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

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

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

Dr. Jacob Sustaita

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

Announcing Our 21-22 Classical Season!

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

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

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

Pacific Symphony Musicians Guide String Ensemble to Virtual Concert Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Premiere by Award-Winning Composer Highlights May Streaming Programs

The popular PacificSymphony+ streaming concerts continue through May. Each week, the Thursdays @ 7 online concert draws an average of over 3,000, which is the sold-out capacity of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall! Each week the chat rooms on YouTube and Facebook are buzzing with lively color commentary as listeners share thoughts and impressions.

We appreciate hearing comments from audience members like “I miss Pacific Symphony concerts so much”…“so uplifting during these dreary days—can’t wait to hear them all live”…and “thank you for making this amazing content available!”

Because less musicians can fit onstage when socially distanced, Carl St.Clair is curating the PacificSymphony+ series to present repertoire for smaller chamber orchestra ensembles. He’s programmed works like Baroque concertos by Bach, wind ensemble pieces by Richard Strauss and Charles Gounod—not the usual fare you’d hear during the formal concert season.

Of particular interest during May will be the world premiere of “Alone Together” (performed twice: May 25 & May 27) by the multi-Emmy Award-winning composer John Christopher Wineglass. The work was co-commissioned by Pacific Symphony with three other California orchestras: Fresno Philharmonic, Monterey Symphony and San José Chamber Orchestra. The orchestras expressed a shared interest for new music that responds to the extraordinary nature of life during the pandemic. Wineglass’ responsive piece, titled “Alone Together,” runs approximately nine minutes, and feature strings and percussion.

A joint statement from Wineglass and Fresno Philharmonic conductor Rei Hotoda explains the impetus and intent of the new work:

“’Alone Together’ addresses the social issues we are all facing during this pandemic—from not being able to perform together to even the systemic racial disparities given a world stage due to shelter-in-place. Despite all the setbacks of our present limitations, we are moving forward. This work is allowing us to continue our work as performers—to never lose sight of just how important the arts are and have always been. By creating this work, we are providing a way to connect to one another which is so valuable and something most of us probably once took for granted. We may feel alone at this moment but we as four performing arts organizations are coming to move forward together as one.”

John received his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Composition with a minor in Viola Performance at The American University and later received his Master of Arts degree in Music Composition with an emphasis in Film Scoring for Motion Pictures, Television and Multi-Media at New York University, studying primarily with Justin Dello-Joio of the Juilliard School.

To review the PacificSymphony+ concerts streaming in May, click here.

Volunteer of the Year: Jonathan Adamany

In honor of his valuable investment of time, leadership and volunteer efforts, Pacific Symphony is pleased to announce that Pacific Symphony’s Volunteer of the Year for 2020-21 is Pacific Symphony League President Jonathan Adamany. He was also honored with a 2021 Spirit of Volunteerism Award from OneOC. As an Orange County resident and fan of Pacific Symphony since childhood, he has been volunteering with Pacific Symphony since Summer 2016. He has taken an active role in the Pacific Symphony League, first as the Membership Chair and for the past three years as League President. He has been a strong leader for both the League and Pacific Symphony’s Board of Directors serving on the Board’s Executive Committee.

Currently, Adamany is a private mortgage lender specializing in deeds of trust. He is also serving a three-year term with the Association of Major Symphony Orchestra Volunteers (AMSOV) as the board’s Social Media Manager and overseeing the AMSOV Directory. Prior to joining the Pacific Symphony League, he served as the Campaign Communications Director and Deputy Campaign Manager for former Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and worked on Capital Hill as an intern to former Congressman Reid Ribble (R-WI).

Jonathan has always been interested in politics and business. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, two minors (Business Administration and Philosophy), as well as two Certificates in Paralegal Studies (ABA approved) and Business Fundamentals, all from the University of San Diego.

