Youth Symphony Play-A-Thon
On March 7, 2022 the SLO Youth Symphony students participated in a play-a-thon. Each group was able to show case the music they have been working on while performing for their fellow youth symphony peers. Songs from some of the most beloved motion pictures were played by several of the ensembles. Prep Strings played music from Harry Potter, Symphonic winds played “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” from Toy Story, and Concert Orchestra played a medley from Pirates of the Caribbean. The entire event was live streamed so parents and family members could watch in real time! After everyone was finished playing the students were treated to a pizza party! All and all, a fun time was had!
Thor Larsen, Stage Manager
The interview with Thor Larsen (pronounced “Tor”), much like his life, serpentined through his career, schooling, family, and hobbies, in no particular order, but revealed him to be particularly driven to do well in whatever inspired him. He described the stage changeovers for the orchestra as “like a ballet.” It’s fun to watch his process as equipment, chairs, and stands are shifted. “There are no empty hands,” as soon as one piece of gear is moved, another is picked up, everything is carefully choreographed so as to not waste time. He does not want to be noticed by the audience, and was slightly dismayed when the audience applauded a changeover. Thor does not relax until music director Andrew Sewell delivers the downbeat to the orchestra.
Ballet, or engineering? Thor’s work and fun is a bit of both. He started university at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1991 as an engineering major. After taking an intro to musical theory class his engineering studies took a back seat to classes in music. In 1992 he was offered the opportunity to work a summer job on the tech crew with the Mozart Festival. Thor said “I was hooked,” and shortly thereafter he switched his major to music. As a music major he strove to learn music composition and audio editing, and sang high tenor in the University Singer, PolyPhonics, Men’s Chorus, and with the local men’s group Street Corner Symphony. He started with the symphony as assistant stage manager in 1996. As well as a degree in music Thor has an MBA, and a Masters in Architecture.
Thor is Norwegian on both his mother and father’s side. For the last 18 years (and prior to Covid) he spent 4 to 6 weeks of every summer in Norway. He went to third grade in Norway and became a fluent Norwegian speaker. In the summers he kayaked the fjords, rock climbed, cycled, and fished. To learn the ropes of sailing, at age 16, he crewed on a 3 masted, 180 foot sailing ship from Kristiansand, Norway, over the North Sea, to Aberdeen, Scotland. They ran into a 100 year storm with 75 foot seas. Unable to make headway he said, “We ran in circles for several days before landing in Scotland.” In 2017 he put his 2 children, Torunn and Magnus in school in Norway, the same school he attended as a child. He said, “While living in the United States is wonderful, a large part of my being exists in Norway, and I keep those thoughts and feelings close all the time.”
The many jobs and careers of Thor include 5 years as a part time bike mechanic at Art’s Cyclery in San Luis Obispo, and managing a graphics support group for CDM Technologies, who contracted with the Joint Services. The work for the military entailed planning the ship loading of military munitions and equipment, with the goal of loading the vessels so that they were seaworthy and safe for long journeys.
When CDM Technologies was purchased by Tapestry Solutions (a subsidiary of Boeing) he resigned to stay in SLO and went to work for himself, having been offered the opportunity of setting up information systems for a local medical clinic. Another business, recognizing his abilities, asked him to do their IT work also. Instead he said “I got my LLC, and hung up my shingle,” and started his own IT consulting firm. All this time he has worked somewhat steadily for the symphony, while his business is still his main occupation.
With the onset of Covid, and canceled in person concerts, Thor’s focus changed to increased support of symphony operations. His experience and knowledge of music, music composition, video and audio editing, and IT became crucial to the symphony’s ability to keep the music alive and vibrant. In addition to the gear the symphony purchased he acquired his own new hardware and software. He said “I knew what needed to be done, and I had the mindset.”
For the May 2020 concert he took over 40 individual pieces of music the musicians recorded on their own various devices, and edited them into a coherent concert video which subscribers and ticket purchasers could watch at home at their convenience. It was a herculean task taking hundreds of hours of edits, along with enormous patience and attention to detail. For the 2020-2021 season the music pieces were recorded in duets, quartets, ensembles, again requiring hours of editing, formatting, and graphics in preparation for online and drive-in video presentation.
