LISTEN ON THE RADIO

Pacific Symphony’s official classical radio station, Classical California KUSC is part of the most-listened-to network of classical music radio stations in America, serving more than 900,000 listeners each week from Nothern California to the Mexican border. 

Popular radio personality Rich Capparela hosts the Pacific Symphony broadcasts, which include fascinating interviews with Music Director Carl St.Clair, guest artists and Symphony musicians.

The performances are broadcast Sundays at 7 p.m on KUSC 91.5 FM.

2021-22 Broadcast Schedule

7/10/22Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto
7/17/22Beethoven & Rachmaninoff
7/24/22Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony
7/31/22Verdi’s Otello
8/7/22 Yang Plays Rachmaninoff
8/14/22Mozart & Salieri
8/21/22Beethoven’s Piano Concertos
8/28/22Mozart & Mahler


Classical California KUSC
, located in downtown Los Angeles, serves communities throughout Southern California:

91.5 FM in Los Angeles and Orange County
88.5 FM in Palm Springs
91.1 FM in Thousand Oaks
93.7 FM in Santa Barbara
99.7 FM in Morro Bay/San Luis Obispo

Classical California KDFC, located in downtown San Francisco, serves the Bay area and other communities in Northern California:

90.3 FM in San Francisco
104.9 FM in San Jose
89.9 FM in Napa Wine Country
103.9 FM in Monterey
92.5 FM in Ukiah.

Listeners can also hear these stations streaming at  kusc.orgkdfc.com and on their smartphone apps.

Pacific Symphony Named “Nonprofit of the Year”

Pacific Symphony was recently named California’s 37th Senate District’s 2022 Nonprofit of the Year honoree by Senator Dave Min this month. Senator Min also presented the award to Carl St.Clair and John Forsyte onstage before the beginning of the final Mozart & Mahler concert on Saturday, June 25.
Sen. Dave Min announces Pacific Symphony as “Nonprofit of the Year” while
Carl St.Clair (left) and John Forsyte (right) look on.

Photo by Doug Gifford.

Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine) announced the 37th Senate District’s 2022 Nonprofit of the Year honoree, Pacific Symphony. The resident orchestra of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Pacific Symphony is renowned for its outstanding ensemble, in addition to a robust set of education and community engagement programs that cultivate new artists and inspire a love of music in children and adults. Its music director of 32 years, Carl St.Clair, is one of America’s most visionary musicians with a strong belief that music is a birthright and that Pacific Symphony must be an orchestra for the community.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization closed its doors and shutdown operations—a devastating blow to Orange County’s arts and entertainment epicenter. Quick to adapt to these challenging circumstances, Pacific Symphony offered virtual performances as well as online educational activities that captivated and engaged audiences at home.

Throughout the pandemic, the Symphony maintained its strong commitment to the community by producing and distributing an extraordinary number of free online and virtual opportunities. The orchestra bounced back with a resounding return to live music and performances when COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. Pacific Symphony retains its position as a national leader among American orchestras. Senator Min presented the “Nonprofit of the Year” award to Carl St.Clair and John Forsyte onstage before the beginning of the Mozart & Mahler concert on June 25.” 

“It is my distinct honor to announce that Pacific Symphony has been selected as the 37th Senate District’s Nonprofit of the Year for 2022,” said Senator Min. “Pacific Symphony has always served as a pillar of the arts here in Orange County, but during the pandemic, it has stepped up its cultural and educational contributions to our lives at a time when we needed it most. As we celebrate the return of live music, let us also recall the innovative spirit that led to so many virtual and outdoor performances and remote educational efforts over the past two years. Pacific Symphony has been a guiding star and a stalwart of resiliency for all of us, and I want to thank the entire Symphony family for keeping our spirts up throughout the pandemic.” 

