Newsletter Archives

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June 2023

SLO Chamber Expo

The Symphony participated in the SLO Chamber Expo at the Madonna Inn Expo Center on May 17, 2023. The theme of this years expo was magic and our booth had a Harry Potter theme. It was such a pleasure to connect with other non-profits and businesses in our community. Thank you to Covelop for sponsoring our booth at the event! 

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Parties With A Purpose 

Parties With a Purpose (PWP) are a fun way for hosts and guests to support the program fundraising goals of the Symphony. To host a parties with a purpose please email [email protected].

An Evening with the President and the Maestro

The hosts, Board President Jim Walker and Maestro Andrew Sewell, began the evening with craft cocktails, hors-d’oeuvres, and a recital with May concert saxophone soloist Anthony Yi and Symphony English Horn musician Heidi Butterfield Yi. This sophisticated evening continued with fine dining, candlelight, scrumptious wine, and abundant laughter. Chefs Kathryn Walker and Jim Walker created A Grand Tour, an international nine course culinary experience with wine pairings for six fortunate and thrilled guests.

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The Ultimate PAC Tour Behind the Curtain

Clif Swanson, former Symphony Music Director, Bass Player, and member of the PAC design Team, and Jane Swanson former Symphony French Horn player, hosted a one of a kind backstage tour of the Performing Arts Center. 

Clif said “It was great to be able to share with 16 Symphony supporters who had been at the PAC many times but did not understand how sophisticated it is . . . one member of the group commented that she would never see the PAC the same way and it added greatly to her appreciation of the various kind of events it handles so effortlessly.”

Highlights included Symphony board member Stefan Podell trying out the various sounds on the Forbes pipe organ, and touring the Green Room dedicated to silent movie star and former North County resident Colleen Moore.

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Cinco De Mayo

Guests celebrated Cinco de Mayo at the home of long time Symphony supporter and former board president Cindy Marie Absey. Fiesta hostess Cindy Marie served a delicious Mexican themed buffet accompanied by Mexican adult beverages with neighbor Shannon Smith tending bar. Guitarist Vince Como provided an evening of exceptional music for the enjoyment of the twenty-four guests.

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Orchestra Notes

Musician Sponsorships

The SLO Symphony’s musicians are talented members of our community. A great way to show your appreciation for their hard work and to honor their accomplishments is to become a musician sponsor. Every month this summer we are going to highlight different musician’s who you can sponsor! Visit our website to view our sponsorship guide and find page 9 to learn more! If you are interested in becoming a sponsor please email [email protected].

Jayden Perez

My name is Jayden Perez and I am currently in my third year at Cal Poly, studying music with an emphasis in playing the viola. I started playing viola in the public school system in Visalia, California when I was ten and realized I wanted to pursue music when I was encouraged to take lessons by my orchestra teacher in High School. I have been blessed by the countless opportunities that Cal Poly’s music program has provided me, leading to playing with the SLO Symphony and other local orchestras. They have all provided the opportunity for me to really grow and be surrounded by wonderful musicians! 

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Nancy Smee
Nancy Smee proves that if you want a long and fulfilling life in music, you should start off with good teachers. Nancy has been blessed with two very important teachers in San Luis Obispo that kept her going musically all her life. But some native talent on the instrument doesn’t hurt either.
Her family moved their grocery business to South SLO County when Nancy was in junior high, and she graduated from Arroyo Grande High School. She played in the county honor band all four years of high school.
In the late 1960s Premier Music Company played an important role in bringing music in San Luis Obispo County. This large music store purveyed instruments and sheet music for every instrument in the days before online shopping. The owner, Gerry Caylor, took an interest in Nancy and, though a clarinet player, started coaching her before school during her senior year when she won the Alice Nelson Award.
After a hiatus of about ten years, Nancy joined the Cuesta Wind Ensemble, the predecessor to the San Luis Obispo Wind Orchestra, at its beginning in the early 1990s, becoming its principal flutist and a featured soloist.
Nancy began to work with the county’s flute legend and SLO Symphony’s principal flutist, Alice McGonigal. It was through Alice and other members of the symphony that Nancy found playing opportunities.
Over the past two decades, Nancy has had the good fortune to play with many orchestras – PCPA, Opera SLO, Orchestra Novo, Symphony of the Vines, Santa Maria Philharmonic, SLO Master Chorale, and eventually the SLO Symphony – in the area.  Due to her love of the instrument, she has become known as a specialist on the piccolo, thoroughly appreciating the challenges and joy of playing it for these fine orchestras.
Besides music, Nancy has a varied sphere of interests.  Besides being deeply involved with her seven grandchildren, she enjoys racquetball, pickleball, directing children’s dramas, video editing and adventurous activities, such as ziplining, diving, skiing and hiking, including glaciers.
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Music Education Notes

