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2014-2015 Season

June 17, 2015: China trip a return for two members of SRS Youth Orchestra

by Eloisa Ruano Gonzalez, Press Democrat, June 17, 2015

Teresa and Mariah Alberigi were only months old when they were adopted from China.
The Santa Rosa girls, now 13 and 16, respectively, will return Wednesday to their birthland for the first time as part of a three-city tour with the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra, where they perform as violinists.

In its second international tour, the orchestra is spending a week in China, performing in concert halls in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

“I’m really excited,” said Teresa Alberigi, who has been playing the violin since she was 3. Born in the Jiangxi province, she said she’s not nervous returning to China but rather excited to be able to spend time with her friends sightseeing. The group will be visiting sites such as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses in Xi’an. Mariah Alberigi, who was born in the Chinese province of Guangdong, said she is looking forward to performing at different concert halls in the country.

“Not many kids our age get to do that,” said Mariah, who has been playing the violin since she was 5.

Their mother, Kathleen Alberigi, called it a “miracle” that her girls, who are home-schooled, will be able to return to China and share with its citizens their love for music.

“For me, personally, it’s my way of saying thank you for the gift they gave us,” said Alberigi, who will be traveling with the Youth Orchestra as a chaperon.

The 48 young musicians, led by conductor Richard Loheyde, will perform works from Americana to classical, including the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2, Morton Gould’s “American Salute,” and “An American in Paris Suite” by George Gershwin. They’ll also be performing the “Torch Festival” by Xilian Wang, a resident composer for the Beijing Philharmonic who will meet and rehearse with the youth group while in China.

“It’s the first time Santa Rosa will be heard, figuratively and literally, in the great concert halls of China,” said Alan Silow, executive director of the Santa Rosa Symphony.

Silow also will be accompanying the group, which was set to board a bus early Wednesday and head to San Francisco for a morning flight. They group will be away until June 25 and plan to post updates and pictures on the Santa Rosa Symphony website.

“To play in these concert halls and see the reaction of these Chinese audiences will be incredibly inspiring for these young musicians,” Silow said.

It’ll also be incredibly nerve-racking, said violinist Adam Dvorak, 15, who will be performing with the orchestra, along with his 14-year-old brother, John, who plays the trombone.“They warned us it’s quite different from audiences from here because the (Chinese) audience tends to talk,” Adam Dvorak said. “It might freak some of us out. Nobody ever talks in our performances.”

The rehearsal with Xilian looks to be another highlight of the trip. “We don’t know if he has a completely different idea on how it should be played,” said Dvorak, who will be a junior this fall at Maria Carrillo High School.

The tour cost a total of $250,000, Silow said. The orchestra was able to cover the expense through fundraising and support from the families, he said.

Kathleen Alberigi said her daughters took part in a summer internship and other programs, setting aside their earnings for the trip. They also played at weddings and other benefits with other members of the orchestra to raise money.

“The community has donated so generously that it’s allowed us to go,” she said. While on the trip, she can’t wait to go with her daughters to the Great Wall, an ancient gateway to China.

“That’s always been one of my dreams — that they play their violins at the Great Wall of China as a thank you,” Kathleen Alberigi said.

“It was the gateway to our daughters,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 521-5458 or On Twitter @eloisanews.

May 26, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra to tour China

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, May 26, 2015

In its second international tour, the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra will travel to China June 17 to 25 to perform in concert halls in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

Accompanied by conductor Richard Loheyde, staff and chaperones, the 50 musicians will also immerse themselves in the Chinese culture through excursions to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Museum and Workshop, West Lake, Yu Garden and more.

The SRS Youth Orchestra, which toured and performed in Eastern Europe in 2009 as part of its 50th anniversary, will perform a “Bon Voyage” concert at 7 p.m. June 6 at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall to support its “Musical Journey Through China.”

The program includes the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2, the first and fourth movements of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 and Morton Gould’s “American Salute.” It also features a world premiere, Toccata for Orchestra, by local composer Benjamin Taylor; and “Torch Festival” by Chinese composer Wang Xilian, who will meet and rehearse with the youth orchestra in Beijing.
Tickets to the June 6 concert are $17 general, $12 for students and seniors. To reserve, call 546-8742 or go to

Currently in its 56th season, the Youth Orchestra is the most advanced of the four SRS Youth Ensembles. In 2013, violinist Lindsay Deutsch and her Classics Alive Foundation named the SRS Youth Orchestra “Youth Orchestra of the Year.”

