Arts-X-Press Returns for In-Person Summer Sessions

Pacific Symphony’s summer arts immersion program is back in-person this summer! We invite young artists and creative thinkers to join us for a week of arts exploration, creative expression, friendships, and summer fun! Designed for students going into 7th and 8th grade, arts-X-press has modified its program this summer to operate under COVID safety protocols. Campers from across Orange County will come together at Concordia University Irvine where they will immerse themselves in process-based arts workshops, express themselves creatively, collaborate with peers and take in performances tailored for our arts-X-press community. Students will live and eat meals on campus, see performances in Concordia’s outdoor amphitheater and have access to top-of-the line arts spaces.

“I am excited to announce that, thanks to our strong partnership with Concordia University Irvine, we are planning to hold arts-X-press, our summer arts immersion program for middle school students, in-person this summer. As we reconfigure the program to be in-line with COVID safety protocols, we are also looking forward to the magic of being back together with our arts-X-press community.”

Alison Levinson, Pacific Symphony’s director of arts engagement

Last year, due to the Covid-19 lockdowns, the highly successful arts-X-press rebranded to AXP@Home, a collection of virtual artistic experiences meaningfully curated for middle-school students. Since last summer, the arts-X-press team has continued to build its community of artists by virtually convening alumni and students through monthly workshops, each focused on a different arts-X-press value. Session 1 takes place July 11-16; Session 2 takes place July 18-23. Applications are due May 25, and can be found on our website here.

Founded by Music Director Carl St.Clair in remembrance of his and wife Susan’s son, Cole Carsan St.Clair, the innovative and multidisciplinary arts-X-press program allows students to test the boundaries of their creativity in an overnight summer camp, where no artistic risk is too intimidating to explore. Reflective of how many artistic disciplines influenced his own creative development (not just music), Maestro St.Clair’s philosophy is the driving force behind the program. Aligned with his vision for encouraging love of the arts, arts-X-press is designed for students to gain a lifelong connection to the arts and to foster respect for each student’s individuality, interests and diverse heritage. You can find more information on Pacific Symphony’s arts-X-press program on our website at

Pacific Symphony’s Live Pops Concerts Return This Fall, Opening on Nov. 5 with Celebrated “Hitman” David Foster

Lineup includes David Foster, Midtown Men, Katherine Jenkins, Boz Scaggs,
Cirque de la Symphonie, “A Tribute to ABBA” and “Blockbuster Broadway!”

Pacific Symphony has announced its highly anticipated 2021-22 Pops series underwritten by the Sharon J. and Thomas E. Malloy Family, featuring seven not-to-be-missed concerts that include romance, Broadway, nostalgia, festive holiday cheer and classic rock—all enhanced by the “Hollywood” sound of the orchestra.

Join us for a thrilling return to the concert hall with our opening weekend featuring 16-time Grammy Award winner David Foster, known for popular hits such as “You’re the Inspiration,” “The Prayer,” “The Glory of Love” and “St. Elmo’s Fire” (Nov. 5-6). Celebrate the holidays with the Midtown Men as they deck the hall with festive cheer, timeless tunes, top-shelf choreography and incredible vocals (Dec. 17-18). You can enjoy a romantic evening with Britain’s exciting crossover pop star, Katherine Jenkins (Feb. 11-12, 2022). Singer, songwriter and legendary guitarist, Boz Scaggs will recap his favorite hits (March 18-19, 2022). Thrill to the beauty and majesty with the performers from Cirque de la Symphonie. (April 22-23, 2022). You won’t want to miss a special tribute to ABBA where songs like “Dancing Queen,” “Mamma Mia” and “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” will have you dancing in the aisle (May 13-14, 2022). The grand finale to the Pops series will be “Blockbuster Broadway” featuring hits from “Hamilton,” “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” “The Phantom of the Opera” (June 3-4, 2022).

All concerts begin at 8 p.m. and take place in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Secure your tickets now—these shows are sure to sell out! Available for purchase at this time are seven-concert Pops subscriptions and a Pops Choose Your Own four-concert package. Single tickets go on sale Aug. 16. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

AXP@Home Spring Workshop Focuses on “Blooming in Your Community”

Recently, the arts-X-press team found a way to carry on their tradition of summer fun by introducing AXP@Home, the remote format of Pacific Symphony’s immersive arts summer camp. With the success of last summer’s virtual camp, AXP@Home has since been expanded through alumni workshops that focus on a different art form each month. 