In his limited spare time Thor cycles with Andrew Sewell, rock climbs and flies model planes with his son Magnus age 12, sings with the Master Chorale, cooks and bakes traditional Norwegian dishes with his daughter Torunn age 16, and supervises Dewey the chicken and her friend Edda the neighbor kitten.
Thomas Grandoli, Education Coordinator
The newest addition to the Symphony staff, Thomas is an experienced educator with a background in music. Bilingual in Spanish and English, Thomas brings a unique blend of administration and program expertise, as well as hands-on classroom instruction experience to the role. Thomas recently began the role of education coordinator part time, and takes on coordinating the Music Van/Instrument Petting Zoo and Strings in Schools programs, as well as general support for Youth Symphony programs and performances. Thomas holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of California Santa Barbara and is a native of Paso Robles.
So, what is English about an English horn?
Briefly . . . nothing! Those who attended the most recent SLO Symphony concert (March 5) heard a solo instrument that might not have been familiar to some . . . an English horn. It was featured (along with a solo flute) in Honneger’s Concerto da Camera for Flute and English horn. At a subsequent Symphony committee meeting, long time symphony supporter, Ben McAdams, asked the question “So why is that instrument called an English horn?” The answer is not clear cut.
Western music encompasses a wide range of history, genres, and national styles so it is not surprising to find instruments with a variety of names that reflect the context in which they are found. The fact is, there is nothing English about an English horn. Nor French about a French horn, or amorous about an oboe d’amore, for that matter.
So what’s in a name? There are several speculative explanations regarding the “English” horn. The most recent and preferred explanation is that oboe-like instruments with a bulbous bell played by angels are found in images and decorative carvings from the medieval period in paintings, churches, and cathedrals. The German word for “angel” is Engllische . . . one might reflect on our word “angelic”. The instrument originated in Germany in the early 18th century. Referred to as the “Engllische oboe” (oboe of the angels), the name worked its way into music scores and then at some point mis-translated into “English.”
So why is it referred to as a horn, a term associated with brass instruments? There is no clear explanation for this but perhaps its medieval predecessors had a curved shape reminiscent of primitive instruments played by vibrations of the lips which were, in fact, horns of animals.
Speaking of horns, what about the instrument sometimes called the French horn? What is French about it? Again, basically nothing. It is speculated that even though the “modern” horn was first developed in Germany, France was a popular source for early instruments with a unique construction and maybe musicians chose to describe their instruments as having come from France.
Now, universally the descriptor “French” is gone from the music world except in America. Even American professional musicians never refer to a “French” horn and just say that they play the horn. It seems to linger in the vocabulary because the word “horn’ is increasingly used to describe virtually any wind instrument from the trumpet to the saxophone and amateur musicians want to make clear what instrument they are playing. Now . . . with regard to the oboe d’amore, perhaps that is too delicate a subject.
BOARD NOTES BY BOARD PRESIDENT JIM WALKER
Hello, my name is Jim Walker, and I am the President of the Board of Directors of your San Luis Obispo Symphony. I was asked to write something about the Board for High Notes. I want to start by taking this opportunity to say THANK YOU to all our board members both past and present. You freely offer your time, expertise, and passion to support the Symphony. Without your leadership and energy, the Symphony would not be here today.
The Board of directors is responsible for ensuring a sustainable future for the Symphony. We do this by working on strategy, setting goals and objectives, and overseeing programs and activities carried out by the organization. All board members also serve on at least one committee which include:
Governance: Board recruitment and ensuring we have a well-functioning board.
Finance: Providing oversight on Symphony finances.
Music Education: working with staff to provide oversight and support to our music education initiatives.
Development: working with staff to plan fundraising events and resource development initiatives.
Our current board is from a variety of professional backgrounds all united by a shared love of the music and a desire to push forward the mission of the Symphony. We are always looking for new volunteers. If you or anyone you know are interested in serving on the board or a committee, please email email@example.com, I would very much enjoy hearing from you!
