten invitations to play the bandoneon all over the world, from Russia and Asia to Panama and Argentina, where his family owns many wineries.

“All over the world, people want to hear new things, and that’s very good,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are not many young players. I picked it up because I have an old soul.”
Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com

January 7, 2015: Fiddler Mark O’Connor to perform with Santa Rosa Symphony

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, January 7, 2015

Mark O'Connor will perform this weekend with the Santa Rosa Symphony as he and his wife, Maggie O'Connor, and his son, mandolinist Forrest O'Connor, finish their "An Appalachian Christmas" tour. (photo by Jim McGuire).

At age 13, Mark O’Connor was the youngest person to win the Grand Master Fiddler Championships, which snagged the teen-ager a spot on the popular TV series “Hee Haw.” By the age of 31, he had composed “The Fiddle Concerto,” his first full-length score for orchestra, which went on to become the most performed violin concerto composed in the last 40 years. “It’s the first of its kind that is influenced by American fiddling, not only from a thematic point of view, but from a musical language and a technical perspective,” he said. “It was really the immersion of American fiddling into a classical concerto composition.” Through the years, the talented fiddler has continued to straddle different musical genres and professions as a classical, bluegrass, jazz and country violinist, as well as an award-winning composer and music teacher. This weekend, the daring musical explorer will join the Santa Rosa Symphony for the first time, performing his popular “Fiddle Concerto” along with his Grammy-winning 1986 suite, “Strings and Threads,” originally composed for guitarist Sharon Isbin. He will perform the two-violin version with his wife, violinist Maggie O’Connor. “She’s going to play with me as a double violin with strings and orchestra,” O’Conner said by phone from Portland, Ore., where he was finishing up his “An Appalachian Christmas” tour along with Maggie and his son, mandolinist Forrest O’Connor. The three-concert Santa Rosa Symphony set, led by Guest Conductor Michael Christie, underscores the Americana theme of O’Connor’s works, offering up Aaron Copland’s Suite from “Billy the Kid” as the curtainopener and Copland’s endearing “El salon Mexico,” inspired by the percussion of the Latin dance pulse, as the closer. While O’Connor was influenced by Copland’s orchestrations, his starting point for composing was always the fiddle tunes and the fiddle language he first picked up as a young boy in Seattle, learning the musical ropes from American fiddler Benny Thomasson. “Copland used fiddle tunes, but he basically used the thematic content without it influencing the orchestra texture,” he said. “I have the language of a lot of American music under my fingers, so when I compose, I can draw from that and create a whole new piece. It’s different from anyone around me.” O’Connor’s musical journey began with classical violin training, but by the time he was 9 years old, he had branched out into folk music. By 11, he had started playing bluegrass fiddle music, and by 13, he was deep into jazz, which he studied with the famous French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. “I was steeped in all these pillars of musical training, including flamenco and Balkan music,” he said. “As a child, I had these four pillars: classical, world, folk and jazz.” O’Connor’s biggest breakthrough came when he first showed his fiddle-inspired composition, “Appalachian Waltz,” to classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Along with bassist Edgar Meyer, the trio went on to make a wildly popular recording by the same name, then spun off another album, “Appalachian Journey,” which received a Grammy Award in 2001. Together, the albums sold over a million copies, unprecedented in the genre of chamber music. “It changed the landscape of my career, and it changed the direction of how people viewed American string playing in a classical setting,” O’Connor said. “It just took off, like a new American classical music.” After those albums, he said, other musicians became more open to the possibilities of injecting classical music with the styles and inflections of America’s musical language. At that point, O’Connor decided to develop a curriculum that could teach beginner string students through the American music repertoire. This was a gap that he felt needed to be addressed, having held string and fiddle camps all over the country for decades. “The same reverence to Mozart in the conservatory was happening in 1900 as it was in 2000,” he said. “It was the status quo being copied over for generations.” With the O’Connor method, the fiddler has developed a series of five violin books, plus various other books for violists and cellists, as well as a certification program to train teachers of the method. The students learn good posture and intonation, and how to use the bow and move the fingers, all through the lens of the American repertoire. “If you become advanced, then you’ll need further training at anything,” he said. “But for children, the method puts the student in a very good position to have choices — whether to join the youth orchestra or a bluegrass band, or just improvise in jazz.” This summer, O’Conner and his wife will co-direct a new string camp in New York City, along with other string camps in Maine, Massachusetts and South Carolina. “There’s a whole other part of this that’s emerging, and that’s adult beginners,” he said. “They appreciate the instrument, and they love the repertoire. It’s inspiring to see multiple generations interested in learning, so it creates a new community, sharing the love of the instrument.” In his “Strings and Threads” suite, O’Conner will share a bit of his family history. The work incorporates the music of his mother’s side of the family — the Dutch who landed in New York, then went down to the Eastern Seaboard to Memphis, eventually landing in Seattle. It also includes pieces influenced by his dad’s Irish family, who settled in Minnesota in the 1940s, homesteaded in the Dakotas and Montana, then moved west to Seattle. “So Seattle is the merging of the two separate families,” he said. “The violins create a conversation with these pieces, which is quite beautiful.” One of the defining aspects of American music is the dominance of rhythmic energy over thematic content, O’Connor said. “When the Americans got hold of instruments, they were on fire with rhythm,” he said. “It’s really exciting to bring that to the bow, and it creates an incredible pulse and groove that has been missing in Western classical music.” You can reach writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com

