New Charitable Giving Incentives with the CARES Act

You only have until Dec. 31, 2020 to take advantage of The CARES Act’s charitable giving incentives.

Signed into law on March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act includes provisions designed to encourage charitable contributions of cash. It allows a growing number of taxpayers who do not itemize their returns to receive a tax deduction of up to $300 for cash donations to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations during calendar year 2020. And taxpayers who do itemize returns may now deduct up to 100% of their 2020 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).

Your gift to Pacific Symphony before Dec. 31, 2020 may provide you with additional tax advantages so be sure to consult your tax advisor.

Thank you for your consideration.

Giving Tuesday Match Doubles the Impact of Your Gift During This Difficult Year

Everyone knows about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday: three days dedicated to consumerism. But it’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, now known as Giving Tuesday, that kicks off the generosity season by inspiring people to give back. Pacific Symphony is pleased to join millions of other nonprofit organizations around the world participating in this global generosity movement on December 1.

This year’s Giving Tuesday offers a special opportunity to double the impact of your donation to Pacific Symphony. We are grateful Symphony board members Susan and Sam Anderson have generously offered to match your donation dollar-for-dollar, up to $30,000.

What better time could there be to give? Every single dollar you donate to Pacific Symphony on Giving Tuesday will be doubled.

According to a recent survey cited by Forbes magazine, 59% of U.S. adults believe in the concept of Giving Tuesday and 62% of all respondents intend to participate in Giving Tuesday on December 21, in spite of the many economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 epidemic.

If you are able to do so, we hope you will consider donating on Giving Tuesday, keeping in mind all that Pacific Symphony does for the community with its educational programs and online offerings. And remember, on Giving Tuesday, Susan and Sam Anderson will match your gift amount dollar-for-dollar, up to $30,000.

Please give today. THANK YOU!

“Soundscapes” Takes You On A Musical European Vacation

Southland Sessions Presents Pacific Symphony
Episode 3: “Soundscapes”
PBS So Cal Broadcast: November 21 at 7 p.m.

Join us on the third episode of Southland Sessions, “Soundscapes,” where Maestro Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony explore the ability of an orchestra to paint vivid pictures in selections from works that tell a colorful story.

You’re invited to take a sonic journey through major European travel destinations in France and Italy.

Starting the program in France, Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique is subtitled “Episode in the Life of an Artist in Five Sections.” For this broadcast, the Symphony performs the last two movements, which tells the story of an artist with a vivid imagination who poisons himself with opium out of despair for being spurned by the love of his life. The fourth movement, “March to the Scaffold,” takes on an ominous character: having taken too little opium to kills himself, the young artist dreams that he has killed his true love and is about to face the consequences for his crime. The fifth and final movement, “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath,” sees the artist in the midst of a hideous gathering of ghosts and monsters who have come to his funeral. Once the funeral bell tolls, we hear the distorted Dies irae from the Catholic Mass for the Dead—the witches are dancing.

Continuing on south to Venice, Italy, we hear a Baroque concerto from one of Vivaldi’s best-known works: The Four Seasons, “Winter,” performed by violinist and Symphony audience favorite, Philippe Quint. This set of four concertos has accompanying sonnets, which may have been written by Vivaldi himself. Following is the sonnet text which accompanies “Winter”:

In icy snow we tremble from the cold,
Caught by the bristling wind with its harsh breath;
We run and stamp our feet at every moment,
With teeth a-chatter, cold as very death;
Or by the fire we sit content and happy
While outside pours down a torrential squall,
And tread across the ice with careful footsteps,
Cautious from fear that we might trip and fall;
We turn abruptly, slip, and crash down earthwards,
Then rising, hasten on across the ice
In case the surface cracks and breaks apart.
Through bolted doors we hear the winds competing,
Sirocco, North Wind, all the winds at war:
It’s winter, but it brings us joy for sure.

Finally, we finish our musical travelogue further south in Rome, Italy. Ottorino Respighi is known mostly for his “Roman Triptych,” a set of three orchestral tone poems. The three tone poems of Respighi’s Triptych—Fountains of Rome (1916), Pines of Rome (1924) and Roman Festivals (1928)—each depict the rich aspects of Italian culture and specifically of Roman landscapes. Pines of Rome, as the title suggests, depicts these trees in four different locations in Rome at different times of the day.

Respighi wrote detailed descriptions of each movement:

The Pines of the Villa Borghese
Children are at play in the pine groves of Villa Borghese; they dance round in circles, they play at soldiers, marching and fighting, they are wrought up by their own cries like swallows at evening, they come and go in swarms. Suddenly the scene changes.

