CONCERTMASTERS Coast-to-Coast Team Up in Solidarity

Pacific Symphony and Concertmaster Dennis Kim initiated this collaborative video project involving concertmasters from 8 American orchestra perform the healing slow movement of Bach’s Double Concerto in D Minor, socially distanced, and in solidarity. You’ll hear more Strads, Guadagninis and Gaglianos per square second than on any other video on the web.

Participating orchestras include the Minnesota Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in addition to Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Hawai’i Symphony, LA Opera Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Symphony and Utah Symphony.

The 8 orchestras synchronized the video’s premier on social media on Monday, June 15 at Noon Eastern time. In less than a day, there were more than 75,000 views across all symphony social media platforms.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Grant Awarded to Pacific Symphony

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Below, please read our latest press release discussing our recent Equity, Diversity and Inclusion grant from the Catalyst Fund. Our President & CEO, John Fosyte, comments below.

The League of American Orchestras has awarded a grant of $18,760 to Pacific Symphony to strengthen their understanding of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and to help transform organizational culture. Given to just 28 orchestras nationwide, the one-year grants comprise the second round of The Catalyst Fund, the League’s three-year, $2.1 million grant-making program, made possible by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with additional support from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation.

John Forsyte, President and CEO of Pacific Symphony commented,

“We are excited to be selected—as one of 28 orchestras—to receive the Catalyst Fund Grant from the League of American Orchestras. Pacific Symphony’s Board of Directors, staff and musicians recognize the importance and challenge of this work. The grant will help to fund the launching of a long-term effort by allowing us to engage an expert consultant in equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) to facilitate a planning process that advances our strategic goals. In light of this critical moment for addressing racial inequities, long-standing barriers and greater inclusion, this is extremely important work for the Symphony to undertake.”

“Recent events have underscored the deep racial disparities existing in our country, already amplified by the pandemic’s unequal impact on communities of color,” said Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras. “The work orchestras are undertaking with support from the League’s Catalyst Fund highlights the urgency of addressing EDI as orchestras attempt to confront decades of inequity within our field. We must understand and address our personal and organizational roles in systems of inequity.”

Pacific Symphony’s overall goal is to establish EDI as a central element of the orchestra’s strategic plan. By engaging in an internal learning process, the Symphony will develop specific strategies and action plans to diversify its board, staff, musicians and audience, and to ensure greater impact and access for everyone in our region. Throughout this process, stakeholders will better understand key issues related to EDI, question long-held assumptions and better understand why it matters to Pacific Symphony. Action steps will then address EDI within the Symphony, and an organization-wide plan will be developed.

Preliminary analysis of the inaugural 2019 Catalyst Fund cohort demonstrates support and progress among orchestras, including an increased commitment and dedication to individual orchestras’ EDI work and an increased awareness that systemic change requires a sustained effort over time.

Catalyst Fund grants support orchestras’ use of EDI practitioners who help implement a range of organizational development activities involving musicians, staff, board and, in some cases, volunteers and community leaders. These include anti-bias trainings, institutional audits, the creation of formal EDI plans and work to build consensus and integrate EDI into mission statements and culture. Community building is a key component of the program; The Catalyst Fund Learning Cohort, made possible by the generous support of the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, enables past and present grantees to interact with colleagues through remote and (post-pandemic) in-person convenings as well a dedicated online forum.

The Catalyst Fund is informed by earlier dialogue and research. A major national convening co-hosted by the League and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in December 2015 was catalytic in launching national task forces and annual convenings to engage orchestras in EDI efforts. Two important League studies, “Racial/Ethnic and Gender Diversity in the Orchestra Field,” and “Forty Years of Fellowships: A Study of Orchestras’ Efforts to Include African American and Latino Musicians,” further served to inform and stimulate action. In April 2018 the League launched, in partnership with The Sphinx Organization and the New World Symphony, the National Alliance for Audition Support, a national initiative that offers Black and Latinx musicians a customized combination of mentoring, audition preparation and audition travel stipends. Additional information on these programs and other EDI activity, including information about the League’s EDI Strategic Framework, is available from the League’s online EDI Resource Center.

League member orchestras were eligible to apply for Catalyst Fund grants; applications were reviewed by an independent panel of experts.