November 20, 2014: Roseland elementary schoolers play violin with a master

by Jamie Hansen, Press Democrat, November 20, 2014

After school let out at Sheppard Accelerated Elementary School in southwest Santa Rosa on Tuesday afternoon, the sound of 41 violins playing “Ode to Joy” echoed down the empty halls.

Forty of those violins were played by second- and third-graders participating in a program of the Santa Rosa Symphony, called Simply Strings, which kicked off last fall at Sheppard. It teaches elementary school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to play the instrument through hands-on instruction two hours a day, five days a week, for five years.

The 41st violin belonged to world-class musician Lindsay Deutsch, who stood among the students and paused occasionally from playing to correct a child’s grip on a bow.

Deutsch was in town for a five-day residency with the Santa Rosa Symphony’s youth ensembles, which include an orchestra and chamber orchestra. She chose Santa Rosa for her first in a series of residencies with young musicians because the organization she heads, the Classics Alive Foundation, named Santa Rosa’s orchestra Youth Orchestra of the Year.

Her foundation focuses on inspiring a love of classical music in a new generation. 

 “I love playing for kids,” she said. “Classical music is in a bit of an emergency right now. We have to make an effort to connect to another generation.”

Her visit will culminate when she performs as a soloist at a Saturday afternoon youth concert at Weill Hall at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. In the days leading up to that performance, she rehearsed with the youth orchestra musicians and met with the students at Sheppard.

Deutsch kicked off her two-hour session there by playing a song for them on her 170-year-old violin. The 29-year-old Los Angeles resident, dressed in jeans, heels and a black button-up shirt, began with a flourish called a sforzando tremolo that prompted an involuntary, “What?” from one boy seated cross-legged on the ground. Another breathed, “Ohh.”

Afterward, she asked the kids, “Did you recognize that tune?”
“Yankee Doodle!” a couple children replied.
“Yes! I played it well enough to be recognized,” Deutsch said with a laugh.

She went on to tell them how she got interested in playing the violin: When she was 2, she watched famed violinist Itzhak Perlman perform with characters like Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street. She was hooked. She began playing violin when she was 4, practicing on a proxy instrument made from a tissue box and rubber-bands until then.