AXP@Home’s latest online spring workshop—Blooming in Your Community—took place last Wednesday and provided students with a space to express themselves through poetry and collaborative discussion. 

AXP@Home workshops strive to empower students to find their voice through the intersection of different art forms and creative risk-taking.  Last week’s workshop focused specifically on creative writing, which can allow students to develop their imaginations, broaden perspectives and improve problem-solving abilities. 

Instructor Michal Yadlin and the AXP counselor team led our group through fun and reflective exercises to get the conversation flowing. After showcasing various personal items chosen to represent their own character, students created “I Am” poems, which allowed them to find their voice through descriptive writing based on what they feel, perceive and identify with. 

From symbolic and abstract ideas to more tangible concepts, many students expressed their identities, passions, and future aspirations through the stanzas: 

“I am a reader and a collector” 

“I see my childhood all around me” 

“I want health all around”

“I understand that [the pandemic] cannot just magically disappear” 

“I dream that someday I can be a great mom like my mom.” 

“I try to be a good brother”

“I hope to change the world” 

Instructor Michal then guided students through drawing their own flowers, with each petal containing written ideas of how we can make a difference in the many aspects of our lives. She encouraged students to take on leadership roles, explore their own attributes and learn from others to benefit the people around us:

“Think about how you can take [these ideas] from the figurative to the practical. When we are the spark of change in our own communities, families and friend groups, one little act can cause change across everything.” 

Oftentimes, young people may feel that they have little or no say in the things that transpire within our communities; however, these discussions help prove that setting forth these thoughts and ideas alone can be a great step towards developing real change. Empowering future leaders to act on their strongest passions for the sake of helping others can be remarkably impactful for sparking true change in all of our lives. 

The next event in the AXP@Home Spring Workshop series—“Raise Your Voice”—will focus on music and will take place on Wednesday, May 19th, 2021. In this workshop we will explore the intersections between vocal and instrumental music and how female composers have paved the way for one another throughout history. 

Click here to register! 

Reminder: AXP@Home participants will have priority registration for our in-person arts-X-press summer program! More details on our website at

Please stay tuned to @artsXpress on Instagram and Facebook for weekly content recaps and news updates! 

Happy (Belated) 15th Birthday, Spotify!

Long gone are the days of handing your friends cassette mixtapes or downloading the trendiest songs off of Limewire to use as your ringtone. Now, it is all about the endless libraries of Spotify, ranging from Tchaikovsky’s astonishing piano concertos, to Taylor Swift’s newest releases and even DIY podcasts.

Since its founding on April 23, 2006 in Stockholm, Sweden, Spotify has become a giant of the music industry and changed the way people consume, share, categorize and create music. The streaming company now has over 356 million users, 158 million Spotify Premium subscribers and over 70 million tracks for listeners to access. At the end of each year, users eagerly await for the results of their own, personalized “Spotify Wrapped,” a beloved feature that displays a user’s top artists, genres and podcasts, and even where they statistically rank among an artist’s top listeners.

Classical Essentials Playlist

With the power of algorithms and endless music, Spotify has the ability to suggest a diverse array of artists and genres even for classical music lovers—including the enchanting nocturnes of Chopin to the nostalgic pastorals of Vaughan Williams and the staple preludes of Bach. Spotify offers a mode of listening that is easily “playlist-oriented,” especially since users can conveniently add songs to a custom, creatively-titled playlist at the click of a button. Although the music service offers pre-made daily mixes or “mood” playlists, it also provides carefully crafted “Classical Essentials” playlists alongside user-curated classical selections made for studying, relaxing, exercising and more. Classical music lovers can easily search for their favorite interpretations and performances of orchestral pieces while still being exposed to lesser-known works of contemporary classical music.

As the popularity of on-demand media and streaming services continues to rise, one can only imagine how the world of classical music will adapt next.

Read more on Spotify’s innovations over the past 15 years here. To follow Pacific Symphony on Spotify, click here.

Family Musical Mornings Returns with “Moments” Highlighting Beethoven’s “Pastoral”

An exciting series of kid-friendly Virtual Concerts and Family Musical Moments (short musical explorations) begins this week and continues into the summer. All Musical Moments and Virtual Concerts are led by Assistant Conductor Dr. Jacob Sustaita and made possible through the generous sponsorship of Farmers & Merchants Bank.

