“I feel like music has always told me stories from a very early age, even before I started playing. Class Act is a chance to have stories come alive. This is probably the most special thing that Pacific Symphony has given me”
As a young boy in elementary school, Doug Basye was attracted and amazed by all things impressively large: dinosaurs, planes, whales, trains, and skyscrapers. So it was no wonder that when first introduced to musical instruments during a presentation at his school, he instantly gravitated towards the bass. He was inspired by one of the speakers at the presentation, Steve McNeal, who would soon become his teacher, mentor, and who Basye described as “one of the most important people in my life.” From there, Basye began his impressive journey as a talented music student. He would one day make music his career and join Pacific Symphony, where he is currently assistant principal bass and acting principal.
Basye attributes his musical success to the amazing teachers he connected with throughout the years. The lineage of all his instructors is quite fascinating, and Basye emphasizes how lucky he was to be a part of it. McNeal was a renowned teacher who gave Basye a strong foundation to build his music career. Not only did he introduce Basye to the bass, but McNeal was also his instructor every day for six years. Then in 9th grade, Basye began studies with Chet Hampson, a member of the Denver Symphony and a past pupil of Lawrence Hurst. Hurst was a legendary bass instructor who Basye went on to study with at the University of Indiana. The baton was passed to Jeff Turner for graduate school years at Carnegie Mellon University. Turner was also a past student of Hurst.
“You can trace these teachers back about five generations to the grandfather of the French bow. So it’s really interesting to me how that all worked out. It was definitely the luck of meeting the right people and then following that path.”
After graduating from the University of Indiana, this path led him to the long and arduous journey of auditioning for orchestras. Basye remembered his audition for Pacific Symphony in 1994 was particularly exhausting, starting early in the morning and concluding at 10:00 p.m.
“When you’re auditioning, you have that pressure to be perfect. I remember I “cacked” the last note of my audition. I thought I was done and lost the audition. I waited and waited for the results, and I really thought I didn’t get it. Then they brought me back in and told me I won! It was a huge celebratory moment for me.”
Joining Pacific Symphony was an important step for Basye and his musical career. It has inspired him, challenged him, and opened up brand-new opportunities.
One unique aspect about the organization that Basye believes separates it from other career orchestras is its education and community engagement programs. Basye has been involved with the Symphony’s Class Act since 1998. This incredible program connects the Symphony to local elementary schools every year and provides musical expertise and lessons with a Symphony musician.
“I get to share my favorite music the way I want to share it and develop interesting ways to reach kids. Every year is tell a story. Last year, I did “The Firebird” story and matched Stravinsky’s music to my own rendition of the classic Russian folk-tale. I feel like music has always told me stories from a very early age, even before I started playing. This is a chance to have those stories come alive. This is probably the most special thing that Pacific Symphony has given me.”
One of his favorite memories with the Symphony was in 2006 when the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall opened. This historic move into the hall was an important milestone for the Symphony and a fond memory for many of its long-time musicians. Basye recalled one of his first performances at the new concert hall and how truly extraordinary the experience was for him. They were playing “Lux Aeterna” by Morten Lauridsen, a transcendent piece for chorus and orchestra.
“One movement from this piece was a-cappella, so no orchestra. I closed my eyes to enjoy the moment. I felt like I was floating. I was at the top of the concert hall; the music just carried me up there. It was a very special moment. One thing I love about our concert hall is it’s one of the few places where the outside world stops, and everyone just listens.”
Even with his involvement in so many facets of the Symphony, Basye believes that the organization offers a good work-life balance to pursue other passions and raise a family.
Since childhood, Basye has found enjoyment and meaning in woodworking. He mentioned how as a boy, he made a dollhouse for his sister, a checkerboard for his father, and the bed frame for his room. He grew up with the understanding that if you needed something, you made it. As an adult, he graduated to more challenging home improvement projects. His designs and craftsmanship earned him a spot in a local edition of Architectural Digest. One project he is particularly proud of is his “Pandemic Table.” It was a project of blood, sweat, and tears, one could say.
“It’s a coffee table that turns into a dining table. That was my first project where I had a big shop accident. I shot a piece of wood into my arm! I actually fainted!”
When not woodworking, performing, or teaching, you can find Basye either skateboarding or reading fantastical novels by Christopher Moore. Basye lives in his self-designed home with his wife, Hong. Together they raised their son Aaron, who currently attends Brandeis University as a business major and plays on the school’s tennis team.
