Pacific Symphony League: Ambassadors for Music Education

With Pacific Symphony’s 2022-23 season now underway, it’s important to look behind the scenes and offer appreciation to all the individuals who volunteer their time and resources to ensure the success of the Symphony. Devoted to the organization’s mission, goals, and values, the Pacific Symphony League has been serving as the Symphony’s premier volunteer and support group since 1990. With their long-time passion and commitment to the Symphony, the League contributes most importantly as “friend-raising” ambassadors to help further music education in the local community. 

League members at the Symphony Shop with Director of Volunteer Services Abby Edmunds

The League supports many Pacific Symphony education and community engagement programs such as Santa Ana Strings, Heartstrings, arts-X-press, and Class Act. These programs actively make a difference in the local community, helping to inspire and foster a love for music for all ages. The League’s time, effort, and contributions are essential in making that happen. Support from the League finds itself in many different ways, including donations, fundraising, volunteering, and solely operating the Symphony Shop, and Pacific Symphony Store online. 

– Music Director Carl St.Clair and President & CEO John Forsyte

This year, the League welcomes and congratulates six new board members who just began working with the League last year. These new board members are sure to offer a new and dynamic direction for the League as they are in the process of choosing a music education program to highlight for the season. Last year’s season was Class Act, a program that connects the Symphony to elementary school music programs by offering musical expertise and education. Symphony musicians are able to connect with students as Class Act teaching artists through a variety of music-oriented activities. This program has helped to enhance the goals of the Symphony by exposing young students to symphonic music, and to their educators and families. 

One of the ways that the League is able to support these amazing programs financially is through their operation of the Symphony Shop. The shop curates unique items that interest all music lovers. Their products range from clothing, books, and jewelry to toys and music-oriented gifts. Sales from the shop directly benefit all Symphony education and community engagement programs, so your purchases help to positively impact the local community. The shop is open before and after most live performances and anytime at the Pacific Symphony Online Store.

The League will host its Autumn Luncheon on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, at Andrei’s Restaurant. It will feature the Symphony’s Principal Trombonist, Michael Hoffman, who will speak and perform at the event. This event is for League members and potential newcomers interested in joining. There will be time for socializing, Q&A, and of course, delicious food. For more information on attending the luncheon, please contact Abby Edmunds: aedmunds@pacificsymphony.org.

This blog was written by Public Relations/Marketing Intern Samantha Horrocks. She is currently a senior at California State University, Fullerton studying Communications with a concentration in Entertainment and Tourism. 

Top 20 Grossing Box Office Composers

Since the introduction of sound to movies, the film’s music and score have become an essential part of the movie experience. When a score works well, it communicates that which is unspoken, it tells us the mood, it foreshadows, it tells us what the world sounds like, and it sets the tone and feel for the film.

Unlike a soundtrack (a selection of recorded songs accompanying a film), a film score is original music written by a composer hired for the production and almost always includes an orchestra or group of musicians. The music heightens the film’s emotion and transports moviegoers into the cinematic world on the big screen.

So, who are the top-grossing film composers at the worldwide box office? Here’s the top 20 list, as listed by the-numbers.com.

20        Steve Jablonsky – $6.9 billion

19        Randy Newman – $6.9 billion

18        Heitor Pereira – $7.2 billion   

17        Marco Beltrami – $7.4 billion 

16        Alexandre Desplat – $8.9 billion        

15        Thomas Newman – $9.5 billion          

14        Harry Gregson-Williams – $10.1 billion

13        John Debney – $10.4 billion   

12        Howard Shore – $10.6 billion

11        Henry Jackman – $10.7 billion

10        Christophe Beck – $11.4 billion

9          Brian Tyler       $12.6 billion   

8          James Horner – $13.9 billion  

7          John Powell – $14.3 billion     

6          Danny Elfman – $17.9 billion 

5          Alan Silvestri – $18.8 billion

4          James Newton Howard – $19.3 billion

         Michael Giacchino – $21.8 billion      

2          John Williams – $25.5 billion  

         Hans Zimmer – $31.8 billion  

Bring Class Act to Your School Today!

Don’t miss this opportunity to bring Class Act to your elementary school! The Frieda Belinfante Class Act Program connects Pacific Symphony to a select number of elementary schools each year. Class Act strives to enhance existing school music programs by providing additional musical experience through the Symphony. Focusing on six main “contact points” with schools, the program works to increase awareness of and involvement with symphonic music for elementary school students, their families, and educators.

Class Act lesson at partner school.

Each year, students form a relationship with a new Symphony musician who serves as a “Class Act teaching artist,” through activities including classroom lessons, ensemble performances, and scripted presentations. Schools that select the Level II Class Act experience also enjoy either a Youth Concert for older students or an Interactive Performance for younger students. All activities feature the music of the Class Act Composer of the Year.