Youth Symphony Season Finale
The SLO Youth Symphony celebrated the end of its 2022-23 Season with the Finale Concert on Sunday, May 21 at the PAC with over 500 audience members!
We welcomed 11 new Spring Celebration students who are trying out the Youth Symphony for the first time, celebrated 15 graduating seniors and introduced our conducting staff for the 2023-24 Season:
  • Christopher Woodruff, Concert Orchestra
  • Tanya Streder, Academy Strings
  • Al Streder, Symphonic Winds
  • Grace Seng, Preparatory Strings
Program highlights included a joint performance of “The Avengers” from the Preparatory Strings, Academy Strings, and Spring Celebration, a joint performance of Beethoven “Turkish March” by the Symphonic Winds, Academy Strings, and Spring Celebration, and Beethoven Symphony 1, 3rd and 4th movements by the Concert Orchestra.
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High Notes Humor

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April 2023

Meet Our New ED
I’d like to thank you for your warm welcome to your SLO Symphony this week. In my first few days, I have gotten a behind the scenes look at the hardworking team who are preparing for our May 6th concert (Tchaikovsky and Testimony), and are providing music education at community events and in our schools. We are all looking ahead to Celebrating the Central Coast at our annual Pops by the Sea on Labor Day Weekend. If I haven’t met you yet, I look forward to getting to know you this upcoming season!

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Supporting Our Partners In The Arts
Festival Mozaic invites you to a unique afternoon of chamber music which will feature two members of the SLO Symphony! Suzanne Bona, flutist and host of the nationally distributed public radio program Sunday Baroque, joins guitarist and Cal Poly professor emeritus Craig Russell and friends for an afternoon of Baroque and contemporary works. They will be joined by SLO Symphony Concertmaster Emily Lanzone and Principal Bassist Ken Hustad. This concert, presented in partnership with KCBX Radio, features works by composers dating from 1557 all the way to present day. Of particular interest on the program are Manuel de Sumaya’s cantata O muro, más que humano and Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio.
For tickets, visit Before selecting seats, enter the promo code FRIENDS25 to save 25% on your tickets.  You can also call Festival Mozaic at (805) 781-3009 and mention this offer.
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Subscriptions for our 2023-2024 season are available now through the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obipso box office. They are open Monday through Saturday from 12PM to 6PM. You can visit them in person or call them at 805-756-4849 to subscribe today. Subscriptions ( and Pops By The Sea Tickets!) will also be available in the Lobby during our May 6 concert at the PAC!
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Orchestra Notes

West Coast Premier Of Testimony Of Tone Tune And Time By Dr. William Banfield
The Symphony will be performing the West Coast premier of Testimony of Tone, Tune and Time by Dr. William Banfield during our May 6 concert at the Performing Arts Center SLO. We will be partnering with the Diversity Coalition of San Luis Obispo for this concert so please visit their table in the lobby prior to the concert and during intermission to learn more about their important organization. Our final concert of the 2022-2023 season will begin at 7:30 PM but be sure to arrive early for a Symphonic Foray discussion which begins at 6:30 PM.
Testimony of Tone, Tune and Time was commissioned by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in 2021 and premiered in July 2022. With seven short movements, the narration is based upon the speeches of historical African American orator and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. It is scored for two narrators, solo saxophone, piano, harp, percussion, and strings.
The work has three protagonists: Frederick Douglass, represented by the saxophone, played by guest soloist, Anthony Yi, The People, represented by the piano, harp, percussion and string, and The Voice of Douglass represented by two narrators. The guest narrators are Keenon Hooks, Resident Artist and Director/Choreographer at Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, (PCPA), and Dr. Amber Machamer, Executive Director Institutional Effectiveness and Educational Services, San José – Evergreen Community College District. Amber Machamer, along with her sister, Leah Mata Fragua are members of the Yak Tityu Tiyu Yak Tilhini (Northern Chumash) tribe located on the Central California Coast. For Amber’s performance, Leah has created a traditional tribal regalia with contemporary accents.
Dr. William Banfield, the composer of this extraordinary piece will be visiting San Luis Obispo for a mini residency at Cal-Poly and will be attending the performance! In the past 30 +years, he has produced a body of productive music/ arts scholarship activities, books, compositions and recordings. He was commissioned by Quincy Jones to write approaches/ curriculum to teaching the history of American popular music ( 2009- 2013).
Having served three times as a Pulitzer Prize judge in American music( 2010/2016/ 2020), Banfield is an award winning composer whose symphonies, operas, and chamber works have been performed and recorded by major symphonies across the country.
Banfield was appointed in 2019 as a research associate at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH), one of the Smithsonian’s 12 research and cultural centers. In 2021 he became composer in residence, serving at Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra( 2021-2024) and Interlochen Music Academy(2022-2025).
He is founder/ director of JazzUrbane, a contemporary jazz art recording label, dedicated to producing creative new artists. The seminal project released in 2014, was produced by legendary icon George Duke, and included such leading artists as; Christian Scott, Terri Lyn Carrington, Najee, Greg Osby, and Grace Kelly. The label has already produced and released 15 albums now heard internationally.
Serving now as Harvard’s Mentor-in-Residence, and Tavis Smiley’s Senior Arts and Culture radio correspondent, Dr. Banfield uses his wide-reaching experience and creativity to inspire these radio programs to view jazz in its entirety, from its cultures, history, experience, and beyond.
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Music Education Notes

