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A virtual, heartfelt Santa Rosa Symphony tribute to Norma, Corrick Brown

by Chris Smith, The Press Democrat, September 13, 2020

In normal times, the annual awards gala that launches a new performance season of the Santa Rosa Symphony is absolutely one of Sonoma County’s grandest and most anticipated cultural-social events.

Saturday’s expression of the fond and lyrical celebration was that, but virtually.

Lovers of classical music in general and of the 92-year-old Santa Rosa Symphony specifically watched on screens at home a streamed gala that honored conductor emeritus Corrick Brown and his wife and partner in all things, Norma.

Both fine pianists, the Browns have for more than six decades been instrumental to Sonoma County’s musical life.

Corrick Brown became the Santa Rosa Symphony’s second music director in 1958, leading, growing and elevating the orchestra for a phenomenal 38 years. Throughout, Norma worked alongside as a volunteer as committed as he to making the symphony one of the finest anywhere.

After retiring as music director in 1995, Corrick Brown, who shares his name with his family’s landmark Santa Rosa stationery, art and gift store, Corrick’s, remained a stalwart of the symphony and of the performing arts in Sonoma County. Saturday’s tribute lauded him for co-chairing the capital fundraising campaign for construction of the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, the symphony’s performance home.

Through the course of the free virtual gala, guests enjoyed photographs chronicling the Browns’ lives and they heard tributes from speakers who included columnist, history author and symphony booster Gaye LeBaron, symphony concertmaster Joe Edelberg and a son of the honorees, Ryan Brown.

LeBaron was the guest of honor of last year’s gala. In her recorded toast to the Browns, LeBaron said, “CorrickandNorma. It’s almost like word, no spaces.

“Corrick has been the one out in front, in front of the orchestra and the audience. And Norma, she’s done everything else.”

LeBaron, a close friend of the Browns, recalled the boundless effort and labor and love they put into the Santa Rosa Symphony back when it was young and poor and performing in the auditorium at Santa Rosa High School.

“It was a struggling orchestra,” she said, concluding her toast by raising her a glass to the pair of true Santa Rosa Symphony royalty.

Central to the program honoring the Browns was a musical salute by Russian-American pianist Olga Kern, who has played around the world and last appeared with the Santa Rosa Symphony in 2015.

The evening’s entertainment included also a violin performance by Mateo Prusky of the Young People’s Chamber Orchestra, one facet of the symphony’s far-reaching services to children.

The Browns and everyone who tapped electronically into the celebration that kicked off the symphony’s 2020-21 season were greeted also by music director Francesco Lecce-Chong and his fiancée, Chloe Tula, symphony president-CEO Alan Silow and both the chair of the symphony board, Alan Seidenfeld, and its vice chair, Corinne Byrd.

In place of a live auction, the virtual gala provided an opportunity for guests at home to go online or to phone the symphony office and make a contribution to the Santa Rosa Symphony Institute for Music Education. Its programs reach 30,000 children each year.

Donations can be made by visiting and clicking the “Donate Here” link at the top of the homepage.

As with the gala, the symphony’s 93rd season will be virtual, at least to start. In response to the pandemic, the October, November and December programs will feature chamber orchestra performances streamed on the symphony’s YouTube channel.

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ATTENTION: Symphony offices are currently closed due to COVID-19. Symphony staff, working from home, continue to monitor voicemails, email and mail.

Administrative Office:
50 Santa Rosa Ave, Suite 410
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Phone:  (707) 546-7097

Patron Services:
Phone: (707) 546-8742


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