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2015-2016 Season

May 5, 2016: Pianist Gabriela Martinez ends Santa Rosa Symphony season on jazzy note

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, May 5, 2016

Pianist Gabriela Martinez ends Santa Rosa Symphony season on jazzy note

Pianist Gabriela Martinez was born in Caracas, Venezuela, into a family boasting five generations of female pianists who trace their roots back to Spain. Learning to play piano was as natural to her as learning to tie her shoes.

“I started studying with my mom at her school,” she said in a phone interview from her temporary home in Portland, Ore. “Learning music was very interactive, and I was also learning about composers and history and theory.”

In Caracas, Martinez grew up surrounded by nonstop orchestras and classical music concerts. She played her first piano concerto when she was 6 and made her debut with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra when she was 10.

“I’m always so in awe when I go home and play with them,” she said of the orchestra named after her country’s national hero. “There is always a concert there, and it’s always sold out. Everyone wants to listen to classical music.”

Now 32 with a 1-year-old daughter of her own, Martinez will make her debut with the Santa Rosa Symphony under Music Director Bruno Ferrandis this weekend in a program that features Gershwin’s beloved Piano Concerto in F, along with two works inspired by Spain: Debussy’s “Ibéria” and Ravel’s “Rapsodie espagnole.” Three dance episodes from Bernstein’s “On the Town” musical open the “Jazzy Impressions” program, the final concert series of the 2015-’16 season.

Gershwin’s 1925 concerto, which was premiered with the composer himself at the piano keys, stirred up a bit of controversy when it was premiered by the New York Philharmonic.

“Stravinsky loved that piece, and he thought it was genius,” Ferrandis said. “But Prokofiev detested it.”
The work somehow manages to straddle two worlds, synthesizing the structure of a classical concerto with the improvisational feeling of jazz.

“This (the concerto) was commissioned in 1924 when Gershwin had no training on how to orchestrate,” Martinez said. “So he bought books on theory and became self-taught in everything that he needed to write this piece.”

Although Gershwin wrote his ground-breaking “Rhapsody in Blue” a year earlier, that work was more rooted in jazz and the orchestration was done by Ferde Grofé, composer of the “Grand Canyon Suite.”
In the Gershwin concerto, the orchestra has a very important part to play. Martinez compared the collaborative effort between soloist and accompaniment to the give-and-take of chamber music.
“It has a very special, unique freshness and poetry to it,” Martinez said. “It’s halfway between classical music and jazz ... It maintains a feeling of rubato (flexible tempo), but always has a constant blues beat and pulse to it.”

The brash first movement offers a study in contrasts, with a noisy opening that dissolves into a lyrical, delicate theme. But the heart of the work is the bluesy second movement, featuring a string of beautiful cadenzas and intricate solos for the winds and brass.

“Every instrument really gets to explore the melodies,” she said. “It’s really interesting to hear the back and forth between the orchestra and the piano.”

For the finale, Gershwin weaves themes from the first two movements together with new material to create a driving, rhythmic showpiece for both piano and orchestra.

“It’s just this energetic, huge movement,” she said. “It has lots of references to ragtime.”
The challenge for Martinez is to make sure she stays true to what the composer wrote and the spirit of the work.

“A lot of Gershwin’s music has the improvisational feeling ... but he’s very specific and writes in everything that he wants,” she said. “So it has a lot of freedom, yet all the cadenzas are written out, with tempo changes, dynamics and timing.”

Martinez and her family left Venezuela when she was 12 so that she could study piano at Juilliard in New York City.

“I did the pre-college program ... then stayed for undergrad and a master’s in musical performance,” she said. “I’m still working on a doctorate in performance from Halle, Germany. I just love learning, and I never want to stop.”

Martinez is married to an attorney and normally lives on the Upper West Side of New York, but she moved to Portland for a year so that her husband could clerk for a judge.

“It’s been a fun year of adventure,” she said. “And the food carts are amazing.”

When she arrives in Sonoma County for the first time, Martinez said she wants to explore the region’s renowned red wines and artisan cheeses.

“I’m a cheese person, but I don’t discriminate, and I love food in general,” she said. “I recently discovered Cowgirl Creamery. I love their Mt. Tam ... It’s delicious.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or On Twitter @dianepete56.

April 14, 2016: SR Symphony unveils 2016-’17 Family series

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, April 14, 2016

The Santa Rosa Symphony Family Concert Series will celebrate its fifth anniversary in 2016-2017 with three concerts held from October through April at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall.

The three-concert series has been newly named in honor of opera singer Peggy Anne Covington, who left her entire estate worth more than $1 million to the symphony in 2015. Covington began her career with the San Francisco Opera in 1959. After she retired, she and her husband moved to Windsor and attended the Santa Rosa Symphony concerts for several years.

The Peggy Anne Covington Family Concert Series launches on October 16 with “Land of Make Believe,” a program based on musical works created to tell stories, from “Mother Goose” to “Harry Potter.” Roustabout Theater will help bring the program to life, and children are invited to dress up as a character from their favorite story.

The series continues of Jan. 22, 2017 with “The Listener,” which explores the relationship between audience and musicians through a comic tale about a conductor and two, rambunctious audience members. The Magic Circle Mime Company will help bring the tale to life.

The series concludes on April 30, 2017 with “Presto, Mambo!”, an interactive concert that explores Latin rhythms through the tale of Max, a boy who explores the lands of Latin American with his new friend, Mambo the dog. The Platypus Theater will show the audience how to dance to the lively music.

All concerts take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. Pre-concert activities include an Instrument Petting Zoo, where members of the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Ensembles help introduce children and adults to their instruments.

Subscriptions are $45 adults, $30 for children 12 and under. To subscribe, call 546-8742. Single tickets will go on sale on Aug. 8.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or On Twitter @dianepete56.

April 9, 2016: Chris Smith: Take time to applaud the Santa Rosa Symphony

by Chris Smith, The Press Democrat, April 9, 2016

 My late friend Tom Barnett of Healdsburg was a foodie and a musician with special insight into two types of people.

As a former restaurateur and a real-estate broker focused on restaurant sales, Tom appreciated how terribly hard most restaurant owners work. And as a violinist, he valued to the point of reverence the daunting training, practice and talent that goes into a performance by a symphony orchestra.

Once at the Green Music Center he mentioned that he’d never head out of the hall until the Santa Rosa Symphony was fully applauded and cheered and acknowledged. He figured that it would short-change the orchestra were he to start for the door before the conductor left the stage.

I can’t help but think of Tom when I see symphony patrons bolt from their seats with a program’s final note. And I certainly thought of him as I read a note from Nancy Gross:
“For 60 years I have been enjoying the Santa Rosa Symphony, even during the last year of Mr. (George) Trombley’s reign, 1956-1957. Now it is amazing sitting in Weill Hall watching Bruno Ferrandis and our superb orchestra.”

Then Gross cited “one huge complaint.”

“Even before Bruno is off the podium after the last piece people start traipsing out of the auditorium in a rude advance to the exit doors.” She has no quarrel with folks with disabilities heading out before the mass exodus, but thinks it shows “a lack of courtesy and civility” by everyone else who dashes before “the Maestro glides off stage after the last bow.”

Bravo! Tom would say.

March 30, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony announces 2016-2017 Pops Series lineup

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, March 30, 2016

 The Luther Burbank Center for the Arts and the Santa Rosa Symphony announced the lineup for their 2016-2017 Symphony Pops Series this week, comprising four concerts led by Principal Pops Conductor Michael Berkowitz.

 The new season, which marks the 12th year of the collaborative pops series, runs on four Sundays from October 2016 through April 2017 at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road.

“We’ve got another fantastic lineup of concerts and renowned guest artists set for next year,” Berkowitz said in a press release. “I’m particularly looking forward to opening my personal music library to curate the first concert of the season, which will feature a range of popular hits.”

The season begins on Oct. 23 with “Maestro’s Greatest Hits,” including works from Broadway and Hollywood to Leonard Bernstein and Henry Mancini. Berkowitz will play drums on Buddy Rich’s “West Side Story Suite,” which features vocalist Jonathan Poretz.

