Family Musical Mornings Returns with “Moments” Highlighting Beethoven’s “Pastoral”

An exciting series of kid-friendly Virtual Concerts and Family Musical Moments (short musical explorations) begins this week and continues into the summer. All Musical Moments and Virtual Concerts are led by Assistant Conductor Dr. Jacob Sustaita and made possible through the generous sponsorship of Farmers & Merchants Bank.

Family Musical Moment: Beethoven’s Pastoral, Part I: May 8 at 10 a.m.
Family Musical Moment: Beethoven’s Pastoral, Part II: May 22 at 10 a.m.
Virtual Family Concert: Build Your Own Adventure!: June 5 at 10 a.m.
Family Musical Moment III: June 26 at 10 a.m.
Virtual Family Concert: Christmas in July with The Nutcracker: July 24 at 10 a.m.

Dr. Jacob Sustaita

In the first Family Musical Moment, Dr. Sustaita invites listeners to explore the beginning of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6. It’s nicknamed the “Pastoral” because it reflects the composer’s love of nature. Beethoven loved to go for long walks in the countryside far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. As Dr. Sustaita guides you through the Symphony, see if you can feel the peace of being out in nature. You’ll enjoy the fun, color commentary cartoon pop-ups in the video that tell you what’s happening in the music. To watch the first Family Musical Moment on Saturday morning, May 8 at 10 a.m., check it out on our YouTube or Facebook pages, or visit our website here. If you’re unable to watch at that time, you can tune in anytime for the next month, until June 7, 2021.

Announcing Our 21-22 Classical Season!

After more than a year of producing online education and performance content,Music Director Carl St.Clair and President John Forsyte today announced the return of live music to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Hall with Pacific Symphony. The 2021-22 concert season begins Sept. 30 with a festive opening night featuring internationally acclaimed pianist Emanuel Ax as soloist, kicking off the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series for the 2021-22 season.

Music Director Carl St.Clair commented, “Pacific Symphony musicians and I are so happy to be reuniting with our audiences. From the bottom of our hearts we welcome you all back and invite you into our musical home once again. The musicians have continued creating great art online during pandemic, but nothing compares with performing for you live in our concert hall. Orange County audiences have come to appreciate a combination of innovative new works, neglected but not forgotten works of the past and classical favorites. In 21-22 we will offer three new world premieres, first-time Pacific Symphony performances, and I am very excited to produce the ambitious opera, Verdi’s ‘Otello,’ which was the first opera I conducted. Lastly, I greatly look forward to partnering with David Ivers, artistic director of our beloved neighbor South Coast Repertory, on ‘The Mozart Project.’”

Read about the 21-22 Classical season at Voice of OC:

Pacific Symphony Musicians Guide String Ensemble to Virtual Concert Performance

Strings for Generations, a multigenerational string and percussion ensemble organized by Pacific Symphony in partnership with the South Coast Chinese Cultural Association, continued to energize the virtual orchestra trend with another season this Spring. 

Through its online format, string students, mentors and instructors met remotely once a week for sectional coaching sessions and larger group ensemble rehearsals with the help of several Pacific Symphony musicians (Cheryl Gates, Viola; Andy Honea, Cello; Jennise Hwang, Second Violin, Assistant Principal; Adam Neeley, Viola; Ann Tenney, First Violin), who joined the rehearsals to coach students and further their playing techniques.

The program kicked off in early March and culminated with last week’s virtual concert that welcomed over 75 guests who showed support and exuberance for our musicians. This final performance fully showcased the ensemble’s collective talents through several classical pieces that included the “Dies Irae” sequence of Mozart’s Requiem, a three-movement arrangement of musical styles from Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Bartok, as well as “Jasmine Flower,” a traditional Chinese folk song.

Pacific Symphony’s own assistant conductor, Dr. Jacob Sustaita, also returned to lead Strings for Generations in its seven-week entirety.

“We need music and ensemble playing more than ever,” Sustaita expressed during a group rehearsal. “Even though we can’t be in the same room right now, we’re still going to make music together.” 

Whether it was conveying dynamic cues, delving into the nuances of bowing techniques or empowering students to use their music as a tool for both comfort and strength, Dr. Sustaita’s exemplary guidance and mentorship stood out through the program’s duration.  “Remember that music is a language—it’s more than black notes on a page,” Dr. Sustaita told students. “So, always say something. Say something with your music in such a way that people can connect with you.” 

Students and parents alike reflected on Dr. Sustaita’s impact as an inspiring mentor:  

  • “Even from the Zoom calls, I can feel the enthusiasm of [Dr. Sustaita] and his professionalism that made me forget that it was online,” said a Strings for Generation parent. 
  • “He really wanted us to do our best. He wasn’t going to let us give up or just have it the ‘easy way’—he wanted us to learn just how adults would,” said sixth-grade second violin student, Valentina.

The essence of this program continues to emphasize creative freedom, especially in a period inundated by limitations and uncertainties. In addition to helping students refine their musicality, the Strings for Generations leadership aspired to facilitate a safe space of artistic expression. In addition to rehearsals, the Strings team organized two workshops for students to explore other art forms that coincided with their playing—from building performance skills to learning about the cultural history behind the music. 

Moments of reflection and growth spawned an overwhelming sense of excitement and imagination in both the instructors and students: 

  • “I thought this program was awesome because it was like putting pieces of a puzzle together,” said fifth-grade second violin student, Jade. “. . . even though I was not able to play in the orchestra in person, I had fun doing it online.”
  • “. . . with support and carefully organized practice, repetition and diligence, they are capable of playing beyond what they had thought they could do,” a music teacher of some Strings students stated. “It was a priceless experience after such a long year in [the pandemic]. They have learned far more than they are aware of, and this experience will serve them for the rest of their lives.”

Since the conversion to a virtual format, the program has not required parent participation. However, the program’s mentors—consisting of high school students and adult alumni— continued to energize the multigenerational spirit of the original program. Younger players could challenge themselves to absorb wisdom from their mentors, while older players could simultaneously use the zeal of the students as a tool for rejuvenating their musical passions. 

Although those types of connections are certainly more challenging to accomplish through a remote setting, they have been present, nonetheless. These seven weeks of practice, collaboration and reflection served as a means for re-defining a time characterized by unpredictability. As we continue to overcome the hurdles of the ongoing public health crisis, arts engagement can not only empower us to conquer negativity but also promote a much-needed sense of empathy between whole communities. 

As we look toward a return to in-person operations in the near future, we hope to return this amazing program into its original, in-person form for the upcoming seasons. However, for the time being, Strings for Generations successfully illustrates that we can continue to enliven the human spirit through the arts, no matter the physical distance or moments of adversity that keep us apart.