2020 Catalyst Fund Grant Recipients:
Arkansas Symphony Orchestra; Charlotte Symphony Orchestra; Chicago Sinfonietta; Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; DC Youth Orchestra Program; East Texas Symphony Orchestral Empire State Youth Orchestra; Grand Rapids Symphony; Handel and Haydn Society; Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra; Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra; Los Angeles Philharmonic; Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; Minnesota Orchestra; Nashville Symphony; New Jersey Symphony Orchestra; New Jersey Youth Symphony; New World Symphony; North Carolina Symphony; Oakland Symphony; Pacific Symphony; Princeton Symphony Orchestra; Richmond Symphony; St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; San Francisco Symphony; Seattle Symphony; South Dakota Symphony Orchestra; Virginia Symphony Orchestra

Today, Blackout Tuesday

Dear Pacific Symphony Family,

_DSC0601-originalI write these words with a heavy heart, but with a strong commitment to change. I want you to know that Pacific Symphony stands in solidarity with members of the Black community, who continue to experience systemic racism. What we have witnessed this week – and so many times before – is heart-rending and tragic.

We grieve. We mourn. We pledge to support greater equity. We commit to inspiring deeper understanding through the transformative and universal language of music.

Today we observe Black-Out Tuesday, reflecting on our role as a leading cultural organization to help shine a light on and help address the inequities and racism that impact communities of color.

—Pacific Symphony President John Forsyte

BLM Blackout Tuesday

You Are The Hero

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You are the hero of Pacific Symphony’s story. Day after day, you continue to make a difference. Your impact on us has never been clearer.

For example, your donations of unused tickets to the organization and additional annual fund gifts have been nothing short of critical. Usually, when we talk about transforming lives through the power of music, we are talking about the wider impact on the community, and it is your generosity that makes this possible. Now, in these financially troubling times, your support has kept Pacific Symphony resilient.

Your trust in us and your generosity in support of our musicians, staff and programs has been remarkable. It has made it possible for us to pivot to virtual offerings to keep connected.

Like so many arts organizations that are unable sell tickets to live performances, your Pacific Symphony is weathering rough seas. Your sustained support will be vital to seeing us through this difficult period. If you are in a position to, please help us to protect the core assets of the organization, especially our 130-plus musicians and staff, by donating as generously as you are able.

Thanks to the Larry and Helen Hoag Foundation for helping that support go a little bit further during our Sound Future Campaign. Through June 30th, your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar to the tune of $150,000.

Please make a gift now, and with your help, Pacific Symphony’s future, and yours, will continue to be sound.


How Classical Composers Deal with Pandemics

COVID-19 is not the first pandemic the world has ever seen. Throughout history, people have dealt with pandemics, but still, composers carried on.

In 1720, Marseille, France endured the last major outbreak of the bubonic plaque in Western Europe. The year after the plague ended, Bach wrote Cantata No. 25—”There is Nothing Healthy in My Body”—in response to that terrible event. Although outwardly a spiritual and uplifting work, the text of the Cantata is rife with imagery of fevers, illness and “the world as a hospital.” The poignant bass aria, “Ah, where in my wretchedness may I find counsel,” pleads to the Lord for healing. Listen to this stirring piece below:

Stravinsky was in Switzerland when World War I began. There was no way for him to return home to Russia. He knew he needed to make money while he was stranded so he composed “L’histoire du soldat”—”The Soldier’s Tale.” (Check out this chamber version, linked below.) The composition, which included a theatrical production, showed much promise during its premiere in Lausanne on September 28, 1918, but quickly ground to a halt when the Spanish Influenza reached Switzerland. First, it affected the production crew, then it got Stravinsky, who already had health problems. After a long bout with influenza, he recovered. Nevertheless, he was running out of funds in Switzerland, and performing for large audiences was almost entirely out of the question. So, over the next year, he altered old music and wrote other pieces for a smaller orchestra and audience. During this time he composed “Ragtime,” a divergent take on ragtime jazz, and the “Firebird Suite,” a rework of the “Firebird” ballet in suite form.