Click here for applications and additional information on Class Act. Applications for the 2022-23 school year are due by 5 p.m. today. Please contact us with any questions.

Welcome to our First popUP Prelude Party!

Put your party hats on! Pacific Symphony is giving donors, subscribers, and patrons a taste of our Pops Season with our first-ever popUP Prelude Party!

Pacific Symphony announced the addition of a special popUP concert on Tues., Oct. 25. Guest conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez curates and hosts this unique “part concert, part party” event that defies traditional classical music presentation with a program of great live music performed by Pacific Symphony in a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. He will offer highlights of the 2022-23 season along with Broadway tunes and the sweeping, cinematic new music of GRAMMY®-nominated singer/songwriter/composer Cody Fry including his viral TikTok hits, “I Hear a Symphony” and “Eleanor Rigby.”

We sat down with our Enrico Lopez-Yañez to talk about this unique concert and his thoughts on what makes a great pops program.

“I’m very excited about this concert,” explained Maestro Lopez-Yañez, the concert’s guest conductor and the principal pops conductor of the Nashville Symphony. 

“This program, in addition to being full of thrilling music, offers a little of bit of something for everyone. It began with the concept of wanting to highlight some of the various genres and programs on the 2022-23 Pops Series. Then, of course, we added a collaboration with an incredible young talent, Cody Fry, a GRAMMY®-nominated singer/songwriter/composer and producer, whom I had the opportunity to work with at the Kennedy Center this past summer.”

Born in the U.S. and of Mexican descent, Lopez-Yañez grew up playing piano, trumpet and drums while traveling around the globe with his family as his father performed in operas. He also performed with his sister and mother in a group called Me and the Kids, even making a self-titled album before beginning his classical music education (he holds a Master’s in Music, and another Master’s in Orchestral Conducting).

Enrico Lopez-Yañez photo by: Liz Ross Cruse

Lopez-Yañez, an immeasurable advocate for music education, is artistic director and co-founder of Symphonica Productions, an organization that curates and leads programs designed to cultivate new audiences. He also arranges and conducts everything from holiday shows to disco, Latin Fire symphony concerts, and collaborations with artists of every genre. 

When asked what makes a good pops program, Lopez-Yañez explained, “A symphony orchestra has the power, more than almost any other group of musicians, to enhance any style of music. A great pops program involves taking an element of familiarity that the audience expects to hear, then creating something truly unique with the addition of the orchestra.

“Put your favorite ‘80s rock, Hip Hop or Frank Sinatra score in front of an orchestra and you can watch it come to life in a one-of-a-kind way because you have 80-plus musicians enhancing the sound and creating something like you’ve never heard before. Not only is it special sonically, but it’s also special visually. Our art form can so beautifully symbolize what we should have a lot more of in this world—many different voices and individual artists coming together to create something collaboratively beyond anything that is possible individually.”

“My aim in programming is much more about having people fall in love with symphonic music. So that doesn’t necessarily mean classical. That just means music in which an orchestra is involved in the music’s creation,” he added.

This leads us back to this evening’s popUP Prelude Party and the talents of this evening’s guest artist and viral sensation, Cody Fry.

“He is one of the few artists today that doesn’t merely add orchestral elements to an existing song but actually composes his music starting from the idea of the symphony as a primary component. That’s what makes him so unique and special,” continued Lopez-Yañez.

“Enrico is a delightful presence on stage and in real life,” explained Cody Fry, “and I’m thrilled to be working with him again. This is a dream collaboration. I’m so excited to showcase my music with Pacific Symphony.”

“What I love about the music industry right now is that there are just no boundaries or rules or genres,” said Fry, when describing the rise of orchestral music on TikTok. “Gen Z, in particular, has broken down all barriers in terms of listening to and enjoying music. They don’t care if Kate Bush was big 30 years ago; they’re just like, this is the first time we’ve heard this, and it’s dope.

“They don’t care if they’re listening to Debussy, Max Richter or John Williams, and they don’t care what year it’s from. Their attitude is, this is great music, and we enjoy it.”

And we know you’ll feel the same about this popUP Prelude Party. Enjoy!

Cody Fry photo by Samuel Cowden

Pacific Symphony Welcomes Three New Musicians

“I am pleased to welcome three new musicians to the Pacific Symphony family,” said Music Director Carl St.Clair (William J. Gillespie Music Director Chair). “I look forward to working with them beginning this 2022-23 season.”

Yoomin Seo — Associate Concertmaster

Born in 1998, South Korean violinist Yoomin Seo made her debut recital at the Kumho Art Center at age 12, and her solo debut with the Suwon Philharmonic Orchestra at the same age.