Samantha Horrocks is a guest blogger currently enrolled as a senior at California State University, Fullerton studying Communications with a concentration in Entertainment and Tourism.
Music is such an important part of every holiday. Everyone has their favorites. In this blog post, we’re going to feature some of our staff member’s picks. Please note that staff members are listed in alphabetical order by last name.
Cindy and Tony Ellis(Flute/Piccolo and Trumpet)
Favorite Piece: “Now is The Caroling Season” by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians
Why is this your favorite piece: Tony and I LOVE Christmas! Because our schedule is very busy at the holiday time, we decorate the day after Thanksgiving…outside lights (naturally, life size angels playing flute and trumpet) and indoors…mantel garland, tree, the works! I try to include a touch of Christmas in EVERY room of the house. Even the kitchen: I made a fabulous garland for the kitchen light soffit during the pandemic that even lights up. I adore performing for ABT’s Nutcracker every year…it’s a beautiful score and I enjoy seeing all the families coming to performances, with their kids dressed to the hilt in party dresses and little suits is so much fun. I can feel the excitement of Christmas through their eyes and I look forward to every performance!
Something special about this piece: When I grew up, my dad had quite the record collection. I remember him putting on the record of Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians…all a cappella vocal music. The name of the album was Now is The Caroling Season and I listened to that over and over as a young girl. I still love it. Although I love instrumental music, choral music for me are truly cherished sounds of the season.
Favorite Piece: “Sextet (2010) for Clarinet, Strings and Piano” by Sheridan Seyfried, III. Con spirito
Performed by: Soojin Huh, clarinet, Dennis Kim, Elly Suh, violins, Poleum Cho, viola, Jonah Kim, cello, Sheridan Seyfried, piano
Why is this your favorite piece: This piece isn’t traditionally Christmas or holiday, but it always puts me in a festive mood!
Doug Basye(Assistant Principal Bass)
Favorite Piece: “Unto Us a Child is Born” by George Frideric Handel
Why is this your favorite piece: In December, 2001, I was playing a performance of “The Messiah.” I called home at intermission and was told to get back ASAP. I arrived around 10 p.m., we went straight to the hospital and my son, Aaron, was born at 2:19 a.m. on December 15. I stayed with them for the next day and then went back for the final performance. It was only then that I realized that one of the last pieces I had played before leaving was “Unto Us a Child is Born.”
Daniel Reynolds(Artistic Services Manager)
Favorite Piece: “Hey Santa” by Carrie & Wendy Wilson
Why is this your favorite piece: I think it’s a well-crafted pop song. I like the robust back-beat and vocal duo interplay in the chorus.
Something special about this piece: Less common, I suppose, for holiday music, and the music video from 1993 is hilarious—slapstick bordering on satire.
Lindsay Mack(Social Media & Content Associate)
Favorite Piece: “Silent Night” by Franz Xaver Gruber
Why is this your favorite piece: I’ve always loved Christmas music and have been known to sing Christmas tunes sporadically year-round at home. “Silent Night” is beautiful and elegant in its simple yet eloquent encapsulation of the meaning of Christmas, and that places it at the top of my list.
Something special about this piece: “Silent Night” is the first Christmas I’ve sung live in concert, so this song will always have a special place in my heart.
Bella Sunshine(Senior Director of Operations)
Favorite Piece: “Maoz Tzur”
Why is this your favorite piece: I enjoy this instrumental arrangement best because the melody is beautiful, but the poetic text summarizes challenges faced by the Jewish people that have been overcome with God’s help. Including the miracle of Hannukah! This is my favorite picture of me during Hannukah! It’s from December 2016 the morning of the Nutcracker for Kids, when a human-sized dreidel used to make an appearance onstage with Santa
Something special about this piece: The song is called “Maoz Tzur,” translated to “Rock of Ages,” and we sing it often after lighting the menorah each night.
Dr. Jacob Sustaita(Music Director, Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra & Assistant Conductor of Pacific Symphony)
Favorite Piece: I have 2 all-time favorite Christmas Songs. One upbeat and one that’s more ballad and soulful.
“All I Want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey
I don’t remember exactly when this song came out, but it is one of my family’s favorite tunes. We all blast it in the car, at home, or in our holiday playlist that we secretly listen to at the gym. There is something so joyful and perfect in the music and lyrics. It just gets me in the holiday mood immediately.
