“The Right Man, at the Right Moment”


Senior Editor of Voice of OC Paul Hodgins recently interview Pacific Symphony’s President John Forsyte about Carl’s upcoming 30th Anniversary season. Here are some of our favorite highlights:

The right pairing of orchestra and conductor, like a successful marriage, can last for decades, the relationship deepening and becoming more meaningful as the years pass, trials and triumphs are shared, audiences grow increasingly dedicated and beloved repertoire is programmed a second, third or even fourth time.

It might surprise you to know that Orange County has one of the longest-serving conductors of any major North American orchestra. Carl St.Clair took the position in 1990. He’s about to start his 30th season with Pacific Symphony, which is barely over four decades old. (Voice of OC talked to St.Clair earlier this year about his time at Pacific Symphony and his plans for the upcoming season.)

“From what I heard, there were a number of things that happened in the audition process that solidified the decision for the musicians and the board. Not only was his audition concert extremely exciting, the wrong Mozart piece was on the stand. He gave he downbeat for ‘Magic Flute’ and they were playing ‘Marriage of Figaro’ or something else.” St.Clair quickly adapted and laughed off the screw-up. “The calm and ease and the personable quality he had was immediately evident,” Forsyte said.

St.Clair also came with some impressive recommendations. He had warm relationships with John Williams and Leonard Bernstein. “There were a number of things that said, ‘This guy is a meteor,’ Forsyte said. “They sensed that he would ignite the passion of the community, and he had the kinds of personality that could heal some of the wounds from the troubling situations that had occurred.”

Make sure to check out Carl St.Clair’s TEDxOrangeCounty talk on conducting – “Innovation Whispers”!

You can read Paul Hodgin’s full article on Voice of OC here.

Guest Conductor Spotlight: Colonel Arnald Gabriel

Among the many guest artists joining us for our “Hail to the Heroes” concert Sept. 8 is guest conductor Colonel Arnald Gabriel, who was the Commander and Conductor from the United States Air Force BandUnited States Air Force Symphony Orchestra, and Singing Sergeants from 1964 to 1985. In 1990, he was named the first Conductor Emeritus of the United States Air Force Band and the 29th Div. Band of the Virginia Army National Guard. Aside from his distinctly musical background with the armed forces, Col. Gabriel was a combat machine gunner with the United States Army’s famed 29th Infantry Division in Europe during WWII.


Colonel Arnald Gabriel and his wife Renee Channey attend his retirement ceremony

During “Hail to the Heroes,” Col. Gabriel will conduct William Steffe’s classic “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (arr. by Peter Wilhousky) and an Armed Forces Salute, both featuring our longtime artistic partners Pacific Chorale. He will then conduct John William’s beautiful Hymn to the Fallen, again featuring the Chorale, and finally, the military standard, Taps.

Here he is, conducting the Old Timers Band of Cortland, New York, as they perform the wonderful march, “Caderna”:

After leaving the Army, Col. Gabriel worked at a canning factory, unable to go to college. Everything changed, however, when his old high school band director decided that Gabriel was too talented to waste his days in a factory. The band director paid for the Colonel to attend Ithaca College in 1946, and he earned both Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Music Education at Ithaca. Colonel Gabriel is also a Professor Emeritus of George Mason University. The rest, they say, is history.

We hope that you’ll join us for “Hail to the Heroes” Sept. 8, where we can all gather together to celebrate our veterans and first responders, the brave heroes who make our communities and this country truly great. Remember, there are FREE tickets for active-duty military, veterans and first responders! Call our Box Office at (714) 755-5799.

On Country Icon and “Hail to the Heroes” Headliner Lee Greenwood

“Hail to the Heroes” is coming up quick, and we’d like to introduce you to the concert’s headliner, country icon Lee Greenwood. Greenwood’s initial rise to fame came with the release of his patriotic anthem “God Bless the USA,” which was originally released in 1984 and became popular again after 9/11. Active since 1962, he has released more than 20 major-label albums and has charted more than 35 singles on the Billboard country music charts. However, Greenwood is more than just a country star.