A special holiday program on Dec. 11, “A Charlie Brown Christmas Concert,” will reprise songs from the 1965 classic “Peanuts” animated special as well as other traditional Christmas chestnuts. Pianist Jim Martinez and his quartet will join the symphony in paying tribute to the famous songs written or arranged by Vince Guaraldi.

Cabaret star Ann Hampton joins the symphony on Feb. 19 to present “Ann Hampton Callaway Sings The Great American Songbook.” The Tony-nominated star will sing the timeless classics of George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter and others.

To close out the series, the series will present “Country Legends,” featuring the songs of country music icons such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and others. Nashville vocalists Patrick Thomas and Rachel Potter will join in the tribute.

Concerts are held at 3 pm. Sundays. Season ticket packages, which include all four concerts and pre-concert talks, are available now. Single tickets will go on sale in August. For ticket information, go to or call 546-3600.

March 2, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony announces 2016-17 season

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, March 2, 2016

The Santa Rosa Symphony has announced the orchestra works and soloists of its 89th performance season in 2016-2017, the final full season with Bruno Ferrandis as music director.

The season, which marks the symphony’s fifth year as resident orchestra at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, will be bracketed by the return of flutist Jean Ferrandis during the opening concert in October and the return of Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman during the final concert in May.

For the seven Classical Series concerts, Ferrandis has programmed a blend of both familiar and unusual works drawn from a variety of musical genres, including nine that are new to the orchestra.

“I have focused on programs that bring familiar masterpieces together with my own favorites from the classical repertoire, many of which have not yet been performed by the Santa Rosa Symphony,” Ferrandis said in a press release. “My goal is to bring together music from a variety of musical forms in each program. The works presented this season include opera overtures, ballet suites, beloved concertos, symphonic masterworks and brilliant vocal works.”

The symphony’s popular Family Concert Series has been renamed the Peggy Anne Covington Family Concert Series in honor of the late opera singer and philanthropist, who left her entire estate to the Santa Rosa Symphony.

The Symphony Pops Series led by Michael Berkowitz will continue on four Sundays from October through April at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts.

Here is the line-up for the symphony’s Classical Series for 2016-2017. Each concert is performed at 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Monday at Weill Hall in the Green Music Center at the Sonoma State University Campus.

Oct. 8 to 10: “The Magic of the Flute” features flutist Jean Ferrandis in Bernstein’s “Halil” nocturne for flute and orchestra and Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1. The concert opens with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from his opera, “Peter Grimes,” and concludes with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8.

Nov. 5-7: “Keyboard Brilliance” features young pianist Orion Weiss in Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The program opens with Liszt’s symphonic tone-poem, “Les Préludes,” and ends with Schumann’s Romantic masterpiece, his Symphony No. 2.

Dec. 5-7: “Poetic Bells” showcases the Santa Rosa Symphony Choir led by Jenny Bent and vocal soloists in Rachmaninoff’s choral symphony, “The Bells,” and Jenni Samuelson in his “Vocalise” for soprano and orchestra. August Read Thomas’ “Prayer Bells” and Elgar’s beloved “Enigma Variations” round out the program.

Jan. 7-9: “Heavenly Harp” showcases harp virtuoso Marie-Pierre Langlamet in Ginastera’s Harp Concerto and Debussy’s “Dances Sacred and Profane.” The program opens with Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie” and concludes with the orchestral suites from Ravel’s ballet, “Daphnis and Chloé.”

Feb. 11-13: “Tales of Love,” a Valentine’s Day program, showcases pianist Alessio Bax in Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, plus Berlioz’s overture to his opera “Roméo et Juliette,” contrasted with selections from Prokofiev’s 20th century ballet, “Romeo and Juliet.”

March 25-27: “Bring on the Strings” celebrates the talents within the symphony, including Concertmaster Joseph Edelberg and Principal Violist Elizabeth Prior in Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola. Principal Cellist Adelle-Akiko Kearns will perform the solo in Faure’s “Elegie” for cello. The evening concludes with two works by Sibelius, his mysterious Symphony No. 4 and beloved “Finlandia.”

May 6-8: “Vadim Returns!” celebrates the sound of violinist Vadim Gluzman as he performs Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 on his 1690 “ex-Leopold Auer” Stradivarius. The concert opens with Khachaturian’s Ballet Suite from “Masquerade” and concludes with Shostakovich’s dramatic Symphony No. 11.

Subscriptions will go on sale on March 7. Individual tickets go on sale Aug. 8. For more information on the various subscription options and the Family Concert Series, go to or call 546-8742.

For information on the Symphony Pops Series, go to or call 546-3600.


February 19, 2016: Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine gives delicacy to Beethoven

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, February 19, 2016

 When Rachel Barton Pine performs a violin concerto, she not only writes her own cadenzas but avidly researches everything about it so she can play it as the composer originally intended.Take Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, written during the composer’s middle period in 1806, when the Classical era of Mozart was fading away and the Romantic period of Mendelssohn was on the rise. Rather than use the heavier style of the Romantics, Pine prefers to take the lighter, understated approach of the Classical era.

“This concerto was written for Franz Clement, who was a delicate, refined player,” the 41-year-old violinist said in a phone interview from her home in Chicago. “Because this more muscular style was taking over, the Beethoven concerto never found its footing and wasn’t embraced by the violinists of its time.”

However, 40 years after it was written, the great Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim realized the concerto’s worth and brought it back into the spotlight after it had languished in relative obscurity.
Pine, who has recorded the Beethoven with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, will join the Santa Rosa Symphony under Music Director Bruno Ferrandis this weekend to perform the beloved violin concerto during a program entitled “Strokes of Genius.” Anton Brucker’s unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D minor will close the concert with a passionate flourish.

Those who are accustomed to hearing a more Romantic interpretation of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto — featuring more vibrato, stretched tempos and what is affectionately referred to as “schmaltz” — may be surprised to hear Pine’s lighter, breezier interpretation.

“In the Classical period, the tempi are a little bit more flowing, not broad and stretched out and weighty like in Bruckner and Mahler,” she said. “I won’t have a wide, gushy romantic vibrato, but it will be there, because I have to give warmth and projection to the sound. But in the use of bowing, I try to create the Classical period touch.”

Pine first heard the concerto when she was 6 and already studying the Haydn Violin Concerto in G Major.

“My introduction to its ‘big sibling’ was a revelation,” she said. “I instinctively sensed that the Beethoven was the pinnacle of violin concertos.”

Pine grew up in a working-class neighborhood of Chicago with a father who remained unemployed for most of her childhood, so her family constantly struggled with finances. Her mother home-schooled her starting in the third grade so she could practice during school hours and spend time with her friends after school.

“It was a very stressful and tenuous existence,” she said. “That made it really hard on my mom because of the sacrifices she was making to help me pursue my dream.”

Later, when she was on the brink of a major career at 21, Pine was caught in the doors of a Chicago commuter train, which closed on the straps of her violin case as she was getting off. The train dragged her 200 feet, severing her left leg and mangling her right foot.

After two years of recuperation, she learned to walk again with a prosthetic leg.

Her early challenges served her well, however, giving her the strength to greet that accident with a steadfast optimism that things would work out.

“Maybe for somebody else it would have been transformative,” she said, “but for me, it was just, ‘Here is another obstacle.’”

While Pine was growing up, she often won scholarships for lessons, but there were always extra costs — piano accompaniment fees, sheet music, strings — that required additional funds from supporters. So she enjoys giving back to others through her own foundation.

“We’re unique in that we pinpoint young musicians who are talented but struggling, and we pay for all that extra stuff,” she said.

“We’ve helped more than 70 young artists.”

Accompanied by her husband and 4-year-old daughter, Pine tours the world with her violin, performing from Finland to Alaska, and always tries to do some community outreach. Sometimes she goes into schools and talks about how to listen to music, other times she gives master classes for young people learning how to play.

