Halloween with Hildur Guðnadóttir

0_odd-WmYem8NgYFG7Pacific Symphony is here to give you the chills and thrills of a composer with two eerie soundtracks – Happy Halloween!

Five episodes and 19 Emmy nods later, HBO’s “Chernobyl” felt like a real cultural event. If you haven’t seen this breathtaking limited series, this miniseries led by Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson dramatizes the true story of the 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of the Ukrainian SSR, based in part on recollections of Pripyat locals, as told in Svetlana Alexievich’s book “Voices from Chernobyl.”

sU8y4WqoWhat makes this dread-filled series perfect for the Halloween spirit is its spooky, ethereal soundtrack by Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, known for her work on creating the atmosphere of 2015’s “Sicario” and 2016’s “Arrival.” If you’re interested in her composition process for “Chernobyl,” make sure to check out this great Classic FM article here – she discusses how she utilizes real field recordings of a nuclear power plant in her haunting score. You’ll want to listen to the soundtrack to get a sense of the tense world she builds – check it out on Spotify here!

maxresdefaultGuðnadóttir also composed the soundtrack for one of the most-discussed films of the year: “Joker” featuring Joaquin Phoenix. After Jared Leto’s portrayal of the iconic DC villian garnered widespread disapproval from fans, the stakes were high for this origin film. However, if the box office is anything to go by (currently holding the top spot for highest-grossing R-rated film of all time at $857.9 million), Phoenix’s portrayal is set to be a pop-culture rival to the late Heath Ledger’s iconic 2008 performance in “Dark Knight.” Guðnadóttir’s again provides a proper soundtrack for this film: tense, slow-moving, atmospheric and most importantly, goosebump-inducing.

“Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?”

Listen to Guðnadóttir’s “Joker” soundtrack on Spotify here! Have a spooky and safe Halloween!


Meet our new Principal Bass, Michael Franz!

Michael FranzMichael Franz will join Pacific Symphony as principal bass in January 2019. A native of Burlington, Vt., he began playing double bass in public school at age 14. Franz is a 2014 graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he received his bachelor’s degree in Applied Double Bass and Music Education with High Distinction. He won the Doublestop Foundation Instrument Loan Competition in 2016. In 2018, he completed his master’s degree from Bard College as a member of the inaugural class of The Orchestra Now, with which he often performed as principal bass at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. From 2018-19, he was a fellow with the New World Symphony.

Since 2017, Franz has performed as a regular substitute with the Philadelphia Orchestra and has joined them on tours throughout Europe and Asia. Franz has also performed professionally with the National Symphony Orchestra and numerous orchestras throughout the northeastern U.S. A passionate music educator, Franz has taught in public schools around New York state and the Miami area. In the summers of 2016 and 2017, he coached and performed with string students in Colombia, Calif.

His festival appearances have included the New York String Orchestra Seminar, Verbier Festival Orchestra, Moritzburg Festival Academy, and Bard Music Festival. His primary teachers were William Tilley and James VanDemark.

What’s New in November!

Fall-LeavesThe Halloween season is here, and November is just around the corner. That means colder weather, pumpkin pie and exciting concerts with Pacific Symphony! Performances are scheduled for the first and third weekends.

The first weekend we will host our opening Pops concert, “An Evening with Stephen Sondheim & Andrew Lloyd Webber.” For two nights, Nov. 1-2, Pacific Symphony features Principal Pops Conductor Richard Kaufman on the podium as he leads guest vocalists Scarlett Strallen, Debbie Gravitte and Hugh Panaro. The ensemble will explore the careers of these illustrious figures from Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd and Company to Webber’s Phantom of the Opera and Cats, to name only a few. These memorable Broadway classics performed by such accomplished musicians will make it an evening you won’t want to miss!


Pianist Aaron Diehl joins us Nov. 14-16

“Rhapsody in Blue” starts off the third weekend and runs for three nights, Nov. 14-16. These concerts intertwine the works of George Gershwin, George Chadwick and Florence Price as they redefine the American sound through the beginning of the 20th century. The way these composers infuse the spirit of innovation and unconventional composition makes their music simply mesmerizing. The concerts  feature the celebrated conductor Mei-Ann Chen, as well as the distinguished pianist Aaron Diehl for this fun, jazzy night of American music.