Another famous Russian composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff fled the Bolshevik revolution and arrived in New Jersey on November 10, 1918. Just a few days later, the composer fell ill with the Spanish influenza. Rachmaninoff quickly recovered, and, even though he’d been advised to rest for a little longer, he embarked on an American tour. He wrote his own arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a show of gratitude toward his new country. And it became a showpiece for his inaugural American tour.

Hear Rachmaninoff performing his version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” below:

Other more recent compositions include John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1 often referred to as the “AIDS Symphony” (also linked below). In interviews, Corigliano talks about the responsibility he felt to tell the stories of his many friends who died from the disease, and also the anger and frustration he felt in being powerless to help. The moving symphony premiered in 1990 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and won the Grawemeyer Award the next year.

This isn’t the first pandemic and it won’t be the last. What is known, however, is that we will always have music to help up make sense of it all. That is why it has been so universal throughout human history. Art and music find their power in speaking to the circumstances that occur in our lives, especially the ones that don’t make sense. Because everyone in the world has in some way been impacted by COVID-19, it is safe to be optimistic that composers will continue to find a way to express in music, those emotions that words cannot convey.

Introducing the Virtual “Symphony Mixer!”


Symphony Mixer is a new virtual social series that brings Pacific Symphony musicians straight into the comfort of your home via Zoom! Hosted by Symphony Principal Flutist Ben Smolen, each virtual happy hour will feature live performances, interviews with artists, musical anecdotes and stories from behind-the-scenes.

Pacific Symphony donors and subscribers are invited to attend each mixer live each Friday at 5 p.m., and they are allowed to ask questions that will be answered by the artists on the spot. All others can experience the mixer on-demand later on our YouTube channel.

In the first virtual Symphony Mixer, Principal Flutist Ben Smolen hosted Café Ludwig host and curator Orli Shaham in conversation and performance. They discussed performing in the Samueli Theater together for Café Ludwig, Orli’s living in New York during the height of the pandemic, how the arts (and artists themselves) are dealing with the stress of quarantine and more!

Guests for upcoming Symphony Mixers are Concertmaster Dennis Kim (May 29) and Principal Cellist Warren Hagerty (June 5).

Go to the Watch+Listen page on the Symphony website and click on the “Virtual Live Events” category to find links to on-demand video of the mixers. Or click here to view the first mixer with Ben Smolen hosting Orli Shaham.

Pacific Symphony Produces Its First Virtual Concert, “John Williams: Maestro of the Movies”

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Roger Kalia Completes His Tenure as Associate Conductor and Passes the Baton to Incoming Assistant Conductor Jacob Sustaita

Pacific Symphony recently announced that it is producing its first-ever virtual concert, “John Williams: Maestro of the Movies,” available on May 30 starting at 11 a.m. and continues to be available on demand for 45 days. This 45-minute online concert replaces the live Family Musical Morning series performance originally scheduled on May 30. Audience of all ages will enjoy performances of selections from John Williams’ film scores. The Symphony gratefully acknowledges Farmers & Merchants Bank for its strong support as the presenting sponsor of the Family Musical Morning series.

The program, hosted by Associate Conductor Roger Kalia, features music from some of John Williams’ most popular films, including “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Harry Potter” and “E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial,” performed by Pacific Symphony and conducted by Richard Kaufman.

The concert opens with Farmers & Merchants Bank President W. Henry Walker welcoming the online audience and recognizing Roger Kalia for his long tenure at Pacific Symphony and congratulating him on his new music director positions with Symphony New Hampshire and Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra in Indiana. Woven throughout the program are such features as “Ask the Composer with John Williams,” eyewitness accounts from Pacific Symphony musicians involved in the recording sessions for John Williams’ film scores and an instrument spotlight focusing on the brass family. Roger Kalia interviews Pacific Symphony’s Principal Pops Conductor Richard Kaufman, who discusses conducting John Williams’ music in concert and also relates some entertaining anecdotes about the composer. The concert concludes with a virtual “Passing of the Baton” from Associate Conductor Roger Kalia to the Symphony’s new Assistant Conductor, Jacob Sustaita.

Beginning on May 30 at 11 a.m., the concert can be viewed by signing in with an email address at The program can be viewed on demand for 45 days after that. There will be a Live Chat opportunity available during the initial viewing on May 30. For subsequent on demand viewing the chat function will not be live.