Jonathan’s accomplishments while serving as an outstanding volunteer for Pacific Symphony follow:

  • Jonathan led the League into the 21st Century by building up their digital infrastructure. He led the restoration and expansion of the League’s webpage along with the launch of its Access Page and digital Membership Directory.
  • Jonathan created a transferable administration system for League membership management and streamlined the maintenance of records.
  • And among his many other accomplishments, he advocated for and officially redirected that the League’s financial support would be solely focused on music education, established the League Fund for this purpose and introduced the annual year-end appeal letter to this end.

For all these reasons and more, Pacific Symphony is proud to name Jonathan Adamany Volunteer of the Year.

Experience Verdi’s “La Traviata”

New Semi-Staged Production Streaming on June 5

How do you stage an opera that’s a love story without the characters making any physical contact? That was stage director Robert Neu’s challenge when Carl St.Clair contacted him last winter about collaborating on a production of Verdi’s “La Traviata” that takes into account the complicated covid-19 protocols necessary to perform during this unprecedented time.

Neu explains in his director’s note that he decided to “capitalize on the psychological journey of these three fascinating characters. You will see each character relive his/her tragic past is his/her own mind.”

Music Director Carl St.Clair directs a socially distanced Pacific Symphony and a cast that includes the Mexican-American soprano and “rising star” (Opera News) Cecilia Violetta López as Violetta Valéry; the award-winning American tenor John Riesen as Alfredo Germont; and Metropolitan Opera house favorite, baritone Jeffrey Mattsey as Giorgio Germont. Twelve cameras filmed the semi-staged opera in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall stage.

This “La Traviata,” one of the first to be designed and directed specifically with the safety of performers integrated into every element of the production from blocking to filming, will be broadcast online Sat., June 5 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 for 28-day household access. For more information or to buy tickets, visit PacificSymphony.org/Traviata.


About the Cast:

Cecilia Violetta López (Violetta Valéry)
“López is as compelling a Violetta as I’ve seen. As the consumptive courtesan, who, for the purest of reasons, is compelled to relinquish her true love, only ultimately to die in his arms. López managed to infuse every gesture, even in her most consumptive paroxysm, with suggestive sexuality. Her voice, big and rich over its entire range, is remarkably agile for its size and as focused when she sings quietly as it is when she just lets it go. Her ‘Sempre Libera’ was as convincingly radiant and joyful as her ‘Addio del Passato’ was sad and wistful.”—The Washington Post

John Riesen (Alfredo Germont)
“John Riesen has opera’s Emotional Boy, Alfredo, firmly in hands. He is desperately in love and his heart is on his sleeve for the entire opera…Riesen is note-perfect and powerful in his solos, an impressive tenor with dramatics to match. He gains power as the performance continues until his icy public confrontation with his lost love at her firend’s soirée.“—Naples Daily News

Jeffrey Mattsey (Giorgio Germont)
“Jeff Mattsey proved a suave, even charming interpreter of the title role, musically secure and with playful intelligence. Nor did the singer shy away from Giovanni’s ugly side.”—The Salt Lake Tribune

Robert Neu (Stage Director)
Known for his highly theatrical and musically sensitive work, Robert Neu has directed over one hundred productions of operas, musicals and plays throughout the country. Neu’s recent productions include “The Magic Flute” and “L’Enfant et les sortileges” for Pacific Symphony, among many others.

An Online Learning Experience: “The Traviata Project”

For the first time, Pacific Symphony is augmenting its opera performance with a series of online learning experiences to expand the “La Traviata” internet event. In the weeks leading to the June 5 streaming broadcast, Pacific Symphony Assistant Conductor, Dr. Jacob Sustaita, will host three one-hour online sessions available for $35, taking place on May 19, May 26 and June 1 at 5 p.m. Dr. Sustaita, with an extensive background in opera, will examine the story and complex personal backgrounds of the main characters, take his audiences behind the scenes with interviews of the cast, Music Director Carl St.Clair and Stage Director Robert Neu.