“That Spirit of Christmas” by Ray Charles
I love National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. When Aunt Bethany arrives at the Griswold house for dinner, I am rolling on the floor in laughter. There’s a great scene when Clark gets trapped in the attic of his house while the rest of the family goes for some last-minute shopping at the mall. Once he puts a few extra layers on, he comes across some old family films. It’s a very sweet moment in the movie – Clark with a tear in his eye as he watches these old family movies, and the this is accompanied by Ray Charles singing “That Spirit of Christmas.” I wondered why the radio stations didn’t play this song during the holidays, so I did some hunting and found a CD of the original 1985 complete Ray Charles Christmas Album. And this song always brings a tear to my eye too Clark!
Jean Oelrich(Director of Communications)
Favorite Piece: “Mille Cherubini in Coro” by Franz Schubert
Why is this your favorite piece: The great tenor Luciano Pavarotti has long been a favorite singer of mine. I’ve recently been studying Italian and listening to Pavarotti sing is like a master class in perfect pronunciation for the language. He grew up in Northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region in the city of Modena, and he had a beautiful, musical accent. His holiday album Christmas with Pavarotti is a longtime staple of the musical soundtrack for my holidays. If I had to pick just one selection from that recording, it would be “Mille Cherubini in Coro.” It’s actually a lullaby that was composed by Franz Schubert. There are German lyrics (“Schlafe, schlafe, holder, süßer Knabe” or in English “Sleep, sleep, dear sweet boy”), but I prefer the Italian version. The English translation begins “A thousand cherubs in chorus smile at you from heaven.”
Something special about this piece: Every time I hear this song, it always conjures up such a sweet image in my mind of thousands of little angels sending divine wishes earthward for a serene and beautiful Christmas. It reminds me of the many beautiful celestial beings that you see so often in Renaissance art, similar to the dear little cherubs in Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna.”
Kathryn Mudgway(Marketing & Public Relations Associate)
Favorite Piece: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
Why is this your favorite piece: It’s always hard picking a favorite, but this year’s mention goes to “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Particularly Celtic Woman’s rendition from their 2019 The Magic of Christmas album. As someone who has been following the group since 2005, I love how they continue to grow musically and together. Their year-round music is great but there’s something special about each of their Christmas albums. Their version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” features soprano Mairéad Carlin. It starts with a beautiful uilleann pipe solo before fading into Mairéad’s entrance. Both backed by a choir and orchestra. This piece made me come to a full stop when I went through The Magic of Christmas album for the first time three years ago. It has been a favorite ever since. Use headphones and block everything out. Happy holidays!
Something special about this piece: In addition to Mairead’s vocals, listen for the beautiful uilleann pipes performed by Darragh Murphy.
Heather Arias de Cordoba(Associate Director of Publications & Content)
Favorite Piece: “Mele Kalikimaka” by R. Alex Anderson
Why is this your favorite piece: For eight years, I was so fortunate to live and work in Hawai‘i. I was the director of marketing and patron experience for the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra, and in my time there, I worked with so many incredible musicians and artists.
Something special about this piece: The holidays are different on-island with warm tropical breezes, family luaus, slippahs instead of stockings and Santa arriving by outrigger canoe. As the saying goes, you can take the girl out of Hawai‘i, but you can’t take Hawai‘i out of the girl – my holiday music pick is “Mele Kalikimaka,” not the familiar Bing Crosby version, but an island favorite from Grammy-nominated local artist Josh Tatofi. Mele Kalikimaka and Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!
Kurt Mortensen(Director of Audience Engagement)
Favorite Piece: “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” by Ryuichi Sakamoto
Why is this your favorite piece: There are a number of musical elements to which I tend to be drawn. Among these are hauntingly gorgeous melodies and repetition. Both feature heavily in “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” which has become an unlikely cult Christmas classic. The song centers around a very mournful and completive pentatonic-based melody, suggesting an old Japanese folk tune. The music feels so nostalgic and has an intense sense of longing, so much that even the first-time listener has a sense of déjà vu, swearing they’ve heard it before while they ponder some deep and emotional distant memory. It has a tragically beautiful mood, suggesting some profound struggle, but yet somehow juxtaposed with a sense of hope and optimism. Its sentimentality is so universal that as the listener reflects, he or she conjures their own personal meaning behind the melancholy, which is probably a good thing because the original story is dark. This piece gives you “the feels.”