“I’m really up for anything,” she said. “I’ve had orchestras send me to the local watering hole where the business people go for lunch, to get them excited about the concert. Others send me to hospitals.”
She also regards concert hall performances as a continuation of her outreach work and her main mission, which is to nurture people’s souls.

“It’s not just about a show and being on stage in a fancy dress,” she said. “The meaning of being a musician is to uplift people’s spirits with the power of music.”

Along the way, Pine has also made it her mission to champion the cause of obscure musicians such as Maud Powell, who she describes as “America’s first internationally acclaimed violin soloist.”

“She had a real trail-blazing career and social values, which are so inspiring,” Pine said. “She was still a forgotten figure when her biographer sent me a copy of her biography.”

Pine has also championed African-American composers and musicians from all over the world who have been playing classical music for centuries. She credits the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago for raising her consciousness.

“This not somebody else’s music,” she said. “It’s so important for the future of classical music to have diversity so that we can have many voices enriching our art form, and keep it alive and evolving.
In addition to performing as a soloist, Pine plays Baroque violin and viola d’amore with her own, period-instrument ensemble, Trio Settecento.

“When I was 14, I sought out a specialist and got up and running on the phrasing and the Baroque bow,” she said. “It was a really creative outlet, and I’ve also done folk and rock music.”
In fact, Pine is a passionate fan of Heavy Metal rock music, especially of the “Thrash” and “Doom” sub-genres exemplified by bands such as Megadeath and Anthrax.

“I love to spread the word that I am a rock music fan,” she said. “You don’t have to choose between the genres ... I’ve met many of my favorite bands, and they listen to classical music.”

For the Beethoven concerto, Pine will soar in the upper register with the instrument on loan to her for life: the Joseph Guarnerius del Gesu (Cremona 1742) violin, known as the “ex-Soldat” because it was chosen by Brahms for his prodigy, Marie Soldat.

Even more rare than the Stradivari violins, the violins made by the Guarneri family are known for their rich, deep tone, especially on the low G string. That may not help the violinist much in the Beethoven concerto, however, since most of the work is written in the upper register.

“There’s a purity that it demands, because it’s so exposed,” she said of the concerto.

“Everything has to be beautifully shaped, pristine and sparkling, but also gorgeous. You can only aspire to come close.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or On Twitter @dianepete56.



January 14, 2016: Conductor Mei-Ann Chen wows in Green Music Center performance

by Chris Smith, The Press Democrat, January 14, 2016

Conductor Mei-Ann Chen wows in Green Music Center performance

Had Taiwan-born conductor Mei-Ann Chen made any bigger a splash in her guest appearance with the Santa Rosa Symphony, vacuum trucks would have been summoned to Weill Hall.
Terrifically animated, precise, joyful — Chen delighted the audiences and captured the hearts of orchestra members already bracing for the departure in 2018 of Bruno Ferrandis, their celebrated French music director since ‘06.

“More than a few players implored her to throw her hat in the ring,” said clarinetist Mark Wardlaw.

Chen mentioned to some at the Green Music Center that she has some impending career options, as she’ll leave her post as music director of the Memphis Symphony in May.

Hey, anything could happen. Chen is a seriously rising star much in demand.

But Tim Beswick, the symphony’s director of artistic operations, allowed that Sonoma County’s enthralled response to Chen “did not go unnoticed by the search committee.”

AS A TEEN, the former Mary Orsborn, now Mary Beseda, earned work-experience credit by acting as a teller at Exchange Bank.

Seconds after she graduated from Santa Rosa High, the bank hired her on. That was in 1974.
Mary met and came to work closely with Dona Vercelli-Godwin, who’s been with Exchange Bank since 1969. They’re the dynamic duo and institutional memory in the Electronic Banking department.
When they retire this month, Mary and Dona will have put in a total of 89 years with the bank.

Their manager, Byron Webb, a bit emotionally tender just now, praised Mary as a force for good in the community who always put the customer first and who possesses a personality “that grabs you and pulls you in.”

Dona, he said, “is an old-school worker; she comes to work and she works.” But also, said Webb, she makes work more fun for everyone around her.

Exchange Bank, which last year turned 125, will continue on, somehow.
LOSING HIS TRUCK was bad enough for Ken Risling. But in the back of the white Ford pickup stolen Friday in downtown Petaluma was the electrician’s livelihood — all of his tools and gear.
He dutifully reported the theft to police, but then he did something that proved far more effective. He wrote about his lost work truck on Facebook.

There followed, he said, “a remarkable phenomenon that I was totally stunned by.”
Risling’s Facebook friends shared his post with people who shared it, and on and on. He soon was notified of several sightings of his truck.

And on Monday his phone rang: A school bus driver in Vallejo was standing in front of the stripped Ford. She’d learned of the theft from a Facebook post in where? Montana.

All of his tools are gone, but the thief left Risling, who’s also quite a musician, “a raincoat, a couple of CDs and my glasses case. I was glad about that.”

He was pretty much bursting with gratitude for all the help and concern when others offered to loan him a truck and tools, then opened a GoFundMe appeal that so far has brought him more than $4,200.

“I gotta tell you,” Risling said. “I can’t stop myself from crying, just talking about it. It’s the most amazing thing.”

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and

January 10, 2016: Polly Holbrook, former SRS concertmaster, dies at 79

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, January 10, 2016

Polly Holbrook, longtime symphony violinist, dies at 79
Polly Holbrook, a longtime violinist with the Santa Rosa Symphony who served as concertmaster from 1983 to 1996, died at her Santa Rosa home on Jan. 2 after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 79.
Holbrook was treated for breast cancer three years ago and learned last month that it had metastasized, her family said. Knowing she didn’t have long to live, she signed up for hospice and quickly planned a party to gather family and friends around her on Jan. 1 and 2.

“She said, ‘The hell with a funeral and a wake; I want to be at my own party,’ ” said her sister-in-law, Ena Estes of Las Vegas, who had been taking care of her for many months. “We had a celebration of life and invited everybody.”

Holbrook playfully called the gathering a “Pity Polly Party,” greeting death in the same playful manner she had lived her life.

“She was so much fun to be around,” Estes said. “We traveled everywhere together, laughing and giggling. Everybody loved Aunt Polly.”

Born in 1936 in Santa Rosa, she had a single-minded passion for the violin, even as a little child. Her musical aspirations were supported by her mother, Elizabeth Estes, a pianist and church organist, and her father, Orville Estes, who played the trombone.

Holbrook started taking violin lessons around the age of 5 from Helen Payne Sloat, a longtime Santa Rosa Symphony violinist and teacher.

“Some little girls wanted a doll,” Holbrook told the Press Democrat in 1996. “I wanted a violin.”
When she was 7, Holbrook’s father changed jobs and her family moved to San Francisco, where she continued her musical education.

At age 12, Holbrook was chosen to be a guest soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, led by conductor Rudolph Ganz. She played a Bach concerto. At age 14, she played the Bruch Violin Concerto with the San Jose Symphony, led by conductor Gason Usigli.

While attending Washington High School in San Francisco, she sang in the a cappella choir. At age 15, she had what she later described as a life-changing opportunity to tour for two weeks playing music at convents, schools and mental health institutions.

 She studied choral music at San Francisco State, intending to go into teaching as a career, but halted her education after meeting her husband, Don Holbrook, who was in the Navy at the time. The couple met at church and married in 1955, raising two sons.

When Don got a job as a court reporter for Sonoma County Superior Court, the family moved to Santa Rosa and Holbrook started playing violin again, joining the Santa Rosa Symphony in the fall of 1964. The couple built a home in the Larkfield area that same year.

Under Santa Rosa Symphony conductor Corrick Brown, Holbrook served as principal second violin from 1967 to 1970, assistant concertmaster from 1970 to 1983 and concertmaster from 1983 to 1996, helping the orchestra transition from Brown to its new music director, Jeffrey Kahane. She also served as the symphony librarian from 1974 to 1984.

“I can remember looking at her at all the rehearsals and concerts, and she had a beatific look,” said Polly Fisher, former manager of the Santa Rosa Symphony. “She had a wonderful relationship with the Browns. The Browns mentored her, and they brought her to a different level.”
Holbrook started helping with auditions in 1970. As concertmaster, she spent hours working on the bowings before each concert series. She retired from the symphony in 2000 after 36 years.