Assistant Conductor Dr. Jacob Sustaita

The Symphony is pleased to co-present “The Traviata Project” in cooperation with Laguna Beach Seniors at The SusiQ, where the Project will headline their robust series of online courses for their large and active membership. “How proud and pleased we are to have this partnership with Laguna Beach Seniors” commented John Forsyte, the Symphony’s president. “After all, Carl St.Clair is Laguna Beach’s ‘first citizen of music’ so this partnership between Pacific Symphony and Laguna Beach Seniors is only fitting.”


Course Description

Session #1: Verdi’s La Traviata: Love, Pathos, Sacrifice, and Illness
Wednesday, May 19 5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Exploring the opera’s narrative, characters, theme, and meaning. Discussions with Music Director Carl St.Clair and cast members. Insights for new and experienced opera listeners.

Session #2: Alone Together / Together Alone: Behind the Scenes
Wednesday, May 26 5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Verdi’s confronting reflection and commentary of life in his own time, and how Pacific Symphony and partners produced this masterpiece in Covid-times. Discussions with Bob Neu, Stage Director. Interviews with cast and backstage technical staff. Exclusive video from rehearsals and taping.

Session #3: Behind the Score: From Failure to Celebrated Icon
Wednesday, June 2 5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Verdi’s synthesis of style, drama, virtuosity and humanity. Conversation with Carl St.Clair, Soprano Cecilia Violetta López and Stage Director Robert Neu.


To purchase admission for the three-part digital seminar, “The Traviata Project,” call Pacific Symphony’s box office at (714) 755-5799.

How Music Can Rewire the Brain

Music continues to prove its miraculous ability to heal in the recovery of former United States Representative Gabby Giffords. On January 8, 2011, Giffords, a strong advocate against gun violence, was shot in the head during an assassination attempt and mass shooting that tragically claimed the lives of six other individuals. Music has since assumed a central role in her path toward neurological healing, thanks to recent developments in research regarding neurologic music therapy. Brain trauma and damage of neural connectors caused Giffords to struggle with paralysis and aphasia, a condition that affects one’s ability to communicate.

A patient of music therapy, Giffords has revived her passions in playing French horn and singing, consequently recovering her motor skills, cognition and speech. Listening to music is a complex event that requires the comprehension of multiple different elements (such as timbre, intonation and pitch) and permeates throughout different regions of the brain. Neurological music therapy is therefore unique in its capacity to generate brain plasticity, which reconnects the links between different brain cells. As a testament to the impact of music on her recovery, Giffords has even taken to utilizing musical notation on the scripts of her speeches to aid in her delivery.

While interdisciplinary research in music and medicine currently remains in its early stages, the profound intersections between music and neuroscience prove to be more life-changing than ever. Read more on Gabby Giffords’ recovery here.

Music Students Explore the Legacy of César Chavez with Pacific Symphony’s AXP@Home Program

Over the past year, the arts-X-press team carried on their summer fun traditions by introducing AXP@Home, the remote format of Pacific Symphony’s immersive arts summer camp. With the success of last summer’s virtual camp, AXP@Home has since been expanded through alumni workshops that explore important themes through a different art form each month. 

Starting with the March workshop, however, the AXP@Home staff opened its doors to all middle-school students for the 2021 Spring workshop series as we prepare to welcome new students for our 2021 summer program.

The AXP@Home Spring Workshop, Si Se Puede! — Yes You Can!, provided students a creative safe space to explore dance, musical theater and cultural history. In celebration of César Chavez Day (March 31), Theatre Arts Instructor Deana Occhipinti led our group of new and returning students through an interactive musical theatre adaptation of a children’s book called Harvesting Hope by Kathleen Krull, which describes the inspirational life events of Chavez. Occhipinti wrote this script to be interactive and educational, and to inspire empowerment through storytelling.

Together, Instructor Occhipinti and students collaborated to reflect the spirit of the commemorative holiday through energetic choreography and call-and-response chanting; each time the script mentioned César’s name, students all followed a chant of “Sí, se puede!” with “Yes, it can be done!” 