Something special about the piece: This is not a traditional Christmas song by any means, but it has an interesting backstory. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is a 1983 war film based around a story of forgiveness and understanding between Eastern and Western cultures taking place in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Java during World War II. It features the musicians Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Bowie in the lead acting roles. Sakamoto composed the soundtrack, which is considered by many to be one of the finest electronic scores of the period, rivaling those of Vangelis classics like Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner. In fact, it’s really the strength of the soundtrack that has created any lasting interest in the film (well that and Bowie fans interested in the more esoteric parts of his career), though the film still has its ardent advocates. While the strength of main theme of the movie, the self-titled track “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” is a focal point of the soundtrack, the piece was reworked from an instrumental into a song called “Forbidden Colours” with singer/songwriter David Sylvian and also included on the soundtrack. Sylvian’s career began in the late 70s fronting the British band Japan, a group that never found mainstream popularity in the West, but was hugely influential to many of the new wave bands of the 80s. In fact, one could argue that Duran Duran began where Japan left off in both their visual look and musical style, though Japan were a bit more avant-garde. In any case, as Sylvian began to pursue a solo career after Japan broke up in 1982, he was approach by Ryuichi Sakamoto to add lyrics to “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.” Sylvian penned the words to “Forbidden Colours” and set them to a counter melody, which ultimately resulted in the most popular version of this music. Ironically, David Bowie has been an early influence on Sylvian so it’s a weird twist of fate that Sylvian would end up creating music for a film David Bowie acted in and had otherwise no musical involvement. There are so many wonderful arrangements of both “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” and “Forbidden Colours” ranging from electronic to orchestral/chamber to pop music versions. I have listed several below including the originals and some favorites. Of all of these, for me, nothing beats David Sylvian singing “Forbidden Colours” but I’m a bit biased as Sylvian is among my favorite vocalists.
While not the original version, this is an orchestral arrangement with Sakamoto at the piano, juxtaposed with clips from the film.
2016 World Soundtrack Awards: Ryuichi Sakamoto plays “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence”
Perhaps my favorite version of “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” is by the California Guitar Trio from their A Christmas Album (2004). The multiple guitars almost sound like a harpsichord: Major Christmas vibes on this one!
California Guitar Trio: “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence”
Here’s the original electronic version featured in the score.
“Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” from the Soundtrack
Sylvian and Sakamoto did two studio versions of “Forbidden Colours,” one which was more electronic like the original soundtrack and one that was more “organic,” I prefer the latter, which is included here.
David Sylvian & Ryuichi Sakamoto “Forbidden Colours”
Classical Saxophonist Simon Haram (Principal Saxophone with the London Sinfonietta and Professor of Saxophone at the Royal Academy of Music) arranged a really cool chamber version of “Forbidden Colours” on his album Frame (2001) with the Duke String Quartet. It’s out of print, but you can hear samples below. It may be available on some streaming services so look for it on yours. Haram writes in the liner notes, “Sakamoto’s purity with Sylvian melancholy. Once heard, never forgotten.”
There are many versions out there by a wide range of artists. For example, Lang Lang did a solo piano version of “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” on his Piano Book album (2018), while classical crossover soprano Sarah Brightman recorded a cover of “Forbidden Colours” in 2003 for a special tour CD that you could only buy at her concerts.
KUSC’s online channel “A Classical California Christmas” is streaming 24 hours a day on demand. You can enjoy classical holiday favorites and comfort, joy, and peace whenever your spirit needs a lift. Available only on KUSC.org and the station’s free Smartphone apps.
December is a momentous month filled with musical celebrations that will captivate young and old alike. And there is nothing that evokes the joyous spirit of the holiday season more than festive music.
We invite you to experience the splendor of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall decked out like a winter wonderland, while you feel the warmth as Pacific Symphony performs beloved holiday classics.
• The Family Musical Mornings series presented by Farmers and Merchants Bank opens up our holiday season with the ever-popular Nutcracker for Kids! program (Dec. 3).
• Everyone’s perennial favorite, Handel’s glorious oratorio Messiah continues a beloved holiday tradition with Pacific Chorale and Robert Istad conducting (Dec. 4).
• Holiday Pops with The Manhattan Transfer, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary, promise a program of holiday favorites featuring lush, sweeping jazz arrangements with their signature tight-knit harmonies (Dec. 16-17).