“Building a symphony orchestra requires developing a great string section,” Brown said. “When Polly Holbrook came to Santa Rosa, it was a godsend. The success of the orchestra owes a great deal to her.”
Holbrook also taught violin, played weddings and was an active chamber music player, performing with the Santa Rosa Chamber Players, the Boyd Piano Quintet and with her dear friends, pianist Norma Brown and cellist Shirley Chilcott.

She also spent many summers boating on the Russian River with her family.

“Amazingly, she found time to drive a water-ski boat with her sons behind and her blonde hair blowing,” said Chilcott. “She and Don were also avid supporters of their sons’ sports activities.”
She is preceded in death by her husband, her brother John Estes and granddaughter Jennifer Holbrook.
In addition to her sister-in-law Ena Estes, she is survived by her sister, Betsy Ludwig of Penn Valley; her sons Brad Holbrook of Greenbrier, Ark., and Mark Holbrook of Sacramento; nine grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

No memorial service is planned. Donation in her memory may be made to North County Hospice, 205 East St., in Healdsburg or to the Santa Rosa Symphony, 50 Santa Rosa Ave.

January 7, 2016: Stradivarius player Caroline Goulding to perform with Santa Rosa Symphony

by by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, January 7, 2016

Though she is only 23 years old, violinist Caroline Goulding has played a nearly 300-year-old Stradivarius for the past five years.

Known as the General Kyd Stradivarius, the circa 1720 instrument made in Cremona, Italy, produces a beautiful sound that, in its utter perfection, reminds her of a god or a goddess.

“Every string glows with beauty,” she said in a phone interview from her parents’ home in Florida. “It’s more of a Fred Astaire than a Gene Kelly. Fred Astaire is almost a magician, he’s so smooth and effortless and charming. Gene Kelly has more of a visceral quality.”

Over time, however, the instrument seems to have evolved under her fingers, integrating some of dancer Kelly’s athletic earthiness into the ethereal spirit of Astaire.

“Maybe it’s all a reflection of what I’m putting into it,” she said. “I would love to dance with Fred, but I’m captivated by both in very different ways.”

Goulding and her mercurial violin will join the Santa Rosa Symphony this weekend, Jan. 9 to 11, to perform a Kelly-esque, athletic work, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major. Led by guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen, the “Pastoral Pleasures” concert opens with An-Lun Huang’s festive “Saibei Dance” and closes with Dvorak’s folksy Symphony No. 8.

For Goulding, at least, the challenge of the Tchaikovsky is to carefully monitor the energy she puts into the work.

“That piece is all about endurance, because basically, it’s like running a marathon,” she said. “It’s about how you utilize your energy in the piece so it makes sense physically, musically and technically … and so you don’t wear out.”

The composer originally dedicated his concerto to renowned violinist Leopold Auer, who politely demurred the honor, declaring it unplayable. During the work’s premiere, critic Eduard Hanslick wrote that “the violin was not played but beaten black and blue.”

The work kicks off with a tender introduction by the orchestra that sets up a dramatic entrance for the soloist, who starts off in a leisurely fashion with the lyrical first theme. The solo part soon accelerates, however, gaining steam through a series of daunting double-stops, trills and arpeggios, plus a bone-crushing cadenza, that light a fire under the solo part as well as the orchestral accompaniment.

Even the gentle second movement, featuring minor-key melody aching with melancholy, leaps impulsively into the finale, a dancing rondo that requires more finger-aching pyrotechnics.

“I love all of Tchaikovsky,” said Goulding, who currently lives in New York City. “I was just listening to ‘Swan Lake’ today. The Tchaikovsky concerto is very dance-like, in a ballet way.“

As a child growing up in Port Huron, Mich., Goulding listened to her older brothers playing trumpet and saxophone and was so inspired that she demanded an instrument of her own when she was a little over 3 years old.

“At that age, the options were limited,” she said. “It was either the violin or the piano.”

When Goulding was 11, her family relocated to Cleveland so she could continue her violin studies with Paul Kantor, who had taken a post with the Cleveland Institute of Music.

As a young student, she also trained at summer festivals, from Marlboro and Yellow Barn in Vermont to the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, where she won first prize in the concerto competition at age 13.

The following year, she made her first appearance on the TV program, “From the Top: Live from Carnegie Hall,” hosted by pianist Christopher O’Riley. At age 16, after a 2007 appearance with the Cleveland Pops, she was offered a three-album recording deal with Telarc.

“It was a natural progression,” she said of her career. “I’ve always known that I wanted to do it, so it was following the flow of life.”

Her first album, recorded with pianist O’Riley, is a collection of beloved violin works by Fritz Kreisler, John Corigliano, Vieuxtemps and others. Simply entitled “Caroline Goulding,” the album garnered a Grammy nomination and made the top 15 in Billboard Magazine.

A second Telarc album, “From the Top at the Pops,” came out in 2009, featuring Goulding in a performance of the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 as well as the Mendelssohn Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings, both with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

In 2009, Goulding was awarded first prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2011.

Also in 2011, she started studying with famed violin teacher Donald Weilerstein at the New England Conservatory. Then she went on to take lessons from violinist Christian Tetzlaff at the Kronberg Academy in Germany, an international cultural institution for highly gifted young string players.

“I graduated from the Kronberg Academy in June, but I still take lessons from Mr. Weilerstein and Christian Tetzlaff,” said Goulding, who spends about half of her year performing in Europe and the other half in the U.S.

Tetzlaff, in particular, has influenced her because of the unique way in which he approaches each piece.

“What I really respect is his artistic openness and creativity, but also his commitment to what is there in the score,” she said. “He attempts to take all of the influences out and start from scratch.”

Since she is still very young, Goulding said she is open to trying all kinds of classical works, from the baroque period to the contemporary era.

“You don’t know what you like until you try everything,” she said. “I’m taking what comes, and I’m open to it.”

In her spare time, she enjoys reading, walking, eating with friends and enjoying a good cup of coffee at a cafe, where she likes to people-watch. But she hasn’t quite gotten around to learning how to cook.

“I like to go out and spend money on good food,” she said. “I like to live the epicurean lifestyle, without the work.”

But the rising young star still continues to work hard on her Stradivarius violin. Though it produces a perfect sound, the maturing artist is beginning to understand that even perfection has its flaws.

“That’s a weakness in itself, because life is messy, and music is messy,” she said. “Yes, art reflects beauty, but maybe art reflects life, and the beauty is that life is not always beautiful.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or On Twitter @dianepete56.

January 4, 2016: San Francisco North Bay business briefs: SRS NEA Grant

by North Bay Business Journal, January 4, 2016

San Francisco North Bay business briefs: 
Santa Rosa Symphony recently received a Challenge America Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in the amount of $10,000. The symphony will use this award to support performances, a workshop and related outreach activities featuring Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez during the symphony’s 88th season finale in May 2016.

Healdsburg Center for the Arts has a variety of opportunities for visual artists to exhibit their art in the gallery. Along with our six to eight juried exhibitions, it offers opportunities for artists to rent display space. Starting in January, it is taking applications for gallery artists.

The city of Santa Rosa announced a series of community meetings to be hosted by its Community Advisory Board (CAB) in an effort to obtain public input on the city’s Capital Improvement Project (CIP) budget for 2016–2017. Community meetings will be held 5:30–7:30 p.m. Jan. 4, Bennett Valley Senior Center, 704 Bennett Valley Rd.; Jan. 7, Finley Community Center, Willow Room, 2060 West College Ave.; Jan. 11, Oakmont East Community Center, 7902 Oakmont Dr.; January 14, Steele Lane Community Center, De Meo Room, 415 Steele Ln.; Jan. 21, Roseland Elementary School Library, 950 Sebastopol Rd.