After listening to Deutsch, the students performed for her. The second-graders had been playing their instruments just three weeks after graduating from paper versions of the instruments, but nevertheless they lifted their bows and gamely performed some basic rhythms they’d learned, including one called “Pepperoni Pizza,” under the guidance of their teacher, Alex Volonts. Volonts plays viola with the Santa Rosa Symphony. Then, the more experienced third-graders joined in and they played “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with Deutsch, filling the small classroom with the sound.

“Beautiful,” Deutsch said at the end.

Yuritizi Guerrero, 8, said she became interested in playing the violin after her class went to listen to the Santa Rosa Symphony last year.

“I heard many people play and I liked the sound,” she said.

Nobody else in her family plays the instrument, she said. She added that learning to play has been hard, but also nice.

She and 19 other second-graders were chosen as part of the second class of Simply Strings this fall. Families are asked to commit to being involved for five years when they join the program, said Ben Taylor, education director for the Santa Rosa Symphony. Each year, they plan to add another class of 20 second-graders until they have 100 participants.

If students complete the program, they will be offered tuition-free membership in one of the symphony’s youth ensembles, Taylor said. Those ensembles are a training program for the adult orchestra.
“We really want them to benefit from the program and we want our program to benefit by bringing another part of the community into the fold,” he said.

Simply Strings is part of a musical movement called El Sistema that began in Venezuela and is now spreading around the United States. It teaches classical music to disadvantaged children as a way to improve their academics and provide more social opportunities.
Christina Penrose, community engagement manager for the symphony, studied the movement in graduate school and helped bring the program, funded by grants and donations, to Santa Rosa. The next closest program is at El Verano Elementary in Sonoma, Taylor said.

His organization chose Sheppard Elementary because it had strong community involvement while also having many socially or economically disadvantaged kids, he said.

“We wanted to start at a place where we felt the program had a good opportunity for success and impact,” he said. To gauge the success of the program, the symphony is tracking students’ progress through family interviews and report card evaluations and comparing the results with those of students who are not participating in Simply Strings.

“We view this really as a social program,” Taylor said. “Learning violin is not the goal, it’s the method. We are dedicated to students becoming outstanding young citizens and contributing to community,” he said.

Staff Writer Jamie Hansen blogs about education at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach her at 521-5205 or jamie.hansen@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jamiehansen.

October 22, 2014: Santa Rosa Symphony marks a decade of pops concerts

by Charlie Swanson, North Bay Bohemian, October 22, 2014

Drummer and conductor Michael Berkowitz has amassed a stunning array of credits in his career. From being one of the busiest studio and television drummers in 1970s Los Angeles, to his time performing and conducting on Broadway, Berkowitz has seen it all and worked with legendary stars and musicians.
This week, as the principle pops conductor for the Santa Rosa Symphony, Berkowitz presents a retrospective look at the work of Marvin Hamlisch, one of his closest friends. "The Way They Were: A Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch and Barbra Streisand" kicks off the symphony's 10th season of pops concerts, a series that highlights contemporary scores from film and theater. Speaking by phone, Berkowitz shares details of his relationship with the late conductor and composer.

"This is really a tribute to Marvin, and because he had such a great relationship with Barbra Streisand, I wanted to do more than just the music he wrote for Broadway and whatnot," says Berkowitz.
Hamlisch and Streisand first met on the set of Funny Girl, where Hamlisch was the rehearsal pianist and assistant vocal arranger. "I wanted to portray that. So we're doing a number of songs from Funny Girl, and also we're doing things that Marvin conducted for her, such as the overture to her 1994 concert tour."
Berkowitz's relationship with Hamlisch began in 1980, after moving to New York, where Hamlisch gave him his first break at conducting. "I had recently moved and he needed a drummer," recalls Berkowitz. "I was the drummer one week, and two weeks after that I became the conductor because the regular conductor wasn't available and [Hamlisch] said, 'Let's just use Mike.'"

For 10 years, Berkowitz was the musical director, conductor and drummer for Hamlisch, who continued to score with a string of hits for film and stage alike. Hamlisch is one of only a dozen people to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award, collectively known as an EGOT. The composer passed away in 2012, at the age of 68.