• The Pedals & Pipes series, underwritten by Valerie and Barry Hon, opens with the Holiday Organ Spectacular (Dec. 20). Our Pacific Symphony musicians have curated an unusual program of sacred and holiday music in arrangements by Barry Perkins, Joshua Ranz, and the orchestra’s good friend, Hollywood film and television composer Steven Mahpar.
If you’re not in the holiday spirit at the beginning of the month, you certainly will be after an entire month filled with so many memorable musical moments.
Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and joyous holiday season!
We look forward to a new year full of possibility and exciting live musical performances!
In this their inaugural year, Pacific Symphony Youth Concert Band (PSYCB) is the newest addition to the PSYE family of ensembles. Founded in 2022 through the generous sponsorship and advocacy of Hans and Valerie Imhof and John and Elizabeth Stahr, PSYCB is led by award-winning music educator Angela Woo and benefits from the artistic guidance of Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St.Clair. “I couldn’t be more delighted to welcome Angela into our Pacific Symphony ‘family’ as the newest member of our conducting ‘team,’ commented Maestro St.Clair. “Having known Angela for over three decades, it has been wonderful observing her impressive career development. Her many accomplishments have distinguished her as one of the leading conductors and educators with middle school and high school aged musicians. There is no one more perfect than Angela to lead this new and exciting initiative in the Symphony’s Youth Ensemble Program.”
PSYCB’s inaugural concert on November 20 at 1 p.m. featured a program that includes works of Ticheli, Balmages, and Meyer. The audience was enthusiastic and appreciative.
Representing middle schools throughout the SoCal region, PSYCB provides an experience that nurtures the confidence, poise and musical sensitivity of young musicians through the study and performance of outstanding concert band literature. PSYCB serves instrumentalists in grades 6 through 9 and is one of four Youth Ensemble programs offered by Pacific Symphony.
Each season, students enjoy an interaction with Maestro Carl St.Clair, as well as interactions with guest artists and professional musicians of Pacific Symphony. Students also engage in an annual weekend retreat and are offered free and discounted tickets to Pacific Symphony performances throughout the concert season.
PSYCB presents a two-concert series each season at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Rehearsals for PSYCB take place on Sundays from 5-7 p.m. at the University of California, Irvine. The ensemble season continues through May. 2023. Conductor Angela Woo shares her thoughts and excitement for the PSYCB kickoff concert in this brief interview.
Pacific Symphony’s first concert in December—Miloš Plays Rodrigo (Dec. 1-3)—features Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Written in 1939, the work could be considered Spain’s most famous musical export. Not only is the Concierto a stunningly beautiful work for guitar and orchestra, but its second movement has become something of a pop phenomenon, hailed for its poignant beauty. The melody is so lush and gorgeous that artists have adapted it to many genres, including pop, classical, jazz, hip hop, fado, rock, and more. The piece was featured to good effect in the 90s British comedy-drama, Brassed Off. In the film, a young euphonium-playing Ewan MacGregor falls head-over-heels for flugelhornist Tara Kennedy when she plays the slow movement of what the bandmaster calls the “Concerto d’Orange Juice.”
Jazz great Miles Davis was inspired to reinterpret the Concierto’s Adagio movement on flugelhorn for his Sketches of Spain album. His arranger Gil Evans commented, “We hadn’t intended to make a Spanish album. We were just going to do the Concierto de Aranjuez. A friend of Miles gave him the only album in existence with that piece. He brought it back to New York and I copied the music off the record because there was no score. By the time we did that, we began to listen to other folk music, music played in clubs in Spain… So we learned a lot from that and it ended up being a Spanish album. The Rodrigo, the melody is so beautiful. It’s such a strong song.” Miles Davis said of the Adagio: “That melody is so strong that the softer you play it, the stronger it gets, and the stronger you play it, the weaker it gets.”
Santana, one of the best-selling rock bands of all time, interpreted “En Aranjuez” with its trademark fusion of rock with Latin American jazz. American jazz trumpeter Chris Botti included his version of “En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor” on his album Impressions, which won a Grammy Award for “Best Pop Instrumental Album” in 2013. The arrangement of the Adagio by popular Croation cellist Hauser shares the spotlight with a guitarist.
Perhaps the most striking adaptation of Rodrigo’s Adagio is that of the Lebanese singer Fairuz sung in Arabic. “Li Beirut” (“To Beirut”) was released at the height of the Lebanese Civil War. It is a heartfelt plea for healing of the conflict that divided her hometown. The lyrics express nostalgia and longing for a lost world.
