Symphony Mixer Serves Up Musical News & Views

Every Wednesday at 4 p.m., Pacific Symphony’s Principal Flute Ben Smolen hosts the Symphony Mixer. It’s a weekly web series where Ben interviews conductors, composers, Symphony colleagues, and people in the music business.

The conversations are stimulating and thought-provoking and include intimate performances. Watch Pacific Symphony’s Facebook page for notices of upcoming Mixers to join the show live. But all the Mixers are recorded so that you can enjoy them on demand whenever you’d like. Just click here!

Pacific Symphony’s Summer Replay Series

If you’ve been missing your Pacific Symphony, you’ll be glad to know about “Summer Replay,” a virtual summer symphonic series, available for streaming online. Carl St.Clair, who conducts all the concerts in the series, enters his fourth decade as Pacific Symphony’s music director re-imagining the orchestra’s contribution to the community and pivoting to an online presence on the worldwide web. This complimentary four-concert virtual series invites audiences to revisit Pacific Symphony performances of great masterworks featured in past seasons. The series host will be Eileen Jeanette, the Symphony’s senior vice-president of artistic planning. She welcomes audiences to each program and interviews Pacific Symphony musicians before each concert begins.

The virtual summer symphonic series premieres on Thurs., July 30 at 7 p.m. You can sign in with an email address at beginning at 6:30 p.m. The concert begins at 7 p.m. and each program will be available on demand for 45 days after each performance premiere date. Read more!

Locked-down in Long Beach? No problem!

Photo courtesy: Long Beach Block x Block

Do you wonder how artists are satisfying their creative urges during the pandemic? Being naturally resourceful with creative minds, they’re relying on themselves to create opportunities for artistic expression. A number of Pacific Symphony musicians have turned to socially distanced al fresco chamber music and remotely recorded video projects. A group of Symphony musicians who are neighbors living in Long Beach started performing chamber music outside at each other’s houses, calling themselves Long Beach Block x Block. Pacific Symphony’s Dennis Kim masterminded a number of video projects including a mosaic video he calls “Concertmasters Coast-to-Coast” involving six concertmasters from across the country.

Writer Pete Lefevre speaks with all of them on the trials and tribulations of living an artist’s life in the times of coronavirus. Read his Voice of OC article here!

PSYO Mosaic Video Premieres

The Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra today released a mosaic video virtual performance of the dramatic final movement of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. Roger Kalia, who was Pacific Symphony’s associate conductor and music director of the PSYO for five years, conducted the ensemble remotely from his home.

Traveling to Indiana to assume his new position as music director of the Evansville Philharmonic, he took a moment to express his thoughts on the making of this video. “I am very proud of the wonderful musicians of PSYO for their exciting and powerful performance of the finale of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. We were all set to perform this work for our March concert, but unfortunately, we were unable to due to the pandemic. I didn’t want their countless hours of hard work and preparation to go unnoticed, and we decided that it would be extremely meaningful to showcase these talented musicians in a virtual performance of the finale.”

Kalia continued, “Musically, it’s one of the most impressive and emotional moments in all of classical music. There is a sense of triumph over adversity, which is very appropriate during this time. I am so proud of these outstanding young musicians, and while I wish we could have performed this work live in front of audiences in the OC and in Europe as part of our summer tour, I am so glad we could at least come together one last time in this special virtual performance.”

Watch the video here!

Sunday Evenings with Pacific Symphony on KUSC

Pacific Symphony’s official classical radio station, KUSC 91.5 FM broadcasts seven 2019-20 Classical Series concerts to over half a million listeners in Southern and Central California, beginning July 26 at 7 p.m. and continuing on summer Sunday evenings through Sept. 6. Popular radio personality Rich Capparela hosts the broadcasts, which include fascinating interviews with Music Director Carl St.Clair, guest artists and Symphony musicians. Alan Chapman’s pre-concert talks and program notes for each concert on our website. For more information and a complete concert listing, click here

AXP@Home Session #1 Recap

“The AXP magic truly prospered despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic,” AXP@Home Session 1 Director Edward Johnson said as he reflected on the first session. The beautiful thing about artists, Johnson said, is “their imagination can find a space to create anywhere.” These words were never more true than when arts-X-press had to reimagine summer camp a few weeks ago. With the COVID-19 pandemic still haunting daily life, the staff of the immersive summer arts program announced the transition online. “With AXP@Home,” said AXP@Home director Alison Levinson, “students can look forward to an escape from their day-to-day, a creative outlet, opportunities to meet new friends, inspiration from professional artists and the special type of fun and magic that AXP brings out in people.”