Greenwood was born in South Gate, Calif., just a few miles south of Los Angeles, and eventually moved to Sacramento to live with his grandparents. He began to sing in the local church, building up his vocal chops enough to join a country band for his first television appearance. After building a reputation as a local artist, Greenwood took his talents to the casinos of Las Vegas, where he was a blackjack dealer during the day, moonlighting as a performer.

His hit single “God Bless the USA” is one of 50 songs that were chosen by NPR to be featured in their American Anthems series. The series focuses on the stories behind the songs, and how they “challenge, unite and celebrate” our American cultural experience throughout history. Greenwood discussed the song’s origin in a recent statement:

As I stated in my song, “God Bless the USA,” “There ain’t no doubt I love this land.” My love of the land came from being raised on a farm in California and singing for USO shows while I was still in high school. … I’m honored this song is still being shared today, and more importantly, being recognized as a song which unites, because that is exactly the reason why I wrote it.

More than just a country star, Greenwood has become an American cultural icon, immersing himself in our country’s history. He wrote a blog post about his time with President Bush (41) on his website—a touching story on his travels with the former Commander-in-Chief and his wife.


President and Mrs. Bush invited me to stay overnight at the White House where I slept in the Lincoln bedroom but never actually slept. The President and I watched “Lawrence of Arabia” in the theater room with just the President and I—played several songs on piano for him in the foyer. Then I stayed up all night reading the Gettysburg Address.

I had the great privilege of traveling across this great nation with President Bush 41. Our time as friends took us from the White House to Camp David—which included Air Force One—to inaugurating the Points of Light Foundation at Disney World, to the opening of my theater in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, to Houston, Kennebunkport and every place where proud Americans reside. He was the best man, most generous patriot, and greatest friend a man could ask for.

In an article about his July 4 appearance at the San Diego County Fair, Greenwood also touches on this unique time in our country’s history, and how he hopes his music can be a unifying force.

“We are experiencing an extremely divided time right now, here in America. Regardless of politics, my hope is that the music I am sharing on this tour will help unite everyone—together—around this country we all love so much.”

We hope that you’ll join us for “Hail to the Heroes” Sept. 8, where we can all gather together to celebrate our veterans and first responders, the brave heroes who make our communities and this country truly great. Remember, there are FREE tickets for active-duty military, veterans and first responders! Call our Box Office at (714) 755-5799.

PSYE Director Spotlight: Gregory Whitmore – Humans of Pacific Symphony

012_psywe.jpgEvery week at UCI, there’s much more than just music-making happening behind the closed-doors of PSYE’s rehearsal rooms. Beyond the sounds of percussive timpani, powerful trombones, virtuosic flutes, and everyone in between, there’s often discussion about personal growth, encouraged by PSYE directors like Dr. Gregory Whitmore.

We sat down with Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble‘s director to hear about his role as an educator, his philosophy on learning, and what message he hopes to pass on to his students.

PSYWE-Gregory_WhitmoreFirst of all, what made you want to become a music educator rather than a instrumental performer?

Honestly, when I went to undergrad at the University of Michigan, I was actually dueling between being a high-school band teacher and an environmental lawyer! I think the reason why I didn’t end up a lawyer is that I began to realize the impact teachers had in my life once I got to university. I think it’s important that young people have the opportunity to interact with these teachers who are committed to helping them—be-it for a semester or the rest of their lives. All of us have those people that helped guide us!

Considering you almost went into law, you must have a lot of other academic interests! What’s your outlook on interdisciplinary education?

I did an undergraduate in music education, masters in conducting, and a doctorate, but it was a research doctorate! I enjoy getting away from music and having those intellectual discussions with students. The parts of the academy—science, math, and literature—those are as important to me as music.

So much of what happened in music happened at the same time as architecture, history, technology—all these things move at the same time, so it has to be interdisciplinary! I’m not totally down that road of being solely in music and music only, and I encourage any kid to think about that: “You can be a musician and a great musician at that, but be a great scholar in the other ways of learning and other academic fields.”

Any parting advice for your high school and college-aged students?