"He was incredibly brilliant," remembers Berkowitz. "And we were personal friends, which was great."
With this upcoming concert, vocalist Haven Burton will join Berkowitz and the Santa Rosa Symphony, fresh off a starring role in the Broadway production of the Cyndi Lauper musical Kinky Boots. There will be heartfelt tributes, joyful music and plenty of surprises in store for this upcoming performance. Before the show, Berkowitz will host a one-hour talk about the afternoon's concert and share stories from his career.

Symphony Pops: 'The Way They Were: A Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch and Barbra Streisand' is presented by the Santa Rosa Symphony on Sunday, Oct. 26, at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 3pm. $37–$80. 707.546.3600.

October 3, 2014: Santa Rosa Symphony season starts with Richard Strauss homage

by Dan Taylor, Press Democrat, October 3, 2014

When Bruno Ferrandis talks about the new Santa Rosa Symphony season, opening next weekend at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall, the orchestra’s music director and conductor starts to speak faster and louder as he goes along. His enthusiasm is electric.

“It should be a fantastic season,” he said by phone from his home in Paris. “It is a great experience for me to perform in Santa Rosa in that amazing hall. Weill Hall is so acoustically accurate and precise, you hear every instrument.”

The season opens with Russian-born pianist Yevgeny Sudbin’s appearance at Weill Hall, playing Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5, also known as the “Emperor Concerto.”

“Currently it is my project to record all of the Beethoven concertos and play them in concert, so I am quite connected to the music,” Subdin said by phone.

“The fifth concerto is the last one,” Subdin said, “and it is probably Beethoven’s most mature work, although the nickname, ‘Emperor Concerto’ was not actually given by Beethoven but by somebody else, probably his publisher.”

The fifth Beethoven concerto has a colorful history, Ferrandis said.

“The French, under Napoleon, were invading Vienna, while Beethoven was trying to finish composing the concerto, so he took refuge with his brother,” he said. “The legends say that he was in a cellar, trying to protect himself from the cannons.”

The opening program of the season also includes an homage to the 150th anniversary of the birth of the German composer Richard Strauss, best-known to many Americans for “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” used as the theme for the 1968 movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
For the symphony’s opening trio of concerts, running Oct. 11-13, Ferra
ndis has chosen a different Strauss piece, “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks,” named for a German folk hero.
Continuing the theme of the season’s first program, titled “Heroes and Legends,” the orchestra also will play the overture from Richard Wagner’s opera “Tannhauser” and Bela Bartok’s “The Miraculous Mandarin.”

“This program is based on the idea of heroes,” Ferrandis explained. “Even ‘The Miraculous Mandarin’ is an anti-hero, a very important guy who ends up being pathetic, and made fun of. So it’s a mixture of heroes. When I program music, I always want to have contrasts.”

The rest of the symphony season includes:
“Poetic Inspiration,” Nov. 8-10: The program opens with Claude Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” followed by Henri Dutilleux’s Concerto for Cello, “Whole Different World,” played by German cellist Christian Poltera, and ends with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

“Angelic Voices,” Dec. 6-8: The Augsburg Cathedral Boys Choir from Bavaria performs a cappella, and four operatic solo vocalists also will be featured. The program also includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Mass in C major, “Coronation,” and Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, “Pulcinella.”

“Wild West,” Jan. 10-12: The all-American program, with guest conductor Michael Christie of the Minnesota Opera, includes Aaron Copeland’s “Billy the Kid” and “El Salon Mexico.” Guest jazz, folk and classical violinist Mark O’Connor will play his own compositions, “Fiddle Concerto” and “Strings and Threads.”

“An Exotic Mix,” Feb. 7-9: Juan Pablo Jofre, master of the accordion-like bandoneon, performs in the world premiere of the “Concerto for Bandoneon,” and the Mexican composer’s “Danzon No. 3.”