Napa County has become the 33rd county to join VOTECAL, the new statewide voter registration system. As all 58 counties move to the system by spring 2016, VOTECAL will treat voters as state voters rather than county voters. That means those who move from one county to another in California can remain eligible to vote without having to re-register. VOTECAL also will allow eligible driver license and state ID card first-time applicants, and those renewing their licenses or changing their address, to be registered to vote automatically at the DMV unless they choose not to register.

The city of Novato has a new online business license renewal system to facilitate the renewal process. Owners can now renew their business license online by visiting and select the option to renew online. Just use your business license number and security code that is printed on your renewal notice to log in and pay your renewal fee by credit card via its new secure payment system. Cash or check payment options are still available in-person or by mail.

In December, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved a Living Wage Ordinance. Sonoma County is the seventh county in California to adopt local legislation raising wages for county employees and contractors. Effective July 1, all county employees and individuals working for private sector employers who contract with the county will be required to earn a base minimum pay rate of $15.00 an hour when conducting work for the county. Non-profit service contractors will be phased into the ordinance, beginning at $13.00 starting July 1, 2017, and reaching $15.00 per hour on July 1, 2019.
Health Care

Marin Cancer Care, co-manager of the Cancer Institute at Marin General Hospital, was one of 10 health care institutions across the country included in a recent study published by the Harvard Business Review. The article described the impact of high-emotion services in cancer care delivery, and explored non-clinical practices positively influencing the quality and effect of patient care. Researched by Dr. Leonard Berry, Ph.D., professor at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University and senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the study selected cancer centers known for their clinical quality and high-emotion services, which address the compassionate and sensitive delivery of diagnosis and treatment.

Kaiser Permanente announced plans to open the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine as part of the organization’s ongoing effort to lead in meeting America’s demands for 21st century health care. The school will redesign physician education around strategic pillars that include providing high-quality care beyond traditional medical settings, acknowledging the central importance of collaboration and teamwork to inform treatment decisions, and addressing disparities in health. The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019 and will be located in Southern California, where physicians-in-training will be immersed in an environment of cultural and economic diversity.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded more than $4.4 million in federal funds to four health centers in Huffman’s Second District for 2016. With these federal grants, health centers in Humboldt, Marin, Mendocino and Sonoma counties will be able to continue providing primary care to populations in need.

OpenTable, a leading provider of online restaurant reservations and part of The Priceline Group, unveiled the 100 Best Restaurants in America for 2015. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states. Included in the top 10 is St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Santa Rosa. Other North Bay restaurants include: Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford; Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville; The French Laundry, Yountville.

Nonprofit organizations interested in applying for grant funds from the Napa County Arts and Culture Advisory Committee can begin submitting their proposals Jan. 5. Applicants will be able to apply for funds under the visitor management guidelines for tourism promotion activities as well as the capacity building program guidelines. Completed applications must be received no later than March 1. Only registered 501(c)3 organizations working in Napa County’s arts and culture sector are eligible.

Mend Programmatics Inc. of Novato recently closed its software and application creation partnership with mobile engagement platform company Fanfare Entertainment’s Apollo Health division in Burlingame. The deal will provide software and applications for Mend and its endeavors to create technology for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Family-owned Cline Family Cellars in Sonoma launched a new multichannel national brand campaign called Are You Inclined. Rolled out in December in national print advertising, retail promotions as well as on-line, Are You Inclined will include a new social media contest that rewards participants for sharing their experiences with Cline Family Cellars wines. Running through March, participants can use Instagram to post photos of themselves in situations where they are enjoying one of Cline Family Cellars’ wines. The most creative and original entry will receive a $250 gift certificate from Cline Family Cellars and a gift basket from The Olive Press.

Napa’s Crimson Wine Group (OTCBB: CWGL) opened The Estates Wine Room, an urban tasting room located in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

Consumer Products
Indoor Climate Control launched as an informational portal that features educational resources on subjects such as property value benefits from air conditioning repairs, heating repairs and emergency service and many other helpful tips that can save money and provide the best results for property improvement projects at any budget.

Quality Counts, Sonoma County’s quality improvement rating system as led by First 5 Sonoma County, designated 4Cs programs as high quality, with 4Cs preschools rated in the top tier. It is a five-tier rating system that rates the quality of early education programs. Preschools and child care centers were rated on early learning environment and teacher/child interactions, which research show is the strongest indicator for child’s school readiness. 4Cs was awarded $160,000 in recognition of the high ratings, which it will invest in professional development programs for preschool staff.

Terra Firma Global Partners entered into a three-year agreement of financial support with Prestwood Elementary School in Sonoma. Terra Firma is sponsoring “Prestwood Direct,” the funding mechanism to enable a host of school programs that the school would otherwise be unable to afford.


December 15, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony Receives Prestigious NEA Grant

by Sonoma County Gazette, December 15, 2015

Santa Rosa Symphony Receives Prestigious NEA Grant

Challenge America Award will support community outreach activities related to the “Jazzy Impressions” Classical Series season finale concert set featuring pianist Gabriela Martinez in May 2016

The Santa Rosa Symphony (SRS) recently received a Challenge America Award from The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the amount of $10,000.  The SRS will use this award to support performances, a workshop and related outreach activities featuring Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinezduring the Santa Rosa Symphony’s 88th season finale in May, 2016.

This outreach project is intended to share classical music with the Sonoma County Latino community. Martinez, a music education advocate, will conduct a free bilingual “musical career day” workshop for elementary school violinists, participate in an open rehearsal for the community, and participate in 3 pre-concert talks before each Classical Concert performance. Organizations such Big Brothers Big Sisters of the North Bay, the YWCA Sonoma CountyCalifornia Parenting Institute, the Boys and Girls Club Central Santa Rosa, and Hanna Boys Center – selected for their ties to local, underserved communities – and local elementary schools will assist with targeted outreach and free ticket distribution for the main stage performance at the Green Music Center.

In its first 50 years, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded more than $5 billion in grants to recipients in every state and U.S. jurisdiction, the only arts funder in the nation to do so. For its first funding round for fiscal year 2016, the NEA has announced awards totaling more than $27.6 million, including this Challenge America award to the Santa Rosa Symphony.

The Challenge America category supports projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. Challenge America grants are comparatively small investments that have a big impact in their communities.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The arts are part of our everyday lives – no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like the one from the Santa Rosa Symphony offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

About this Challenge America grant to the SRS, Executive Director Alan Silow said: “This grant from the NEA expresses national confirmation of the importance of the work the Santa Rosa Symphony is doing in Sonoma County to inspire and engage people with the highest-quality musical performances and to develop compelling educational programs focused on the local community.”

INFO: National Endowment for the Arts

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 $4 million into the local economy.

Currently in its 88th 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 23,000 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 2012-13 season from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

December 3, 2015: Holiday choral music to look forward to in Sonoma County

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, December 3, 2015

 There’s an informal choral music season every year around the holidays, and the singers of the North Bay have been warming up to perform the best of the holiday lot.

The Santa Rosa Symphony kicks off the annual choralpalooza this weekend with three performances of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony conducted by Music Director Bruno Ferrandis, alongside four vocal soloists and the Santa Rosa Symphony Honor Choir.

“It ends incredibly joyfully, so it’s very uplifting,” said Choral Director Robert Worth, who is rehearsing his own Sonoma Bach Choir as well as the Santa Rosa High School Concert Choir and the Sonoma State Symphonic Chorus for the concert. “They only sing in the fourth movement, but it’s the focal point of the piece.”

Worth is celebrating his 20th and final year conducting the Santa Rosa Symphonic Honor Choir during the annual Santa Rosa Symphony choral concert before the holidays. He has helped prepare the symphonic choir since 1995, when the symphony’s then-conductor Jeffrey Kahane first asked for a high-level choir to help perform Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms.”

“It’s been a great collaboration, and we’ve done a lot of great productions,” said Worth, who plans to focus now on early music with his Sonoma Bach Choir. “I felt like this would be a good thing to go out on.”

Beethoven’s 9th has been compared to a mirror, reflecting a different meaning for each of its admirers, from Protestant hymn-writers to Marxists and Nazis.