President and CEO of Pacific Symphony, John E. Forsyte added, “On behalf of the musicians, board of directors, staff, and Music Director Carl St.Clair, Pacific Symphony is humbled and deeply gratified to receive the honor of ‘2022 Nonprofit of the Year’ for the 37th Senate District. We strongly believe in the role of music to uplift, connect diverse people, and celebrate our common humanity. Pacific Symphony’s comprehensive education and community engagement programs provide services for under-resourced, Title I and other underserved communities of Orange County. The Symphony devotes more resources per capita to children’s education and those in high need. Through these efforts, the orchestra dedicates 10% of its annual operating budget—among the highest of any orchestra in the country—for education and community engagement programs. From fundamental arts education to world-class performances, Pacific Symphony, its Music Director Carl St.Clair and 77 exceptional professional musicians continue to seek ways to educate children, provide therapeutic benefit, and inspire audiences throughout the region.”

L-R Photo 1: Sen. Dave Min with his wife Jane K. Stoever, who is a law professor at UCI, attended the June 25th concert; Photo 2: Sen. Dave Min (center) meets Pacific Symphony concertmaster and 37th district resident Dennis Kim (left) with John Forsyte (right) backstage before the onstage award presentation; Photo 3: During the concert intermission, Sen. Dave Min (right) discusses the concert with Assistant Conductor Dr. Jacob Sustaita.

Reflections: Verdi’s Otello

“Pacific Symphony Mounts a Surefire Production of Verdi’s Otello” — Voice of OC

For the 10th anniversary of Pacific Symphony’s opera initiative, Carl St.Clair conducted the orchestra, Pacific Chorale and a stellar cast of singers in Verdi’s greatest dramatic masterpiece, Otello. The audience cheered and critics raved.

VOICE OF OC

“It’s luxury casting to have a full symphony orchestra play this music and St.Clair and the Pacific musicians sounded ready for it…Positioned in the loft above the orchestra, the recently Grammy-winning Pacific Chorale gave a fit and trim account of the extensive parts for chorus…Tenor Carl Tanner reprised the title role that he sang at the Metropolitan Opera in a commanding performance…Baritone Stephen Powell clearly enjoyed singing Iago, not with a villainous twirling of mustaches or overplaying, but by savoring the words and phrases as if they were evil chocolate morsels…Making her debut in the role, soprano Kelebogile Besong provided a fragile and vulnerable account of the doomed Desdemona. Her tones shimmered, her phrases filigreed.” 

Classical Voice

A Powerhouse Otello…American tenor Carl Tanner gave the finest singing of the evening as the tragic moor Otello…Like the great Otellos of the past—Ramon Vinay, Jon Vickers, Placido Domingo—Tanner successfully portrayed Otello as a great warrior and a romantic hero who tragically falls victim to blind jealousy…The Pacific Chorale sang and acted magnificently in the Act 1 storm chorus and the campfire drinking chorus, as well as the Act 3 assembly scene.”  

Click here for more information on Pacific Symphony’s opera initiative, Opera FOCUS.

Opera FOCUS Dinner
1) Gary Good welcoming opera-lovers to the OperaFocus Dinner. 2) Concertmaster Dennis Kim plays “Meditation” from Thais by Massenet in honor of Paul Musco and Carlos Mollura. 3) Ellie and Mike Gordon. 4) Music Director Carl St.Clair and Dennis Kim. 5) Assistant Conductor Jacob Sustaita, Stage Director Robert Neu and Volunteer Sonia Levitin. 6) Drs. Hana and Francisco Ayala, Ruth Ann and John Evans, chairman of the board. 7) Tawny Nguyen, Robert Neu and Mark Nielsen


Opera Performance
1) The opera begins with a fierce storm, but Otello steers his boat safely into the harbor of Cyprus. 2) Celebration over the arrival of Otello. 3) Otello (Carl Tanner) greets his wife Desdemona (Kelebogile Besong). 4) Sadistic Iago (Stephen Powell) plants a seed of jealousy in Otello’s mind. 5) Emilia (Margaret Lattimore) counsels Desdemona. 6) Iago rejoices and proclaims his belief in a cruel God. 7) Desdemona prays. 8) Otello confronts Desdemona, while she proclaims her innocence. 9) Final bows

Photo Credits: Doug Gifford

Orli Shaham Comments On This Season’s Final Café Ludwig Program

On May 8, we’ll be performing the Fantasie for Flute and Piano by Philippe Gaubert and a flute movement from Martinu’s Sextet, the Serenade for String Trio by Ernst von Dohnanyi, and we’ll wrap up the program with the fabulous Piano Trio by Maurice Ravel.