Family Musical Moment: Beethoven’s Pastoral, Part I: May 8 at 10 a.m.
Family Musical Moment: Beethoven’s Pastoral, Part II: May 22 at 10 a.m.
Virtual Family Concert: Build Your Own Adventure!: June 5 at 10 a.m.
Family Musical Moment III: June 26 at 10 a.m.
Virtual Family Concert: Christmas in July with The Nutcracker: July 24 at 10 a.m.

Dr. Jacob Sustaita

In the first Family Musical Moment, Dr. Sustaita invites listeners to explore the beginning of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6. It’s nicknamed the “Pastoral” because it reflects the composer’s love of nature. Beethoven loved to go for long walks in the countryside far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. As Dr. Sustaita guides you through the Symphony, see if you can feel the peace of being out in nature. You’ll enjoy the fun, color commentary cartoon pop-ups in the video that tell you what’s happening in the music. To watch the first Family Musical Moment on Saturday morning, May 8 at 10 a.m., check it out on our YouTube or Facebook pages, or visit our website here. If you’re unable to watch at that time, you can tune in anytime for the next month, until June 7, 2021.

Announcing Our 21-22 Classical Season!

After more than a year of producing online education and performance content,Music Director Carl St.Clair and President John Forsyte today announced the return of live music to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Hall with Pacific Symphony. The 2021-22 concert season begins Sept. 30 with a festive opening night featuring internationally acclaimed pianist Emanuel Ax as soloist, kicking off the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series for the 2021-22 season.

Music Director Carl St.Clair commented, “Pacific Symphony musicians and I are so happy to be reuniting with our audiences. From the bottom of our hearts we welcome you all back and invite you into our musical home once again. The musicians have continued creating great art online during pandemic, but nothing compares with performing for you live in our concert hall. Orange County audiences have come to appreciate a combination of innovative new works, neglected but not forgotten works of the past and classical favorites. In 21-22 we will offer three new world premieres, first-time Pacific Symphony performances, and I am very excited to produce the ambitious opera, Verdi’s ‘Otello,’ which was the first opera I conducted. Lastly, I greatly look forward to partnering with David Ivers, artistic director of our beloved neighbor South Coast Repertory, on ‘The Mozart Project.’”

Read about the 21-22 Classical season at Voice of OC:

Pacific Symphony Musicians Guide String Ensemble to Virtual Concert Performance

Strings for Generations, a multigenerational string and percussion ensemble organized by Pacific Symphony in partnership with the South Coast Chinese Cultural Association, continued to energize the virtual orchestra trend with another season this Spring. 

Through its online format, string students, mentors and instructors met remotely once a week for sectional coaching sessions and larger group ensemble rehearsals with the help of several Pacific Symphony musicians (Cheryl Gates, Viola; Andy Honea, Cello; Jennise Hwang, Second Violin, Assistant Principal; Adam Neeley, Viola; Ann Tenney, First Violin), who joined the rehearsals to coach students and further their playing techniques.

The program kicked off in early March and culminated with last week’s virtual concert that welcomed over 75 guests who showed support and exuberance for our musicians. This final performance fully showcased the ensemble’s collective talents through several classical pieces that included the “Dies Irae” sequence of Mozart’s Requiem, a three-movement arrangement of musical styles from Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Bartok, as well as “Jasmine Flower,” a traditional Chinese folk song.

Pacific Symphony’s own assistant conductor, Dr. Jacob Sustaita, also returned to lead Strings for Generations in its seven-week entirety.

“We need music and ensemble playing more than ever,” Sustaita expressed during a group rehearsal. “Even though we can’t be in the same room right now, we’re still going to make music together.” 

Whether it was conveying dynamic cues, delving into the nuances of bowing techniques or empowering students to use their music as a tool for both comfort and strength, Dr. Sustaita’s exemplary guidance and mentorship stood out through the program’s duration.  “Remember that music is a language—it’s more than black notes on a page,” Dr. Sustaita told students. “So, always say something. Say something with your music in such a way that people can connect with you.” 

Students and parents alike reflected on Dr. Sustaita’s impact as an inspiring mentor:  

  • “Even from the Zoom calls, I can feel the enthusiasm of [Dr. Sustaita] and his professionalism that made me forget that it was online,” said a Strings for Generation parent. 
  • “He really wanted us to do our best. He wasn’t going to let us give up or just have it the ‘easy way’—he wanted us to learn just how adults would,” said sixth-grade second violin student, Valentina.