To college students, be as well-rounded in your studies as you can. There’s no greater place than the university. There’s all these dynamic things happening in that small campus radius. Think and set yourself up for the next step: who are your teachers right now that you want as your future colleagues? Get to know them and meet them! Put down the phones and get into the business of learning by having conversations with people. I always tell my students that you’re investing in yourself by coming to college.

For high school kids, I want students go to the greatest college FOR THEM, and it’s hard because we live in a world of branding. To go to a big school with a big name may be great but that might not be the best for you. Don’t be afraid to go to a place that feels best for you and doesn’t have the “nice sounding name.” Once you get on your campus, that won’t matter. Also, prepare to make the college experience happen. If you’re trying to do everything for your resume, we don’t want to see that. We need people who are going to aspire, but we also need people are who are going to aspire in certain areas. We’re not saying you have to figure it all out, but we want to see you be the most authentic YOU that you can be.


This article was written by Alison Huh, one of Pacific Symphony’s Marketing & PR interns. Alison will be a sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, where she studies English. She was formerly a member of Pacific Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, playing flute.



For the weekend: “Star Wars” and Cosplay

STARWARS_EP4_ANH_KEYART_001_LUpon Star Wars: A New Hope’s 1977 release, New York film critic Stanley Kauffmann infamously condemned George Lucas’ soon-to-be blockbuster hit as a “corny, unexceptional film for men who miss adolescence.”

Fast-forward 40 years later and you’ll see that this “corny, unexceptional film” has evolved into a global phenomenon spanning across 9 canon films, 3 spin-offs, 3 animated TV series and even its own dedicated “land” at both Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Then, there are also the dedicated fans, donning their costumes for the world to see—and these fans are made up of much more than just “men who miss adolescence.”

Ranging from toddlers to adults, casual fans to life time devotees, enthusiasm for Star Wars cosplay (short for costume play) has spread to every corner of the franchise’s fandom. With access to merchandise like Lightsaber toys or even professionally-handcrafted Storm Trooper suits, cosplaying provides Star Wars fans the opportunity temporarily become their favorite fictional characters, using fashion or costume-creation as an outlet. Sometimes you’ll run into people who spend months—even years—on perfecting their homemade costumes! Just check out this fan’s terrifyingly accurate General Grievous costume!

These elaborate creations are put on full display at movie premieres, theme parks, and convention cosplay competitions to, most importantly, unite a large community of people through their common passion for Star Wars—or any pop culture icon you can really think of.

13. Vader & Leia [1 day].jpgHere at Pacific Symphony, we’re used to seeing the usual fare of casual t-shirts, jeans and, on occasion, a suit and tie or dress. We’re changing that up with “Star Wars: A New Hope – In Concert!” Put on your finest Jedi robes and grab your Lightsaber before heading over to Costa Mesa’s Pacific Amphitheatre tonight to catch a live-to-screen showing of the movie that started it all: Star Wars: A New Hope.

To shake things up, tag #pacificsymphony on Instagram or Facebook with a snap of your own Star Wars get-up at at the concert for a chance to win 2 FREE tickets to our Tchaikovsky Spectacular! Please check our online event page for rules and conditions regarding acceptable items in the amphitheatre.

5. Group Shot [9 Days]

Intern Spotlight: Julianne Chen – Humans of Pacific Symphony

Welcome to our news blog series, “Humans of Pacific Symphony,” telling the story of the employees, musicians, conductors, staff and interns who we work with every day!

Julianne_photoPacific Symphony’s interns can be found across almost all our departments. This summer, we welcomed a handful of college-aged perspectives to the symphony, among them being Development intern Julianne Chen. In addition to her life as a cognitive science and cello double major at the University of California, San Diego, also works at a non-profit music organization called ArtPower!

We got the opportunity to speak with Julianne about her experience as a Development intern plus her past as a Youth Ensembles alumni!


What brought you to intern for Pacific Symphony?

I knew I wanted to go into arts administration. I was applying everywhere, but then I thought, “Oh wait—Pacific Symphony!” I used to be in PSYO … I thought working on staff would be really interesting, and then I got the position! It’s really cool. I’m glad I’m in Development because it gives me a different perspective of the symphony.