May 18, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony and Musicians’ Union Sign Multi-Year Contract

by Press Democrat, May 18, 2015

The Santa Rosa Symphony Association and the Musicians’ Union Local 6 of the American Federation of Musicians have come to agreement on a five-year contract, extending from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2019. The agreement includes: the highest minimum guarantee of paid orchestral services among Northern California regional orchestras; total 14% service rate increase over five years; the addition of three string musicians, one each to the first violin, second violin and bass sections beginning in fiscal year 2015-2016; and the Orchestra Librarian position becomes a union position covered by the collective bargaining agreement. 

SRS Executive Director Alan Silow said, “The management and union teams worked diligently and respectfully to produce a new agreement that reflects a long-term commitment to insuring the artistic and financial health of the orchestra.”
About the Santa Rosa Symphony
Santa Rosa Symphony, the Resident Orchestra of the Green Music Center, is the third oldest professional orchestra in California, and the largest regional symphony north of Los Angeles. Bruno Ferrandis, who began his tenure in 2006, is the fourth Music Director in the organization’s history. The Santa Rosa Symphony (SRS) is committed to core values of artistic excellence, innovative programming and community service. This year the SRS contributed over $3.7 million into the local economy.

Currently in its 87th season, the Symphony’s performance schedule includes 21 Classical Series concerts (7 sets), 7 Discovery Dress Rehearsal concerts, a 3-concert Family Series and a 4-concert Pops Series, as well as special concerts. The Symphony is also recognized for having one of the most comprehensive music education programs in California, serving nearly 20,000 youth annually.

Collaborations with schools and organizations across Sonoma County have gained SRS national attention and support. Awards include: an American Symphony Orchestra League MetLife Award for Community Engagement; and a first place award for adventurous programming in the 2013-14 season from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

March 18, 2015: Pianist Olga Kern To Play With Santa Rosa Symphony

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, March 18, 2015

Russian pianist Olga Kern leads a busy life, bouncing around the world from her home base in New York.

This month alone, she played a concert with the Boston Symphony, a recital in Seattle, then returned back to New York to spend time with her 15-year-old son, Vladislav. After appearing this weekend at Weill Hall, she will return to New York, then head off to Europe.

The pianist will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 this weekend with the Santa Rosa Symphony when she returns to the Green Music Center for the “Blaze of Russian Glory” program. Leos Janacek’s Overture to the opera “Kat’a Kabanova” and the 1945 version of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite” complete the all-Russian program.

When she last appeared with the Santa Rosa Symphony in May 2013, Kern tackled a more familiar piece by Rachmaninoff, his beloved Piano Concerto No. 2, arguably the most popular concerto of all time. After she was invited back, she floated the idea of a two-for-one.

“It’s always very exciting to be able to perform more than one concerto in one night,” she said. “It’s interesting for the public but also for a performer.”

By pairing two early concertos, she will be able to reveal the youthful side of both composers, who offer an interesting contrast of musical styles.

“Rachmaninoff’s first is such a masterpiece,” she said. “The melodies are so gorgeous, and the second movement is a piece of art. It’s one of the best melodies in all of Rachmaninoff’s music.”

For Kern, the challenge of the Rachmaninoff will be communicating the composer’s spirit.

“It’s important to capture the beauty and love and happiness and hope in his music,” she said.

With Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 1, a shorter piece, she will be trying to capture the sardonic side of the 20th-century composer, known for his angular melodies, rhythmic drive and satirical inclination.

“In Prokofiev, it’s a more sarcastic kind of laughter, especially in this concerto,” she said. “This is a very young person who is so excited about life... It’s full of great energy and makes you feel good.”

To keep up her own youthful energy, Kern said she tries to get out and walk as much as possible before a concert.

“I spend my free time walking around and trying to see something interesting, such as a museum,” she said. “It’s always very inspiring to see new cultures.”

Born in Moscow to two classical pianists, Kern gave her first concert at age 7 and won her first international competition at age 11. Her career really took off at age 17 after she won the first Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition.

“I was performing everywhere after that, and I was very well known in Russia,” she said. “It was a really great time for me.”

Kern shot to international fame when she became the first woman in more than 30 years to win the gold medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001.

The pianist was also featured in an award-winning 2002 TV documentary, “Playing on the Edge,” made about the competition.