Music Van at Creston Elementary
On March 1, 2022 Emily Lanzone, concertmaster for the SLO symphony and a conductor for the SLO Youth Symphony, Thomas Grandoli, the symphony’s new education coordinator, and Mary Tanner, committee member and the driving force behind High Notes took the SLO Symphony’s music van out for a spin! Our symphony zoo keepers did a presentation at Creston Elementary school, where children were able to to get up close and personal with a variety of the well loved instruments in our collection. They learned a bit about each instrument, how each one creates a unique sound, and how they are played. We are so happy to be able to bring the music van back out on tour and the symphony hopes to expand our music education programs even more through out the coming months! The Instrument Petting Zoo which is made possible by support from the Harold J. Miossi Charitable Trust, visits schools, libraries, farmers markets, clubs, and other organizations through out the San Luis Obispo area. It’s even available for birthday parties! The Instrument Petting Zoo ranges from free to $250. Possible additions include a music history presentation, introduction to the orchestra and its instruments, and a beginning violin class for your group. Priority is given to Title 1 schools and nonprofit organizations. To schedule an event please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Principal Flute Plays With LA Philharmonic
Our Principal flute player, Marley Eder, will be playing with the LA Philharmonic throughout the month of March where he will be performing works including Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” Symphony and Mahler’s 7th. He started subbing with the LA Phil, filling in on 2nd flute, in January. His first week with them he performed two separate programs featuring Duke Ellington’s music transcribed for orchestra.
Marley started playing with the SLO Symphony in spring of 2019. In reference to Marley’s first performance with the Symphony he shared, “My first program contained ‘Beethoven’s Eroica‘ Symphony, one of my favorites and one that turned the heat up so to speak, as it contains a portion frequently asked for on auditions because of the delicate, technical control it requires. It was an absolute joy to be in the space of the SLO Performing Arts Center doing such a monumental work. It set the tone of what it means to be a part of this symphony in a meaningful way.”
Marley picked up the flute at the age of 5. His mother was a pianist who played with the California EAR Unit, a chamber group focused on performing modern experimental music. “I remember her playing with her good friend Dorothy Stone, something by Boulez or some other atonal work. I was enamored with the sound. My parents were enthusiastic about finding me an instrument teacher,” he recalled.
We are sad that Marley will not be joining the SLO Symphony for our March 5 concert but, all of us at the Symphony are so proud to call him our Principal flutist! Go Marley, Go!
Tanya Streder (Violin) and Al Streder (Trumpet)
The Streders are just one of the several married couples who are, or were, in the San Luis Obispo Symphony. When Tanya was asked if she and Al would like to be the first of the interview series about symphony couples for High Notes, Tanya said “we are boring.” They are not boring, but they are busy.
Tanya and Al met as teenagers, and there was a problem, or two. The first problem was Tanya lived in San Jose, and Al lived in Chicago. They met in the summer of 1974 on a five-week tour with the Continental Orchestra, a forty-person professional popular music youth orchestra with vocalists. The tour of the western U.S. and Canada included a performance at the Spokane World’s Fair amid an illustrious lineup of world class entertainers including Bob Hope, Itzhak Perlman, Harry Belafonte, Van Cliburn, and Ella Fitzgerald to name just a few.
That first summer Tanya said she and Al were “just friends,” and she thought Al was interested in the flute player. The next summer, on a ten week tour with the orchestra that included Barbados, Bermuda, and the Bahamas things began to change. Tanya said what attracted her to Al was his trumpet solo in Ralph Carmichael’s piece Love. The second problem was the tour’s strict no dating policy. When the tour director’s wife, who supervised the no dating policy, saw Al and Tanya “making eyes” at one another she made sure their home stays were on opposites side of Nassau. Fortunately the tour director’s wife didn’t know that Al and Tanya’s host families were friends and had arranged for a moonlight sail for their families including Tanya and Al; that was the end of “just friends.”
For another several years Tanya and Al continued to tour around the world with the orchestra. Tanya said “we never really had the chance to date until we became engaged.” They married December 23, 1977, and December 25 Tanya moved to Chicago where Al taught classroom music and band at elementary schools in River Forest, Illinois. “After one cold winter and one wretched summer” Al said they moved to Campbell, CA where he took a position with the Campbell Unified School District teaching band, orchestra, and choir at the elementary and junior high schools. Tanya worked at a print shop using skills she learned from her father.