Music Director Carl St.Clair address the virtual camp-goers

The online structure included activities like singing, dancing, writing music, sculpting, creating a theater presentation, and more. The class contents were all the same, minus the in-person instruction. Instead of instructors moving easel to easel, or watching the dance floor for improvements, they would lean in closer to their screens, trying to beautify form and improve technique over Zoom. Or instead of taking a field trip to the Pageant of Masters festival in Laguna Beach, students watched the previous year’s performance with a Pageant of Masters artist, all the while asking her questions, trying to understand how and why she created a piece, and the path she took to be an artist in the first place. Another similar activity took place while watching Cirque du Soleil with the head coach and stage director. Students wondered how these athelete-performers brainstorm ideas on the tightrope or how they increase risk in acrobatic feats. The students were able to grasp how much creativity goes into staging an event; not just in the execution, but in the planning, the lighting, the stage direction, and how it all comes together to present a polished show.

The online-only element seemed to not disadvantage the camp-goers, and instead boosted a sense of togetherness, camaraderie and artistic excellence. Kids who felt hesitant during activities, became bolder as the classes went on. They saw their peers sing or act for the first time, and they saw that their first attempts maybe weren’t so bad. They began to explore avenues of art that they felt an inclination to and ones they were less inspired by. Students learned to dance with the “whole body in rather than just certain parts,” and about “different songs from around the world” that became “stuck in their [minds].” Pacific Symphony musicians visited a couple of times, allowing the conversation to get personal, with the musicians talking about future goals and personal ambitions. On multiple occasions, Music Director Carl St.Clair joined the students, encouraging them to set goals and to go after their dreams. And over the course of the program, the students began to understand how it’s possible.

At the end of the session, the recurring theme in the student responses was that they became emboldened. All of the “AXP magic” would not have been possible without all of the people involved. The overextension of effort by AXP staff and guests was palpable. Hopefully, next year arts-X-press will return to its original format, but this year’s AXP@Home certainly does not lack energy, enthusiasm and passion. It continues to artistically inspire in the hearts of the next generation.

Onto Session 2!

A Virtual July 4 Spectacular!

Celebrating this great nation is a little different this year. Though we’re not able to enjoy the Fourth in the great outdoors, Pacific Symphony invites the worldwide web to join together online for patriotic favorites, fireworks and musical festivities. Music Director Carl St.Clair has re-imagined the Fourth, creating a streaming 50-minute program that captures the sense of a free-wheeling summer celebration that is a star-spangled 244th birthday party for America. Pacific Symphony’s first-ever virtual Independence Day concert will be available online on July 4 at 6 p.m. Beginning at that time, the concert can be viewed by signing in with an email address at our concert webpage here and will be available on demand for 45 days after that.

This July 4th Celebration is dedicated to the frontline healthcare workers, who inspire us with their strength and bravery in caring for their fellow Americans. The program also recognizes two great Americans, Charlie and Ling Zhang, for the countless ways they have supported Pacific Symphony and the advancement of music education. 

The program, hosted by Music Director Carl St.Clair and Principal Pops Conductor Richard Kaufman, opens with video footage of a rousing rendition of St.Clair conducting Pacific Symphony musicians in “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Angels Stadium last summer. Richard Kaufman conducts John Williams’ “Midway March” from the soundtrack to the classic World War II motion picture “Midway.” The program continues with “76 Trombones” from Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man,” and Kaufman will read the results from this year’s Nathan’s Famous Hot-Dog Eating Contest, the traditional annual competition that takes place on Coney Island every Fourth of July. Selections from Peter Boyer’s “Ellis Island: A Dream of America” follow as well as a musical salute to the armed forces. Renowned country music star, Lee Greenwood, who was the headliner for last season’s popular “Hail to the Heroes” concert, makes a guest appearance with a special message and song selection specifically for Pacific Symphony audiences.

The concert concludes with a moving mosaic video featuring members of Pacific Chorale and American Feel Young Chorus singing “America the Beautiful,” accompanied by Pacific Symphony, followed by the grand finale: a spectacular fireworks extravaganza orchestrated to “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa.