“It’s really powerful and it shows everything... the different emotions and feelings and all the atmosphere at that time,” she said.

When she is home, Kern spends as much time as possible with her son, Vladislav, a pianist who is studying in Juilliard’s pre-college program. She is looking forward to performing Mozart’s Double Piano with him next season, as well as getting more involved with the Aspiration Foundation she founded in 2012 with her composer/conductor brother, Vladimir Kern.

“We already gave a lot of scholarships to talented musical kids, and we bought some instruments,” she said. “We are also giving special prizes to competitions.”

In 2016, she will serve as the chairman of the jury for the 7th Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition, open to both kids and adults. Her foundation will give a special prize.

In the fall of 2016, she will launch the Olga Kern Piano Competition in Albuquerque, New Mexico, aimed at young pianists on their way up.

“The competition involves the New Mexico Philharmonic in the final round, so this is really exciting,” she said. “They don’t have anything like this in that area, and it’s really beautiful there.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or

Original Article:

February 5, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony to tango with Jofre

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, February 5, 2015

Argentinian musician Juan Pablo Jofre studied many kinds of musical instruments in his youth, including drums and guitar, piano and voice, before dedicating himself in his 20s to the bandoneon, a cousin to the concertina.

Now 31, Jofre balances his handmade, German instrument on his knee and performs it at classical concerts, from New York’s Lincoln Center to the venerable Celebrity Series of Boston, as well as at jazz festivals, where he plays his own form of progressive tango music.

“If you play classical music on it, it sounds like an organ in a church,” Jofre explained in a phone interview from his home in New York City. “It was invented to replace the organ in some of the poor churches.”

This weekend, Jofre will squeeze some brand new music from his bandoneon when he performs a world premiere of Pablo Ortiz’s Concerto for Bandoneon and Orchestra with the Santa Rosa Symphony. Jofre said he is proud and excited to debut a new piece written by his fellow Argentinean, Pablo Ortiz, who teaches composition at UC Davis.

The program led by Music Director Bruno Ferrandis opens with another rhythmic work, Danzon No. 2 for Orchestra, written in 1994 by Arturo Marquez of Mexico. Brahms’ sunny Symphony No. 2 in D major closes the program on a lilting note.

A cousin to the concertina, the bandoneon was brought from Germany to Argentina sometime around the turn of the 20th century and quickly insinuated itself into the tango orchestra. Eventually, it became synonymous with the music itself, which is performed to accompany the Argentine dance of the same name.

“If there’s no bandoneon, people no longer consider it tango,” Jofre said. “This instrument is like the stamp for tango music. It’s the main voice. It has the melody, it does the rhythm, it does everything.”
Considered the premier bandoneonista of the modern age, Jofre grew up in the city of San Juan in the center of Argentina, very close to the Chilean border in an agricultural province known for its wine and olive oil. Tango music was always in his ears.

“I grew up with my grandmother, and she used to listen to tango music from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day,” Jofre said. “It got stuck in my head. I had no choice.”

In the 20th century, Argentinian bandleader, composer and tango performer Anibal Troilo was a leading proponent of the bandoneon. Perhaps the best-known composer and performer was Astor Piazzola, who integrated the tango into many of his classical works.

“Tango is very melancholic and relaxed, it gives you time to think, and it’s very inspiring and sensual, too,” Jofre said. “At the same time, it has a lot of classical music influence, and that’s a great combination. People love it.”

One of the challenges of playing the bandoneon is that each button plays two notes: one when you pull the bellows out, and a different one when you push the bellows in. Since the left and right-hand keyboard layouts are different, that adds up to four different keyboards that must be memorized.
“We have to practice two keyboards opening and two keyboards closing,” Jofre explained. “The buttons can play the chords and the melody, like the piano.”

The instrument, named after German instrument dealer Heinrich Band, is a type of concertina that became particularly popular in Argentina, Uruguay and Lithuania. Though similar to an accordion, it has a sound that is a bit “sweeter,” Jofre said.

Composer Ortiz, who was commissioned by the Santa Rosa Symphony, consulted closely with Jofre while writing the new concerto.

“It was a beautiful experience to work with Pablo because he’s super open-minded,” Jofre said. “He was curious about how the instrument works... The instrument is very particular, because the keyboard doesn’t make any sense. “

Unlike the piano, the bandoneon buttons are not arranged in alphabetical order.
“In the piano, you have A-B-C, and you’re always moving to your right, as you go higher,” Jofre said. “In the bandoneon, it’s the opposite. You have a D, and the E is four keys ahead facing down, and it’s the opposite of what you are hearing.”