So, you were in the Youth Orchestra as a cellist. What’s one random memory from PSYO?

With my first retreat in 2015, it was my first time traveling farther with my cello, and my STRING BROKE during our first rehearsal from the mountain’s altitude. I was freaking out because I didn’t know how to fix it. It was a little embarrassing, but hey, it got fixed!

How have you changed since your time in the Youth Orchestra?
I definitely changed a lot, in terms of knowing what I want to do. When I was in high school, I did this thing where whenever someone told me about their cool profession, I’d suddenly get super into it—but only for a short time. That was just me being idealistic as a graduating senior, trying to fit my image into different professions.

In college, I switched to cognitive science because I thought back to what I actually enjoyed. I remembered I liked AP Psychology in high school and cognitive science was similar but differed in how it’s applied. I was also super lucky with UCSD’s college system. I could’ve graduated early if I just did cognitive science, but since I’m here, I enjoy music, and the facilities are nice, I decided to double major—I’m a cello performance major now!


Now back to the present, how does this internship differ from work you do at UCSD?

The biggest difference is that this is the corporate world—like, we’re in cubicles! When I was little, I loved visiting my parents’ workplaces and now I’m realizing, “Woah, this is just like that!”

I also realized that I have to become more of a professional people-person. I’m usually extroverted among other students, but my confidence in verbal communication on a professional level isn’t always the strongest. It’s a good opportunity for me to hone in on those skills.

How has this intern experience impacted your future plans?

It’s made me want to go to grad school! Before, I was against it because it’s expensive and I didn’t know why I’d go, aside from my parents… Having talked to a lot of people here, though, I realized that it’s fine to maybe wait and go back to grad-school when I know what I really want to do. Knowing that a lot of the other staff members in Development have higher degrees or are pursuing degrees, it got me thinking, “maybe higher education really is important.”


This article was written by Alison Huh, one of Pacific Symphony’s Marketing & PR interns. Alison will be a sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, where she studies English. She was formerly a member of Pacific Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, playing flute.

Symphony in the Cities: An OC Summertime Tradition


Every year, we bring the Symphony to a local park or outside venue near you, in cities all across Orange County. This year, we had the pleasure of expanding to four cities: Mission Viejo, Costa Mesa, Orange and Irvine!

This summer marked 15 years of Symphony in the Cities – 15 years of orchestral pops, Broadway classics and wonderful guest artists joining the Symphony for a night of music with the whole city. This year, a special addition to the series was Chapman University’s own Musco Center for the Arts, a new venue that’s as beautiful inside as it is outside.


Masterpieces by Bizet and Barber were performed this summer, along with a selection from Meredith Willson’s timeless “The Music Man,” performed by talented vocalists Alexandria Burdick and Jose V. Zamarripa.


Families gathered around activity tables for arts-and-crafts and the Musical Playground to “test-drive” instruments.


It’s finally time for “Carl’s Conducting Clinic” (trademark pending) where he teaches young audience members to conduct John Philip Sousa’s “Hands Across the Sea!”


We’re glad that Chapman University’s 13th President Danielle Struppa could join in on the conducting fun!


Guest vocalists Alexandria Burdick and Jose V. Zamarripa perform selections from Meredith Willson’s classic Broadway production “The Music Man.”


Musco Center for the Art’s Plaza was absolutely packed for this special first Symphony in the Cities at Chapman University!


The sun sets in the distance, and the show goes on.


Thank you to all who came and supported us for this very special Symphony in the Cities! We’ll see you next Summer.


Anne Akiko Meyers on Commissioning New Works (Interview)

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Former guest artist Anne Akiko Meyers, an accomplished and traveled violinist, recently spoke with Classical KUSC’s Jim Svejda in an interview on their Arts Alive blog about the importance of commissioning new concert works.