The Youth Symphony’s Spring concert at the Clark Center was such a huge success! Thank you to all of our Youth Symphony instructors for all of their hard work and dedication and thank you to Dean Sullivan of Estero Bay News for these fantastic photos! We’re so proud of all of our students! The Youth Symphony’s Season Finale Concert will be held on Sunday, May 21, 2023 at 4:00 PM at the Performing Arts Center SLO! Music students can come try out our Youth Symphony program for FREE and play 2 songs in our FInale Concert. Please email Grace Seng for more information: [email protected]

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March 2023

2023-2024 Season Announcement

It’s that time of year again! Season subscriptions will be available for purchase starting March 13.Those who attend our March 4 concert at the Performing Arts Center will get first access to reserve their seats and subscribe to this once in a lifetime season!

This year season subscriptions will be available through the Performing Arts Center website at or by calling their box office at 805-756-4849. We want to make subscribing to the season as easy and straightforward as possible for our patrons. Since single tickets are available through the PAC website, it was decided to also make season subscriptions available on their website! We are here to walk you through this change of procedure so please do not hesitate to call our office at 805-356-1438 with any questions!

Maestro Sewell has thoughtfully put together an enduring program for next season and we are beyond excited to share it with you.

Avila Pops, Celebrating the Central Coast – Saturday, September 2, 2023

To kick off this season opener the first half of the POPS is dedicated to popular and patriotic works by Dudley Buck, John Williams, Leroy Anderson, Michael W Smith and John Philip Sousa. The second half welcomes local singer and songwriter, Damon Castillo and his band. Bring the whole family to laze in the summer sun and celebrate the Central Coast at the Avila Beach Golf Resort. Tickets for POPS are sold separately from season subscriptions and will be available through 

Classics I Rachmaninov Rocks – Saturday, October 7, 2023  Back by popular demand, our opening Classics concert features pianist Ilya Yakushev performing Rachmaninov’s mighty Piano Concerto No.2. Flanking this work we will feature two American works Fanfare for an Uncommon Man by John Stevens and Symphony No.1 in e minor by Florence Price. 

Classics II California Biennial – Saturday, November 4, 2023 

Celebrating the California Biennial festival across the state, we open with the work Kotuku by New Zealand composer, Christopher Blake, in a West Coast premiere, including an appearance by Native American flutist and artisan, Tim Blueflint Ramel. Virtuoso bassist Xavier Foley performs his own Soul Bass Concerto commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony in 2022, in another west coast premiere. The remaining works celebrate America’s rich tradition of music written for film, including John Williams, Aaron Copland, and Ennio Morricone. 

Classics III A Grand Occasion- Saturday, February 3, 2024 

This concert features solo trumpeter Andrew Balio performing Arutunian’s Trumpet Concerto. Mr. Balio performed a solo recital during the pandemic for our virtual concerts in 2021. We welcome him back and are excited to hear him ‘live’. We open with Patrice Rushen’s iconic Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory. This work is dedicated to and inspired by the memory of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and includes a quote from his I Have A Dream speech. We conclude with Brahms’ Symphony No.1 in C minor. 

Classics IV Bartok and Beethoven – Saturday, March 2, 2024 

This program features the return of violin virtuoso and Arroyo Grande resident, Gilles Apap, to perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, and Bartok’s Violin Rhapsody No.1. His performance of Tchaikovsky in 2022, was sensational. The Hungarian spirit continues with Leo Weiner’s Hungarian Folk Dance Suite – a symphony in four movements based on Hungarian folk melodies and in a late romantic style. 

Classics V Tchaikovsky, Saint Saens, Brammeier – Saturday, May 4, 2024 

The season finale features Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 with soloist Salome Jordania. and Saint Saens’ mighty Organ Symphony featuring the Forbes organ, played by Paul Woodring. We open with the world premiere of Meredith Brammeier’s Suite on Georgia O’Keefe, commissioned especially for this concert.Taken from a set of piano pieces and orchestrated for full orchestra, we are excited to feature CalPoly Professor of Composition Meredith Brammeier on this season finale.