The essence of this program continues to emphasize creative freedom, especially in a period inundated by limitations and uncertainties. In addition to helping students refine their musicality, the Strings for Generations leadership aspired to facilitate a safe space of artistic expression. In addition to rehearsals, the Strings team organized two workshops for students to explore other art forms that coincided with their playing—from building performance skills to learning about the cultural history behind the music. 

Moments of reflection and growth spawned an overwhelming sense of excitement and imagination in both the instructors and students: 

  • “I thought this program was awesome because it was like putting pieces of a puzzle together,” said fifth-grade second violin student, Jade. “. . . even though I was not able to play in the orchestra in person, I had fun doing it online.”
  • “. . . with support and carefully organized practice, repetition and diligence, they are capable of playing beyond what they had thought they could do,” a music teacher of some Strings students stated. “It was a priceless experience after such a long year in [the pandemic]. They have learned far more than they are aware of, and this experience will serve them for the rest of their lives.”

Since the conversion to a virtual format, the program has not required parent participation. However, the program’s mentors—consisting of high school students and adult alumni— continued to energize the multigenerational spirit of the original program. Younger players could challenge themselves to absorb wisdom from their mentors, while older players could simultaneously use the zeal of the students as a tool for rejuvenating their musical passions. 

Although those types of connections are certainly more challenging to accomplish through a remote setting, they have been present, nonetheless. These seven weeks of practice, collaboration and reflection served as a means for re-defining a time characterized by unpredictability. As we continue to overcome the hurdles of the ongoing public health crisis, arts engagement can not only empower us to conquer negativity but also promote a much-needed sense of empathy between whole communities. 

As we look toward a return to in-person operations in the near future, we hope to return this amazing program into its original, in-person form for the upcoming seasons. However, for the time being, Strings for Generations successfully illustrates that we can continue to enliven the human spirit through the arts, no matter the physical distance or moments of adversity that keep us apart. 

World Premiere by Award-Winning Composer Highlights May Streaming Programs

The popular PacificSymphony+ streaming concerts continue through May. Each week, the Thursdays @ 7 online concert draws an average of over 3,000, which is the sold-out capacity of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall! Each week the chat rooms on YouTube and Facebook are buzzing with lively color commentary as listeners share thoughts and impressions.

We appreciate hearing comments from audience members like “I miss Pacific Symphony concerts so much”…“so uplifting during these dreary days—can’t wait to hear them all live”…and “thank you for making this amazing content available!”

Because less musicians can fit onstage when socially distanced, Carl St.Clair is curating the PacificSymphony+ series to present repertoire for smaller chamber orchestra ensembles. He’s programmed works like Baroque concertos by Bach, wind ensemble pieces by Richard Strauss and Charles Gounod—not the usual fare you’d hear during the formal concert season.

Of particular interest during May will be the world premiere of “Alone Together” (performed twice: May 25 & May 27) by the multi-Emmy Award-winning composer John Christopher Wineglass. The work was co-commissioned by Pacific Symphony with three other California orchestras: Fresno Philharmonic, Monterey Symphony and San José Chamber Orchestra. The orchestras expressed a shared interest for new music that responds to the extraordinary nature of life during the pandemic. Wineglass’ responsive piece, titled “Alone Together,” runs approximately nine minutes, and feature strings and percussion.

A joint statement from Wineglass and Fresno Philharmonic conductor Rei Hotoda explains the impetus and intent of the new work:

“’Alone Together’ addresses the social issues we are all facing during this pandemic—from not being able to perform together to even the systemic racial disparities given a world stage due to shelter-in-place. Despite all the setbacks of our present limitations, we are moving forward. This work is allowing us to continue our work as performers—to never lose sight of just how important the arts are and have always been. By creating this work, we are providing a way to connect to one another which is so valuable and something most of us probably once took for granted. We may feel alone at this moment but we as four performing arts organizations are coming to move forward together as one.”

John received his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Composition with a minor in Viola Performance at The American University and later received his Master of Arts degree in Music Composition with an emphasis in Film Scoring for Motion Pictures, Television and Multi-Media at New York University, studying primarily with Justin Dello-Joio of the Juilliard School.

To review the PacificSymphony+ concerts streaming in May, click here.