In 1981 they moved to Thousand Oaks, CA where Al took a position as director with the Continental Singers and Orchestra recruiting orchestra members, and booking their many simultaneous tours. Tanya was an art director and opened her own graphic design studio. In 1992 Al accepted a position at Grace Central Coast Church and they moved to San Luis Obispo. Tanya was employed as an operations manager for a radio station, and front office for a medical practice until she resigned in order to teach violin full time.
They joined the San Luis Obispo Symphony in 1995. Tanya worked for the Youth Symphony as the strings coach for Carol Kersten until 2020. Al is currently the brass coach with the Youth Symphony, a position he has held intermittently for 25 years. He is also the Adults and Mission Pastor at Grace Church. Tanya is a member of the Mariposa String Quartet along with orchestra members Nancy Nagano, Grace Seng, and Carol Kersten. A few years ago they began meeting on Tuesday mornings to sight read Mozart and Haydn quartets. Recognizing the need for quartets to perform at private parties and events they formed their own quartet.
Al and Tanya are committed to the community and the SLO Symphony. Tanya said “we made life decisions to stay here because of the symphony,” and Al added “SLO has been a great place to raise our three children. I was able to accompany our kids as a chaperone on field trips and to help as a volunteer when they were in band. Tanya and I had no idea when we moved here that San Luis Obispo would provide such wonderful and varied opportunities to perform, especially with the SLO Symphony.”
The Streder’s son Paul is a robotics engineer in Asheville, North Carolina where he lives with his wife and two daughters. Their son Jordan is a Cal Fire Captain in SLO county, and their daughter Katie teaches Applied Kinesiology at CalPoly, and she is her father’s conditioning coach. Tanya and Al are still “making eyes” at each other.
Nancy Nagano, Symphony Principal Cello and Conductor of the Youth Symphony
When asked if I would do an article on Nancy Nagano it was difficult to resist. The Nagano family is legendary in the musical past and present of San Luis Obispo.
The earliest Naganos arrived in Morro Bay in 1915 to farm and begin a family. They had three sons (William, Patrick, and George) and became part of the fabric of our community. While none of the sons were musically inclined, under the influence and inspiration of Wachtang (Botso) Korisheli three of their children excelled in music. George (architect) and Ruth Nagano’s son, Kent, is an internationally known conductor, Music Director of the Montreal Symphony (2006-2020), and currently Music Director of the Hamburg Opera. Their daughter, Joan, is an excellent pianist living in San Francisco teaching, accompanying, and specializing in chamber music. William and his wife, Mary, remained as farmers in Morro Bay. Their daughter, Nancy, began flute in the 3rd grade but Botso suggested that she consider the cello because they “needed a bass line.”
In 1968, I attended one of Botso’s recitals in which Nancy, at the age of 15 and just 6 months after she had begun to study the cello, performed a Vivaldi sonata. I was stunned! She played with such energy and security that I have never forgotten that recital.
Nancy was studying with Tom Diskin, a Cal Poly Industrial Engineering student and devoted cellist, who raved about how promising she was. In March of 1971, she joined the Cal Poly Chamber orchestra and then studied at the Banff Music Festival that summer. She attended the Aspen Summer Music Festival in 1972, and then joined the cello section of the San Luis Obispo Symphony in November of 1972. This meteoric rise was due to the fact that Nancy lamented that because she had taken up the cello so late she routinely practiced 6-8 hours per day even on school days…sometimes instead of going to school!
After Tom Diskin graduated from Cal Poly, Nancy studied with Geoffrey Rutkowski, a member of the faculty of UC Santa Barbara. Perhaps there are a few who might remember that Rutkowski was a soloist with the San Luis Obispo Symphony in March of 1973 when he performed the Elgar Cello Concerto! It was just a year later when Nancy won the local Monday Club Competition (cousin Joan Nagano was a winner several years earlier) when she performed Tchaikovsky’s Variation on a Rococo Theme in May of 1974.