I love all the players on this program, as always: Ben Smolen, Dennis Kim, Meredith Crawford and Warren Hagerty. I enjoy this combination of Czech and French music that will “speak” to each other in this program. There’s a lot of intimate music making here, with small forces in each of the pieces. It’s a lovely way to end our Cafe Ludwig season, with these duos and trios, displaying the deep personal connections which we all have and which we’re all so grateful for.

The Ravel Piano Trio is one of my absolute favorite pieces of chamber music, so I’m particularly excited to play it with Dennis Kim and Warren Hagerty. It’s so perfectly thought out, so delicate, so full of imagination, and demands so much of each of the players. That’s one of the reasons I thought this is a perfect setting for it. Dennis and Warren and I have established a wonderful rapport together, and we’ve tackled chamber music in all sorts of contexts by now, and we’ve gotten to know each other well as players. We’re excited to come together as a trio and play a piece like this, which requires such cohesion among the players. It asks us to set a scene, without letting any part of that scene go untouched. It was the final piece that he wrote before heading out to the front, as a volunteer soldier for World War I. It was particularly important to him to make sure it was well edited and that everything was in place because he had a palpable sense that it might end up being his last piece. It didn’t, but he thought of it that way. In many ways, it brought his level of composition to an entirely different place than where it had been before, with that awareness that it might be his final statement. ~ Orli Shaham, Curator and Host of Café Ludwig

To learn more about the show, please click here.

Peter Boyer’s “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Thank you to Peter Boyer for the video!

On this day in history, 20 years ago, Peter Boyer’s “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” (“Ellis Island”) had its premiere with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Boyer conducted. It’s a 45-minute work for actors, orchestra and project images. Composed between 2001-02, the world as we knew it then was also changing but there’s something about these stories that transcends generations. They still have an impact.

The text from “Ellis Island” comes from The Ellis Island Oral History Project. You can visit the website here. By the time the doors were closed in 1954, more than 12 million immigrants had come through. Boyer ultimately chose to feature the stories of seven different immigrants who came from seven different countries between 1910-1940 for the piece.

Pacific Symphony is honored to be a part of the journey that started 20 years ago. In June 2018, we made our national PBS debut on Great Performances performing that piece. Guest stars included Barry Bostwick, Camryn Manheim, Michael Nouri, Lesley Fera, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Samantha Sloyan and Kira Sternbach. The orchestra was under the baton of Maestro Carl St.Clair. The concert was originally recorded at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in 2017. The special premiered on PBS on June 29, 2018.

You can learn more about it here and watch a brief clip of the prologue in the video below.

Since 2002, the work has received over 200 live performances by more than 100 different orchestras. It was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.

You can listen to the full piece here. Congratulations and happy anniversary to everyone involved!

Opera and Shakespeare

The problem with Shakespeare is that the music is already in the words…

Chandos portrait of William Shakespeare.

Opera in America was revolutionized in the 1980s, when opera companies started projecting translations of the text over the stage. Now, instead of having to study a woefully inadequate synopsis before the performance, audiences know exactly what is being sung. That’s the upside; the downside is that audiences now know exactly what is being sung. Because the fact is that many operas succeed in spite of their librettos, not because of them, and many a popular opera is actually a musical silk purse made out of a veritable sow’s ear of a libretto.