Volunteer of the Year: Jonathan Adamany

In honor of his valuable investment of time, leadership and volunteer efforts, Pacific Symphony is pleased to announce that Pacific Symphony’s Volunteer of the Year for 2020-21 is Pacific Symphony League President Jonathan Adamany. He was also honored with a 2021 Spirit of Volunteerism Award from OneOC. As an Orange County resident and fan of Pacific Symphony since childhood, he has been volunteering with Pacific Symphony since Summer 2016. He has taken an active role in the Pacific Symphony League, first as the Membership Chair and for the past three years as League President. He has been a strong leader for both the League and Pacific Symphony’s Board of Directors serving on the Board’s Executive Committee.

Currently, Adamany is a private mortgage lender specializing in deeds of trust. He is also serving a three-year term with the Association of Major Symphony Orchestra Volunteers (AMSOV) as the board’s Social Media Manager and overseeing the AMSOV Directory. Prior to joining the Pacific Symphony League, he served as the Campaign Communications Director and Deputy Campaign Manager for former Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and worked on Capital Hill as an intern to former Congressman Reid Ribble (R-WI).

Jonathan has always been interested in politics and business. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, two minors (Business Administration and Philosophy), as well as two Certificates in Paralegal Studies (ABA approved) and Business Fundamentals, all from the University of San Diego.

Jonathan’s accomplishments while serving as an outstanding volunteer for Pacific Symphony follow:

  • Jonathan led the League into the 21st Century by building up their digital infrastructure. He led the restoration and expansion of the League’s webpage along with the launch of its Access Page and digital Membership Directory.
  • Jonathan created a transferable administration system for League membership management and streamlined the maintenance of records.
  • And among his many other accomplishments, he advocated for and officially redirected that the League’s financial support would be solely focused on music education, established the League Fund for this purpose and introduced the annual year-end appeal letter to this end.

For all these reasons and more, Pacific Symphony is proud to name Jonathan Adamany Volunteer of the Year.

Experience Verdi’s “La Traviata”

New Semi-Staged Production Streaming on June 5

How do you stage an opera that’s a love story without the characters making any physical contact? That was stage director Robert Neu’s challenge when Carl St.Clair contacted him last winter about collaborating on a production of Verdi’s “La Traviata” that takes into account the complicated covid-19 protocols necessary to perform during this unprecedented time.

Neu explains in his director’s note that he decided to “capitalize on the psychological journey of these three fascinating characters. You will see each character relive his/her tragic past is his/her own mind.”

Music Director Carl St.Clair directs a socially distanced Pacific Symphony and a cast that includes the Mexican-American soprano and “rising star” (Opera News) Cecilia Violetta López as Violetta Valéry; the award-winning American tenor John Riesen as Alfredo Germont; and Metropolitan Opera house favorite, baritone Jeffrey Mattsey as Giorgio Germont. Twelve cameras filmed the semi-staged opera in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall stage.

This “La Traviata,” one of the first to be designed and directed specifically with the safety of performers integrated into every element of the production from blocking to filming, will be broadcast online Sat., June 5 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 for 28-day household access. For more information or to buy tickets, visit

About the Cast:

Cecilia Violetta López (Violetta Valéry)
“López is as compelling a Violetta as I’ve seen. As the consumptive courtesan, who, for the purest of reasons, is compelled to relinquish her true love, only ultimately to die in his arms. López managed to infuse every gesture, even in her most consumptive paroxysm, with suggestive sexuality. Her voice, big and rich over its entire range, is remarkably agile for its size and as focused when she sings quietly as it is when she just lets it go. Her ‘Sempre Libera’ was as convincingly radiant and joyful as her ‘Addio del Passato’ was sad and wistful.”—The Washington Post

John Riesen (Alfredo Germont)
“John Riesen has opera’s Emotional Boy, Alfredo, firmly in hands. He is desperately in love and his heart is on his sleeve for the entire opera…Riesen is note-perfect and powerful in his solos, an impressive tenor with dramatics to match. He gains power as the performance continues until his icy public confrontation with his lost love at her firend’s soirée.“—Naples Daily News

Jeffrey Mattsey (Giorgio Germont)
“Jeff Mattsey proved a suave, even charming interpreter of the title role, musically secure and with playful intelligence. Nor did the singer shy away from Giovanni’s ugly side.”—The Salt Lake Tribune

Robert Neu (Stage Director)
Known for his highly theatrical and musically sensitive work, Robert Neu has directed over one hundred productions of operas, musicals and plays throughout the country. Neu’s recent productions include “The Magic Flute” and “L’Enfant et les sortileges” for Pacific Symphony, among many others.