Written in three movements, the concerto opens with a moderately fast movement that provides a nice contrast to an expressive second movement.

“The first movement is beautiful because he creates very different melodies and different textures between the bandoneon and the other instruments of the orchestra,” Jofre said. “The second movement is a beautiful adagio that is very melodic.”

In the relentlessly fast finale, the composer weaves in a few tango melodies with an exciting orchestral accompaniment.

“It’s very upbeat,” Jofre said. “It’s very attractive and satisfying.”
When the bandoneon arrived in Argentina in the arms of either German or Italian sailors - no one knows exactly when it arrived or who brought it - the music of the tango was already being performed by a guitar playing the rhythm and a flute playing the melody. The bandoneon lent ballast to that sound.
“Back in the 1940s, the tango orchestras had six bandoneons,” Jofre said. “And in Buenos Aires in the ‘50s, the bigger music stores had hundreds of bandoneons.”

In these days of crossover music, with classical musicians such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing the tango, Jofre has gotten invitations to play the bandoneon all over the world, from Russia and Asia to Panama and Argentina, where his family owns many wineries.

“All over the world, people want to hear new things, and that’s very good,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are not many young players. I picked it up because I have an old soul.”
Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or

January 7, 2015: Fiddler Mark O’Connor to perform with Santa Rosa Symphony

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, January 7, 2015

Mark O'Connor will perform this weekend with the Santa Rosa Symphony as he and his wife, Maggie O'Connor, and his son, mandolinist Forrest O'Connor, finish their "An Appalachian Christmas" tour. (photo by Jim McGuire).

At age 13, Mark O’Connor was the youngest person to win the Grand Master Fiddler Championships, which snagged the teen-ager a spot on the popular TV series “Hee Haw.” By the age of 31, he had composed “The Fiddle Concerto,” his first full-length score for orchestra, which went on to become the most performed violin concerto composed in the last 40 years. “It’s the first of its kind that is influenced by American fiddling, not only from a thematic point of view, but from a musical language and a technical perspective,” he said. “It was really the immersion of American fiddling into a classical concerto composition.” Through the years, the talented fiddler has continued to straddle different musical genres and professions as a classical, bluegrass, jazz and country violinist, as well as an award-winning composer and music teacher. This weekend, the daring musical explorer will join the Santa Rosa Symphony for the first time, performing his popular “Fiddle Concerto” along with his Grammy-winning 1986 suite, “Strings and Threads,” originally composed for guitarist Sharon Isbin. He will perform the two-violin version with his wife, violinist Maggie O’Connor. “She’s going to play with me as a double violin with strings and orchestra,” O’Conner said by phone from Portland, Ore., where he was finishing up his “An Appalachian Christmas” tour along with Maggie and his son, mandolinist Forrest O’Connor. The three-concert Santa Rosa Symphony set, led by Guest Conductor Michael Christie, underscores the Americana theme of O’Connor’s works, offering up Aaron Copland’s Suite from “Billy the Kid” as the curtainopener and Copland’s endearing “El salon Mexico,” inspired by the percussion of the Latin dance pulse, as the closer. While O’Connor was influenced by Copland’s orchestrations, his starting point for composing was always the fiddle tunes and the fiddle language he first picked up as a young boy in Seattle, learning the musical ropes from American fiddler Benny Thomasson. “Copland used fiddle tunes, but he basically used the thematic content without it influencing the orchestra texture,” he said. “I have the language of a lot of American music under my fingers, so when I compose, I can draw from that and create a whole new piece. It’s different from anyone around me.” O’Connor’s musical journey began with classical violin training, but by the time he was 9 years old, he had branched out into folk music. By 11, he had started playing bluegrass fiddle music, and by 13, he was deep into jazz, which he studied with the famous French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. “I was steeped in all these pillars of musical training, including flamenco and Balkan music,” he said. “As a child, I had these four pillars: classical, world, folk and jazz.” O’Connor’s biggest breakthrough came when he first showed his fiddle-inspired composition, “Appalachian Waltz,” to classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Along with bassist Edgar Meyer, the trio went on to make a wildly popular recording by the same name, then spun off another album, “Appalachian Journey,” which received a Grammy Award in 2001. Together, the albums sold over a million copies, unprecedented in the genre of chamber music. “It changed the landscape of my career, and it changed the direction of how people viewed American string playing in a classical setting,” O’Connor said. “It just took off, like a new American classical music.” After those albums, he said, other musicians became more open to the possibilities of injecting classical music with the styles and inflections of America’s musical language. At that point, O’Connor decided to develop a curriculum that could teach beginner string students through the American music repertoire. This was a gap that he felt needed to be addressed, having held string and fiddle camps all over the country for decades. “The same reverence to Mozart in the conservatory was happening in 1900 as it was in 2000,” he said. “It was the status quo being copied over for generations.” With the O’Connor method, the fiddler has developed a series of five violin books, plus various other books for violists and cellists, as well as a certification program to train teachers of the method. The students learn good posture and intonation, and how to use the bow and move the fingers, all through the lens of the American repertoire. “If you become advanced, then you’ll need further training at anything,” he said. “But for children, the method puts the student in a very good position to have choices — whether to join the youth orchestra or a bluegrass band, or just improvise in jazz.” This summer, O’Conner and his wife will co-direct a new string camp in New York City, along with other string camps in Maine, Massachusetts and South Carolina. “There’s a whole other part of this that’s emerging, and that’s adult beginners,” he said. “They appreciate the instrument, and they love the repertoire. It’s inspiring to see multiple generations interested in learning, so it creates a new community, sharing the love of the instrument.” In his “Strings and Threads” suite, O’Conner will share a bit of his family history. The work incorporates the music of his mother’s side of the family — the Dutch who landed in New York, then went down to the Eastern Seaboard to Memphis, eventually landing in Seattle. It also includes pieces influenced by his dad’s Irish family, who settled in Minnesota in the 1940s, homesteaded in the Dakotas and Montana, then moved west to Seattle. “So Seattle is the merging of the two separate families,” he said. “The violins create a conversation with these pieces, which is quite beautiful.” One of the defining aspects of American music is the dominance of rhythmic energy over thematic content, O’Connor said. “When the Americans got hold of instruments, they were on fire with rhythm,” he said. “It’s really exciting to bring that to the bow, and it creates an incredible pulse and groove that has been missing in Western classical music.” You can reach writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or