Then there was a hiatus of 20 years. Seven years in Germany where she earned a Bachelor’s degree at the Freiburg Hochschule für Musik and then a master’s degree at the Hochschule für Musik at Karlsruhe. While a member of the Southwest German Radio Orchestra from 1978 to 1980, one of her fondest musical memories was the conducting of the Russian conductor Kirill Kondrashin.
…then off to 13 years in Japan where Nancy played with the Kobe Chamber Orchestra, taught at the Tokushima Bunri University, and conducted the Kochi Philharmonic. With this rich background, Nancy decided to return to Morro Bay in 1994 to be closer to her parents who were getting older. She immediately plunged into the music scene including the Symphony. But always enterprising and adventurous, she took advantage of her travel experiences to become a travel agent and opened her own business, Elite Travel, in 1996. In this capacity, many members of the orchestra will remember the San Luis Obispo Symphony’s tour to Carnegie Hall that she organized and in 2003 she coordinated the Youth Symphony’s tour to Europe.
As busy as Nancy has always been, a whole new dimension opened up when she met and married Brian Rozario, a citizen of Bangladesh. After satisfying rigorous requirements and tests, they traveled to Bangladesh in 2003 to adopt baby Krisi and were seduced by a little boy (Rocky) who followed them around announcing that they were going to adopt him, too. They couldn’t resist and Rocky joined the family in 2004.
Nancy’s past 15 plus years have been a whirlwind as she has balanced not only her family life and music, but in 2008 Brian bought a bar and grill, the Bouy, in Morro Bay. The business flourished and in 2018 it moved to a larger location only to discover that it couldn’t open due to the restrictions required by COVID. Finally it opened in April of 2021 and Nancy, notorious for boundless energy, resourcefulness, talents, and good will, has been the cook!
In 2000 Nancy assumed the position of conductor of the Youth Symphony, originally founded by Botso Korisheli. With the assistance of several other conductors and coaches, the Youth Symphony grew dramatically over the next 15 years only to suffer the fate of all music organizations in our community when COVID made it almost impossible to offer a satisfying musical experience. Rebuilding the Youth Symphony program has been Nancy’s most recent major challenge…you can look forward to an article on the history of the Youth Symphony.
Nancy Nagano described herself best when she commented to me, “I never wanted music to be the only thing in my life. I know I could have done more but family and other activities that I enjoy needed to be just as important. Whether it’s conducting the YS, playing for people, taking people on tours, cooking for people, raising a family or caring for family members, if the outcome is they enjoyed it or it made them happy, that’s all I need!”
Program Notes By Andrew Sewell
March 5 Program Notes
The Concerto for Two Violins in D minor BWV 1043, also known as the Bach Double Violin Concerto, is one of Bach’s seminal and most popular works. We are delighted to feature Emily Lanzone, concertmaster, and Timothy Shanks, principal second violin as soloists. Composed in 1730, this concerto is an example of Bach at the height of his creative powers. The famous Brandenburg Concertos were composed just eight years earlier.
Henry Cowell was an American composer, writer, pianist, publisher and teacher. A leading figure of avant-garde music, Cowell was an early proponent of many modernist compositional techniques and sensibilities. Later in life, he turned to folksong for inspiration. His Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 10, dates from 1955, a period when he explored folk song and a more melodic style. It features our second oboe/ English Horn player, Heidi Butterfield Yi as soloist.
Louise Farrenc, was a French piano virtuoso, teacher and composer who lived from 1804 to 1875. In the 1830s Farrenc gained considerable fame as a performer and in 1842 she was appointed to the permanent position of Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatory, a position she held for thirty years and one which was among the most prestigious in Europe. Her music has seen a resurgence in the twenty-first century. In addition to chamber music and works for solo piano, she wrote two overtures and three symphonies. The Nonet Op. 38 in E flat dates from 1849 and is a fine example of a genre combining a wind quintet and string quartet.
Arthur Honegger’s Concerto da Camera, is a late work commissioned by the American patroness, Mrs. Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge while Honegger was on tour in the United States in 1947. She commissioned him to write a piece for the English Horn player of the Boston Symphony, Louis Speyer. Written for two solo instruments, flute and English Horn, and strings, it is a beautiful late chamber work, in three movements, in a post-Impressionist style, and features guest flutist, Carol Houchens and principal oboe Jessica Hoffman playing the English Horn.