“It’s very important to me to respect the tradition of the old but also always be forward thinking, and I think it really does expand my brain to work on different techniques with new music. It’s very empowering when you’re actually performing onstage and realizing that you’ve worked and created this… with the composer by your side and there have been revisions up until the last second. And to think what it would’ve been like if I could’ve done this with Mendelssohn, with Chopin—to ask him to write something for the violin—and to have their ears and eyes right there and ask questions.”

Meyers then goes on to discuss modern classical music, and the importance of music as story-telling.

“[with] a lot of the music today… I can’t respond to it because it just does not resonate with my take on really needing to feel that there is a story within the music. A lot of the music today almost feels like you need a science degree to understand what is happening onstage because it’s just so obtuse, it’s just so scientific and atonal, and it doesn’t tell a story—at least to my ears. So, when I’m working with a composer, I’m always looking for ‘What story are they trying to share?’”

Pacific Symphony

Meyers, in her 2018 performance of Ravel’s rhapsodic “Tzigane” with Pacific Symphony

She continues:

“The whole point of music [is] that you’re there to have a good time… You don’t need this doctorate to understand ‘Am I supposed to like this?’ like ‘Am I supposed to like plates and plates of spinach and kale?’ That’s always the fear—I think—with most audiences and new music. It’s just like ‘Okay, give me the tried and true, and I might just listen to a little bit of the new’ because it’s usually intimidating. But I love to choose and work with composers where the music deeply resonates with me and there’s this beautiful story to be shared.”


Beyoncé’s Epic “God Bless the USA”

To get into the patriotic spirit, check out Beyoncé’s passionate performance of Lee Greenwood’s smash country hit, “God Bless the USA” at the Macy’s 4th of July celebration from 2011. Then, hear Lee Greenwood perform it live during our “Hail to the Heroes” concert Sept. 8 at the OC Fair’s Pacific Amphitheatre!

To get FREE tickets for active-duty military, veterans and first responders, call our Box Office at (714) 755-5799!


Music Director Carl St.Clair leads the orchestra, along with Pacific Chorale. Comedian James P. Connolly leads the audience through the evening’s celebration, introducing Lee Greenwood, guest conductor Colonel Arnald Gabriel and the phenomenal vocal acts The Swing Dolls and Bugle Boys.

WILLIAMS: Liberty Fanfare
STEFFE: “Battle Hymn of the Republic”
VARIOUS: Armed Forces Salute
TRADITIONAL: “Amazing Grace”
VARIOUS: “Wartime Heroes” Medley
WILLIAMS: “Summon the Heroes” (NBC Olympic Games Theme)
WILLIAMS: “Hymn to the Fallen” from “Saving Private Ryan” / “Taps”
VARIOUS: Music of Lee Greenwood
WARD: “America the Beautiful”
BERLIN: “God Bless America”

“Canto de Anaheim” Celebrates The Mexican-American Heroes Of Anaheim’s Past And Present

Canto de Anaheim-Facebook.jpg

On August 31, Pacific Symphony links arms with the city of Anaheim for a FREE, brand-new multimedia event celebrating the real-life stories of the city’s own immigrant heroes. Joining Anaheim native and Los Angeles Times writer Gustavo Arellano, Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble artistic director Sara Guerrero and Long Beach Community Band director Greg Flores, “Canto de Anaheim” invites everyone from the city’s robust Latinx community and beyond to gather for a night of cultural celebration, theatrical storytelling, and—as always—exciting music! “Canto de Anaheim” takes place at 7 p.m at Pearson Park Amphitheatre (401 Lemon St., Anaheim, CA 92805).


LA Times contributor Gustavo Arellano

The program follows Gustavo Arellano, serving as host and narrator, as he details the stories of several immigrants from Anaheim’s past who have gone on to reshape their lives as well as their communities. These individuals will be represented by a cohort of actors and partnered with a Pacific Symphony brass and percussion ensemble. Additionally, conductor and arranger Greg Flores will be presenting a captivating program of works by Mexican composers for audiences of all ages to enjoy.

Ponce: Estrellita
Revueltas: Sensemayá
Marquez: Danzón No. 2
Moncayo: Huapango
Rosas: Sobre las Olas

Want more information? Check out the concert on our website here!