February At-A-Glance

Where did January go? Anyways, this year is a LEAP YEAR. That means we have extra events in February! Check them out and HOP on over to the concert hall. (Ok, we’re done with the puns … for now.)

Alain LefevreInternationally acclaimed pianist Alain Lefèvre joins us Feb. 6-8 at 8 p.m. and the 9th at 3 p.m. for Passion, Dreams and Obsession – Berlioz’ Fantastical Symphony. Lefèvre, who will be performing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, is an “unparalleled” performer, and is noted to have “10 of the most agile fingers that have emerged from Quebec.” Along with pieces by Ravel, “Symphonie Fantastique” by French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz will be played. This classic symphonic fairy-tale tells the story of an artist who throws himself into a drug-induced fantasy because of the despair he feels from unrequited love. 

Impressions 2Joining us for our Valentine’s Day shows on Feb. 14-15 at 8 p.m. is former Sting trumpeter Chris Botti! This award-winning, 4x Billboard #1 artist returns to play with Pacific Symphony by popular demand. His influence on contemporary jazz is unmistakable, as he is regarded by some as “one of the top jazz trumpeters in America.” Surprise your loved one with an event that is perfect for this romantic occasion!

8. Cafe LudwigOn Sunday, Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. we are holding our Janáček & Schumann Café Ludwig concert at the Samueli Theater. If you haven’t been to a concert in this intimate setting, then repertoire by Janáček and Schumann are the perfect works to experience. The personal nature of a quintet allows the musical talent of our principal musicians to shine through, hosted as always by Orli Shaham.

186_U8A8037Free Family event! Bring the entire family and join us for Pacific Symphony’s annual Lantern Festival, on Saturday Feb. 22 at 11:00 a.m. to celebrate the Year of the Rat! The Lantern Festival marks the return of spring, representing the reunion of family. Pacific Symphony and South Coast Chinese Cultural Center/Irvine Chinese School join in presenting this free family-friendly festival to commemorate the end of the Lunar New Year celebration with music, dance, art making, riddles and food. Admission is FREE, but tickets are required.

Augustin Hadelich woods 2 lowrezPaganini’s Violin Concerto in D Major is regarded as some of the difficult violin music to perform, even for seasoned professionals. On Feb. 27-29 at 8:00 p.m. his work will be performed by Grammy-winning violin virtuoso Augustin Hadelich in Hadelich Plays Panganini. At only age 35, Hadelich has won international competitions, played for almost every major orchestra around the world and has released music with top music labels. Come out and  experience Hadelich’s take on one of classical music’s toughest pieces – conducted by returning guest artist Michael Francis!

Finally, join Peter and his brave animal friends on Saturday, Feb. 29 at 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., on their  adventure to outsmart the Big Bad Wolf! This retelling of the popular Russian fairy-tale, Peter and the Wolf, will be performed by the Magic Circle Mime Co. and the Pacific Symphony in a fun and fascinating 45-minute concert designed especially for children 5-11. Enjoy FREE interactive activities in the lobby inspired by each concert’s theme! Featuring family-friendly arts and crafts, an instrument petting zoo, and opportunities to meet Symphony musicians, local performing groups and more!

Peter and the Wolf IMG_9529

Looking Forward to Lantern Festival


It’s almost that time again! On February 22, we host our fifth annual Lantern Festival at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. 

Bring the entire family and join our Lantern Festival, celebrating the Year of the Rat! The Lantern Festival, which can be traced back over 2,000 years, takes place 15 days after the Lunar New Year—on the first full moon night in the lunar calendar—and marks the return of spring, representing the reunion of family. The act of lighting and appreciating lanterns is a way for people to let go of the burdens of their old selves and express their best wishes for themselves and their families for the future.

Here are some highlights:

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Pacific Symphony and South Coast Chinese Cultural Center/Irvine Chinese School join in presenting this free family-friendly festival to commemorate the end of the Lunar New Year celebration with music, dance, art making, riddles and food. Join us as the concert hall lobby becomes transformed for the festivities with lanterns created by community members and the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall is opened up to the public for performances featuring local music and dance groups. You’ll have the opportunity to decorate your very own lantern, take in live music, try your hand at solving a riddle, take a Chinese folk dance lesson and more!

Here’s a recap of 2018’s colorful extravaganza!

Admission is FREE, but tickets are required. Due to venue capacity, admission will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the course of the event. Though a ticket does not guarantee immediate admission, ticket holders will be given priority access. Be sure to print out all print-at-home tickets. Celebrate the Year of the Rat with Pacific Symphony’s annual Lantern Festival!