            Still, composers have an obvious advantage if they start with a really good text, and it would seem logical to turn to the best playwrights. You might think that would make Shakespeare a fertile source, but the reality has not worked out that way. The problem with Shakespeare is that the music is already in the words, and there is virtually nothing a composer could add to make it more effective. It would be, to misquote the Bard himself, like gilding the lily. This is why operas based upon or inspired by Shakespeare plays virtually never use his actual text.

            Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901) had his first crack at a Shakespeare story with the tenth of his twenty-eight operas, Macbeth (1847), in the melodramatic, blood-and-thunder style typical of Verdi’s early works. When he reviewed the score in 1865, he found “certain numbers that are weak or lacking in character, which is worse still”—a testament to the composer’s evolution during the half-century that he dominated Italian opera.

            Verdi’s musical development first culminated in what almost became his final opera, Aida, in 1871, and his definitive setting of the Requiem Mass that premiered in 1874. He then settled into a comfortable retirement, but some 13 years later he would return in blazing triumph to the opera stage with another Shakespearean inspiration, Otello.

            Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868), who ruled the world of Italian opera during the decades before Verdi snatched his crown, had composed an Otello in 1816. Although it bears only a fleeting resemblance to Shakespeare, it remained popular almost until Verdi’s version swept it into oblivion in 1887. By that time the sunny brightness of Rossini’s music had yielded to the brooding darkness of late Romanticism, a style far more appropriate to the tale of Othello and Desdemona’s tragic love.

            Verdi’s unparalleled gift for melody and mastery of orchestral colors ensured that his Otello would take its place near the top of the operatic heap. Certainly his score doesn’t lack for spectacular music gestures, from the explosive lightning bolt that starts the opera, to the lusty choral crowd scenes, the pageantry of the 16th-century Venetian court, and ultimately the brutal murder with which it concludes.

            Yet for all of its technicolor brilliance, Verdi’s drama is actually amazingly intimate; the true action transpires inside the protagonist’s head, where Iago plants the doubt and jealousy that eventually drive him to murder his beloved wife over an act of infidelity she never committed. Part of Verdi’s genius was the way he was able to expose and shine a light on the machinations of a deteriorating mind. So great were Verdi’s dramatic skills that he could make an imaginary event as vividly palpable as an actual one; you barely need the Supertitles to witness the process. It is this psychological complexity, coupled with the nearly impossible vocal demands Verdi makes upon the singer, that have made the title role the Everest of tenor parts.

            Of course Verdi didn’t do this all by himself. The fine text he set was brilliantly crafted by Arrigo Boito, who, as an aspiring opera composer himself, understood a composer’s needs. His only completed opera, Mefistofele, premiered unsuccessfully in 1868, but he earned more fame in 1876 as the librettist for Ponchielli’s masterpiece, La Gioconda. It was the prospect of collaborating with Boito on Otello suggested by the publisher Ricordi that finally lured Verdi out of retirement.

            Verdi’s only opera after Otello was another hugely successful Shakespeare-inspired collaboration with Boito, Falstaff, one of only two comedies Verdi ever composed. But for this listener, at least, Otello is the most brilliant jewel in the crown of the composer whose genius was so spectacularly detonated by the searing drama of Shakespeare’s tragedy. George Bernard Shaw quipped, “The truth is that instead of Otello being an Italian opera written in the style of Shakespeare, Othello is a play written by Shakespeare in the style of Italian opera.” If that’s true, the Bard of Avon must have had Verdi in mind.

John Schauer is a freelance writer who worked at San Francisco Opera for 13 years and spins his own bizarre operatic fantasies in his novel Chaste Goddess.

Café Ludwig’s Artistic Director Orli Shaham Joins Juilliard’s Piano Faculty

Host, Curator and Pianist Orli Shaham at the Samueli Theatre during a Café Ludwig concert.