In his book, “The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824,” Harvey Sachs argues that Beethoven’s 9th is a quest for freedom from the repression of the European government and a broad “declaration in favor of universal brotherhood.”

Here are the details of the symphony concert, along with a smorgasbord of other choral concerts that celebrate the season:

The Santa Rosa Symphony presents Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, 6, and 7, at Weill Hall. The concert opens with a folk song cycle by Luciano Berio. $25-$85. 546-8742 or
Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or On Twitter @dianepete56.

November 26, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony Is in the Pink, Financially

by Mark MacNamara , SF Classical Voice, November 26, 2015

For the 88-year-old Santa Rosa Symphony these days everything is in the black, it’s all coming up roses, although it’s true that the acclaimed music director Bruno Ferrandis has just announced that after 12 seasons he has decided to move on following the 2017-2018 season.

Why leave now? “I feel it is important in the modern era for both directors and symphonies to experience the influence of many different musical personalities,” he has been quoted to say, and added that he wants to collaborate more with living composers. In sum, Ferrandis, originally an Algerian émigré, now living in Paris, intends to get back on the road and resume his role as a guest conductor, which has lead him to concert halls from Tel Aviv to Tokyo.

“I love the guy,” Alan Silow told us. Silow is the symphony’s executive director. “Bruno has been enormously collegial. He has brought a special sensibility, with music from ballet, film, dance, opera, and has also introduced our audience to a number of new works. He’s really raised the profile of this orchestra, both regionally and nationally.”

Still, it won’t be hard to find a replacement in what has become one of the more successful regional orchestras in the country and recently added three musicians to its lineup. And that’s due to Silow, who takes great pride in the fact. His strategy, over the last 12 years, has been to establish financial protocols to better escape the winds of recession. One move, for example, was to subsidize the core of classical programming with family concerts, pops, and the like, which, as Silow put it, absolutely must break even, at the very least.

Another change was in negotiating guest artist contracts. “I enjoy and to some degree excel at negotiation,” Silow told us, “and so we took a much stronger tack and brought those costs back to a more reasonable range.” Silow says that the art of negotiation has been simply to represent the symphony accurately, always careful to explain that while the symphony doesn’t have the budget of the San Francisco Symphony, it is graced with Weill Hall in the Green Music Center and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience.

A third change was to propose, for the first time, a board responsibility statement, in writing, in effect a one-page list of responsibilities. One of those responsibilities was to solicit or contribute $10,000 annually to the symphony. The 38-member board approved and the results have been dramatic, and somewhat unexpected. The move drew in prominent community leaders and helped to professionalize the organization. But more to the point, in 2001-02 total board giving amounted to $70,000. In 2014, the amount was $450,000.

In addition, the board authorized restrictions on how endowments could be used. A cap was applied in 2003, which reflected the view that “to really grow the endowment, we’re not taking any more than five percent a year based on a three-year rolling average of the stock market evaluation.” A recent three-year campaign was completed in just two years, and raised $4 million. In 2002, the symphony’s endowment was worth $1.5 million; now it’s worth more than $10 million.

As for programming, Silow points out that his close relationship with the artistic director has allowed the organization to steer between the shoals of programming that’s too expensive and programming that has little appeal to the community. Indeed, the art of programming for Silow is “community engagement, and the ability to be relevant.”

To that end, the symphony has in the last year orchestrated a series of three outreach concerts, under the rubric of Festival of Remembrance. One was a day of the dead concert last fall; another, in February, honored Japanese-Americans who had been interned during World War II. That included Japanese composer and a local Taiko drumming ensemble. A third concert last April featured Jewish composers who perished in the Holocaust. That concert included a film, with interviews with survivors as well as a Klezmer band.

Another community outreach program involved chamber music ensembles performing at local libraries and then, finally, a free community concert at Weill Hall which was directed toward the local Latino community and drew 5,000 people. It was a record attendance.

“I think the reason we’ve been successful,” says Silow, is because the board understands the notion of ‘no pain, no gain’.  Because of the recession in 2002 there were a lot of financial challenges and when the board understood what those were they were very amendable to making the needed changes to bring us back to sustainability.”

Mark MacNamara ( is a San Francisco-based journalist who has written for such publications as, Vanity Fair, The Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Nautilus. In recent months in SFCV, among other pieces, he has written about a music director accused of embezzlement; a profile of conductor Alondra de la Parra; an essay about the controversy over ‘trigger warnings’ for college courses; a report on a strike at the Metropolitan Opera; and a feature about the housing problem for artists in San Francisco.

November 25, 2015: Bruno Ferrandis to Depart from Santa Rosa Symphony

by, posted by charlie, November 25, 2015

Santa Rosa Symphony board president Sara Woodfield recently announced that music director and conductor Bruno Ferrandis will end his tenure with the Symphony when his contract expires at the end of the 2017-2018 season.

Ferrandis, only the fourth musical director in the Symphony’s 88-year history, plans to pursue an international role as a guest conductor.

Of the decision, Ferrandis said he hopes to conduct more opera, collaborate with contemporary composers and travel the world. He also thanked the community in Sonoma County for their “fabulous faith and support for the Santa Rosa Symphony over so many years.”

Highlights of Ferrandis’ time with SRS include the Symphony’s move to the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall in 2012. Also, in 2013, the Symphony was awarded an ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, in recognition of Ferrandis’ balance of traditional classic repertoire with newer works.

Woodfield also announced the Symphony’s board of directors will begin an international search for the next music director, with finalists conducting five of the seven classical concerts in the 2017-2018 season before Ferrandis leads the orchestra for the final two concerts, both of which are sure to be filled with personal favorites and emotional works.

November 19, 2015: Maestro Bruno Ferrandis is leaving the Santa Rosa Symphony

by Geraldine Duncann,, November 19, 2015

The board of directors has just announced that Maestro Bruno Ferrandis is leaving the Santa Rosa Symphony at the end of the 1017-2018 season when his contract runs out. This will end a twelve season relationship between Bruno Ferrandis, the Santa Rosa Symphony and music lovers of the North Bay community. Under Maestro Ferrandis leadership and guidance, the Santa Rosa Symphony has become one of the leading symphonies in the country.

Ferrandis said in an interview from his Paris home that he was leaving the symphony for artistic reasons. “An artist must be challenged. If he’s not challenged, his art is going away,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Paris. “It’s the same for the orchestra. I think an orchestra needs change … it’s good to have somebody fresh, with new ideas.”

With his usual curtesy, he will remain Music Director for two more seasons which will provide the time to conduct an international search to find just the right person to replace him, and once found, allow for a comfortable transition.

When he announced his decision, Maestro Ferrandis said he wished to express his gratitude to the patrons and supporters of the Santa Rosa symphony. In doing so he said, : “I want to thank first the people of Santa Rosa and throughout Sonoma County for their love and fabulous faith and support for the Santa Rosa Symphony over so many years. It was an amazing feeling to be welcomed by you! I also appreciate the enormous opportunity I was given to have been Music Director for the Santa Rosa Symphony during the transition to Weill Hall at the Green Music Center during my seventh season.”

For the 2016-2017 season, the Maestro has, as usual, planned a outstanding series of classical programs, all of which he will of course conduct himself. The 2017-2018 season will be primarily dedicated to interviewing prospective replacements, and when found, easing them into Bruno’s shoes. Five finalists from the search will be chosen and each will conduct a program. Bruno himself will conduct the final two programs of the season.

As the symphony moves through this process there are still many months ahead during which North Bay music lovers may still celebrate Maestro Ferrandis’s artistry and charismatic personality, so take advantage of the remaining time and be sure to make your way to Weill Hall and take in a few of the concerts under his direction while you still have the opportunity.

November 17, 2015: Bruno Ferrandis to leave Santa Rosa Symphony after 2017-’18 season

by Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat, November 17, 2015

The Santa Rosa Symphony announced Tuesday that Bruno Ferrandis, the fourth music director in the 87-year history of the orchestra, will step down when his contract expires at the end of the 2017-2018 season.

Paris resident Ferrandis, 55, said he made the decision that he will end his tenure after a dozen seasons because of artistic reasons.