The Pines Near a Catacomb
We see the shades of the pine trees fringing the entrance to a catacomb. From the depth rises the sound of mournful psalm-singing, floating through the air like a solemn hymn, gradually and mysteriously dispersing.

The Pines of the Janiculum
A quiver runs through the air: the pine trees of the Janiculum stand distinctly outlined in the clear light of a full moon. A nightingale is singing.

The Pines of the Appian Way
Misty dawn on the Appian Way; solitary pine trees guard the magic landscape; indistinctly, the ceaseless rhythm of unending footsteps. The poet has a fantastic vision of bygone glories. Trumpets sound and, in the brilliance of the newly risen sun, a consular army bursts forth toward the Sacred Way, mounting in triumph to the Capitol.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas …

“Pavilion of Holiday Trees”
South Coast Plaza
Nov. 14 – Dec. 4

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and to celebrate the season South Coast Plaza begins a joyous new holiday tradition: “The First Annual Pavilion of Holiday Trees.” Pacific Symphony is proud to be participating in this exciting new interactive fundraiser hosted.

We’ve decorated a special Nutcracker-themed holiday tree, which we’ve named “Nutcracker Sweet,” and you can bid on it in an online auction. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the winning bid will benefit Pacific Symphony. “Nutcracker Sweet”—along with 35 other arts organization creations—will be on display at South Coast Plaza’s “Pavilion of Holiday Trees” from November 14 to December 4 (Sunday 12-7 p.m., Monday-Saturday 11-7 p.m.). The event is located at the existing open-air Pavilion at South Coast Plaza, adjacent to Hermès and Chanel. 

We invite you to visit the Pavilion of Holiday Trees and/or consider bidding online for our tree at The tree will be delivered to the highest bidder in time for your holiday celebration.

And while you’re at South Coast Plaza, check out the restaurants now reopened to enjoy on your afternoon or evening out!

Thank you for your support and have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Place A Bid | Learn More

And the Academy Award Goes to … Barry Perkins!

If there were an Academy Awards for orchestral musicians creating engaging videos during the quarantine, Pacific Symphony’s Principal Trumpet Barry Perkins could be a contender in many categories: “Best Actor,” “Best Director,” “Best Story and Screenplay, “Best Cinematography,” “Best Production Design,” “Best Film Editing,” “Best Sound Editing” and “Best Sound Mixing,” to name just a few. To say Perkins is multi-talented is an understatement, as his two latest videos attest.

“The Audition”

Perkins finds an outlet for his virtuosity in this parody of the “Late Night Tryouts” scene from the 2002 hit movie “Drumline” that starred Zoe Saldana and Nick Cannon as teens who find romance through their love of the arts. The original audition scene features a gifted young drummer trying out for the fictional Atlanta A&T University’s celebrated marching band. The judges recognize the young musician’s ability but don’t like his cocky attitude in showing off his musical prowess when he adds his own flourishes after playing the required piece.

For the required piece is his parody, Perkins plays an excerpt from Georges Enescu’s trumpet piece, “Legende.” It’s a technical tour de force replete with challenging triple-tonguing and fast, finger-twisting chromatic passages. But then, unable to contain his musical enthusiasm, he segues into the heroic trumpet solo from Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony.

“I thought that this idea of ‘The Audition’ would be relatable to both students and professional musicians,” comments Perkins. “It represents a time where most musicians are just looking for any place to play their instrument. The audition candidate plays the required piece, and then can’t help himself but to play something he used to play in the orchestra before the pandemic.”

If you’re curious to know how Perkins managed to look like he was in the actual movie, here’s his explanation: “The process was pretty tricky. I used a green screen, but lighting had to be absolutely perfect so everything fits together. I was so happy to hear that a lot of people thought I was actually on the football field and these actors were friends of mine.”

Watch “The Audition” here.

Another Day, Another Zoom Lesson

Barry Perkins, like so many other musicians, is teaching all of his students via Zoom for the time being. You’ll also enjoy his humorous take on a somewhat surreal Zoom experience. And you’ll enjoy hearing his crisp and flawless playing of an exciting piccolo trumpet passage from Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2.

Watch “The Zoom Lesson here.

AXP@Home Alumni Reunite for Artistic Halloween Workshop

Vampires, werewolves and witches galore! Arts-X-press is back for the fall season—this time through AXP@Home Alumni Workshops. 

This year, our summer arts immersion program, arts-X-press, went fully digital in response to ongoing covid-19 restrictions. Rebranded as AXP@Home, which transformed the typical arts-X-press environment into an online medium, this initiative brought together middle-school students who wanted to renew their own creative sparks amid the pandemic lockdowns. The program, which ran in two sessions between June and July, successfully fostered a close-knit community around instrumental music, theater, visual arts and more, despite the general limitations of an online format. 