Music Director Carl St.Clair shared his thoughts about Pacific Symphony’s new Composer-in-Residence Viet Cuong: “From literally the first seconds of hearing Viet’s music, I realized that I was in the presence of a special voice, one connected in a most profound way to that special realm which offers music its beauty and meaning. Viet’s music was fresh, colorful, and captivating. Then, we met. He was just the person I began to know through this music—kind, gentle, yet with a quiet strength of belief and conviction.”
Voice of OC’s Paul Hodgins interviewed Viet Cuong and has quite a story to tell about this gifted young composer. Read the story here.
It is with immense pride and pleasure that we welcome you to our 2022-23 Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles concert season!
This is an exciting season of firsts as we celebrate the arrival of our newest PSYE family member, Pacific Symphony Youth Concert Band (PSYCB). Made possible by the generous support and advocacy of Hans and Valerie Imhof, and John and Elizabeth Stahr, this newest youth ensemble is led by renowned music educator and conductor Angela Woo, who leads the ensemble in their auspicious premiere performance on November 20 at 1 p.m. in a program that includes works of Ticheli, Balmages, and Meyer.
Additionally, it is a joy to welcome Dr. Johanna Gamboa-Kroesen as Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings (PSSS) music director, taking the reins from founding PSSS Music Director Irene Kroesen. Dr. Gamboa-Kroesen will lead PSSS in their exciting season opener on November 20 at 7 p.m., in a program including works of Glinka, Schubert, and Nishimura.
Not to be outshone, our Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra (PSYO) and Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble (PSYWE), under the exceptional leadership of Dr. Jacob Sustaita and Dr. Gregory X. Whitmore, will explore the musical heights in their upcoming season openers, including PSYO’s brilliant essay of major works of Verdi, Mascagni, and Mahler on November 14 at 7 p.m., and PSYWE’s noble and inspiring exploration of works of Holst, Maslanka, Perrine, Grant, and Sousa on November 21 at 7 p.m.
Looking ahead, we anticipate a rich and varied season of PSYE concert experiences in 2022-23, including celebrated guest artists, resident composers, and a world premier commission by renowned composer Derrick Skye, and we invite you to join us in these exciting musical adventures!
It is through the artistic vision and leadership of Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St.Clair (PSYE Artistic Advisor and Guardian Angel), the support and advocacy of our PSYE and Pacific Symphony Boards of Directors, the extraordinary support of our many generous donors, and the inspiring involvement of our SoCal community of friends, family members and music lovers like you that make this program possible.
“I loved being part of a group where all my peers were equally dedicated and interested in producing music, and I appreciated how seriously Dr. Whitmore considered our work. He held us to the same standard as professional ensembles, which encouraged us to perfect our skills at home and focus on the musicality of the piece during rehearsals.”
Ashley Lee, PSYWE flutist, now studying Human Biology, Music, and East Asian Studies at Stanford University
Fall is my favorite time of the year. Yes, I celebrate my birthday at the end of September, but more than that, fall marks the beginning of a new symphony season, a new school year, and the return of our youth ensembles! There is nothing more exhilarating then hearing the first sounds of a youth ensemble playing together at the start of a new season. There is familiarity among the returning musicians, but there is also a sense of the unknown and wonderment. As the summer ends, and the first rehearsal of the new season grows near, I find myself asking questions like, “what will this year’s orchestra sound like and be like? What goals will I set for the year? What will be our biggest challenge?”
It takes about twenty seconds of playing before all my questions are answered and a million other thoughts and questions enter my mind. There is something very meaningful and joyful when I am with Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra (PSYO). The connection I have with the students go far beyond the incredible music-making and energetic spirit that we share. When I look out from the podium and see so much talent and potential, it almost takes my breath away knowing what an honor it is to serve as their music director. It really is a dream come true.
The more I reflect on being a part of Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles (PSYE), the more I am thankful and proud of being a part of the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA) when I was in high school. I have the most vivid and specific memories of countless moments in the years I spent in YOSA that shaped my life as a man and musician. From the excitement and stress of that first audition to get accepted to the tour we had in Australia, it was my time in youth orchestra that showed me that I wasn’t alone in my passion and obsession with classical music, and those years, concerts, tours, and rehearsals–I can’t imagine my life without every one of those moments.
My experiences in YOSA helped me to realize that my life would always be about music and sharing music with others. Now, there were many other great musical moments in my life as I grew up but being a part of an ensemble that challenged me and taught me about responsibility and ownership as an artist was the greatest gift for me.