© 2022 Heather Gray, all rights reserved.
Gala Du Moulin Rouge 2023

Gala du Moulin Rouge, the first Symphony Gala since 2019, continued the tradition of spectacular parties with music, wine, and surprises. Emcee Genelle Padilla, KSBY co-anchor, led an unexpected game of Heads or Tails. Long time Symphony supporter Joan Sargen, as the last person standing in the game, won a bottle of wine and a custom kitchen cutting board made by Board President Jim Walker.

Former Co-Concert Master Paul Severtson borrowed violinist and Education Manager Grace Seng’s violin and joined accordionist Michael Gutin for several tunes. They were then joined on vocals, by another long time Symphony supporter, Marian Gilbert. 

Composer and Board member Stefan Podell ramped up the excitement with the announcement of a second custom composition piece to be auctioned during the heated bidding frenzy at the live auction. Congratulations to custom composition winners Marti Lindholm and Jeff Brady!

Thank you to our patrons, donors, and sponsors who brought Gala du Moulin Rouge to life! And, thank you to Sandi Sigurdson, Jennifer and  Harvey Smith, Klaus Gottlieb, Cory Pfau, Diane Heath, Jim Settle, Bill Gaines, Grace Seng, Emily Lanzone, Youth Symphony Musicians, and the Tipsy Gypsies for making the evening truly special. Stay tuned for next year’s Gala date!

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Music Education Notes

March 4 Side By Side Concert

Youth Symphony students from the Concert Orchestra will join the SLO Symphony on stage for the final movement of Dvorak Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” at the March 4 concert. Maestro Andrew Sewell came to several Monday night YS rehearsals to work with our students in preparation for the performance.

Many SLO Symphony musicians have fond memories of learning the New World Symphony when they were young students. We are all looking forward to performing this powerful music with the next generation of musicians!

If you arrive early for the concert, look for YS students in the lobby performing a Boccherini Flute Quintet at 7:00!


Youth Symphony Spring Concert 

The San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony will have their Spring Concert at the  Clark Center, Arroyo Grande on March 20, 2023 at 6:30 PM. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children.

Our Youth Symphony Spring Concert includes performances by our four ensembles: Preparatory Strings, Academy Strings, Symphonic Winds, and Concert Orchestra. Please come support our Youth Symphony students!

The Concert Orchestra will highlight our Concerto Competition winner, Erin Chae, who will perform “A Night Piece” for solo flute and string orchestra by Arthur Foote.

Arthur Foote (1853-1937)

A Night Piece, for flute and strings (1918)

Arthur Foote was a local musical figurehead in the late-19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Salem, MA in 1853, Foote came to be associated with a group of composers called the “Boston Six,” comprising himself, George Whitefield Chadwick, Edward MacDowell, John Knowles Paine, Horatio Parker, and Amy Beach. He remains one of the most highly regarded – if popularly neglected – American composers of his, or any, era, with a significant body of chamber music to his name.

A Night Piece, for flute and strings, dates from 1918. It was originally the first movement of Foote’s Nocturne and Scherzo and revised for string orchestra in 1922. The piece is essentially a late Romantic fantasy with a French accent, alternating sections in which the flute leads and those for the strings alone. After its premiere, a critic wrote that A Night Piece sounded “fresh and spontaneous, plentiful in melody and colored with beauty.” So it still does.

© Jonathan Blumhofer

Erin Chae is a current senior at San Luis Obispo High School who has played the flute for six years. She has been a member of many ensembles, including the SLO Youth Symphony, National Flute Association HS Flute Choir, Florida All-State Honor Band, and the school concert and marching band. Aside from music, she is highly involved in Speech and Debate and martial arts. Erin will be attending the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in the fall and hopes to join ensembles/chamber groups on campus to continue her passion for flute.