AXP@Home’s first, Halloween-themed, workshop on Oct. 28 allowed students, counselors and staff to reunite from this past summer’s remote program to create more magic moments in the spirit of artistic creativity. 

The Halloween Creative Risks workshop—the first of a five-workshop seasonal series presented by Pacific Symphony’s Education & Community Engagement department—focused on the theater arts to facilitate creative expression. Led by some familiar faces from AXP staff—theater coach Becky Wheeler and four of our veteran counselors—our group delved into various theater techniques and Halloween-themed character improvisation. 

Counselors brought the energy to kick off our workshop with a quick “ice-breaker,” which instructed students to describe a character of their choice in 10 words. Instructor Becky then led them through a series of techniques revolving around “movement words” to produce tonal dialogue and vocal variance. 

Using such categories as “shape, weight, space, time and flow,” students could see how they can change their manner of dialogue to match a particular mood or goal of a script. For example, a “punch” shape might represent a “quick yell,” or “repressed anger” coming from “deep in your body,” according to multiple AXP students. This can be critical for making different character choices come to life. 

In Zoom breakout rooms, counselors and students worked together to expand on their character interactions, where they built foundations on Halloween character archetypes, using “moods” and “movements” to set characters apart from each other, along with their own personal touches, such as physical props or vocal styles. From there, everyone re-joined the main Zoom room together to share their group scripts and character choices in pairs! 

We hope that each and every one of our students enjoyed re-sparking the magic and will join us again for our next workshop in the AXP@Home Alumni Workshop series, Attitude of Gratitude, a Thanksgiving-themed workshop taking place on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Please stay tuned to @artsXpress on Instagram and Facebook for updates on registration, news and content! 

“The Spirit Solitude”

Pacific Symphony violist John Acevedo joined forces with singer Christina Linhardt on a video project that evokes the profoundly deep emotions we are all experiencing during the pandemic. Linhardt performed a deeply heartfelt recitation of her original poetry to Acevedo’s free improvisation on Étude No. 4 for solo flute by Astor Piazzolla, the master of nuevo tango. Together they have created a poignant elegy worthy of deep introspection.

Acevedo’s soulful playing or the Piazzolla étude inspired Linhardt to write the poem “The Spirit Solitude.” The two have a long history of collaboration, having first worked together in concert at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles in 2008: Linhardt curated and sang in the program titled “Fairies, Ghosts and Witches in German Literature and Music,” sponsored by USC’s Max Kade Institute.

She comments on the current video project: “John had been particularly engaged in the Piazzolla piece as we were in heavy shutdown, and the piece seemed to evoke the spirit of this present time: the isolation, the despair, the solitude. And yet, as with all dark periods, a glimmer of hope and light.

“I had just been released from the hospital after major surgery when John sent me the piece,” she continued. “Within minutes, I penned the poem, as it just seemed to flow out of his playing the piece. The more painstaking part came as we fit the words to the music. John is a virtuoso and a perfectionist in the best sense of the term, so it was a bit like open-heart surgery. “

Linhardt describes the video as “the final result of our labor of love.”

Watch and listen to “The Spirit Solitude” here:


At the Symphony, we never forget why we are here. We are here for our community and are grateful that you have been here for us. That sentiment is only magnified under the current circumstances.

Even though we’re not able to perform live concerts right now, we are displaying the Pacific Symphony community spirit online. Whether you’re home-schooling children, encouraging a budding violinist in your family, or you’re curious to learn more about music yourself, there is something for everyone in our community.

Watch Pacific Symphony performances on KCET and PBS SoCal’s “Southland Sessions Present Pacific Symphony,” join the weekly web show “Symphony Mixer” hosted by Principal Flute Ben Smolen and Concertmaster Dennis Kim, enjoy the “Quarantine Clips” which features our talented musicians, and learn from our acclaimed education programs, all from the comfort of your home.

While our audiences need us more than ever, the truth is that we need you more than ever, too. We can’t do any of this without you.

This November, during Community Support Month, please consider the role music plays in your life and donate as generously as you are able to support your Pacific Symphony and see us through this difficult period. We thank you for your generosity!

And don’t forget: You have a few more months left to take advantage of The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). It provides some new, and significant, tax-advantaged opportunities for donors. Donors can get a Federal income tax deduction for charitable gifts of up to 100% of Adjusted Gross Income, and non-itemizers can now deduct up to $300 for gifts to charity. 

Please Support Pacific Symphony Today!

Play On, Agnes!

Our very own Symphony violinist Agnes Gottschewski and her weekly Porch Concerts found their way onto KUSC’s “Play On California” blog series, which they describe as “a daily update on how musicians here in the Golden State are keeping the music playing while sheltering in place.” This post mentions a fascinating accompaniment app which uses AI to track your playing! The pianist mentioned, Juho Pohjonen, performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 with us in April 2019.