“An artist must be challenged. If he’s not challenged, his art is going away,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Paris. “It’s the same for the orchestra. I think an orchestra needs change … it’s good to have somebody fresh, with new ideas.”

Ferrandis, who joined the symphony in 2006, helped usher the orchestra from the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts into its new home at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall in 2012. In 2013, the orchestra won an award for its adventurous programming from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP.)

“The transition was a critical process, and it was something that Bruno led very well,” Santa Rosa Symphony Executive Director Alan Silow said. “And I think he has broadened the horizons for the audiences with an integration of contemporary music with beloved repertoire.”

Silow said the 10-member search committee, made up of four orchestra musicians and five board members plus Silow, will hold its first meeting in December. The committee will eventually select five finalists, who will try out with the symphony during the first five concert sets of the 2017-2018 season. Ferrandis will conduct the final two concerts of that season.

During the 2016-2017 season, Ferrandis was granted his request to conduct all seven concert sets, rather than the customary six out of the seven (with one led by a guest conductor).

“It’s my last full season with the orchestra, and I wanted to get the whole season,” Ferrandis said. “It’s a little bit self-gratifying. It’s like someone splurging on a good dessert.”

Silow said Ferrandis’ exit is timed well, with the orchestra playing at a high level, support for the orchestra strong and its finances on sound footing. He credited the conductor’s winning personality for helping elevate the orchestra.

“One can never underestimate Bruno’s charm … and personally, he worked so well with me,” Silow said. “He’s very collegial, and I think that really helped a lot in sharing how well we have done during his tenure.”

Ferrandis said that stepping down from the Santa Rosa post will allow him to do more guest conducting and opera conducting. However, he said it will be difficult to leave the orchestra, as well as the audience.

“The audience loves their music and are curious and patient with me introducing new music,” he said. “But it’s a good time for me to be going.”

Ferrandis succeeded Conductor Laureate Jeffrey Kahane, who served as Music Director for 10 seasons. Before Kahane, Conductor Emeritus Corrick Brown served as Music Director from 1957-1995. George Trombley founded the Santa Rosa Symphony in 1928.

When Kahane announced his departure in 2002, Silow had already joined the symphony as its executive director. He called the announcement of Ferrandis’ departure “a bittersweet deja vu,” and praised both music directors for being respectful and giving sufficient time to find a replacement.

“Back then, we brought in someone based in Paris who had been a conductor for 20 years, and that illustrated that the respect had grown considerably for the organization as a whole,” Silow said. “It worked well then … it should work again.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 On Twitter @dianepete56.


November 5, 2015: Pianist with Santa Rosa Symphony likes to mix old and new

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, November 5, 2015

Pianist Pedja Muzijevic is not content to play music from just one era. Instead, he often juxtaposes modern works by composers like John Cage and George Crumb with the classics by Bach and Haydn.
The Bosnian-born musician also presents staged works with dancers and serves as arts administrator for the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York, which presents innovative, multimedia works in dance, theater and music.

“I love mixing the old and new,” he said in a phone interview from his home in New York. “Otherwise, we’re in an artistic ghetto where people just play either old or new music, and I feel that they both benefit from each other.”

The pianist will demonstrate his multifaceted tastes and talents this weekend when he performs with the Santa Rosa Symphony at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall. The three-concert set opens with a modernistic work by Gyorgy Kurtag for piano and orchestra, then switches to the Romantic era with Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor and Brahms’ monumental Symphony No. 1 after intermission.

The Kurtag work is titled “...quasi una fantasia ...” which may be a tip of the hat to Schumann’s “Fantasie,” one of the composer’s greatest works for solo piano. The second movement also offers a Schumannesque title, “Wie ein Traumeswirren” (“Like the Confusions of a Dream,”) a reference to a piece from Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 12.

“I was interested in juxtaposing these worlds,” Muzijivec said of the Kurtag and the Schumann works. “The Kurtag touches on Schumann ... but if it’s there in the music itself, I certainly haven’t noticed it.”
Born in 1926, Kurtag is perhaps the most famous living Hungarian composer. (His compatriot Gyorgy Ligeti died in 2006.) He works in tiny snippets, and his soundscape offers stark contrasts, from the eerie and ethereal to the bombastic and brash.

“He’s a miniaturist ... but he has a great dynamic range,” the 51-year-old pianist said. “There’s one movement that’s almost an act of desperation and in your face, but the fast one is close to being almost inaudible.”

The Hungarian composer is also famous for his spatial experiments with music. In “...quasi una fantasia...,” some members of the orchestra will be placed strategically throughout the hall.
“It’s the opposite of audience participation, because the musicians invade the audience,” Muzijevic said. “It’s a nice thing to explore, and it’s only nine minutes long, so it can’t be too painful.”

While regarded as a standard of the repertory, the Schumann Piano Concerto in A Minor is not heard as often as more popular concertos by Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.
“Somehow it sort of falls in between,” he said. “It’s not a show-off piece, and it’s very difficult. So you get the work but none of the glory for it.”

One of the challenges for the pianist is that the piano plays almost nonstop throughout the three movements. Also, the notes do not fall easily under the fingers, as Schumann was guided more by expression than ease of execution. Still, it has its allure.

“It’s not restrained, and in the second movement, it’s so intimate, it draws people in,” he said. “It’s very lyrical, and I can’t get enough of it.”

The pianist also admires the originality of the writing, especially the way Schumann opens the first and second movements.

“It’s not in any mold,” he said. “The piano bursts out after the first note of the orchestra, and in the second movement, the piano starts in this tentative way, getting your toes into the water, surging up, and then a question mark.”

Muzijevic was born in Sarajevo but left in 1980 for Zagreb. In 1984, he came to the U.S., where he studied at Juilliard in New York and first met Santa Rosa Symphony Music Director Bruno Ferrandis.
“I haven’t seen him since the late ’80s, and I’m so looking forward to seeing him,” he said. “I’m also very excited to see the hall, which looks beautiful in pictures.”

While he hasn’t been back to Bosnia since he was 16, Muzijevic does perform in Croatia from time to time. But the breathtaking beauty of the coast of Bosnia has remained with him.
“The mountains being so close to the shoreline is very specific and not very frequently seen,” he said. “To me, there’s some similarity with Northern California.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 On Twitter @dianepete56.

October 14, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony Adds New String Positions, Fills Vacancy

by Mark MacNamara, San Francisco Classical Voice, October 14, 2015

In a letter to his father in the spring of 1781, Mozart noted a recent performance by the Vienna Symphony, which had “40 violins, the wind instruments all doubled, 10 tenors [violas], 10 double basses, eight violincellos, and six bassoons.”

An embarrassment of riches compared with “the age of cuts,” when American orchestras are shedding union musicians, hiring freelancers, or closing down altogether. Note the Fort Worth Symphony, which drew this entry in August on the blog, Slipped Disc, about how “the musicians are out of contract and the admin is demanding job cuts.”

And so you wonder what’s going on in Santa Rosa. How could that symphony be adding musicians? 

The Santa Rosa Symphony has brought in three new string positions and filled a vacancy, to bring the orchestra to a new total of 81 musicians. The symphony, which opened in 1928, is the third-oldest professional orchestra in California and the largest regional symphony north of Los Angeles. The musicians are members of American Federation of Musicians Union Local 292; many play with other orchestras, including Marin, Berkeley, Monterey, Modesto, and the San Francisco Opera and Ballet.

The new musicians include Aromi Park, first violin, seat 14; Genevieve Micheletti, second violin, seat 12; and Jon Keigwin, contrabass, seat 7. The open position went to Jesse Barrett, playing second oboe and english horn.

Barrett studied at Boston University and the University of the Pacific and plays with the Merced Symphony, the Reno Chamber Orchestra, and Symphony Napa Valley. Park studied at the San Francisco Academy Orchestra, the University of Memphis, the New England Conservatory, and Ewha Womans University and is a former musician with both the Arkansas Symphony and Memphis Symphony Orchestras. Micheletti studied at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Rice University, and plays with the San Francisco Academy Orchestra and the Stockton Symphony. Keigwin studied at the Curtis Institute of Music and plays with the Berkeley Symphony and the Sun Valley Summer Symphony.