An Interview with Family Opera Star, Alexandra Rupp!

We just interviewed Alexandra Rupp, a budding vocal star in California’s musical scene. A Chapman alumni, Rupp has quickly been building a name for herself in the area, performing on stage and off, and gaining traction on her YouTube channel! She recently performed in our Family Musical Morning’s Opera for Kids: “Elixir of Love.” Read her full interview, down below.

Elixer of Love

Alexandra Rupp, sitting center, sings during “Elixir of Love: Opera for Kids”!

Tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your voice type, and your favorite type of music to perform?

[AR] Hello there! Right now, I am a zwischenfach, which is a fancy German term that means I can sing both soprano (high) music and mezzo-soprano (medium-high) music.

We’re starting off with a tough question right off the bat! I LOVE experimenting with and trying different styles of music from all over, whether it’s opera, traditional pop, musical theater, jazz or even flamenco. But … I would have to pick both musical theater and opera at the moment. Both styles of music marry acting and singing very deeply, which are my two favorite things in the world. Depending on the day, I may want to sing a French aria from “Roméo et Juliette” over a solo from “Carousel,” so – it’s a tie!

Elixer of Love

How many shows have you performed with Pacific Symphony?

[AR] I have been lucky enough to perform eight shows with Pacific Symphony! Most of the shows were for the Opera for Kids series, and one was a play called “King Arthur & The Legend of the Dragon’s Lair” in which I played Queen Guinevere.

Most of my performances have been for the Family Musical Mornings series! I have performed a handful of times for outreach events for art galleries and at the annual Board/Musician/Staff dinner, which have been very fun.

Elixer of Love

Tell us about this Opera for Kids show – who is your character, and what is her arc over the show? Do you have a big number?

[AR] “Elixir of Love” is such a fun show. It is a classic love story, very lightly based off of the tale of Tristan and Isolde, and a magic potion.

My character’s name is Giannetta – I am the “circus gossip,” who knows the inside scoop about everyone and everything going on at our circus. I eventually discover a life-changing secret about Nemorino’s (the male protagonist) uncle and, during my frenzied aria, share this secret with my fellow circus friends. When I spill the beans, so to speak, I incidentally change the course of Nemorino’s life forever.


You’ve worked with Pacific Symphony for quite some time now. How have your performances with us impacted your personal career goals and aspirations?

[AR] I have had such a wonderful journey with Pacific Symphony so far and learned so much over the years with this team. I started these professional-level productions during my freshman year in college, so I owe a lot of what I learned about professionalism in the rehearsal and production process to the team at Pacific Symphony.

With that being said, I fell even more deeply in love with music and acting through these productions. I’ve realized that I adore prep and the rehearsal process. I love building a character and diving headfirst into the details of my role, so that realization has deepened my conviction to work as an actor and singer both in film and television and on stage.

Elixer of Love

What are your thoughts on the importance of arts education for kids, and its declining prevalence in schools?

[AR] It breaks my heart to hear that schools have primarily shifted their budgets to fund sports programs over arts education. I was extremely lucky to attend a high school that happened to have the excess funding to focus on a strong arts program. The opportunity that was given to me – to think beyond my world and put myself in someone else’s shoes to tell a story – changed my life. I know that sounds dramatic. But the arts help children develop their sense of empathy by encouraging them to explore other worlds and stories besides their own. Art encourages us to think abstractly and become more curious about the world around us. Beyond that, the act of creating something in collaboration with others is an invaluable skill to have as an adult, no matter which career path you choose.

This is probably a longer answer that you were looking for. I could write an entire article on why the arts are so integral and beneficial for children to be exposed to. One of my main goals as a performer is to advocate for and enact change throughout our nation’s education system.

I don’t have a singular solution per say, since this issue is so convoluted, but if I could encourage one thing, it would be for people to stay curious. Go on a date to listen to a Beethoven symphony. Bucket List item checked off. See which plays are premiering near you once a month, take your child, just for fun, to watch “The Nutcracker” during Christmas. Every show might not be a “magic potion” for you, but try it and it might just change your life.


“Arts-X-press” Applications Opening Soon!

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Students from across Orange County arrive at arts-X-press on a bus that picks them up and drops them off near their home school

Creativity, art and self-expression can be such an important part of one’s growth and development. Not only are people, especially kids, able to express their personality, but there is no limit to what can be communicated through the arts. It doesn’t matter whether it is music, singing, acting, dancing, painting or writing: the possibilities for expression are endless. Now, imagine a place where budding young artists and creative thinkers come together to explore the art, nourish their sense of self and make lasting friendships.