To enhance this concert experience for families, PDFs for download of musical activities that complement the concert will be posted on the Virtual Concert webpage. Activities include:

  • A spotlight on the brass family (French horn, trumpet, trombone)
  • A Meet the Young Musician video featuring a member of Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles
  • A spotlight on composer John Williams
  • A STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) activity on movie sound effects
  • Links to 17 different movie-themed crafts and coloring pages, each highlights a different movie for which John Williams composed the score

Be Center Stage at Your Next Virtual Meeting


Here’s just 3 of the Symphony’s classically fun Zoom backgrounds on offer

Like most of us, you’ve probably found yourself living an alternate life on Zoom lately. Pacific Symphony has developed some fun virtual backgrounds so you can add some pizzazz to your Zoom calls. You can choose to appear onstage at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, outside on Argyros Plaza at Leatherby’s Café Rouge, or inside the Samueli Theater.

Choose your favorite background here.

Click here to learn how to change your Zoom background!

2019-09-26_Pac Symp_DAG-9763.5Pacific Symphony’s longtime photographer Doug Gifford, whose work you’ve seen on our website and all over the Segerstrom campus, has provided video conferencing tips on his blog. He specializes in identifying environments that capture the perfect images or videos. Doug commented, “After being a part of many video calls of late, I found myself wanting to reach out to the people on the call and offer a few easy-to-make adjustments from what I could see in my ‘viewfinder’ to help them enhance what their viewers were seeing. Since that wasn’t possible, I’ve written up some pro-tips you can try yourself to more accurately reflect your personal brand during your next video call.”

Check out Doug’s blog for his list of tips!


Pacific Symphony @ Home Adds Online Music and Arts Learning Center!

Initiative Features Free Educational Resources at


Pacific Symphony announces the launch of an online music and arts learning center to provide compelling digital content for teachers, parents and music students as well as resources for lifelong learners. This free and engaging content provides learning and inspiration for music lovers or all ages. Whether you are a teacher in needing to supplement an arts curriculum, a parent who is home-schooling children, a grandparent encouraging a budding violinist in the family, or if you are simply curious to learn more about music yourself, there is something for everyone in the community.

“We’re pleased to share our new online music and arts learning center with the Orange County community,” commented President and CEO John Forsyte. “Well before the pandemic began, our strategic plan prioritized our virtual education initiative. Our highest education priority has been to expand our footprint and impact through media. Hundreds of schools don’t have access to what we offer, and what we learn may unleash a very beneficial outcome to forward our distance learning objectives. This is a really useful moment to experiment and get feedback from the educational community and from parents who are at home with children.”

“Music brings so much beauty into our lives, and engaging and learning with music and the arts allows us to grow as human beings, as well to nourish our souls,” said Vice President of Education & Community Engagement Susan Miller Kotses. “At no time is this more critical than now. In addition to the resources currently found on the Pacific Symphony @ Home Music and Arts Learning Center, Pacific Symphony’s Education and Community Engagement Team will be producing additional content on a regular basis, so please do check back regularly. In addition to what is available to the public, we are also working to create re-imagined digital content for a number of our existing programs including our school partnership program, Class Act. We’ll also be making an announcement soon regarding a digital re-imagining of our beloved summer arts camp, arts-X-press.”

Pacific Symphony’s new collection of free education-focused digital content is evolving and expanding on a daily basis. Audiences are encouraged to check back frequently for new additions of content. Some of the current highlights include:

  • Pacific Symphony Home Learning
    Features activities for curious music students, covering composer John Williams, short educational musical activities, STEAM education and further educational resources
  • Instrumental Instruction
    Free, online violin instruction videos for our Pacific Symphony Santa Ana Strings program accessible to the public
  • Lifelong Learning
    Content for lifelong learners of all ages: including Pre-Concert Talks on SoundCloud, and further educational resources from KUSC and leading institutions such as Harvard, Berklee and MacPhail Center for Music, as well as resources focusing on visual arts, dance and theater
  • Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles Online

Members and alumni of Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles (PSYE) record themselves and present their own series of Quarantine Clips. Also featured as zoom sessions with guest artists, composers and conductors interacting with PSYE program students.

You can find all of Pacific Symphony’s education content on our website at