Program Notes – By Maestro Andrew Sewell

Classics IV Brave New World  
Saturday, March 4, 2023 
Patrice Rushen is a Grammy nominated musician straddling R&B, jazz and classical genres as the triple crown of performer, conductor and composer. She was the first woman and person of color to conduct at the Grammys in 2005 and 2006. Her hit single, Forget Me Nots (1982) received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and was the theme music for the film Men in Black. Her Sinfonia was composed in 1999.  She writes:
“A dear friend and colleague, Dr. Bill Banfield, encouraged me to continue to develop this and other parts of my  “musical voice and expression” and to keep writing in this medium. In 1999 I composed my first symphony, SINFONIA. I just wanted to experiment with using every part of the orchestra.  Since that time, I have had the blessing of being commissioned to write a few pieces, showcasing my compositions in the context of the symphonic stage! I still have much to learn about this  “instrument “, the orchestra, as the sounds and possibilities are as intriguing to me as ever. I wish to be as creative as possible with this wonderful “box of colors” to express the many sides of my musical interests. This too, is part of my journey.  It celebrates the love I have for what some would classify as “classical” music …and for me, it’s part of a large bouquet of flowers which can be arranged in any number of ways.”
Violin soloist and Nipomo resident, Mischa Lefkowitz, makes his SLO Symphony debut with Schumann’s Violin Concerto, which is a transcription of the Cello Concerto, Op.129 arranged for violin.   Schumann completed the Cello Concerto work in two weeks in October 1850, shortly after his appointment as music director In Dusseldorf, and since made a transcription for Violin.  There are three movements that connect without a break.  We are thrilled to welcome Mischa Lefowitz to our community as a longtime first violin of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Dvorak’s New World Symphony will be embellished by members of the SLO Youth Symphony performing side by side with the SLO Symphony. Composed in 1893 while Dvorak was the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America, it is among his most popular works and was an instant success.  His Symphony No.9 draws on folk melodies from African American spirituals, and native American songs combined with his Czech heritage (formerly Bohemia). Most famous is the second movement theme played on the English Horn. 
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February 2023

A Cello Named Pablo

On Saturday, February 4, at about 1PM, following our No Ties Allowed dress rehearsal, our featured soloist Amit Peled, will be reading the children’s book A Cello Named Pablo . This will take place in the pavilion at the Performing Arts Center. This beautifully crafted book tells the story of Amit Peled and how he came to play the cello of the great Pablo Casals. We invite patrons young and old to come hear this beautiful story and the even more beautiful musical talent of Amit Peled. This will be a very special and interactive presentation for our littlest community members to enjoy!

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Happy Anniversary High Notes!

Representatives, one each, from the Symphony Board, Staff, and Development Committee met in early January of 2022 to determine the focus, content, implementation, and name of the newsletter. Work proceeded quickly and the first High Notes was emailed on February 4, 2022, 10:17AM to over 5,000 recipients.  

That first issue profiled orchestra members Michele Myers and Nan Hamilton, and violinist and Youth Symphony conductor Grace Seng and her daughter Christine, a Youth Symphony member. Clif Swanson, orchestra bass player and Symphony Conductor from 1971 to 1984, was invited to write his own column, Clif’s Notes. His first piece was a brief history of how the Symphony was founded. The final piece of the issue was Music Director Andrew Sewell’s program notes for the February 5th Classics Concert.

The newsletter has continued with pieces on the Youth Symphony, profiles of orchestra members and staff, articles about upcoming events, Symphony activities, and Clif’s Notes. The Board, Staff, Orchestra, and Development Committee hope you enjoy the newsletter and will continue to read High Notes on the first Friday of every month. Thank you for your support of your San Luis Obispo Symphony.

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Gala Du Moulin Rouge

Staff and the development committee are hard at work in preparation for the February 11th fundraiser, Gala Du Moulin Rouge, at the Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo. It is shaping up to be a spectacular event that we hope will please everyone. 

At the opening reception guests will have the opportunity to bid on terrific Silent Auction items and signup for creative Parties with a Purpose, while sipping on Daou Vineyard wine and sampling an array of passed hors d’oevours. Dinner is an enhanced menu of four entree selections accompanied by Daou Vineyard wine.

Following dinner, special guest KSBY Anchor and Multi Media Journalist, Genelle Padilla will get guests up on their feet for a game of Heads or Tails, with a prize for the winner. After Ms. Padilla’s “exercise class” the Live Auction of ten desirable auction lots begins.

Symphony and Youth Symphony musicians will perform pieces by Sibelius for quintet and Haydn for quartet. Fund a Need to support the Symphony’s special needs will end the official program, almost. Dance or listen until midnight to the music of the Tipsy Gypsies!

Thank you to all of our guests, sponsors, and donors for your contributions in making this special night come alive. Although tickets are no longer available on the website or direct purchase, if you are interested please contact Tess Duffy at [email protected] or 805-356-1438 for the possibility of a seat or two at a table.


Music Education Notes

Disneyland Trip

On Saturday January 14, Youth Symphony students met at 3:30 am to ride a bus to Disney California Adventures. It rained for most of the day, but we had a great time! The highlight of our trip was the opportunity to participate in a Disney Instrument Soundtrack Workshop. We returned to SLO at 11:00 pm with stronger friendships after a wet, fun, musical day!