Tune Into “Ellis Island: The Dream Of America” This Friday!

Program Made Possible by Generous Support from The Ellis Island Honors Society

PBS’s Great Performances and Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, pay tribute to America’s history and celebrate the historic American immigrant experience with a special Independence Day weekend program of composer Peter Boyer’s Grammy-nominated contemporary classical work “Ellis Island: The Dream of America,” broadcast nationally on PBS on Friday, July 3 at 9 p.m. (PDT).

Using texts from the Ellis Island Oral History Project and historic Ellis Island images in combination with an original orchestral score, “Ellis Island” features seven, first-hand stories of immigrants dramatically interpreted by guest stars Barry Bostwick, Camryn Manheim, Michael Nouri, Lesley Fera, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Samantha Sloyan and Kira Sternbach. Over 40 percent of the U.S. population can trace their ancestry through Ellis Island and immigration remains at the forefront of global news. “Ellis Island” captures the emotions, elation and uncertainties of America’s epic immigrant experience.

Pacific Symphony’s President and CEO, John Forsyte said, “Great music has often been the medium for sharing important stories. There is, perhaps, no more timely or emotional reminder of our country’s immigrant roots than Peter Boyer’s “Ellis Island: The Dream of America.” Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the Ellis Island Honors Society and its Chairman, Nasser Kazeminy, Pacific Symphony has been able to share this important message with a national audience on PBS’s Great Performances. We are deeply grateful for their support in making this program possible.”

Nasser Kazeminy, chairman of The Ellis Island Honors Society commented, “Since 1986, the Ellis Island Honors Society has recognized outstanding Americans through bestowing the cherished Ellis Island Medals of Honor. The Medal commemorates the indefatigable spirit of those who immigrated to the United States during the Ellis Island era. It is presented annually to those who have shown an outstanding commitment to serving our nation either professionally, culturally or civically, among other criteria.” He continued, “We are honored that the historic place Ellis Island played in our country’s history has been re-told in Peter Boyer’s thrilling orchestral masterpiece, and we are delighted to support both the creation and national broadcast of this moving tribute on the national PBS Network.”

The special was recorded by Great Performances at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in 2017 during Pacific Symphony’s 17th American Composers Festival, before capacity audiences, including nearly 40 recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Peter Boyer’s “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” premiered in 2002 to great acclaim. It has since received nearly 200 performances by more than 80 orchestras and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Contemporary Composition in 2005.

A co-production of Pacific Symphony and THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET in association with PBS SoCal, Great Performances, “Ellis Island: The Dream of America with Pacific Symphony” was directed for stage and television by Matthew Diamond and produced by John Walker; with Shawn Murphy as audio producer, production design by Matt Steinbrenner, lighting design by Bob Barnhart and projection design by Perry Freeze. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.

Pacific Symphony Announces AXP@Home


Breaking news! Pacific Symphony announced the temporary restructuring of its youth arts summer program, arts-X-press. Because of concerns due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, arts-X-press (now AXP@Home) is moving from an in-person week-long camp to a virtual two-week camp. This will be the first time since arts-X-press was founded in 2001 that it will not take place in its normal format.

“We have made the difficult decision to cancel arts-X-press 2020 due to continued uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic,” says Alison Levinson, director of arts engagement and arts-X-press. “With AXP@Home, however, students can still look forward to an escape from their day-to-day, a creative outlet, opportunities to meet new friends, inspiration from professional artists and the special type of fun and magic that AXP brings out in people. We believe that both camp and the arts provide a place to heal, to rejuvenate and to find community —and that this is more important now than ever.”

The new format, rebranded AXP@Home, follows the same goals of arts-X-press—for students to explore the arts, find their voice and learn to take creative risks—in an expanded two-week format. Additionally, students will be given the opportunity to take two focused arts workshops each session, as opposed to just one, in order to give students a more immersive and interactive creative journey. During the camp, students will take classes from experienced teachers and professional artists, as well as meet and hear from Pacific Symphony musicians and Music Director Carl St.Clair.


AXP@Home Details

  • Session 1: June 22 – July 3 (Monday – Friday, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm)̣
  • Session 2: July 6 – July 17 (Monday – Friday, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm)

Tuition: $200 for two weeks (financial aid is available)

Applications and other details can be found online here! For assistance, questions or concerns, please contact AXP@Home staff via email at

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.