In Aug. 2021, Seo won the concerto competition at the Aspen Music Festival and School, where she performed Prokofiev’s first violin concerto at the Benedict Music Tent. She also won the Third Prize at the 2019 Vienna Classic International Strings Competition. In 2016, she won the Second Prize at the Singapore Violin Festival Competition and was awarded First Prize at the Shinhan Music national competition. She also won top prizes in both international and national competitions such as Tchaikovsky International Competition for young musicians, EuroAsia Italy Strings International Competition, Sungjung Competition, Ewha & Kyunghyang Competition, and many others.

Seo has appeared with world-renowned orchestras as a soloist, including the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Suwon Philharmonic Orchestra, New Korea Philharmonic Orchestra, Kazakhstan Eurasian Symphony Orchestra, Ukraine Symphony Orchestra, Korean Symphony Orchestra, and more.

She is an Artist Diploma program candidate at the Colburn Conservatory of Music, where she studies with Robert Lipsett and is a recipient of the Dorothy Richard Starling grant. She received her bachelor’s degree from Korea National University of Arts, where she studied with Sung Ju Lee and graduated with the president’s and highest performance awards.

In March 2022, Seo was invited to premiere James Domine’s third violin concerto with San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra. In 2021, she was invited to the Aspen Music Festival and School (as a violin fellowship). She attended Great Mountains Music Festival & School and was invited as a soloist at the Berlin Koreanisches Kulturzentrum, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Beijing Central Conservatory of Music, and Ukraine. She had masterclasses with many great musicians such as Sholomo Mintz, Ivry Gitlis, Ulf Wallin, Kyung-Wha Jung, Rachel Podger, Dong-Suk Kang, Gerard Poulet, and Donald Weilerstein.

Michael Siess — Violin I

Michael Siess, violin, is an active performer in the Los Angeles area, regularly joining ensembles such as Delirium Musicum and LA Chamber Orchestra.

He has contributed to numerous recordings, including Delirium Musicium’s upcoming debut album, The String Theory’s “Origin,” as well as numerous Hollywood studio sessions. Beginning his musical studies in Portland, OR, Siess holds degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and USC Thornton School of Music, studying with Margaret Batjer, William Preucil, and Itzhak Perlman. Over the summers, he enjoys playing at various festivals, including the Perlman Music Program, Aspen Music Festival, Pacific Music Festival, and the Banff Centre’s Evolution: Classical.

As a soloist, he has made recent appearances with the Portland Chamber Orchestra, Portland Youth Philharmonic, and CIM Orchestra. Siess is a founding member of the classically trained, genre-bending band, Mixtape. Their original music and arrangements can be heard in numerous film soundtracks, animated shorts, music videos, electronic productions, as well as live in clubs around LA. In 2021, they were among the first class of participants at Honeywell Arts Academy’s Resonance Institute in Indiana, receiving mentorship from the band Time for Three. Mixtape’s debut visual album, “Astral Planes,” is now available online.

Gabriela Peña-Kim— Violin II

Gabriela Peña-Kim comes from a musical and diverse family, her father a native of Honduras and her mother from South Korea. She graduated from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, where she studied with Alexander Kerr, concertmaster of Dallas Symphony.

Photo Credit: LA Phil.

After graduating, she played two seasons with Jacksonville Symphony under Music Director Courtney Lewis and has more recently been playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic as part of the Resident Fellow program for the past two seasons under Gustavo Dudamel. Her main focus has been on orchestral playing, attending numerous music festivals, including Music Academy of the West, Pacific Music Festival (PMF), Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, and Aspen Music Festival. She sat alongside Stephen Rose as Principal Second Violin at PMF and was a finalist for the concerto competition at Music Academy. She also enjoys playing chamber music as well. She was a frequent guest artist with the Lawson Ensemble, resident trio at the University of Florida in Jacksonville.

Peña-Kim often performs chamber music alongside her LA Phil colleagues and has had opportunities such as opening the Ford, the newest venue addition to the LA Phil, and performing solo Bach to open a concert featuring Essa-Pekka Salomon’s piece “Fog.” Along with being a part of the St. Augustine Music Festival for the past 10 years, she is also involved in managing the festival with her parents, the founders.

Please help us in welcoming our new musicians to the Pacific Symphony Family!

Why Choose Class Act?

Class Act was created with students in the center and to bring Pacific Symphony directly to schools. Each year, thousands of Orange County students form relationships with their Class Act Teaching Artists that visit the school campus several times during the school year. The culminating event includes a field trip to Reneé and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall to see the entire Pacific Symphony perform a special concert, just for Class Act schools. Click here to read the history of Class Act.

Here is what some Class Act participants have had to say about their experiences:

“Class Act has been a wonderful tradition that I look forward to every year. From getting to know the musicians, learning about the composers and seeing the joy on the children’s faces when they learn something new, the program is very near and dear to my heart. It is a true treasure!”