Our students worked with Sal Lozano, a saxophone and woodwinds recording artist who has played in many movie soundtracks and live shows. Students wore professional headsets with a click track in 1 ear, and played music they had never seen before. Sal helped our students to listen to their intonation, focus their sound, and count! We recorded music for the Lion King, Disney Castle Logo, Avengers, and Black Panther. We learned how to improve the music quickly between the first take and the final take. It was very exciting to watch our recording played back over the movie footage!
As YS parent Jaime Lewis shared, “We laughed about the garbage bag over his cello to protect from the rain, and the long walks between the bus and the studio. These are the memories that last a lifetime, all held together with a shared connection to orchestral music. There is no other opportunity like the Youth Symphony for hundreds of miles. We are so grateful to live in this area, where people support string students like Corb, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience the magic of playing together in harmony. As a parent who sees how special and impactful this is on my Academy Strings cellist, I hope that support continues and grows.”

Thank you to all of our YS parents, conductors, chaperones, and donors who helped make this trip happen for our students!

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January 2023

New Years Eve 

Our New Years Eve concert at the PAC was such a major success! Bravo to Maestro Sewell, all of our wonderful musicians, and to our guest artists Jeans ‘N Classics. Way to bring the house down!

This concert was sponsored by Mary and Thomas Tanner and Jim and Melinda Avila. The Symphony’s season is sponsored by KSBYKCBXThe New Times and SunEstero Bay News, and Dr. Klaus Gottlieb, Wealth Care Lawyer.

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Gala Du Moulin Rouge

Join us for a fundraiser on Saturday, February 11, 2023 at the Embassy Suites SLO for dinner, wine, and musical performances by members of the SLO Symphony, the Youth Symphony, and the Tipsy Gypsies. We will raise funds for the Symphony’s 2023-2024 season with both a silent and live auction and parties with a purpose. Tickets are available for $175 and you can purchase them on our website at or by phone at 805-356-1438. Tables seat 10. We will have some pretty great auction items ranging from hotel stays to wine tastings and exclusive parties!

Thank you to our Gala sponsor Bank of the Sierra, to our emcee Genelle Padilla of KSBY, and to our wine sponsor Daou Vineyards.

If you are interested in becoming an event sponsor please email [email protected].


Music Education Notes

Youth Symphony Concerto Competition 

On December 10, four students from the SLO Youth Symphony Concert Orchestra participated in the Concerto Competition held at Pam Dassenko’s home in SLO.

Colin Foster (cello) Elegie, op. 24 by Gabriel Faure

Karen Clark (oboe) Oboe Concerto BWV 1059R, 1st mvt by J.S. Bach

Erin Chae (flute) “A Night Piece” by Arthur Foote

Miles Kennedy (violin) Romanza Andaluza by Pablo de Sarasate

Pam Dassenko, Michael Johnson, and Clif Swanson served as our adjudicator panel. All three judges are current or former members of the SLO Symphony, Board of Directors, and Youth Symphony parents. Susan Davies supported all four students with her sensitive and musical accompaniment.

The judges selected Erin Chae to perform “A Night Piece” with the Concert Orchestra at our Spring Concert. Congratulations to Erin and all of our wonderful students for presenting such polished and beautiful performances on Saturday. Please come hear Erin and all of our Youth Symphony ensembles perform on March 20 (Monday) at the Clark Center at 6:30 PM and tickets will be available for purchase through the Clark Center’s box office!


Youth Symphony Holiday Concert 

The SLO Youth Symphony presented a holiday concert on December 19 in Mission Plaza. We were very lucky to have relatively warm weather and NO wind!
Preparatory Strings conducted by Emily Lanzone performed “Chanukah Chanukah”, “Dreidel Song”, “Frosty the Snowman”, and “Jingle Bell Rock”.  Prep and Academy conducted by Grace Seng combined to perform “Candy Cane Christmas”, then Academy Strings performed “Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Themes from the Nutcracker”. Symphonic Winds conducted by Al Streder performed “Jingle Bell Fantasy” and “Christmas Music for Winds”, and the Concert Orchestra performed “Carol of the Bells” and “Christmas Collage”.
After the large ensembles finished, several smaller chamber groups performed works ranging from “Chorus” from Judas Maccabaeus by Handel to the 1st movement of Haydn String Quartet, Op. 76 No. 3.
All of our Youth Symphony students spent 5 weeks in chamber music groups to learn how to make music without a conductor and working together with a smaller group to find the beat and stay together. 

A very special thank you to our guest coaches who came in to help teach our students during our chamber music sessions: Carol Kersten, Nancy Nagano, Jessica Hoffman, Valerie Berg-Johansen, Tanya Streder, and Andrew Sewell! 