I ask myself from time to time – what is it that a youth ensemble can provide? Why would a young musician want to be a part of a youth ensemble? The answers are always the same. A youth ensemble brings young people together from a larger area than any school has the capacity to make happen. A youth ensemble is a platform for a young person to make a commitment to their peers to be the best artist and collaborator possible.
Watching an orchestra or wind ensemble grow and connect with each other over a season is unbelievable. As a music director, I invite each of them to work hard, pay close attention to each other, problem solve as a section, and to always be creating an environment that is safe and fosters greatness. It is more than just teamwork and improving our skill set. Being in a youth ensemble is about coming together to be stronger and more creative as musicians, artists, and people. Through the difficulties of playing ones instrument in a world-class ensemble and being willing to challenge yourself to work toward a common goal, it is clear that youth ensembles builds more resilient leaders for the future.
As Assistant Conductor with Pacific Symphony, I work closely with Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St. Clair and the symphony’s outstanding musicians, staff, and administrators on designing and presenting our Family Musical Mornings Series sponsored by Farmers and Merchants Bank. This is a five-concert series every season that focuses on our young audience members and families coming to enjoy the symphony in a concert made just for them.
I love our planning session. We have the best time brainstorming and bouncing ideas off each other. I am particularly impressed with the willingness and support of trying innovative ideas and platforms. I said it before, but I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am to be the one to conduct these concerts, and I often get to be a part of the narrative aspect of our concerts.
If you haven’t seen one of our Family Musical Mornings, you are all in luck. Our next performance is one of my all-time favorites! Saturday, December 3, 2022–Nutcracker for Kids! As with all of our Family concerts, we perform twice on Saturday mornings–10 a.m. & 11:30 a.m.
There is so much that we offer at Pacific Symphony–concerts for young people, concerts built for school music programs, concerts for families, and don’t forget about our events and lobby activities before the 10:00 a.m. concert and after the 11:30 a.m. concert. Our gift to our community is music. We have something for everyone in Orange County, and I hope to meet more and more of you at our concerts. Check out our website for up-to-date information and for tickets. Also, find us on Facebook and Instagram to stay connected with us and see some behind-the-scenes footage.
“As a musician, it’s fun to perform, but it’s more fun to play with people. They become your family.”
In 1977, violinist Linda Owen picked up a copy of her local newspaper. Conductor Keith Clark had just returned after almost ten years abroad in Europe. He announced in the paper he formed a brand-new orchestra in Orange County, and Owen was immediately intrigued. Wasting no time at all, she got herself backstage at his next concert at Fullerton College. She walked right up to Clark and introduced herself with a firm handshake. She expressed her interest in his new orchestra and quickly summarized her musical experience as Concertmaster of Rio Hondo Symphony. Impressed, Clark invited Owen to join right then and there.
“It is definitely not the way that musicians get into the orchestra today!” Owen commented. “Keith liked everybody, but he obviously knew that I played and he was trying to get his orchestra going so he said, sure, come! Keith was a very interesting man and I enjoyed playing with him.”
Just like that, Owen became a founding member of Clark’s Pacific Chamber Orchestra, which would later come to be known as today’s Pacific Symphony. Now, 45 years later, Owen is still part of the Symphony family and continues to display her talents as an accomplished violinist. She is one of the two original musicians still playing with the orchestra today.
“Music is my life, my quartet, the Symphony, practicing and performing–and I fly fish.”
This quote by Owen really wraps up all she is about. She is a musician, educator, fly-fisher, orchid raiser, and safe haven to all blue birds alike.
Owen’s background in music started in fourth grade when she first picked up the violin. She fell in love with the instrument’s sound and was fortunate enough to have parents who invested in that passion. They hired a private instructor to expand upon her talents, and soon she was practicing three hours a day.
“I didn’t come from a musical family, but [my parents] knew music was important. Even though we didn’t have a lot of money, when my brother and I started playing instruments, they got us private lessons. That made a huge difference.”
After high school, Owen knew she wanted to go into teaching. Music was surprisingly not part of her college plans at all, though it was still a passion of hers. Fortunately, her advisor at Whittier College foresaw another path for her.
“I always knew I wanted to go into education, but the music part sort of fell into my lap. Everything I did in high school was music, so I guess my advisor in college figured I was going to go into music. That’s how I got into it! I planned on teaching English or social studies, but I’m really glad it was music!”