Check out the blog post:

From the Desk of John Forsyte @ Home: Remembering John Stahr

I am very saddened to share that our beloved John Stahr, long-time and illustrious board member, passed away in his sleep last night, just a few weeks shy of his 88th birthday. With Elizabeth, there are very few couples who have had an equal impact on the Symphony. His marriage to Elizabeth lasted nearly 70 years and what a life they have enjoyed together! 

John was a very devoted father of four amazing children who are extremely accomplished. Their eldest, Walter Stahr, has been very involved in Symphony activities, carrying on his parents’ interests in classical music, arts education and scholarship. I must add that Walter has been angelic in his care for John and Elizabeth.

John was a prodigious reader, and he enjoyed close friendships with many in his book club and through other activities. John could remember the details of everything he read, whether recent or 30 years ago. He could offer insights on almost any travel, history, political, literary or artistic topic.

He also had a dazzling ability for self-deprecation that could lighten the mood of any meeting. For someone so accomplished, he didn’t care to brag or grab attention.

Our Music Director Carl St.Clair and John had a close, trusting relationship. Of John, Carl shared with me, “John was a man of great character who had no fear in standing up for his beliefs. He did so with intense passion and tireless dedication. His spirit and convictions will remain etched into the heart of the Pacific Symphony forever. As a friend, I will miss him dearly.”

John had a very distinguished legal career, and was founder of the Orange County office of Latham and Watkins, where he practiced for 30 years. It was in his philanthropy, however, that John truly established a phenomenal reputation. It’s impossible to give proper due to this man who influenced so many good things in our community.  

Accepting the Philanthropist of the Year Award

Of course, most of you remember that John was the chairman of the Pacific Symphony board as we entered the new concert hall and toured internationally in 2006. He didn’t shrink from the challenge of raising the funds to build the Symphony towards these monumental goals. Along with Ron and Joyce Hanson, Elizabeth and he established the instrument acquisition program that outfitted our percussion section and helped musicians acquire expensive instruments they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford. After he stepped down from being chairman, his devotion didn’t let up, as he raised over $500,000 to help complete the William J. Gillespie Organ. He dubbed the group the “Pipe Dreamers.” Their philanthropy culminated with an incredible gift to endow the Principal Second Violin Chair occupied by Bridget Dolkas.

Left to right: Principal Second Violinist, Bridget Dolkas, Elizabeth, John and Carl

John was also deeply passionate about advancing the talents of young people. He supported Elizabeth as she assumed the leadership of the Pacific Symphony Youth Ensemble Board. I could see how proud he was of the talented middle and high school students, with their prodigious talents and academic excellence. It’s very likely that the Symphony would be a significantly diminished organization without John’s leadership.

Prior to their heavy involvement with the Symphony, Elizabeth and John led the effort to raise funds to build the Newport Beach library. He and Elizabeth later established a fund for the UC Irvine library system. John was chairman of Arts Orange County during its formative years and later led the Board of South Coast Repertory. He was also a long-time member of DOCA, the Defense Orientation Conference Association, a forum for business leaders to have continuing education on defense and national security affairs provided by senior leaders of the Department of Defense and the Department of State. John was also extremely devoted to his alma mater Stanford University and the Hoover Institution.

Everyone who had the good fortune to know John would likely characterize him as a meteor, a force of nature, and someone who lived his life on his own terms. He pushed through many physical challenges these past years, attending meetings, concerts and gatherings of all varieties while struggling with a great deal of pain. He NEVER complained. Life was too important, and he had incredible passion for his friends, family, learning and, of course, music. I spoke to him last week and he told me how much he missed live performances and being together with the Symphony family, the musicians and Carl. He loved attending rehearsals and going backstage to see the musicians he loved. The musicians loved him right back.  

Personally, Michele and I invited John to offer a prayer at our wedding in 2005. We all cried together as he spoke so lovingly about the sacred bonds of marriage. John was a devout man, and his spirituality manifested itself in all the goodness he brought to our lives. John was a father figure to me, and I will really, really miss him. On behalf of the Symphony family, we send our deepest condolences to the Stahr family. A memorial is being planned but no details are known yet.

Elizabeth Stahr asked that, if you wish to do so, donations be made to the Pacific Symphony to support our Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles program about which John and Elizabeth care so deeply about. If you wish to make a gift in his honor, you may send it to:

John Stahr Memorial Fund
Pacific Symphony
Charlie and Ling Zhang Center for Musical Arts and Education
17620 Fitch, Suite 100
Irvine, CA 92614