We conclude with the Capriol Suite by Peter Warlock. The name Peter Warlock is a pseudonym for Philip Heseltine, who composed numerous works under this nom de plume. Dating from 1926, it is one of his most popular works and based upon six French Baroque dances from the 1588 collection by Thoinot Arbeau entitled “Orchesographie”. Each movement is beautifully self-contained and in contrasting styles. We are joined by members of the San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony Concert strings playing side by side with their adult SLO Symphony counterparts. We hope this experience will generate and ignite a passion for music, and keep the music alive.
WELCOME TO HIGH NOTES
Attention all music lovers! We are so happy to be releasing our first issue of the SLO Symphony’s newsletter, High Notes. It will be published via email the first Friday of each month and will be available on our website at slosymphony.org. Our goal is to keep you informed about what is happening with the orchestra, youth symphony, music education, the board, our staff, and concerts and other events. We will also be sharing fun facts and stories about symphony history and so much more.
We are grateful you’ve stuck with us through these difficult times. Your generosity amazes us and we aim to deserve your continued support. You, our loyal audience, are everything. Without you, we play to an empty room.
We hope you are as excited as we are about this endeavor. There will be much to share in 2022, so please stay tuned for the March 4 issue of High Notes. In lieu of a live performance please look out for digital content from our third concert of the season Sound the Trumpet. You can view the concert program notes below for Sound the Trumpet written by our fearless music director, Maestro Andrew Sewell.
Our March 5th program welcomes students from the SLO Youth Symphony playing side by side with our SLO Symphony string section in Peter Warlock’s “Capriol Suite”. One stand in the violin section will be shared by mother-daughter duo, Grace and Christine Seng. Christine, a sophomore in high school, has been a member of the SLO Youth Symphony for seven years, while her mother Grace, conductor of Academy Strings for the SLO Youth Symphony, has played with the SLO Symphony for nineteen years. Grace started teaching Christine how to hold a tiny violin with a bow when she was just two years old! Look out for this dynamic duo next month, on March 5, at 7:30pm at the San Luis Obispo Performing Arts Center, as we Celebrate our Artists!
Meet our Musicians
Nan Hamilton has played cello in the orchestra since 1975. She played in the orchestra at Long Beach State, where she was a music major, as well as many other music organizations before and after graduation. Nan remembers moving to San Luis Obispo County from Los Angeles County in 1974, and thinking she had moved to a “music desert,” but she soon learned there was an orchestra. After playing just two measures for conductor Clif Swanson, she passed the audition.
A love of music came early to Nan; her parents were musical; they sang in the choir, her father played trumpet and drums in bands, and her mother played piano. Nan began on piano at the age of 5. In fourth grade she had the opportunity to play violin at school, and she took it because it gave her an hour out of class. After just two weeks, Nan said her mother couldn’t stand the sound of her playing violin. “She’d put her fingers in her ears and she’d ask me to play a ‘lower’ sounding instrument.” Nan switched to cello.
During her college years, Nan took a year to travel in Europe and ended up on a Kibbutz in Israel where she was given a cello and was asked to turn the Kibbutz trio into a quartet. She described herself then as a “classical music snob,” but she realized she could play cello anywhere, and in any style. Nan played many tours with the symphony including ones in Spain and Australia. She loved the camaraderie of the musicians on tour and the excitement of playing at venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House. She laughed when recalling the early days of the symphony performing at the Cuesta College auditorium, where you couldn’t use the toilets backstage during the concert because the audience could hear the toilet flush.
Michele Meyers moved from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo County in 1976. She played violin in orchestras during and after college. When she moved to San Luis she said, “My skills were rusty, I hadn’t practiced in a long time.” Michele knew there was a local orchestra and heard it was a “good one” from her mother who encouraged her to audition. In 1977 Michele auditioned for Clif Swanson, “I was terrified, but I got in!”