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Coming Full Circle 

SLO Youth Symphony alumna Kaesha Freyaldenhoven is currently studying law at UC Berkeley. She recently contacted the SLO Symphony office to share exciting news that she and her boyfriend Campion Fellin held an arts fundraiser for her birthday. Campion created three art pieces and sold them online to raise money for the arts, and Kaesha chose the SLO Youth Symphony as the beneficiary. Kaesha shared fond memories of making music with her friends, bonding over tours, rehearsals and concerts and how her music education played a big role in shaping the person she is today.  
As Campion describes the project, “The art was made entirely with code, which means the exact placement, color, and amount of leaves in each piece was completely random. We sold 4 copies of flowers, 7 copies of ferns, and 57 copies of chaos. This added up to a total donation of $3,639!”

Thank you to Kaesha and Campion for your support of music education in such a creative and beautiful way.

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Orchestra Notes

Cello On Fire

The San Luis Obispo Symphony’s third concert of the 2022-2023 season will be held on Saturday, February 04, 2023, at 7:30PM, Cello On Fire.Tickets are available through the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo Box office at or by calling 805-756-4849.

A free “No Ties Allowed” open dress rehearsal suitable for all ages of attendees will take place at the Performing Arts Center at 11AM the day of the concert. No ties allowed rehearsals are sponsored by Paul Severtson, Ann Shaw and Charles Baccadoro, Nancy Weber and Roger Vogler, and Dianne and Michael Draze. Immediately following our No Ties Allowed dress rehearsal, featured soloist Amit Peled will be reading his book “ A Cello Named Pablo.” Children of all ages are invited to attend this fun and interactive presentation!

Cello on Fire features the artistry of Amit Peled, performing Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No.1. NZ composer Douglas Lilburn studied under Ralph Vaughan Williams in the late 1930s,at the Royal College in London. We feature works by both composers, Fantasia on Greensleeves and Lilburn’s Symphony No.2. Brahms’ Haydn Variations opens the program and will be familiar to many. This concert is sponsored by Cricket Handler and Jerry Boots and Peggy Lance Little in Honor of Luba Staller.

Ticket holders are invited to attend a pre-concert Symphonic Foray talk, which begins at 6:30 PM, with Music Director Andrew Sewell and a special guest. This is sponsored in loving memory of Michael Fitzgerald. Following the Symphonic Foray talk our Youth Symphony group Preparatory Strings, conducted by Emily Lanzone, will play a mini concert in the lobby!


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December 2022

Save The Date – Gala Du Moulin Rouge

Join us for a fundraiser on Saturday, February 11, 2023 at the Embassy Suites SLO for dinner, wine, and musical performances by members of the SLO Symphony, the Youth Symphony, and the Typsy Gypsies. We will be raising funds for the Symphony’s 2022-2023 season with both a silent and live auction and parties with a purpose. Tickets will be available for purchase starting December 21 on our website at or by phone at 805-356-1438.

Thank you to our Gala sponsor Bank of the Sierra and to our emcee Genelle Padilla of KSBY.

If you are interested in becoming an event sponsor please email [email protected].

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Come Together For New Years Eve

Ring in the New Year with The San Luis Obispo Symphony as we present Come Together, a Pops concert created by Canadian-based symphonic rock group Jeans ’n Classics. Bring your friends and your party hats to enjoy the music of The Who, The Beatles, Prince, U2, and more. The Concert will take place at the Performing Arts Center SLO at 7:30 PM on Saturday, December 31, 2022.

Tickets are $100 and are available through the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo Box office at or by calling 805-756-4849. New Years POPS tickets are not included with a season subscription!

This concert is sponsored by Mary and Thomas Tanner and Jim and Melinda Avila. The Symphony’s season is sponsored by KSBY, KCBX, The New Times and Sun, Estero Bay News, and Dr. Klaus Gottlieb, Wealth Care Lawyer.

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Downtown SLO Holiday Parade

The SLO Symphony and Youth Symphony will participate in the Downtown SLO Holiday Parade this year! The parade takes place on Friday December 2 and begins at 7:00 PM. Wave to us from the crowd!

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Music Education Notes

Youth Symphony Holiday Concert at Mission Plaza

The Youth Symphony will play a holiday concert on Monday, December 19 at Santa’s house in Mission Plaza. The concert will begin at 4:30 PM! We hope you can join us for some holiday fun and cheer! 


Fall Festival 2022

Over 100 guests attended the Youth Symphony’s first Fall Festival on November 5the at the Octagon Barn in San Luis Obispo. Everyone was in high spirits for games, hi-jinks, and tacos. To accompany the cake walk, Concertmaster Emily Lanzone, and violinist and Music Education Manager Grace Seng performed Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor by Bach, Dancing Queen by Abba, Frozen, Star Wars, You’ve Got a Friend in Me from Toy Story, and Beauty and the Beast.