—Class Act parent coordinator and PFO Co-president

Class Act lesson at a partner school.

“The Class Act program has benefited our school and students by instilling a love and appreciation for classical music. Our school orchestra has grown substantially as we have partnered with the Pacific Symphony.”

—Class Act school principal


“My favorite part of the Class Act Year is the Youth Concert at Segerstrom. The students got to hear professional musicians and got to see what it looks like to pursue music at a high level.”

—Class Act school music teacher

Class Act Youth Concert at Reneé and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall

“Through Class Act I have learned the impact that classical music has on children and how much classical music is in our lives.”

—Class Act school teacher


Click here for applications and additional information on Class Act. Applications due by 5 p.m. on September 30, 2022. Please contact us with any questions.

A Message from Music Director Carl St.Clair

September 19, 2022

Dear Pacific Symphony Family, 

The musicians of Pacific Symphony and I have shared an extraordinary 33-year journey, and so it is with deeply felt appreciation that I share that the Board of Directors and I have come to agreement on a two-year extension of my contract for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons, with an option for additional extensions. I am pleased to reaffirm my commitment to Pacific Symphony and to express how honored I am that the Board has extended my contract for two seasons, and that I will remain music director through 2023-24, if not longer. 

In light of this exciting new contract extension and after much soul searching over the past several months, I have asked our Board Chair John Evans to begin a succession plan and to commence a search for my successor. Until the Symphony secures a successor who will build upon our artistic achievements and successes, I am committed to continue as music director. There is no specific timetable, and this will afford the Board, musicians, and staff the appropriate opportunity to assess potential candidates allowing for a seamless transition. 

It is a great privilege to have worked alongside such an extraordinary group of professional musicians, artists, and friends, who comprise the members of Pacific Symphony. Our collaboration for 33 years continues to be inspiring, and I feel the embrace of their partnership, love, and commitment at every concert. Their passion for music-making and striving for excellence is a constant inspiration. I count our long musical relationship among the greatest blessings of my life and career. 

I am grateful to you—our loyal audiences, subscribers, and donors who have supported and trusted me as the Symphony’s musical leader throughout my long tenure. I have felt the warmth from this community—my community—that I will continue to treasure. I look forward to seeing you in the audience this season and in the coming years ahead. 

I remain committed to Pacific Symphony, and Susan and I will do everything we can to assure the success of our beloved and world-class Pacific Symphony. 

Yours in music always,

Carl St.Clair
William J. Gillespie Music Director

The History of Class Act: How a Dream Became a Vibrant Reality

In the opening months of 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 ardent 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. Cindy Ellis, flute; Andy Honea, cello; and Michael Hoffman, trombone stepped off of the concert stage and into the classroom!

Pictured L-R: Andy Honea (cello), Michael Hoffman (trombone), Kelly Lucero (former Education Director), and Cindy Ellis (flute).

A violinist, teacher, and passionate lover of music, Valerie Imhof has been the beating heart of Class Act since its creation. 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 enthusiastically shares, “we wanted to develop a program that actually connected with the schools in a very meaningful way, and we thought that parents would have a good idea of how to do this.”

Class Act co-founder Valerie Imhof prepares a class for their Class Act lesson.

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

Valerie Imhof, Class Act co-founder and program chair

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.”

Applications are now available for the 2022-2023 Class Act year! For more information on bringing Class Act to your school, visit our website.

Classical Music Inspired by 9/11

When tragedy strikes, we often turn to each other and lean into things that are meaningful—that give us emotional strength, depth, and significance. It’s on this somber day that we honor the 3,000 lives lost in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and we honor the courage of the brave individuals who put themselves in harm’s way to save people they never knew.

Music has magical, healing powers and from this horrendous tragedy came some incredible music written in tribute. Below are three inspirational pieces written by composers who were in NY when the attacks happened—and as Victor Hugo so astutely said, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words.”  

Spared
Howard Goodall, composer

“On 11th September 2001, I was in New York filming for my series Howard Goodall’s Great Dates, walking down 5th Avenue to meet the crew at an arranged rendezvous in Battery Park. I had come parallel to Washington Square when, with my disbelieving eyes (and those of the millions who witnessed it on TV news reports) I watched the catastrophe of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center at firsthand. I stood in the street as the second tower collapsed in front of me and as the tidal wave of dust rushed towards and through me. I tried (and failed) to contact my family in London (Manhattan’s phone masts had come down with the twin towers) to tell them I was safe and alive. It was a further agonizing three hours before calls to the UK were possible. We were cut off from the world in central Manhattan, the island sealed by the FBI and all flights grounded, unable to return home for nearly a week, woken nightly and noisily evacuated onto the street in a series of (understandably) jittery false bomb alarms. That day changed all of our lives, and I knew one day I would want to compose something to come to terms with my feelings about being witness to its catastrophic events.” Howard Goodall, in an interview with Classic FM