Owen received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education at Whittier College and then began her extensive career in music education. She taught elementary school music for 20 years and then transitioned to Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District. A career in music education was a wonderful time for her; she loved working with her students.
“When you’re teaching something the kids want to do, it is so much fun because they really enjoy coming to class. You just have so much fun developing them. I still see people; I run into students I had 30, 40 years ago. Actually, an old student of mine is writing music now and he just asked me to look at his string parts to see if they’re too hard or playable. He’s all grown up and this is his livelihood now.”
Owen balanced music education and performance for many years, but push did come to shove in March 2006 when the Symphony was set to tour in Germany. Schedules grew conflicted and she knew she could no longer do both. She was faced with a life-changing career decision and, after 37 years in education, she decided to retire.
“It was a great decision, and I have been happily ‘just a musician’ ever since.”
Owen, of course, is not “just a musician”, as her impressive musical accomplishments can attest to. In 1991, Owen started a chamber music series at the Bradford House in Placentia. Her quartet and colleagues from Pacific Symphony performed there throughout the years. Her program had decades of success and continued for 32 years!
“(Bradford House) is not a big house, so when we did concerts there, we just set up chairs and people sat elbow to elbow. People loved coming to the concerts because you could see the performers breathe. They’re up close to the music. We had fine groups that played there.”
Owen also keeps busy with her well-known Santiago String Quartet and with Pacific Symphony since its inception. Owen and some friends of hers decided that they wanted to form a string quartet to perform good music for the community. Playing in a quartet is an experience you must be a part of as a string player.
Many summers back, the string quartet was invited to Mammoth to coach and play concerts for a festival. She insisted that her husband, Bill, tag along. Most of her work for the festival took place in the evenings, so during the day Owen and her husband were able to spend time together. This was when Owen decided to learn fly-fishing with her husband and it soon became a new hobby for her. She frequents Mammoth, but has also fished in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Alaska.
“I can’t say I’m an expert at it, but I catch fish! That’s the bottom line! It’s just so wonderful to be out in nature on the river. It’s very special.”
Back home, Owen has a special connection with nature as well. She raises 75 magnificent orchids, and she also has a friendly community of blue birds that nest right in her yard.
“An orchid lasts for a long time. They bloom for months. My first orchids will start blooming in December and I’ll have orchids through July. There’s sort of a sea of orchids in my patio; it’s pretty spectacular.”
“One thing about blue birds is that they are so social. They look you in the eye and they almost talk to you. They’re not afraid of you. They will sit there and are so friendly. They like having you around. They like that I take really good care of them. We have a bluebird nesting box in our yard. They have two or three nests a year and I watch them raise their babies.”
For Owen, her bluebirds are family, and she takes her care for them very seriously. There were a few times when she was away from home for long periods of time. She did not want her bluebirds to feel abandoned, so she hired someone specifically to feed them while she was away. Because of her committed care of them, they keep coming back every year.
Despite being a bustling, in-demand musician, Owen finds that staying busy with music is actually what grounds her in life.
“Music is my world and keeps me sane. (It) helps us all escape from the crazy world, to a place of passion and peace.”
Of course, Pacific Symphony is a big part of that equation. With her longtime commitment to the organization, the Symphony grew to become part of her family and support system. She has played with fellow musicians for years and they have since become important parts of her life.
She is very grateful to have them. Owen’s husband, Bill, was her biggest supporter. He passed away in March of 2020 and her fellow musicians were a comfort to have around during a hard time.
“As a musician it’s fun to perform, but what is really important is the people you play with. They become your family. Those were the people that were by my side and kept me going. Just last year, there was one concert where three of us sat side by side and we had all lost our husbands in the last year, or so. We’re such a close family and it’s really great to have those people. People would call and just check up on you to see how you were doing.”
The Symphony family continues to expand as the years go on. Owen has been able to watch it grow and evolve throughout the years.
“We have so many wonderful young players that have become part of the orchestra. It has made the Symphony better and better. These young players are such incredible musicians.”
These young musicians will only continue to grow and do wonders for the organization in the years to come. Looking back, She is proud to be a part of Pacific Symphony and all it has been able to accomplish. She knows that her friends and family at the Symphony will continue to exceed expectations and provide only the best musical performances for their community.
Samantha Horrocks is a guest blogger currently enrolled as a senior at California State University, Fullerton studying Communications with a concentration in Entertainment and Tourism.