The Juilliard School just announced that Orli Shaham is joining the prestigious school’s piano faculty in the 2022-23 academic year. Shaham is an alumna of the school (Pre-College ’93; and the cross-registration program with Columbia University ’97), and for the past two years has taught at Juilliard as an interim faculty member. Pianists Soyeon Kate Lee and Shai Wosner also join the faculty.

Orli Shaham says, “I am honored and humbled to join the stellar faculty at The Juilliard School. In my years as interim faculty, I’ve seen firsthand how brilliant and inspiring these students are, and I’m thrilled to continue to dig into it all with them! Congratulations, too, to my fellow new faculty members, pianists Shai Wosner and Soyeon Kate Lee, I can’t wait to work alongside you and the rest of the Juilliard faculty and staff.”

In a statement, department chair Veda Kaplinsky says that Shaham, Lee and Wosner each “embody the ideals that are so fundamental to our mission: a passion for teaching, a keen intellect and superb artistry. We look forward to having them join our exceptional faculty and to working alongside them.” Dean David Serkin Ludwig adds that they also each “possess the rare combination of great artistry and outstanding teaching ability that defines the Juilliard faculty.”

Orli Shaham, who was born in Israel and grew up in New York, is the artistic director of both Pacific Symphony’s chamber series Café Ludwig in Costa Mesa, California, and the interactive children’s concert series Orli Shaham’s Bach Yard, which she founded in 2010. Also a regular guest host on National Public Radio’s From the Top, she’s chair of the board of trustees at Kaufman Music Center in New York City.

This season, Shaham is releasing the second and third volumes of the complete Mozart Piano Sonatas. Her Mozart recording project also includes volume 1 of the Piano Sonatas and her album of Piano Concertos with St. Louis Symphony, all of which are part of her discography of a dozen titles on Canary Classics. After receiving her bachelor’s degree at Columbia University, where she participated in the Barnard-Columbia-Juilliard exchange, she pursued graduate studies in historical musicology at Columbia. She is a winner of the Gilmore Young Artist Award and the Avery Fisher Career Grant.

A Musical Tribute to Ukraine

Pacific Symphony stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. A change has been made to this

“This will be our reply to violence—to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” ~Leonard Bernstein

Pacific Symphony stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

When audiences arrive at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall for this week’s concert Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony with Edo de Waart conducting (March 10-12), they will be greeted by blue and yellow signs with bright sunflowers in the lobby letting them know about a program change: In support of all who are suffering, the orchestra will begin this weekend’s performances with the contemplative spiritual anthem “Prayer for Ukraine.” This peaceful musical tribute will provide a moment for audiences to send heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the people who are caught in the conflict in Ukraine. The violin concerto being performed on the program by James Ehnes was written in 1935 by Sergei Prokofiev, who was born and raised in Ukraine.

If you are interested in helping the people of Ukraine with a donation, the U.S. Department of State is highlighting a gofundme campaign for a Ukrainian Humantarian Fund as one centralized fundraising effort, which includes links to individual, verified nonprofit humanitarian organizations.

Pacific Symphony agrees that music has the power to unite us all in peace. The orchestra embodies the sentiment of Leonard Bernstein, who famously said: “This will be our reply to violence—to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

You can view the full piece here:

Meet Alessio Bax

Photo Credit: Marco Borggreve.

Pacific Symphony has postponed the “Cathedrals of Sound” program, which was to have featured Pacific Chorale prominently. Because vocalists are unable to rehearse and perform wearing masks, the concert has been rescheduled to next season. In its place, Carl St.Clair will conduct a program entitled “Beethoven and Rachmaninoff” (Feb. 17-19), which features Beethoven’s “Pastorale” Symphony and Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with Italian pianist Alessio Bax as soloist. He will be making his Pacific Symphony debut at these concerts. Read more about this remarkable artist.