A Hymn for the Lost and the Living
Eric Ewazen, composer

“On September 11, 2001, I was teaching my music theory class at the Juilliard School when we were notified of the catastrophe that was occurring several miles south of us in Manhattan. Gathering around a radio in the school’s library, we heard the events unfold in shock and disbelief. Afterwards, walking up Broadway on the sun-filled day, the street was full of silent people, all quickly heading to their homes. During the next several days, our great city became a landscape of empty streets and impromptu, heartbreaking memorials mourning our lost citizens, friends and family. But then on Friday, a few days later, the city seemed to have been transformed. On this evening, walking up Broadway, I saw multitudes of people holding candles, singing songs, and gathering in front of those memorials, paying tribute to the lost, becoming a community of citizens of this city, of this country and of this world, leaning on each other for strength and support. A Hymn for the Lost and the Living portrays those painful days following September 11th, days of supreme sadness. It is intended to be a memorial for those lost souls, gone from this life, but who are forever treasured in our memories.” Eric Ewazen

A Hymn for the Lost and the Living was commissioned by and is dedicated to the US Air Force Heritage of America Band, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, Major Larry H. Lang, Director.


The Sad Park, composed for the Kronos Quartet

Michael Gordon, composer

[excerpts from NPR: Sept. 11 In Children’s Voices: Michael Gordon’s ‘The Sad Park’]

Michael Gordon, one of the co-founders of the new music collective Bang on a Can, [wrote] a September 11 piece, The Sad Park. He found inspiration amid an unlikely group of commentators—the 3- and 4-year-olds who attended a Lower Manhattan preschool with his son after September 11.

“The children would be sitting around doing what they normally do, and then all of a sudden one of them would burst out something about 9/11, and the others would start talking,” Gordon says. “They were in there building things. I remember I would walk in and they would have rebuilt the twin towers.”

When Gordon learned his son’s teacher had been taping the children’s comments, he was fascinated. Gordon made a digital copy of one of the cassettes, and proceeded to let it sit on his desk for several years. He says, “I used to look at it, and I was like, ‘What am I going to do with this?'” Gradually, Gordon found that the short, song-like phrases of the preschoolers packed immense power and emotion. And that’s when music started to take shape in his head—he would manipulate the children’s voices and incorporate them into a piece for the Kronos Quartet.

Gordon also found inspiration in what happened to him and his family that sunny September 11 morning. After walking his daughter to kindergarten at P.S. 234, two blocks north of the World Trade Center, he was startled by a jet. He recalls, “I was just hanging out in the courtyard of the school with the other parents, and basically looked up and saw this very low-flying plane. And then, boom. Someone yells out, ‘The plane just hit the tower.’ I walked into my daughter’s class, told the teacher and picked up my daughter, and we left and walked north up Greenwich Street to our house.”

Gordon says that as the composer, he needed to just disappear when it came to composing The Sad Park. He wanted to let the emotion of the children’s voices have room to breathe. He also didn’t want the music to embody any big, universal statement.

“It’s not political,” Gordon says. “This actually happened to me and my family and my child, and this in a sense was just trying to grab on to a tiny bit of that moment and leave it as a document.”

Celebrating Classical Music Month with Exciting Page Turners

As part of our ongoing celebration of Classical Music Month in September, we’ve pulled together a list of books that commemorate the great composers of the past through to the celebrated contemporary composers of today. Then we’ve sprinkled in some page turners that highlight the incredible artistry that defines classical music. Whether you enjoy reading about Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff or John Williams, or you’re looking to share your love of classical music with young learners and listeners, below are our favorites for music lovers of all ages. If you purchase your books or kindle online, you can support the Symphony every time you make a purchase through AmazonSmile.

Know Before You Go!

Below are books from or about composers whose work Pacific Symphony will perform during its 2022-23 season.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

When Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky died of cholera in 1893, he was without a doubt Russia’s most celebrated composer. Drawing extensively on Tchaikovsky’s uncensored letters and diaries, this richly documented biography explores the composer’s life and works, as well as the larger and richly robust artistic culture of nineteenth-century Russian society, which would propel Tchaikovsky into the international spotlight.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Tchaikovsky’s music? Join us at the concerts below.