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At arts-X-press each student participates in an arts workshop, which delves into an art form, teaches collaboration and helps students find their artistic voice

Arts-X-press is a unique camp environment that values students’ individuality and helps cultivate an appreciation for the magic in life and the courage in to make meaningful contributions to their communities. For five days, incoming 7th and 8th grade students can make new friends, stay in a college dorm, enjoy campus meals and immerse themselves in the arts in a supportive and non-competitive environment. Here, students can be themselves unapologetically. Staff and counselors lead students in learning more skills in an art-form they already enjoy and help them venture into something new. They leave feeling more confident in themselves and with a support system filled with students just like them from all over Southern California.

Applications for arts-X-press will be available on Feb. 1, 2020. Check out our website here for more information and to find the application for this amazing program!

Session 1

Arts-X-press students showcase their talent during Parent Presentation, a culmination of the work students produce over the course of the session




The Brass Ancestor


the Ophicleide

Music has played a huge role over many centuries in defining generations, places and time periods – but have you ever wondered about the history of modern day instruments? One instrument that most people probably have not heard of is the Ophicleide.

Introduced in the early 19th century, the Ophicleide is said to be a predecessor to the modern tuba, and looks like a cross between a baritone saxophone, a keyed bugle and a tuba. The word “ophicleide” in Greek literally means “serpent with keys.” The Serpent was a wooden instrument that was uniquely twisted into an s-shape but played by a mouthpiece like a horn or trumpet. As early as the 1500’s, the Serpent was the bass of the brass family and was almost exclusively used in the church and high mass. To make this instrument easier to play, the Ophicleide was invented.

The Serpent Trumpet

the Serpent

Unlike the Serpent, the Ophicleide was introduced immediately into the orchestra. Its most prominent introduction into the classical music world was in Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, composed in 1830. In this mystical piece, Berlioz invoked two Ophicleides and four Bassoons to chant out one of the most well-known and haunting classical melodies, Dies Irae, the song of the dead. Check out the video to hear the Ophicleide’s sound, and the Dies Irae, live!


On February 6-8, the enchanting sounds of Dies Irae can be experienced along with the rest of Berlioz’ revolutionary Symphonie Fantastique at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Conducted by Maestro St. Clair and performed by Pacific Symphony, this incredible concert will also feature guest artist Alain Lefèvre for a musical experience you do not want to miss. Learn more here!


Emma Ballen is a Senior at Chapman University, studying Business Administration, and is currently an entertainment host as Disneyland, interning with the Symphony’s Marketing & Public Relations department.

Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas

This is Beethoven’s 250th birthday year, and former Symphony guest pianist Boris Giltburg is recording all 32 of the great composer’s piano sonatas! His website explains:

“To celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary year, I will be learning and filming all 32 of his sonatas over the coursedevelopment. Giltburg explains: “I will attempt to view each sonata—or most of them, at least—as the highest point of what Beethoven could achieve at that time, which makes every sonata interesting in itself, not only for its position in the cycle.”

Giltburg’s project is probably the most interesting way to celebrate Beethoven’s immense catalog of incredible music this birthday year, and we can’t wait to see the first sonata! You can follow the entire project on his website, Beethoven32.com, or on his YouTube channel!

Looking Forward to “Lunar New Year”


‘Tis the “Year of the Rat,” and we couldn’t be more excited here at the Symphony for another colorful Lunar New Year celebration at the end of the month! For the past several years, we’ve celebrated the Lunar New Year with some incredible concerts.

The Year of the Rat, and the animal itself, are an interesting part of the Chinese zodiac calendar, and myth surrounding the Lunar New Year. According to this website, “the Jade Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived at the finish line, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox, becoming first. In the terms of yin and yang, the Rat is ‘yang,’ and represents the beginning of a new day. In Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of wealth and surplus … married couples also prayed to them for children.”

Here are some highlights from last year’s concert …









Don’t miss our celebratory concert on Jan. 25 in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall! Tickets and more information here.

LI: Spring Festival Overture
HE & CHEN: “The Butterfly Lovers” Violin Concerto (mov. 1)
KIM: “Look at Me!!,” Theme and Variations on a Korean Folk Tune (World Premiere)
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 (mov. 4)
WEI: “Flourish the Whip to Urge on the Horse”
YAO: “Do La Ji”

~ Intermission ~

WILLIAMS: “Liberty” Fanfare
ZHANG: “Peking Opera Medley”
MASCAGNI: “Voi lo sapete” from “Cavalleria Rusticana”
MASCAGNI: “Regina coeli” from “Cavalleria Rusticana”
VERDI: “Brindisi” from “La Traviata”
VERDI: “Gloria all’Egitto” from “Aida”
LIU: “My Homeland”
WARD: “America the Beautiful”