November 20, 2014: Roseland elementary schoolers play violin with a master

by Jamie Hansen, Press Democrat, November 20, 2014

After school let out at Sheppard Accelerated Elementary School in southwest Santa Rosa on Tuesday afternoon, the sound of 41 violins playing “Ode to Joy” echoed down the empty halls.

Forty of those violins were played by second- and third-graders participating in a program of the Santa Rosa Symphony, called Simply Strings, which kicked off last fall at Sheppard. It teaches elementary school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to play the instrument through hands-on instruction two hours a day, five days a week, for five years.

The 41st violin belonged to world-class musician Lindsay Deutsch, who stood among the students and paused occasionally from playing to correct a child’s grip on a bow.

Deutsch was in town for a five-day residency with the Santa Rosa Symphony’s youth ensembles, which include an orchestra and chamber orchestra. She chose Santa Rosa for her first in a series of residencies with young musicians because the organization she heads, the Classics Alive Foundation, named Santa Rosa’s orchestra Youth Orchestra of the Year.

Her foundation focuses on inspiring a love of classical music in a new generation. 

 “I love playing for kids,” she said. “Classical music is in a bit of an emergency right now. We have to make an effort to connect to another generation.”

Her visit will culminate when she performs as a soloist at a Saturday afternoon youth concert at Weill Hall at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. In the days leading up to that performance, she rehearsed with the youth orchestra musicians and met with the students at Sheppard.

Deutsch kicked off her two-hour session there by playing a song for them on her 170-year-old violin. The 29-year-old Los Angeles resident, dressed in jeans, heels and a black button-up shirt, began with a flourish called a sforzando tremolo that prompted an involuntary, “What?” from one boy seated cross-legged on the ground. Another breathed, “Ohh.”

Afterward, she asked the kids, “Did you recognize that tune?”
“Yankee Doodle!” a couple children replied.
“Yes! I played it well enough to be recognized,” Deutsch said with a laugh.

She went on to tell them how she got interested in playing the violin: When she was 2, she watched famed violinist Itzhak Perlman perform with characters like Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street. She was hooked. She began playing violin when she was 4, practicing on a proxy instrument made from a tissue box and rubber-bands until then.