Tchaikovsky Spectacular on September 4, 2022
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto on October 20-22, 2022
Nutcracker for Kids! on December 3, 2022
Tchaikovsky & Strauss on February 23-25, 2023
Tchaikovsky’s Fourth on February 26, 2023
Tales from Italy on April 30, 2023


Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph

This magnificent biography of Ludwig van Beethoven peels away layers of legend to get to the living, breathing human being who composed some of the world’s most iconic music. Jan Swafford (Brahms and Mozart) mines sources never before used in English-language biographies to reanimate the revolutionary ferment of Enlightenment-era Bonn, where Beethoven grew up and imbibed the ideas that would shape all of his future work. Swafford then tracks Beethoven to Vienna, capital of European music, where he built his career in the face of critical incomprehension, crippling ill health, romantic rejection, and “fate’s hammer,” his ever-encroaching deafness. More than a decade in the making, this will be the standard Beethoven biography for years to come. 

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Beethoven’s music? Join us at the concerts below.

Beethoven & Boléro on September 22-24, 2022
Bach & Beethoven with George Li on October 9, 2022
Respighi & Beethoven with Shunta Morimoto on January 22, 2023
Mozart & Beethoven with Drew Petersen on April 23, 2023


Johannes Brahms: A Biography

Proclaimed the new messiah of Romanticism by Robert Schumann when he was only 20, Johannes Brahms dedicated himself to a long and extraordinarily productive career. Making unprecedented use of the remaining archival material, Jan Swafford offers richly expanded perspectives on Brahms’s youth, his difficult romantic life–particularly his longstanding relationship with Clara Schumann–and his professional rivalry with Lizst and Wagner. Judicious, compassionate, and full of insight into Brahms’s human complexity as well as his music, Johannes Brahms is an indispensable biography.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Brahms’ music?

Join us for Brahms Symphony No. 4 on October 23, 2022


Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman

This absorbing and award-winning biography tells the story of the tragedies and triumphs of Clara Wieck Schumann (1819–1896). At once artist, composer, editor, teacher, wife, and mother of eight children, she was an important force in the musical world of her time. To show how Schumann surmounted the obstacles facing female artists in the nineteenth century, Nancy B. Reich has drawn on previously unexplored primary sources: unpublished diaries, letters, and family papers, as well as concert programs. Highlighting aspects of Clara Schumann’s personality and character that have been neglected by earlier biographers, this candid and eminently readable account adds appreciably to our understanding of a fascinating artist and woman.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Clara Schumann’s music?

Join us for Clara Schumann’s Legacy on November 6, 2022


Gustav Holst: The Man and his Music

Gustav Holst’s “Planets” suite has become established as one of the classics of twentieth-century orchestral music. Biographer Michael Short’s access to Holst’s letters and diaries, as well as his close work with Holst’s daughter Imogen, have resulted in the most detailed book on the composer’s life and music yet. This book includes an analysis of Holst’s musical style and a substantial reference section.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Holst’s music?

Join us for The Planets on November 17-19, 2022


Rachmaninoff and His World

This volume represents one of the first serious explorations of Rachmaninoff’s successful career as a composer, pianist, and conductor, first in late Imperial Russia, and then after emigration in both the United States and interwar Europe. Shedding light on some unfamiliar works, especially his three operas and his many songs, the book also includes a substantial number of new documents illustrating Rachmaninoff’s celebrity status in America.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Rachmaninoff’s music

Join us for Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances on December 1-4, 2022


Messiah: The Composition and Afterlife of Handel’s Masterpiece

In the late summer of 1741, George Friderick Handel composed an oratorio set to words from the King James Bible, rich in tuneful arias and magnificent choruses. Jonathan Keates recounts the history and afterlife of Messiah, one of the best-loved works in the classical repertoire. He relates the composition’s first performances and its relationship with spirituality in the age of the Enlightenment and examines how Messiah, after Handel’s death, became an essential component of our musical canon. An authoritative and affectionate celebration of the high point of the Georgian golden age of music, Messiah is essential reading for lovers of classical music.

CONCERT: Handel’s Glorious Messiah on December 4, 2022


Gustav Mahler

A best-seller when first published in Germany in 2003, Jens Malte Fischer’s Gustav Mahler has been lauded by scholars as a landmark work. Fischer explores Mahler’s early life, his relationship to literature, his achievements as a conductor in Vienna and New York, his unhappy marriage, and his work with the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic in his later years. He also illustrates why Mahler is a prime example of artistic idealism worn down by Austrian anti-Semitism and American commercialism. Gustav Mahler is the best-sourced and most balanced biography available about the composer, a nuanced and intriguing portrait of his dramatic life set against the backdrop of early 20th century America and fin de siècle Europe.