Celebrating 25 Years of “Class Act”

“Music is always about people, wanting to connect, and connecting together”

—Valerie Imhof, Class Act co-founder and program chair

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Class Act “godmother” Valerie Imhof with Class Act musician and assistant principal bass Doug Basye and Class Act ambassador Tom Casey

In 1994, parents from seven Orange County elementary schools sat around a table and discussed their hopes and dreams for music in their children’s lives. Guided by then-Education Director Kelly Lucero and Pacific Symphony supporter Valerie Imhof, this group of visionaries conceived a unique partnership between the Symphony and local school communities—and Class Act was born.

Symphony musicians would serve at the heart of this new and exciting partnership. Parents, teachers and administrators at seven inaugural schools would also play an important role, each bringing their own unique contribution to the program. In September 1994, Class Act went from being a beautiful dream to a vibrant reality. Three Symphony musicians joined the team as the program’s first teaching artists: Cynthia Ellis, Flute; Andrea Honea, cello; and Michael Hoffman, trombone. Today, the Frieda Belinfante Class Act program has served more than 250,000 students, making a lasting impact on school communities through workshops, lessons, assemblies and concerts at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. In the 2019-20 school year the program will serve 14,680 students in 29 schools from 14 cities across Orange County. The cornerstone of Class Act’s funding is a multi-year grant from the Fieldstead Foundation, in the name of musician, conductor and educator Frieda Belinfante.


Celebrating the Vision of Class Act’s “Godmother”

A violinist, teacher and passionate lover of music, Valerie Imhof has been the beating heart of Class Act throughout its quarter-century history. Though her official title is Class Act co-founder and program chair, Valerie is affectionately known as the program’s beloved “godmother.” When asked what inspired her to create Class Act collaboratively with a group of parents, she says, “We wanted to develop a program that actually connected with schools in a very meaningful way, and we thought that parents would have a good idea of how to do this.”

This approach, putting parents at the center of the partnership, clearly worked. It continues to be a critical part of the program’s success, as Valerie has seen over the years. “Involving the parents was the best way forward, because we were invited to be part of their schools, instead of imposing ourselves upon them and trying to ‘sell’ what we had. Today, the parents’ role is just as essential, with parent volunteers handing down their knowledge to the next generation of parents.” Valerie then shares a benefit of the program that she never imagined. “Some of those parent volunteers are still with us many years later, as volunteers, and as staff.” Valerie’s pride is well founded.

The current Class Act staff  team, led by the Symphony’s Director of Education Jonathan Terry, boasts no fewer than three former Parent Coordinators with many, many more serving as regular Symphony volunteers.


Inspiration and the Joy of Learning

25 years on, Valerie still finds joy and inspiration in her involvement with Class Act. “I get involved with all of these wonderful people, and these fabulous musicians in a way that I would never have been able to do before. I get to watch them work. For me, this is a royal gift.”

She particularly loves the Class Act Lessons, where specially-trained Symphony teaching artists work directly with a single classroom of students, teaching them about their musical lives and the lives and music of a new and inspiring composer each year. “You think that you have already heard all the questions that could ever be asked, but then at the end of a lesson a student asks a question that you would never have even thought of! You then know that they have really become engaged and involved in a way that they have found meaningful.”

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Students attending a Class Act lesson

Valerie also loves the moments when students have the opportunity to hear “their” musician play as part of an ensemble, both at a school’s Family Night chamber music concert, and when the schools come to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall for the yearly Youth Concerts.

“My favorite moment was when one of my students, who barely smiles and acts ‘cool’ all the time, told me without hesitation and without embarrassment, that he cried through the whole Youth Concert, out of pure emotion. My heart sang hearing him say those words,” shares a teacher from Heritage Elementary in Tustin. It is indeed moments like these that inspire us all.

“I can’t even imagine my life without Class Act,” Valerie reflects. “I have made such friends along the way. But most of all, the program is always growing, and always changing. Because it is all about the people. Music is always about the people, wanting to connect and connecting together. And it is about the sincerity of our musicians wanting to connect, too. It has been really special to me, because when everything works, it is just magical.”


Lasting Impacts

In celebrating Class Act, Valerie and the whole Class Act Family joyously celebrate the lasting impacts that the program has had on its students.