2011 Youth Orchestra

Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, led by Associate Conductor Roger Kalia

Concluding the month is our three-day Youth Ensemble fall concert series (Nov. 16-18): Pacific Symphony’s Santiago Strings, Youth Wind Ensemble and Youth Orchestra, each of whom performs on their own day. These hand-selected students have been hard at work perfecting renowned pieces ranging from beloved classics to contemporary American music. Come out and show your support for one of our most popular Youth events of the year! This concert is free but space is limited.

We’ll see you at the Concert Hall!


Jacob Sanchez is an arts and culture writer based in Southern California. His work has been published in the “Inkslinger” and “River Voice” journals.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Segerstrom


Sondheim, shown here in 1974, won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Sunday in the Park with George. He has also received eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy awards and a Kennedy Center Honor. 
Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

With Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday coming up next year, and a Pops concert celebrating the legacy he’s left on musical theater right around the corner (shameless ticket plug), we’d like to bring your attention to an interview from NPR’S “Fresh Air,” hosted by Terry Gross. Gross interviews Sondheim on his storied history in musical theater, as they discuss such hit-shows as “West Side Story,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Sweeney Todd,” “A Little Night Music” and more.


Check out the full 46-minute interview here, and we’ll see you this weekend for “Sondheim & Webber”!


Nov. 1-2, we will be performing such Sondheim hits as:

  • “Comedy Tonight” from “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”
  • “Broadway Baby” from “Follies”
  • “Not While I’m Around” from “Sweeney Todd”
  • “Move On” from “Sunday in the Park with George”
  • “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music”
  • “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from “Gypsy”
  • “Being Alive” and “Getting Married Today” from “Company”




“A Commitment To Excellence”

JEANNE_1078_12-13-18_alpha_editIt was May, 1992, and I entered the labyrinth basement of our former concert hall to warm up for my audition for Pacific Symphony. I was grateful for the signs directing me to the green room, the warmup spaces and the room that we would randomly draw our numbers to determine the order in which we would audition. It was 8 a.m. and auditions were going to begin at 9 a.m. Little did I know what lay in store for me, both on that day and for the next 28 years!

Over the next hours, candidates played multiple preliminary rounds and were either thanked and sent home or invited to participate in the final rounds beginning later in the evening. This was the last audition in which the final rounds did not have a “screen,” so the committee and the candidate were free to interact and not hidden from each other. In the last finals round of the day, I walked in at around 10:30 p.m. to offer more excerpts from the standard orchestral repertoire. I was tired. The committee was tired. It had been a very long day for all. The committee asked to hear a particularly difficult excerpt from Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 one more time. My brain was foggy and my fingers felt like jelly, but I focused and gathered my courage and began. It was not going well–by the end of the first line of music my heart fell and I knew that I would likely not be offered a job in this orchestra.

Just then, Carl St.Clair stopped me and asked if I would like to begin again. I clearly remember having two, simultaneous thoughts–the first was something like, “Oh, yes, would I ever like to have another try at this, wow it really was that awful, I hope that I can manage to do better the second time!” The second thought was extreme gratefulness at being given another shot at it and wild appreciation that Maestro St.Clair recognized that this demonstration was not congruent with the rest of my playing that day. It was clear to me that he understood the lateness and the fatigue and was trying to give me the opportunity to perform with excellence, in spite of the difficult circumstances. When they called the names of the winning candidates, mine was one of them.

Why do I begin with this story? That audition was my first introduction to Carl St.Clair, and my perception of his motivation that day was that excellence matters, excellence should be given a chance and excellence is achievable even under difficult circumstances. In the 28 years that I have been in Pacific Symphony, I have seen this quality of his manifested in so many different ways.

My first rehearsal with Pacific Symphony was in a classroom at Santa Ana High School. You can imagine that the acoustics were not the best, and we struggled to find any balance or nuance of sound. We had a limited season of Classics concerts and a small Pops and Family concert series. Even in these humble beginnings, Carl gave 100%. He was not one to make excuses or blame the surroundings or circumstances. He was determined to produce the most excellent performance possible, and would persevere with whatever level of detail was necessary for that result. Of course, now we perform in a beautiful state-of-the- art concert hall as a result of his vision and his desire to serve the musicians and the community with excellence.