After listening to Deutsch, the students performed for her. The second-graders had been playing their instruments just three weeks after graduating from paper versions of the instruments, but nevertheless they lifted their bows and gamely performed some basic rhythms they’d learned, including one called “Pepperoni Pizza,” under the guidance of their teacher, Alex Volonts. Volonts plays viola with the Santa Rosa Symphony. Then, the more experienced third-graders joined in and they played “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with Deutsch, filling the small classroom with the sound.

“Beautiful,” Deutsch said at the end.

Yuritizi Guerrero, 8, said she became interested in playing the violin after her class went to listen to the Santa Rosa Symphony last year.

“I heard many people play and I liked the sound,” she said.

Nobody else in her family plays the instrument, she said. She added that learning to play has been hard, but also nice.

She and 19 other second-graders were chosen as part of the second class of Simply Strings this fall. Families are asked to commit to being involved for five years when they join the program, said Ben Taylor, education director for the Santa Rosa Symphony. Each year, they plan to add another class of 20 second-graders until they have 100 participants.

If students complete the program, they will be offered tuition-free membership in one of the symphony’s youth ensembles, Taylor said. Those ensembles are a training program for the adult orchestra.
“We really want them to benefit from the program and we want our program to benefit by bringing another part of the community into the fold,” he said.

Simply Strings is part of a musical movement called El Sistema that began in Venezuela and is now spreading around the United States. It teaches classical music to disadvantaged children as a way to improve their academics and provide more social opportunities.
Christina Penrose, community engagement manager for the symphony, studied the movement in graduate school and helped bring the program, funded by grants and donations, to Santa Rosa. The next closest program is at El Verano Elementary in Sonoma, Taylor said.

His organization chose Sheppard Elementary because it had strong community involvement while also having many socially or economically disadvantaged kids, he said.

“We wanted to start at a place where we felt the program had a good opportunity for success and impact,” he said. To gauge the success of the program, the symphony is tracking students’ progress through family interviews and report card evaluations and comparing the results with those of students who are not participating in Simply Strings.

“We view this really as a social program,” Taylor said. “Learning violin is not the goal, it’s the method. We are dedicated to students becoming outstanding young citizens and contributing to community,” he said.

Staff Writer Jamie Hansen blogs about education at You can reach her at 521-5205 or On Twitter @jamiehansen.

October 22, 2014: Santa Rosa Symphony marks a decade of pops concerts

by Charlie Swanson, North Bay Bohemian, October 22, 2014

Drummer and conductor Michael Berkowitz has amassed a stunning array of credits in his career. From being one of the busiest studio and television drummers in 1970s Los Angeles, to his time performing and conducting on Broadway, Berkowitz has seen it all and worked with legendary stars and musicians.
This week, as the principle pops conductor for the Santa Rosa Symphony, Berkowitz presents a retrospective look at the work of Marvin Hamlisch, one of his closest friends. "The Way They Were: A Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch and Barbra Streisand" kicks off the symphony's 10th season of pops concerts, a series that highlights contemporary scores from film and theater. Speaking by phone, Berkowitz shares details of his relationship with the late conductor and composer.

"This is really a tribute to Marvin, and because he had such a great relationship with Barbra Streisand, I wanted to do more than just the music he wrote for Broadway and whatnot," says Berkowitz.
Hamlisch and Streisand first met on the set of Funny Girl, where Hamlisch was the rehearsal pianist and assistant vocal arranger. "I wanted to portray that. So we're doing a number of songs from Funny Girl, and also we're doing things that Marvin conducted for her, such as the overture to her 1994 concert tour."
Berkowitz's relationship with Hamlisch began in 1980, after moving to New York, where Hamlisch gave him his first break at conducting. "I had recently moved and he needed a drummer," recalls Berkowitz. "I was the drummer one week, and two weeks after that I became the conductor because the regular conductor wasn't available and [Hamlisch] said, 'Let's just use Mike.'"

For 10 years, Berkowitz was the musical director, conductor and drummer for Hamlisch, who continued to score with a string of hits for film and stage alike. Hamlisch is one of only a dozen people to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award, collectively known as an EGOT. The composer passed away in 2012, at the age of 68.

