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.