It would take too much space to list all of the innovative and creative programs that Maestro St.Clair has been responsible for (please do read the “History of Pacific Symphony” for the amazing list!) but there are a few that are especially meaningful to me. Our tours to Europe (2006) and China (2018) and our Carnegie Hall debut (2018). The Café Ludwig chamber music series and the interesting and educational Sunday afternoon matinees. The community programs that are serving and engaging such important groups–arts X-press, Heartstrings and Strings for Generations, just to name a few. And, of course, the “Symphonic Voices” opera initiative. These are but a handful of the ways that Pacific Symphony is bringing music and impacting our communities for good and they are a direct result of Carl’s commitment to excellence and his leadership.

I would be remiss in my tribute to Carl St.Clair if I did not mention his appreciation and respect for the musicians that he shares the stage with. In my 28 years with the orchestra I have never seen him speak, or give a presentation, or accept an award without humbly acknowledging and giving credit to the musicians of Pacific Symphony for their artistry, musicianship and excellence.

I feel incredibly blessed to have been part of Carl’s vision and commitment to excellence for the past 28 years. Our musician “family” has been through many things together, from joyous to sorrowful and all the many emotions in between. Through it all, Carl has continued to always strive for the best, the highest and the most excellent. Fueled by the honest outpouring of his heart, the music that Pacific Symphony makes and offers to you is a testament of Carl St.Clair’s vision, his personal desire to positively impact others with the power, beauty and healing qualities of music, and his inextinguishable commitment to excellence.

We are so very grateful. Congratulations, Carl, on your 30th anniversary season with Pacific Symphony!

Written by Jeanne Skrocki, Assistant Concertmaster

Introducing Hanbyul Jang, second violin!

Hanbyul JangGet to know another one of our new musicians – today, second violinist Hanbyul Jang! She, along with Warren, Julie and Joanna will be featured in our concert this weekend, Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique”!

A native of South Korea, Hanbyul Jang joined Pacific Symphony in September 2019. Hanbyul’s precollege studies were with Dennis Kim, the concertmaster of Pacific Symphony. She received a bachelor of music degree from the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles where she studied with Robert Lipsett. Jang received her masters of music degree and graduate certificate from USC Thornton School of Music where she was a full scholarship recipient and studied under the tutelage of Glenn Dicterow, the former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. Jang served as concertmaster in the Thornton Symphony Orchestra and was the recipient of the USC Thornton Orchestra Award. For several years, she has performed with Pacific Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra as a substitute player and has had the opportunity to tour with them both in the United States and abroad. She also performs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and LA Opera as a substitute violinist. An active chamber musician, Jang has recently appeared on the Colburn Chamber Music Society and the Da Camera Society series in Los Angeles, and has performed in France with her string quartet. Jang has attended several summer festivals, including the Bowdoin International Music Festival and the Aspen Music Festival & School as a fellowship recipient. She participated in the Colburn Teaching Fellows Program where she discovered her passion for teaching and, in particular, working with kids with special needs.

Meet Julie Ahn, first violin!

Ahn-Julie_663x513.jpgAnother day, another new musician to add to the Pacific Symphony family! Today, get to know Julie Ahn, who was just added to our first violin roster. Julie, along with Joanna and Warren, will be performing during our upcoming Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” concert, Oct. 17-19.

Julie Ahn received her bachelor and master of music degrees at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, under the tutelage of Victor Danchenko. Her principle teachers have included Alexander Treger and Michelle Kim. Ahn has worked with world-renowned artists such as Ruggiero Ricci, Boris Garlitsky, Christian Tetzlaff and Pamela Frank. She appeared in major concert venues including Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall and the Library of Congress.

Prior to joining Pacific Symphony in 2019, Ahn regularly performed as a guest musician with the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington National Opera and the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. In addition to her performing career and private teaching studio, she adjudicated for festivals, competitions and led sectionals for youth orchestras. She also served as adjunct instructor of music at the Howard Community College.




Meet new 1st violinist Joanna Lee!

Lee-Joanna_663x515.jpgContinuing our series of posts introducing you, or our online audience, to our new musicians, we’re excited to introduce you all to our new 1st violinist, Joanna Lee! She’ll be performing during our upcoming Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” concert, Oct. 17-19. (Grab your seats before they’re gone!)