"He was incredibly brilliant," remembers Berkowitz. "And we were personal friends, which was great."
With this upcoming concert, vocalist Haven Burton will join Berkowitz and the Santa Rosa Symphony, fresh off a starring role in the Broadway production of the Cyndi Lauper musical Kinky Boots. There will be heartfelt tributes, joyful music and plenty of surprises in store for this upcoming performance. Before the show, Berkowitz will host a one-hour talk about the afternoon's concert and share stories from his career.

Symphony Pops: 'The Way They Were: A Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch and Barbra Streisand' is presented by the Santa Rosa Symphony on Sunday, Oct. 26, at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 3pm. $37–$80. 707.546.3600.

October 3, 2014: Santa Rosa Symphony season starts with Richard Strauss homage

by Dan Taylor, Press Democrat, October 3, 2014

When Bruno Ferrandis talks about the new Santa Rosa Symphony season, opening next weekend at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall, the orchestra’s music director and conductor starts to speak faster and louder as he goes along. His enthusiasm is electric.

“It should be a fantastic season,” he said by phone from his home in Paris. “It is a great experience for me to perform in Santa Rosa in that amazing hall. Weill Hall is so acoustically accurate and precise, you hear every instrument.”

The season opens with Russian-born pianist Yevgeny Sudbin’s appearance at Weill Hall, playing Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5, also known as the “Emperor Concerto.”

“Currently it is my project to record all of the Beethoven concertos and play them in concert, so I am quite connected to the music,” Subdin said by phone.

“The fifth concerto is the last one,” Subdin said, “and it is probably Beethoven’s most mature work, although the nickname, ‘Emperor Concerto’ was not actually given by Beethoven but by somebody else, probably his publisher.”

The fifth Beethoven concerto has a colorful history, Ferrandis said.

“The French, under Napoleon, were invading Vienna, while Beethoven was trying to finish composing the concerto, so he took refuge with his brother,” he said. “The legends say that he was in a cellar, trying to protect himself from the cannons.”

The opening program of the season also includes an homage to the 150th anniversary of the birth of the German composer Richard Strauss, best-known to many Americans for “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” used as the theme for the 1968 movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
For the symphony’s opening trio of concerts, running Oct. 11-13, Ferra
ndis has chosen a different Strauss piece, “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks,” named for a German folk hero.
Continuing the theme of the season’s first program, titled “Heroes and Legends,” the orchestra also will play the overture from Richard Wagner’s opera “Tannhauser” and Bela Bartok’s “The Miraculous Mandarin.”

“This program is based on the idea of heroes,” Ferrandis explained. “Even ‘The Miraculous Mandarin’ is an anti-hero, a very important guy who ends up being pathetic, and made fun of. So it’s a mixture of heroes. When I program music, I always want to have contrasts.”

The rest of the symphony season includes:
“Poetic Inspiration,” Nov. 8-10: The program opens with Claude Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” followed by Henri Dutilleux’s Concerto for Cello, “Whole Different World,” played by German cellist Christian Poltera, and ends with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

“Angelic Voices,” Dec. 6-8: The Augsburg Cathedral Boys Choir from Bavaria performs a cappella, and four operatic solo vocalists also will be featured. The program also includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Mass in C major, “Coronation,” and Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, “Pulcinella.”

“Wild West,” Jan. 10-12: The all-American program, with guest conductor Michael Christie of the Minnesota Opera, includes Aaron Copeland’s “Billy the Kid” and “El Salon Mexico.” Guest jazz, folk and classical violinist Mark O’Connor will play his own compositions, “Fiddle Concerto” and “Strings and Threads.”

“An Exotic Mix,” Feb. 7-9: Juan Pablo Jofre, master of the accordion-like bandoneon, performs in the world premiere of the “Concerto for Bandoneon,” and the Mexican composer’s “Danzon No. 3.”

“Blaze of Russian Glory,” March 21-23: Keyboard virtuoso Olga Kern plays two Russian concertos, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The orchestra will play Leos Janacek’s overture to his opera, “Kat’a Kabvanova”, Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite” and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2.

“Monumental Matter,” May 2-4: Gustav Mahler’s long Symphony No. 3, with six movements, will take up the entire program. The concert features mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer, the Women’s Chorus of the Santa Rosa Symphony Honor Choir and the Santa Rosa Children’s Chorus.

The Santa Rosa Symphony also will present the Sonoma Paradiso Family Concert series and concerts by the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra and Young People’s Chamber Orchestra.

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