CONCERT: Mahler 9 on January 12-14, 2022


Ottorino Respighi: His Life and Times

This is the first English language biography of Ottorino Respighi, the most performed Italian composer of the twentieth century. Best known for his so-called Roman trilogy, (Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals), this book documents the story of his rise to fame and offers a fascinating insight into the active lifestyle of an internationally renowned musician, who made an important contribution to the revival of interest in early music.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Respighi’s music

Join us for Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 1 on January 22, 2023


Sergey Prokofiev Diaries

1907–1914: Prodigious Youth
1915-1923: Behind the Mask
1924-1933: Prodigal Son

An inexhaustibly rich portrait of a vibrant artistic culture on the edge of war and revolution, Prokofiev’s Diaries are both a dramatic illumination of a great composer’s creativity and an indispensable contribution to our understanding of musical modernism. They constitute an essential and entertaining reference for all lovers of Prokofiev’s music.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Prokofiev’s music? Join us at the concerts below.

Prokofiev: Suite from Romeo and Juliet on February 2-4 & 5, 2023


Mendelssohn: A Life in Music

A masterful blend of biography and musical analysis. Readers will discover many new facets of the familiar but misunderstood composer and gain new perspectives on one of the most formidable musical geniuses of all time.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Mendelssohn’s music?

Join us for Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 “Scottish” on March 16-18, 2023


Mozart: The Reign of Love

From the acclaimed composer and biographer Jan Swafford (Brahms and Beethoven) comes the definitive biography of one of the most lauded musical geniuses in history, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

At the earliest ages it was apparent that Wolfgang Mozart’s singular imagination was at work in every direction. He hated to be bored and hated to be idle, and through his life he responded to these threats with a repertoire of antidotes mental and physical. Whether in his rabidly obscene mode or not, Mozart was always hilarious. He went at every piece of his life, and perhaps most notably his social life, with tremendous gusto. His circle of friends and patrons was wide, encompassing anyone who appealed to his boundless appetites for music and all things pleasurable and fun.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Mozart’s music? Join us at the concerts below.

Tao Plays Mozart on March 16-18, 2023
Symphony No. 34 on April 23, 2023


George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait (Music in American Life)

“More thorough biographies than Walter Rimler’s slender volume exist … but for those of us interested less in the technical details of Gershwin’s music and its performance than in the comet called George Gershwin that blazed briefly across American skies, Mr. Rimler is the astronomer of choice.” The Wall Street Journal

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Gershwin’s music? Join us at the concerts below.

Join us for The Roaring ‘20s on May 11-13, 2023
Rhapsody in Blue on May 14, 2023


Just for Fun!

Below are books about composers and Classical Music ranging from old-world favorites to music trivia to classics from the Silver Screen.

Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words

Opening for the first time the door of his creative laboratory, Morricone offers an exhaustive and rich account of his life, from his early years of study to genre-defining collaborations with the most important Italian and international directors, including Leone, Bertolucci, Pasolini, Argento, Tornatore, Malick, Carpenter, Stone, Nichols, De Palma, Beatty, Levinson, Almodóvar, Polanski, and Tarantino. In the process, Morricone unveils the curious relationship that links music and images in cinema, as well as the creative urgency at the foundation of his experimentations with “absolute music”. Throughout these conversations with De Rosa, Morricone dispenses invaluable insights not only on composing but also on the broader process of adaptation and what it means to be human. As he reminds us, “Coming into contact with memories doesn’t only entail the melancholy of something that slips away with time, but also looking forward, understanding who I am now. And who knows what else may still happen.”


Debussy: A Painter in Sound 

One of the most revered composers of the twentieth century, Claude Debussy (1862–1918) achieved the unheard of: he reinvented the language of music without alienating the majority of music lovers. Debussy drove French music into entirely new regions of beauty and excitement at a time when old traditions threatened to stifle it. Yet despite his profound influence on French culture, Debussy’s own life was complicated and often troubled by struggles over money, women, and ill health. Here, Stephen Walsh, acclaimed author of Stravinsky, chronicles both the composer himself and the unique moment in European history that bore him. Walsh’s engagingly original approach is to enrich a lively biography with analyses of Debussy’s music: from his first daring breaks with the rules as a Conservatoire student to his achievements as the greatest French composer of his time.


Absolutely on Music: Conversations 

In Absolutely on Music, internationally Haruki Murakami sits down with his friend Seiji Ozawa, the revered former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a series of conversations on their shared passion: music. Over the course of two years, Murakami and Ozawa discuss everything from Brahms to Beethoven, from Leonard Bernstein to Glenn Gould, from Bartók to Mahler, and from pop-up orchestras to opera. They listen to and dissect recordings of some of their favorite performances, and Murakami questions Ozawa about his career conducting orchestras around the world.

Culminating in Murakami’s ten-day visit to the banks of Lake Geneva to observe Ozawa’s retreat for young musicians, the book is interspersed with ruminations on record collecting, jazz clubs, orchestra halls, film scores, and much more. A deep reflection on the essential nature of both music and writing, Absolutely on Music is an unprecedented glimpse into the minds of two maestros.