Violinist Joanna Lee has performed throughout Korea, Japan, China, Europe and the United States in significant venues such as the KKL in Luzern, the JT Art Hall in Tokyo and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. She was a soloist with the Suwon Symphony and has been invited to prestigious festivals such as the Verbier Festival, La Jolla Music Society, Kuhmo Festival and the Mozarteum Summer Academy. A prizewinner from a number of competitions, Lee holds first prizes from the Padova International Competition, Korea Times Competition, Utah Chamber Music Competition and the Beverly Hills Consortium. She was a recipient of multiple scholarships such as the Colburn Foundation Scholarship and the Fritz-Gerber Scholarship.

As a chamber and orchestral musician, Lee is active in the greater Los Angeles area and abroad. She was awarded the first prize in the International Music Competition Grand Prize Virtuoso in London and fourth prize at the Schoenfeld International String Competition this past summer in Harbin, China. She is a founding member of the piano quartet Los Angeles Ensemble, which performs primarily in the Los Angeles area, and also coordinated the Korea-Japan Chamber Music Tour, which took place in three cities in Korea and Japan. In addition to her recent position as principal second violinist of the Redland Symphony, she is a member of Pacific Symphony. Also a devoted educator, Lee was Visiting Lecturer at Scripps College and is currently on the faculty at the Colburn Community School of Music of Performing Arts.

Born into a musical family, Lee began playing the violin at the age of six. She attended the University of Music in Basel, Switzerland and the University of Vienna, where she completed her studies with distinction under the guidance of Adelina Oprean and Dora Schwarzberg. During this time, she also received close musical guidance from Mikyung Lee and Ikhwan Bae. She holds a Doctoral of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (Phi Kappa Lambda), where she studied under the tutelage of Margaret Batjer on a full scholarship. Her areas of concentration were sacred music, jazz and baroque violin.

Meet Our New Principal Cello, Warren Hagerty!


Warren Hagerty: Cello, Principal, Catherine and James Emmi Chair

With 5 new musicians joining us for our 2nd Classical concert, Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique,” we’d like to highlight the new faces you’ll notice on stage with Carl St.Clair!

As of 2019, Warren Hagerty is the new principal cellist of Pacific Symphony. An avid chamber musician, he was the founding cellist of the Verona Quartet. As a member of the quartet, he was awarded top prizes in international chamber music competitions on four continents, including the Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition, Osaka International Chamber Music Competition, Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and Concert Artists Guild’s Victor Elmaleh Competition. The Verona Quartet was featured as “New Artist of the Month” in Musical America in May 2016. He has performed at many of the world’s most renowned venues, such as Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Kennedy Center and the Sydney Opera House. Warren holds degrees from The Juilliard School and Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music; his primary mentors have included members of the Juilliard String Quartet, Pacifica Quartet, Eric Kim and Sharon Robinson.


He has collaborated with many great musicians including Renée Fleming, David Shifrin, Cho-Liang Lin and Orion Weiss. He has appeared at numerous festivals such as the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest, Indiana University String Academy, Chelsea Music Festival, McGill International String Quartet Academy and the New York String Orchestra Seminar, where he was principal cellist in 2010. A strong proponent of new music, Warren was involved in commissioning and premiering composer Michael Gilbertson’s first string quartet, which was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in music. He has also premiered works by Richard Danielpour and Sebastian Currier. Among Warren’s many teaching engagements have been Teaching Assistant positions at The Juilliard School and Indiana University, as well as faculty roles at Indiana University String Academy and Oberlin String Quartet Intensive and Festival, and Teaching Artist positions with Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and Caesura Youth Orchestra. Warren is the Director of Junior Chamber Music Los Angeles.

Make sure to check out the Verona Quartet’s performance of Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major below!


Verdi’s Otello … in 3 minutes

Love, betrayal and jealousy – all trademarks of great tragic opera, condensed here for you. Get to know Verdi’s “Otello” in just minutes with this informative radio segment from WQXR, New York’s classical music station!

Don’t miss our production of this epic take on Shakespeare’s tale, featuring Carl Tanner, Kelebogile Besong and Greer Grimsley, who last performed with us a stirring excerpt from “Die Walküre” as Wotan during Opening Night of 2017. Check out the video below!

Verdi’s “Otello,” with returning stage director Robert Neu and our longtime artistic partner Pacific Chorale, takes place April 23, 25 and 28 at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall – get your tickets here!