Not just a walk in the park: The multi-layered life of Pacific Symphony cellist Bob Vos


Like many of Pacific Symphony’s musicians, cellist Bob Vos is married (to Vivian, a pianist) and has a child (a 3-year-old boy, Wesley). And while many musicians in the orchestra have additional music gigs, Bob is a bit unique; so far as he knows, he is the only one who also has a non-music job. And he’s not just flinging newspapers in the morning—Bob is an assistant professor of Spatial Sciences at USC. And, yes, there is only one of him handling all of this (although he does have a twin brother).

“I work mostly on issues of environmental sustainability,” he explains. “So, I have to balance that with my music. Fortunately, the schedule at USC is pretty flexible and I just work a lot of late nights at my home office—after Wesley has gone to bed. I’m gone many weeknights and weekends, so I try to make up for it by sneaking away to the park in the afternoon with him!”

The music part is easy to figure. Both of Bob’s parents were musicologists (PhDs in music history and theory). His father played piano, organ and harpsichord, and was the associate dean at DePaul University’s School of Music. His mother sang and played flute, and founded a youth orchestra and community music school. With music running rampant in his DNA, it’s no wonder Bob became a musician. At age 4, he started cello. He says: “One might think this means I didn’t choose the cello, but I remember making a conscious choice. My twin brother was already playing violin, but I didn’t take to it when my parents tried to start me on it when I was 2!”

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Poll: Listening devices

Listening habits have changed drastically in the last decade or so. I grew up collecting records that I bought at record stores and playing them on a record player while sitting down in front of it. Now we’re more portable, but that means we listen in a different way. Anyway, I’m curious as to how readers of this blog usually listen to classical music. Pick one answer. (I know it’s hard — I listen to classical music on several of these devices. Just choose the one you think you use the most.) UPDATE: Poll has been changed as of 3 p.m.

Audio: Martinu: ‘Thunderbolt P-47’

What a fun piece this is — Bohuslav Martinu’s “Thunderbolt P-47.” It was written in tribute to the great fighter planes that helped to win WWII by the Czech emigre composer in 1945. It might make a nice addition to a patriotic concert, something beyond the usual suspects. I can just picture propellors spinning and a fleet flying through the clouds.


(Curated news and views from around the web. Click on the highlighted links to read the full articles.)

In The New Yorker, David Denby writes a fine summing up of the career of conductor Arturo Toscanini, on the occasion of the maestro’s 150th anniversary and the publication of a mammoth new biography by Harvey Sachs…. The Canadian guide to classical music slang intersects with our own only intermittently, but it’s still amusing…. Beethoven’s Ninth means different things to different people, including, probably, the leaders attending the G-20 summit…. Tom Service has written a guide to contemporary classical music, taking 50 composers and their music one at a time…. Italian conductors still make headlines: Riccardo Muti has led a joint concert in Tehran with the the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra and the Tehran Symphony Orchestra …. Mason Bates’s new opera “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” will have its premiere at Santa Fe Opera this month…. A new recording (well, a reissue and remastering) features the music of — gasp — music critics. Some can.

Kleiber conducts ‘Thunder and Lightning’

An old standby. If this isn’t my favorite classical video, I can’t think which one is. The great Carlos Kleiber conducts the “Thunder and Lightning” Polka by Johann Strauss, Jr. This is stupendous conducting but most everything has already been accomplished in rehearsal. Now he’s just reminding them and enjoying himself, having a party in fact.

Symphony in the Cities program

The musical agenda for this summer’s Symphony in the Cities concerts has been announced, a nice mixture of light classics and patriotic fare. Carl St.Clair, who, as always, will conduct, has selected two works each by several composers.

Leonard Bernstein is represented with the Overture to “Candide” and the “Mambo” from “West Side Story”; John Williams with the “Superman” March and “The Flying Theme” from “E.T.”; Johann Strauss, Jr., with the “Thunder and Lightning” Polka and “The Blue Danube” Waltz; Bach with “Air on a G String” and the first movement of the Concerto for Two Violins (with the young violinists Danielle and Sarah Liu as soloists); and Sousa with “Hands Across the Sea” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

The program is rounded out with the Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms, the Intermezzo from “Cavalleria Rusticana” by Mascagni, a salute to the Armed Forces and patriotic songs by Key, Ward and Berlin.

The concerts are free and will be held on July 16 in Newport Beach, July 22 in Mission Viejo and July 23 in Irvine. Click here for further details.