Michele’s parents were music lovers. They took her to concerts all over Los Angeles. Her mother played piano and organ, and became her first teacher when Michele was 5. She began training on violin when she was 9. She fondly remembers her first concert with the symphony in October of 1977, when she played Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” Fantasy Overture, Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” She still has her program from that concert.
Michele’s favorite composer is Mahler, and she enjoys the ballets of Prokofiev. She loves playing Brahms because, “You can put your heart into it.” On days when she felt, “Down in the dumps or a bit tired” orchestra rehearsal made her feel, “alive again” and gave her sense of accomplishment. Michele self describes as a non-traveler, but toured with Vocal Arts Ensemble to England, Wales, Poland and Russia, and Australia and Spain with the symphony. Without the tours, which she ultimately loved, she said she probably would never have left the country.
Both Nan and Michele play with other groups. Michele plays for the San Luis Obispo Master Chorale, Orchestra Novo, and Opera San Luis Obispo. Nan teaches piano and cello, plays with Orchestra Novo, Opera San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria Philharmonic, and is a long-time house manager at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center. We are fortunate to have Nan and Michele in the symphony, and grateful they shared a tiny piece of their story with us.
A New Arrival
Anna James Miller, our executive director, just returned to work this week, incredibly grateful to Jenny, Andrew, and the entire SLO Symphony team for their extra duties while they were away. They have been out on maternity leave after the arrival of thier daughter, Della Jane. Della Jane Miller was born at French Hospital on December 2, 2021, at 7:26PM, weighing 6 lbs 14 oz, after a lightning fast hour-and-a-half labor. Big sister Cassidy “Coco” (age 3) and parents Anna and Bryan are all doing well! Anna plans to bring Coco and Della to “No Ties Allowed” events this spring and is excited to make music an important part of their childhood.
By Clifton Swanson, Member of the Bass Section, and Conductor 1971-1984
I appreciate the invitation to participate in the new symphony newsletter, High Notes. I think this newsletter is a great idea and with so many new members, we don’t want to lose track of the history of the symphony and its great moments. I will do my best to reflect on some of the most interesting events, anecdotes, and issues that have taken place over the past 50 plus years that I have known the symphony.
According to a Cal Poly Senior Project “An Oral History of the San Luis Obispo Symphony” written by Tania Shwetz (mother of Lara Shwetz Lehmer, long time member of the bass section until 2 years ago) the symphony was born when, in the summer of 1954, “seven musicians asked Mrs. Esther Hoisington, organist at the Morro Bay Community Church to ‘give them the beat.’” So, the San Luis Obispo Symphony was founded in Morro Bay, grew to 23 musicians, and gave its first concert in the Morro Bay Veteran’s Building, sponsored by the Morro Bay Women’s Club in the spring of 1955. It isn’t documented exactly who were those seven musicians but I think they would be amazed to see (and hear) what the symphony is today.
It is known that one of those seven “founders” was a local music teacher and violinist, Lucian Morrison, who assumed the role of conductor in 1958. The symphony then moved to San Luis Obispo, sponsored by the “Adult Evening Program,” and named the San Luis Obispo Community Orchestra. “Luke” Morrison stepped down as conductor in 1961 and the orchestra engaged Loren Powell, conductor of the Santa Maria Symphony, to be its new conductor and the orchestra seemed to be well on its way.
Tania Shwetz’s history does not record the details but when my wife Jane (principal horn for 40 years) and I arrived in San Luis Obispo in the fall of 1967, the musical community was still recovering from the fact that conductor Loren Powell had suffered a heart attack literally on the podium at a dress rehearsal in 1965 and never recovered. This began the next phase of the evolution of the San Luis Obispo Symphony when Dr. Earle Blakeslee assumed the position of Music Director/conductor, and arranged for the symphony to rehearse and perform at Cuesta College.
It is not my intention to do a year-by-year chronology of the history of the San Luis Obispo Symphony. However, I thought that it would be interesting to know how this orchestra, like many community orchestras, grew from the most humble beginnings into a major cultural organization on the Central Coast.
Stay tuned for a little more history and then a variety of articles on great moments, amusing anecdotes, periodic challenges, and inspiring stories about the San Luis Obispo Symphony. Orchestra members are invited to suggest recollections and topics that might be the basis for future “notes.”