“Blaze of Russian Glory,” March 21-23: Keyboard virtuoso Olga Kern plays two Russian concertos, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The orchestra will play Leos Janacek’s overture to his opera, “Kat’a Kabvanova”, Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite” and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2.

“Monumental Matter,” May 2-4: Gustav Mahler’s long Symphony No. 3, with six movements, will take up the entire program. The concert features mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer, the Women’s Chorus of the Santa Rosa Symphony Honor Choir and the Santa Rosa Children’s Chorus.

The Santa Rosa Symphony also will present the Sonoma Paradiso Family Concert series and concerts by the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra and Young People’s Chamber Orchestra.

2013 - 2014 Season

May 14, 2014: Kahane to perform with Santa Rosa Symphony

Kahane to perform with Santa Rosa Symphony
May 14, 2014 - Press Democrat

March 21, 2014: World premiere of work for viola

World premiere of work for viola
March 21, 2014 - Press Democrat

March 18, 2014: Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, Santa Rosa Symphony Celebate Pops 10th Anniversary

Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, Santa Rosa Symphony Celebate Pops 10th Anniversary
March 18, 2014 - Classical World

February 28, 2014: Power of Music: Midori

Power of Music: Midori
February 28, 2014 - Press Democrat

February 28, 2014: KDFC State of the Arts – Midori

KDFC State of the Arts – Midori
February 28, 2014 - Classical KDFC Radio online blog

January 31, 2014: Kitaro: A New Age Pioneer

Kitaro: A New Age Pioneer
January 31, 2014 - Press Democrat

January 15, 2014: Wu Man presents new Pipa Concerto and Sonoma glows

Wu Man presents new Pipa Concerto and Sonoma glows
January 15, 2014 - Classical Voice North America

January 10, 2014: Pipa Master: Wu Man

Pipa Master: Wu Man
January 10, 2014 - Press Democrat

October 4, 2013: Familiar faces in symphony season: "Encores & Debuts" in 2013-14

Familiar faces in symphony season: "Encores & Debuts" in 2013-14
October 4, 2013 - Press Democrat

2012 - 2013 Season

June 20, 2013: SR Symphony naps top award

SR Symphony naps top award
June 20, 2013 - Community Voice

May 11, 2013: Ferrandis Always Delivers

Ferrandis Always Delivers
May 11, 2013 - The Viking View

November 28, 2012: Congressional Record text: Honoring the Santa Rosa Symphony

Congressional Record text: Honoring the Santa Rosa Symphony
November 28, 2012 - Capitol Words, Sunlight Foundation

November 28, 2012: SR Symphony presents Titans of Opera

SR Symphony presents Titans of Opera
November 28, 2012 - Press Democrat

October 31, 2012: The Green Music Center's Petaluma connection

The Green Music Center's Petaluma connection
October 31, 2012 - Argus-Courier

October 23, 2012: Kids' Concerts at Green Center: 'Snoopy and Friends' kicks off family series at new Weill Hall

Kids' Concerts at Green Center: 'Snoopy and Friends' kicks off family series at new Weill Hall
October 23, 2012 - Press Democrat

October 23, 2012: SR Symphony opens in new venue

SR Symphony opens in new venue
October 23, 2012 - Diane Peterson

October 1, 2012: Califormia Dreaming II

Califormia Dreaming II
October 1, 2012 - SymphonyNow.org

September 30, 2012: California Dreaming

California Dreaming
September 30, 2012 - SymphonyNow.org

2011 - 2012 Season

May 31, 2012: Sandy Weill announces Carnegie Hall partnerships with SSU, Santa Rosa Symphony

Sandy Weill announces Carnegie Hall partnerships with SSU, Santa Rosa Symphony
May 31, 2012 - Press Democrat

February 23, 2012: To the Rafters: Santa Rosa Symphony to kick off 85th season in new concert hall