Bruno Ferrandis, the symphony's music director and conductor since 2006, can only laugh when you ask him how the symphony is adding musicians at a time when most are cutting positions. “I am only an artist,” he told us last week.”I am not the one to ask. But the reason is simply because we are very healthy financially; we have loyal audiences and we are in a world class concert hall.”

That would be the Green Music Center, on the campus of Sonoma State University. The center includes 240-seat Schroeder hall and the 1,400-seat Weill Hall, which opened in 2012 and was deeply inspired by Vienna’s Musikverein, as well as Symphony Hall in Boston.  The Green Center, which caters to jazz as well as classical music, attracts an audience that far exceeds the national average for attendance at classical concerts.  More than 100,000 people came last year to attend concerts or music education programs.    

“If you don’t take chances,” Ferrandis explained, “the result is a dying, stagnating organization.  It cannot stand. We will continue to focus on a program that mines both old and new.  We have two premiers coming up, which will be challenging but also offer an opportunity to discover something new.”

Mark MacNamara ( is a San Francisco-based journalist who has written for such publications as, Vanity Fair, The Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Nautilus. In recent months in SFCV, among other pieces, he has written about a music director accused of embezzlement; a profile of conductor Alondra de la Parra; an essay about the controversy over ‘trigger warnings’ for college courses; a report on a strike at the Metropolitan Opera; and a feature about the housing problem for artists in San Francisco.

October 7, 2015: Santa Rosa Symphony to open season with twin pianists

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, October 7, 2015

Bruno Ferrandis, music director of the Santa Rosa Symphony, sees many different themes woven into the tapestry of the orchestra’s 2015-’16 season, including exoticism and dance, universality and peace, nature and religion.
There will also be plenty of pianists in the spotlight, during the first and last concert sets in October and May and the second concert set in November. But there’s another theme that trumps those minor themes with its major power.
“This is a season of composers at their height,” Ferrandis said, citing the 9th symphonies of Beethoven and Bruckner, Dvorak’s 8th, and Saint-Saens’ third and last symphony. “This is the essence of the essence of these composers.”
The new season, which opens this weekend, will be the symphony’s fourth as the resident orchestra of the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall and Ferrandis’ 10th anniversary season as music director. Both conductor and orchestra are settling nicely into the new acoustical environment of the hall. Last season, they presented an array of energetic. well-executed programs with high-profile soloists that were well attended.
According to Executive Director Alan Silow, there was a record number of single tickets sold both to the Classical Concert Series and the Symphony Pops Series, presented in collaboration with the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts.
“That (single ticket sales) was related to the quality of the programming and the artists,” Silow said. “And for the Saturday afternoon dress rehearsals, the ticket sales have been through the roof.” As a result, the orchestra has been able to expand this year with three new permanent players - a first violin, second violin and a bass player - bringing its ranks up to a total of 81 musicians. A vacancy for oboe/English horn was also filled.
Here is the essence of each concert set of the symphony’s Classical Concert Series. Each concert will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, at Weill Hall. Pre-concert lectures with Ferrandis start one hour before curtain time.
1) “Twin Stars” on Oct. 10-12: The season kicks off with a world premiere of “Pax Universalis” by Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz, one of the most sought-after young composers working in America today. “It’s a 10-minute piece, very colorful, with joy and a pulse,” Ferrandis said. Fairouz, who is currently writing an opera, will attend both the Saturday and Sunday concerts on Oct. 10 and 11.
Twin sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton will perform two double-piano concertos: Mozart’s Concerto No. 10 for Two Pianos, written by Mozart in 1782 to play with his older sister; and Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, a neo-classical work that both revives tradition and revamps it.
Capping the concert will be Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3, an unusual work scored for both organ and four-handed piano. The prolific composer considered it his best work. “I love the spirituality of the slow movement, and the feeling of peace and calm,” Ferrandis said. “This symphony just breathes peace.”
2) “Surround Sound” on Nov. 7-9: Pedja Muzijevic, a Serbian-Bosnian pianist who studied at Juilliard. will tackle two piano works, which are linked together: Schumann’s popular Piano Concerto in A minor; and “Quasi una Fantasia” by Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag, which is named after Schumann’s famous “Fantasie” for piano. “The Kurtag is very sensitive, with a lot of eerie sounds,” Ferrandis said. During the work, orchestral musicians will be placed around the hall, boosting the work’s unusual acoustics.
As a finale, Ferrandis will bring back Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, which was written around the time that the composer met Schumann. The work has been referred to as “Beethoven’s 10th.”
3) “Joy to the World” on Dec. 5-7: Peace and universality will reign during the symphony’s annual holiday choral concert, when Ferrandis will once again lead a performance of Beethoven’s beloved Symphony No. 9 with the Santa Rosa Symphony Honor Choir. (The first time he led it here was in 2009.) To open the concert, he chose Luciano Berio’s “Folk Songs,” which includes vocal songs sun in many different languages. The 20-minute piece is the third, and most famous, work that Ferrandis has performed here by the Italian composer.
4) “Pastoral Pleasures” on Jan. 9 to 11: Guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen, who conducts the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, will lead a global program that pairs “Saibei Dance,” a work by Chinese-America composer Huang Ruo about a harvest celebration, with Dvorak’s folksy Symphony No. 8. Rounding out the program will be Tchaikovsky’s fiery Violin Concerto, performed by Caroline Goulding. a young, award-winning violinist on her way up.
5) “Strokes of Genius” Feb. 20-22: Ferrandis returns to the podium to lead the symphony in two challenging war-horse works. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, performed by violinist Rachel Barton Pine, is “an entire symphony for violin and orchestra,” Ferrandis said. The concert closes with the original three movements of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9, Unfinished. “Bruckner is dying, and he knows it,” Ferrandis said. “At the end of the Adagio he wrote, ‘Farewell to life.’”
6) “Rhythmic Vitality” April 2-4: Dance rhythms punctuate a concert that brings back charismatic cellist Zuill Bailey for a performance of Britten’s Symphony for Cello & Orchestra, written in 1963 and recently recorded by Bailey. The concert opens with a world premiere of Daniel Brewbaker’s “Dances and Dreams of Dionysus,” and closes with the full concert version of de Falla’s ballet, “The Three-Cornered Hat,” based on Andalusian folk songs.
7) “Jazzy Impression” on May 7-9: Dance and jazz rhythms also energize the season finale featuring Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez performing Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, another work written by a composer at the top of his game. Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from his musical “On the Town” open the show, and two Spanish works by French composers provide an exotic ending: Debussy’s “Ibéria” (“Images for Orchestra”) and Ravel’s “Rapsodie espagnole.” “You feel Debussy’s really in the street,” Ferrandis said. “It’s a Spanish feast in the night, and there are lot of colors and rhythms.”
Extra concerts
A gala fund-raiser, featuring a private piano recital by Christina and Michelle Naughton, will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at the Green Music Center. The tribute to long-time symphony supporter Henry Trione begins with a reception and concludes with a gourmet dinner in Prelude Restaurant. Tickets are $300.
As part of the Sonoma Paradiso Family Concert Series conducted by Richard Loheyde, the Santa Rosa Symphony will perform three children’s concerts in Weill Hall this season, starting at 3 p.m. Oct. 18 with “Music from Out of this World.” For tickets and more information, go to or call 546-8742.
The Symphony will perform four concerts at the Wells Fargo Center as part of its Symphony Pops Series, starting Oct. 25 with guest vocalist Dee Daniels performing standards from the “Great Ladies of Swing.” For tickets and more information, go to or call 546-3600.
Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or On Twitter @dianepete56.
Double your pleasure

What: The Santa Rosa Symphony under Music Director Bruno Ferrandis opens its 88th season with twin pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10; 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11; and 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11, Discovery Open Rehearsal at at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10.

Where: Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park

Tickets: $20 - $80 for concerts; $10 youth under 18, $15 adults, for the open rehearsal.
Reserve: 546-8742 or

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