In the fall of 2007 a kindergartner named Sean Oliu heard the beautiful strains of Mozart’s music at his first Class Act Prelude Assembly at Adelaide Price Elementary School in Anaheim. He met his Class Act musician Mike Hoffman, and according to his mother Robbie Hernandez-Oliu, the seeds for a vibrant musical future were planted. Today, Sean is a high school senior at Servite High School and is a featured performer on Disney’s “Club Mickey Mouse,” where he writes and performs his own music. Even more importantly, Sean is the founder of Kids Giving Back, a local not-for-profit that supports music education in Anaheim schools.

Another high school senior, Kyle Graham, details how Class Act opened the doors for him to discover his own future in music. “Class Act stimulated my interest and love for music, as now I want to be a music major in college. I also found out about the Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles and have been in Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble for four years.”

Kyle’s mother, Melanie, who served as a volunteer Class Act Parent Coordinator for many years, provides a parent’s perspective on her family’s Class Act experience. “As a parent in Class Act, I learned about all the programs available to students with an interest in pursuing music at a higher level. I also learned that most professional musicians are very encouraging and willing to help students make their way into broader musical experiences.”

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Class Act Alumnus Kyle Graham performing with Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble


Celebrating 25 Amazing Years

Valerie Imhof can’t wait to launch the 2019-20 Class Act season. “I’m looking forward to this year. And I love those musicians! I’m so proud of them and the work they do. And so proud our incredible staff who hold everything together, and our dedicated volunteers who give hours and hours and hours.” She has a lot to be proud of. Class Act celebrates its 25th anniversary, and Carl St.Clair’s 30th anniversary, with the music of John Williams and the theme, “Symphony at the Movies.”

“I am very excited about John Williams! So many of our Pacific Symphony musicians have played his movie scores with him, and now we get to share this with our students and schools,” Valerie enthuses. “It is going to be a great year!”


This article was written by Vice President of Education & Community Engagement Susan Miller Kotses. You can learn more about our Class Act program on our website here!

All You Need to Know About “Beethoven’s Violin Concerto”

Starting the New Year off strong is “Beethoven’s Violin Concerto,” a concert taking place from Jan. 16-18. Clara-Jumi Kang performs this wickedly lyrical piece, often referred to as “The Emperor Concerto,” as Christian Arming conducts the Symphony.

Elsewhere on the program are Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony, rich with the sounds of his Czech homeland. Arming states:

edf2c5c9331bf7d7b9ed058f7bd05fa7.jpgThe Eighth symphony touches me in a very special way. The melody in eighth symphony naturally flows out from its heart. The rich emotionality paired perfectly with its musical ideas. In the meantime, composer had very clear thoughts about the overall structure and organize it well. It reminds me of symphony works from Brahms.


Clara-Jumi Kang also notes:

clara-jumi-kang017.jpgI love Beethoven too much. If this concerto didn’t exist, maybe I wouldn’t love the violin as much. … I found myself thinking that Beethoven is much too great for me to control it. It’s from above this earth, and I should just play it, just worship it as something from above. That is what I focused on all evening.


The Oregon Symphony’s program notes, written by Elizabeth Schwartz, describe the concerto:

Ludwig van Beethoven’s only violin concerto is truly iconoclastic, and it shattered conventional notions of what an early Romantic concerto could be. Instead of using the concerto as a vehicle to show off the soloist’s technique, Beethoven recreated the genre, giving the soloist plenty of opportunities to display their talents with music full of depth and innovation.

Beethoven’s Violin Concerto had an interesting performance history, with a world premiere that was less-than ideal.

It is believed that Beethoven finished the solo part so late that Clement had to sight-read part of his performance.Perhaps to express his annoyance, or to show what he could do when he had time to prepare, Clement is said to have interrupted the concerto between the first and second movements with a solo composition of his own, played on one string of the violin held upside down; however, other sources claim that he did play such a piece but only at the end of the performance. The premiere was not a success, and the concerto was little performed in the following decades.

While we can’t promise Clara will be attempting any of the theatrics described above, we can promise a beautiful and energetic rendition of one of the finest pieces of violin music ever composed.

Grab your tickets while you can – we’ll see you there!

The Real Differences in Piano Player’s Brains


The little bolts of electricity running through their neurons as they play are not connected the same way as concert goers’. Piano players brains even work differently than the way musicians’ are wired. And this is all because of the instrument they are playing. The piano makes them and their brains unique.

You’re a musician. You know in your heart that your brain works differently than everybody else, but can’t exactly put your finger on why. LifeHack has a great article outlining some of the brain differences in those who play an instrument – specifically, piano players.

Among examples listed are:

  • Piano players are more balanced
  • Piano players are more logical multitaskers

And my personal favorite:

  • Piano players are well practised at conversing (though not in a language we are used to using everyday)

Check out the article here, and let us know how playing an instrument has changed your brain!