To the Rafters: Santa Rosa Symphony to kick off 85th season in new concert hall
February 23, 2012 - North Bay Bohemian

February 9, 2012: Darby Hinshaw to play the giddy side of Mozart with Santa Rosa Symphony

Darby Hinshaw to play the giddy side of Mozart with Santa Rosa Symphony
February 9, 2012 - Press Democrat

February 9, 2012: Santa Rosa Symphony announces inaugural season at Green Music Center

Santa Rosa Symphony announces inaugural season at Green Music Center
February 9, 2012 - Press Democrat

January 3, 2012: Lang Lang will be first on Green Center stage

Lang Lang will be first on Green Center stage
January 3, 2012 - Press Democrat

December 9, 2011: A "Jubilant" Voice

A "Jubilant" Voice
December 9, 2011 - Press Democrat

November 9, 2011: Tristan Arnold Rises from the Ranks

Tristan Arnold Rises from the Ranks
November 9, 2011 - San Francisco Classical Voice

2010 - 2011 Season

May 5, 2011: Second Career for Ace Pianist Jon Nakamatsu

Second Career for Ace Pianist Jon Nakamatsu
May 5, 2011 - Press Democrat

March 22, 2011: Sonoma State receives $12 million

Sonoma State receives $12 million
March 22, 2011 - Business Journal

March 22, 2011: SSU gets $12 million for Green Music Center

SSU gets $12 million for Green Music Center
March 22, 2011 - Press Democrat

February 22, 2011: Santa Rosa Symphony tries to drum up music in schools

Santa Rosa Symphony tries to drum up music in schools
February 22, 2011 - Press Democrat

January 20, 2011: Guitarist Sharon Isbin to star with Santa Rosa Symphony

Guitarist Sharon Isbin to star with Santa Rosa Symphony
January 20, 2011 - Press Democrat

January 14, 2011: Violist's passion for early music

Violist's passion for early music
January 14, 2011 - Press Democrat

December 6, 2010: Hitting the right note: Students get chance to sing with the pros

Hitting the right note: Students get chance to sing with the pros
December 6, 2010 - Press Democrat

November 1, 2010: Santa Rosa Symphony's 83rd Season has a distinctively international flavor

Santa Rosa Symphony's 83rd Season has a distinctively international flavor
November 1, 2010 - Press Democrat

November 1, 2010: Linda Ghidossi-Deluca leaves Symphony

Linda Ghidossi-Deluca leaves Symphony
November 1, 2010 - Press Democrat

2009 - 2010 Season

May 6, 2010: Ute Lemper Sings in Santa Rosa

Ute Lemper Sings in Santa Rosa
May 6, 2010 - Press Democrat

May 5, 2010: Sin and Satire: Ute Lemper on Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins

Sin and Satire: Ute Lemper on Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins
May 5, 2010 - Gabe Meline

March 22, 2010: His Own Beat: Allen Biggs

His Own Beat: Allen Biggs
March 22, 2010 - Press Democrat

February 11, 2010: Santa Rosa Symphony Remembers the Past: Music in Remembrance of Japanese American Internment

Santa Rosa Symphony Remembers the Past: Music in Remembrance of Japanese American Internment
February 11, 2010 - Santa Rosa Symphony

February 9, 2010: Persian Myths and A Polish Romantic

Persian Myths and A Polish Romantic
February 9, 2010 - San Francisco Classical Voice

January 20, 2010: Grammy-Winning JoAnn Falletta is Santa Rosa Symphony guest conductor

Grammy-Winning JoAnn Falletta is Santa Rosa Symphony guest conductor
January 20, 2010 - Press Democrat

October 30, 2009: Kahane Returns for Season Opener

Kahane Returns for Season Opener
October 30, 2009 - Press Democrat

Contact Us

Santa Rosa Symphony
Administrative Office:
50 Santa Rosa Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Administration: 707.546.7097

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Patron Services: 707.546.8742