The Joy of Music by Leonard Bernstein 

This classic work is perhaps Bernstein’s finest collection of conversations on the meaning and wonder of music. This book is a must for all music fans who wish to experience music more fully and deeply through one of the most inspired, and inspiring, music intellects of our time. Employing the creative device of “Imaginary Conversations” in the first section of his book, Bernstein illuminates the importance of the symphony in America, the greatness of Beethoven, and the art of composing. The book also includes a photo section and a third section with the transcripts from his televised Omnibus music series, including “Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony ” “The World of Jazz ” “Introduction to Modern Music ” and “What Makes Opera Grand.”


The Film Music of John Williams

From the triumphant “Main Title” in Star Wars to the ominous bass line of Jaws, John Williams has penned some of the most unforgettable film scores—while netting more than fifty Academy Award nominations. This updated and revised edition of Emilio Audissino’s groundbreaking volume takes stock of Williams’s creative process and achievements in music composition, including the most recent sequels in the film franchises that made him famous. Audissino discusses Williams’s unique approach to writing by examining his neoclassical style in context, demonstrating how he revived and revised classical Hollywood music. This volume details Williams’s lasting impact on the industry and cements his legacy as one of the most important composers in movie history. A must for fans and film-music lovers alike.


Scoring the Screen: The Secret Language of Film Music

Today, musical composition for films is more popular than ever. In professional and academic spheres, media music study and practice are growing; undergraduate and postgraduate programs in media scoring are offered by dozens of major colleges and universities. And increasingly, pop and contemporary classical composers are expanding their reach into cinema and other forms of screen entertainment. Through extensive and unprecedented analyses of the original concert scores, this book is the first to offer both aspiring composers and music educators a view from the inside of the actual process of scoring-to-picture.


Younger Learners

Below are books for school-aged children, designed to explore the worlds and music of classical music composers.

Bravo! Brava! A Night at the Opera: Behind the Scenes with Composers, Cast and Crew

This book teaches elementary school children what opera is by asking “Who writes the words?”, “Who makes an opera happen? “Who is backstage?” These questions and more are answered with easy-to-understand explanations and illustrations. Ages 8-11


Mozart: 59 Fascinating Facts For Kids

Author Andrew Gibbs gives you a comprehensive list of facts about Mozart, explaining the important accomplishments and events in his life. Reading a complete biography can be daunting for a youngster, but Gibbs presents Mozart’s life in 59 easy-to-understand segments. Ages 9-12


Fifty Famous Composers for Kids of All Ages

This book explores the stories of twenty-five male composers and twenty-five female composers and how they came to be famous. Perfect for music teachers and music lovers, this book was written to help both young and adult readers enjoy classical music. Ages 10+


Share with Young Learners

Below are books designed for sharing your love of music with little music learners.

I Love Classical Music (My First Sound Book)

This wonderful book has a button on every spread, which triggers one of six captivating sounds that introduces a memorable piece from some of the most beloved compositions of western classical music. An incredibly simple but utterly fascinating interactive book with sounds bound to enchant young readers and ignite an early love of classical music! Includes pieces from Mozart, Vivaldi, Strauss, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Paganini! Ages 1-2


Allegro: A Musical Journey Through 11 Musical Masterpieces

Meet Allegro, an ordinary boy who can’t stand practicing the piano. Those black dots on the page drive him crazy―until the music itself whisks him away on a breathtaking journey. With the press of a button hear Grieg’s Morning Mood, Dvořák’s New World Symphony, Debussy’s Claire de Lune, and seven more! Ages 1-3


The Story Orchestra Series

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in One Day
Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker
Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty
Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake
Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals
Mozart’s Magic Flute
Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King

This series brings classical music to life for children through gorgeously illustrated retellings of classic ballet, opera, and program music stories paired with 10-second sound clips of orchestras playing from their musical scores. With The Story Orchestra keyboard sound books, children can play the famous melodies themselves with the sound of a real grand piano. Ages 2-5


Wild Symphony

Children and adults can enjoy this timeless picture book as a traditional read-along, or can choose to listen to original musical compositions as they read–one for each animal–with a free interactive smartphone app, which uses augmented reality to play the appropriate song for each page when a phone’s camera is held over it. Ages 3-6


The Nutcracker: A Young Reader’s Edition of the Holiday Classic

To sweeten the anticipation, prolong the joy, or just to establish a lovely tradition—settle in with this charming retelling of a young girl’s dreamy visit to the Land of the Sugarplum Fairy. The story is enhanced with magnificent color illustrations created especially for this edition by the late award-winning artist Don Daily. Ages 4-8

CONCERT: Join us for Nutcracker for Kids!


Mozart Finds a Melody

Based on a true story about the famous composer and his beloved pet starling, this enchanting tale celebrates inspiration in any form it takes. Ages 5-9