February 5 Program Notes by Music Director Andrew Sewell
Russian born Victor Ewald (1860 -1935) was a professor of Civil Engineering, an accomplished cellist and composer. Performing in weekly soirees with the Beliaeff Quartet from 1888 to 1904, this quartet was the most influential ensemble in St Petersburg in the late 19th century, introducing much of the standard quartet literature to Russian concertgoers. His four brass quintets were originally written for two cornets, alto and tenor valve horns and tuba. Published in 1888 and revised in 1912, the Quintet No.1 in B flat minor Op. 5 is the most popular. Few brass quintets for this combination were written aside from the mid-nineteenth century French composer, Jean Francois Bellon who published 12 four-movement brass quintets in 1850. As brass instrument design improved, so did the demand for technical virtuosity, and why this quintet remains popular among modern brass quintets.
Alyssa Morris, is currently Assistant Professor of Oboe and Music Theory at Kansas State University, and principal oboe with the Topeka Symphony and Wichita Grand Opera. As a composer, her music has been presented at several International Double Reed Conventions, The National Flute Association Convention, National Clarinet Association’s ClarinetFest, and the Society of Composers Inc. National Convention. She was the recipient of an International Barlow Composition Commission and was Composer-in-Residence for the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in 2020/21. Her quartet Motion (2010) for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon is a work focusing on four different “motions”. We will perform three of the four movements: Bike Ride, Tip Toe and Strut.
Alec Wilder (1907 – 1980) is an American original. His music is a unique blend of American musical traditions including jazz, the American popular song and basic “classical” European forms. Although he studied briefly at the Eastman School of Music, as a composer, he was largely self-taught. It was Mitch Miller and Frank Sinatra who were initially responsible for bringing Wilder’s music to the public. Miller organized the historic recordings of Wilder’s “swing” style octets beginning in 1939 of which there are twenty. The Octets are comprised of five “reeds”, keyboard, bass and drums. Wilder gave them whimsical titles such as: Her Old Man Was Suspicious, Jack This is My Husband, She’ll Be Seven in May, It’s Silk Feel It and Dance Man Buys A Farm. Each Octet last about three minutes.
Johann Baptist Georg Neruda (c. 1708 – c.1780) born in Bohemia, was a Czech composer during the Baroque period. As violinist, he eventually became concertmaster of the Dresden Court Orchestra and as a composer, wrote eighteen symphonies, fourteen concertos, sonatas, sacred works and an opera. His Trumpet Concerto in E flat is probably his best known work, written for the high trumpet and strings.
Richard Strauss’ early Serenade for Winds, Op.7 was completed in 1881 when he was just 17. His father, Franz Strauss was the principal horn of the Munich Court Orchestra and an influential personality in Munich’s music scene. Prior to this Serenade for 13 instruments, Richard Strauss had already written songs, a string quartet, piano sonata, a symphony and was working on a cello sonata. The work for double woodwinds, four horns and contrabassoon was initially conducted by Franz Wullner and later championed by the famous conductor, Hans von Bulow. A single movement in a classical sonata form, one may be reminded of Schubert, Schumann or Mozart when listening to this early Strauss composition.
Henri Tomasi, (1901 – 1971) was born in Marseille and had ties to Corsica through his grandmother. While his entrance into the Paris Conservatoire was delayed due to World War I, he remained in Marseille earning money playing piano in hotels, restaurants and movie houses. It was during this time that his gift for composition was developed through improvisation at the keyboard. In the 1920s and 30s he earned a living as a conductor in French IndoChina and became one of the first radio conductors and a pioneer of “radiophonic” music. He was the founder of a contemporary music group in Paris entitled “Triton” along with contemporaries, Prokofiev, Milhaud, Honegger and Poulenc, and spent equal time composing and conducting. In 1948 he wrote what would become his most popular composition, the Concerto for Trumpet. Tomasi’s music is fundamentally lyrical. His music is highly colorful and one can hear the influence of his French contemporaries. Exotic sounds of Corsica, Provence, Cambodia, Laos, the Sahara and Tahiti are also evident in his works.