Alessio Bax combines exceptional lyricism and insight with consummate technique. He is without a doubt “among the most remarkable young pianists now before the public” (Gramophone). He catapulted to prominence with First Prize wins at both the Leeds and Hamamatsu International Piano Competitions, and is now a familiar face on five continents, not only as a recitalist and chamber musician, but also as a concerto soloist who has appeared with more than 100 orchestras, including the London, Royal and St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestras, the Boston, Dallas, Sydney and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras and the NHK Symphony in Japan, collaborating with such eminent conductors as Marin Alsop, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Simon Rattle, Yuri Temirkanov and Jaap van Zweden.

Bax recently made a debut with the Milwaukee Symphony, where he performed Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto under Han-Na Chang, and the same composer’s Fourth Concerto and Choral Fantasy took him to the Santa Barbara Symphony. Placing special focus on long-term collaborative projects, Bax undertook Beethoven’s complete works for cello and piano at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS).

Bax is a staple on the international summer festival circuit, and has performed at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland; the Aldeburgh Festival, Bath Festival, and Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series in England; the Risør Festival in Norway; the Salon-de- Provence Festival in France; the Moritzburg Festival, Ruhr Klavier-Festival, and Beethovenfest Bonn in Germany; and Le Pont International Music Festival in Japan. In the U.S., he makes regular appearances at Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Music@Menlo, the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival and New York’s Bard Music Festival. As a chamber musician, Bax has collaborated with Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Ian Bostridge, Lucille Chung, Sol Gabetta, Steven Isserlis, Daishin Kashimoto, Emmanuel Pahud, Lawrence Power, Paul Watkins, Jörg Widmann and the Emerson String Quartet, among many others.

Alessio Bax graduated with top honors at the record age of 14 from the conservatory of Bari, his hometown in Italy, where his teacher was Angela Montemurro. He studied in France with Francois-Joël Thiollier and attended the Chigiana Academy in Siena under Joaquín Achúcarro. In 1994 he moved to Dallas to continue his studies with Achúcarro at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. In fall 2019, Bax joined the piano faculty of Boston’s New England Conservatory. A Steinway Artist, he lives in New York City with Lucille Chung and their five-year-old daughter, Mila.

Welcome, Garrett Collins!

Photo Credit: Allison Maginn Photography.

Pacific Symphony President and Chief Executive Officer John Forsyte has announced the appointment of Garrett Collins to the position of Vice President of Marketing and Communications. Collins joins Pacific Symphony from Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit theatre companies, where he was Marketing Strategy Director.

“We’re very excited to welcome Garrett to Pacific Symphony,” commented John Forsyte. “His passion for orchestral music, extensive experience in planning and execution in the areas of advertising, sales, communications, audience stewardship and visitor experience ideally qualify him to lead the Symphony’s integrated marketing and communications team. He will lead efforts to engage current supporters and develop new audiences for the orchestra during this time of recovery and renewal.”

Garrett Collins assumed his new position on Jan. 31, 2022. His responsibilities will include the leadership and management of all marketing, communications and sales operations for the organization, reporting to Forsyte. 

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing success of Pacific Symphony, a dynamic and ambitious organization,” said Collins. “I’m especially excited to support and guide strategies that make the orchestra accessible to as many people as possible through marketing and communications campaigns that energize an appreciation of orchestral music and are relevant to communities throughout Orange County and Southern California. Collaborating with the musicians, staff, board and, of course, Carl St.Clair will be a great honor.”

Garrett Collins has been with Center Theatre Group, where he was responsible for leading marketing initiatives, since 2014. He has a proven track record for shaping organizational and marketing strategies to achieve $45M+ in annual ticket sales. He has also been recognized for his work in patron retention strategies, digital innovation and initiatives that deepen diversity, equity, inclusion and access.

Prior to his tenure with Center Theatre Group, Collins held marketing and community engagement positions at LA Opera and UCLA and was a 2013 fellow in OPERA America’s Leadership Intensive program. A native of Gilroy, California, Collins holds a Master of Arts in Arts Management from Claremont Graduate University and a Bachelor of Arts in Music (flute performance) from University of California, Los Angeles (magna cum laude).