Occhipinti emphasized how elements of impassioned storytelling can become the driving force for all forms of the arts: “We became part of the story, and there is always a story to be told!” Occhipinti told students. “As you go through life, I encourage you to tell your story, and also become a good audience—learning how to appreciate other people telling their stories.” 

To get the group’s creativity flowing, students and counselors also created chants to reflect what they feel most passionate about in their lives:

  • “Doesn’t having fun matter? Let’s open our creative eye together!” 
  • “We’re marching to justice for our sisters and our mothers. We should have equal rights—so let’s stop the fights!” 
  • “Stand tall—don’t let people discriminate! 

As we look to inspire future leaders in many young artists, we should actively work to provide them a platform to share their experiences and voice what truly matters to them.

The next workshop in the AXP@Home Spring Workshop series, “Blooming in Your Community,” will be a creative expression workshop taking place on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Click here to register! 

Please stay tuned to @artsXpress on Instagram and Facebook for updates on news and content!

Pacific Symphony’s Multi-Talented Joshua Ranz

Hailed in the Los Angeles Times as offering a “stunning rendition” of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, and an “exciting” version of the Copland Clarinet Concerto, Joshua Ranz is equally gifted on clarinet and bass clarinet. Since 1997, he has served as bass clarinet with Pacific Symphony in addition to being principal clarinet of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) as well as principal clarinet of the New West Symphony.

Ranz has played on over 100 soundtracks for such composers as John Williams, Michael Giacchino, James Horner, Randy Newman and many others. Some of the recent films he has played on include Coco, Lady Bird, Star Wars VII, Rogue One and The Incredibles 2. A graduate of Harvard and Yale, he recently joined the faculty of UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music as Lecturer in Clarinet.

As you might imagine, Ranz is a consummate musician with a lot creative energy. In spite of the pandemic, he managed to record his first album, which will be released on April 23. “Three Cello Suites,” from Joshua Ranz and Navona Records is a truly groundbreaking take on Bach’s legendary works. The album features—for the first time ever—three unabridged cello suites by Bach arranged for the bass clarinet by Ranz. He selected Suites 1, 4, and 2 in that order for this recording because, together, they form a cohesive and dynamic whole.

Ranz lends a fresh voice to Bach’s profoundly beautiful music. “Bach’s music transcends any one instrument, and I believe having the opportunity to hear it with a fresh set of ears can be an invigorating way to experience his genius,” says Ranz. “I have discovered that playing and recording the suites on the bass clarinet offers a fluidity and lyricism, giving the music a unique beauty rarely heard in other renditions. Great cellists have told me that they prefer certain movements on the bass clarinet than even on their own instrument.”

In anticipation of the April 23 release of the new album, Pacific Symphony will present an “Album Release Party” on Weds., April 21 at 5 p.m. KUSC radio personality Alan Chapman will join Principal Flute and Symphony Mixer host Ben Smolen for a conversation with Joshua Ranz about his recording project. They’ll play selections from the new release and will give away CDs to members of the audience. You can catch the “Album Release Party” on Facebook.

The “Three Cello Suites” recording will be available on Apple Music/iTunes and Amazon.com beginning April 23. Or you can pre-order the album here.

In addition to the many musical hats Ranz wears, he’s a master of klezmer, an instrumental musical tradition associated with the Ashkenazi Jews of Central and Eastern Europe. His wailing klezmer clarinet plays a starring role on Michael Giocchino’s soundtrack for the Seth Rogan comedy-drama “An American Pickle” (2020).

Ranz will be in conversation with Alan Chapman for a Zoom event entitled “Essential Klezmer” on Thurs., April 15 at 4 p.m. He will be talking about growing up hearing his grandmother speaking Yiddish, and how he began developing his klezmer artistry during childhood, playing clarinet in a klezmer trio with a young violinist friend. He will demonstrate klezmer effects on clarinet to show how that technique differs from playing classical music. Chapman will also provide historical context on klezmer. If you’ve always wondered about how klezmer music is played or you want to experience this side of Ranz’s artistry, be sure to look for this presentation on Pacific Symphony’s Facebook page on April 14.