The highlight of the afternoon was the Youth Symphony students, under the direction of Youth Symphony Conductor and Symphony Trumpet player Al Streder, who performed Ghost of John arranged by Kathleen Hill, In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg, This is Halloween from the Nightmare Before Christmas by Danny Elfman, and Rockin’ Halloween by Michael Story. Everyone was a prize winner at pitching ping pong balls into red solo cups, and an enormous round of applause went to the kind volunteer who took pie in the face to raise $500.

Proceeds from the Fall Festival support the numerous activities of Music Education, including the Youth Symphony, Strings in the Schools, the Music Van, and the Instrument Petting Zoo. A huge round of applause to everyone who attended, donated, and volunteered! A special thank you goes to our Fall Festival sponsors, and long time Symphony and Music Education supporters, John and Becky Baer. Without your gracious support these programs would not exist.

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On November 12 Members Of The Youth Symphony’s Symphonic Winds Conducted By Al Streder, Performed In The Lobby Preceding The Symphony’s Classics Concert

CLIF’S NOTES – By Clifton Swanson, Member of the Bass Section, and Conductor 1971-1984

Clif for 50th

Jerry Folsom – A Note from the Past

When Jane and I arrived in San Luis Obispo in 1967 we were invited by conductor Earle Blakeslee to play with the San Luis Obispo Symphony. Established in 1961, it was definitely a “community orchestra” in every sense of the word. As we walked into our first rehearsal there was the usual chaos of instruments warming up. Cutting through the din was one of the most remarkable playing we had ever heard. Inquiring who that might be, we were told that it was Jerry Folsom, a senior at San Luis Obispo High School. We were impressed.

Jerry was another beneficiary of Morro Bay’s legendary music teacher, Botso Korisheli, who had established his little music “conservatory” at Morro Elementary School. Although Jerry had some musical experience singing in church and school choirs, he had never played an instrument.  In those days, music teachers made the rounds of schools testing students on their music aptitude such as the ability to match a pitch or tap a rhythm. Recognizing that Jerry had talent, Botso asked if he would like to play an instrument. Jerry’s response was that he would like to play the trumpet. “Well, we already have trumpets but how about a French horn”, was the reply. Not exactly sure what a French horn was, Jerry said ok. Then next comment was “But we don’t actually have a horn; take this mouthpiece and buzz on it over the summer.”

That would have been a dead end for most 6th graders (mastering a mouthpiece without an instrument!) but Jerry did just that and Botso had a horn ready for him in the fall. Less than a year later he was playing in the San Luis Obispo Symphony. By 13, he was studying horn with the revered teacher Wendell Hoss in Los Angeles and he soon began playing professionally in the Santa Maria Philharmonic and the Santa Barbara Symphony!

Winning every competition he entered, including the San Luis Obispo Monday Club Competition, he attended the Music Academy of the West, the North Carolina School of the Arts, and (now 19) joined the American Youth Symphony under Mehli Mehta and the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra in Los Angeles.

In December 1970 at the age of 20, Jerry won principal horn with the San Diego Symphony (and San Diego Opera). a position he held for 17 years. But when the San Diego Symphony became embroiled in a labor dispute, he turned his attention to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Needless to say, in April 1987 he auditioned for the L.A. Phil and was selected as co-principal, then at the age of 37, and held the position for nearly 20 years.

All through his high school and college years, and even continuing during his early professional years, Jerry Folsom sought out lessons from the world’s best. His teachers included James Decker, Wendell Hoss, Barry Tuckwell, Dale Clevenger, and Vincent DeRosa. Soon he was friends with many of the world’s great players and soloists. His memories are filled with accounts of great performances, and internationally renowned conductors.

Jerry also honored the advice of each of his best teachers, if you make it, always be a teacher.  While with the San Diego Symphony, he taught at CSU San Diego. He taught at the Aspen Music Festival. And even with a busy orchestra and recording studio schedule, he taught privately and coached fellow professionals on their individual problems of technique and tone production.

Sadly, and distressingly, in 2005 Jerry’s career came to an abrupt halt, literally overnight. To deal with a serious case of apnea, it was recommended that he have oral surgery. The operation changed the conditions of his throat so when he returned to play horn it simply wasn’t possible to guide the flow of air properly; he couldn’t even produce a sound. It’s impossible to fully describe the shock. The total focus of his life was gone and all that was left seemed to be the memories of great concerts, great recordings with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the support of his many musical friends. It was crushing.

Miraculously, in 2017 Jerry picked up his horn after 17 years and discovered that he could begin to produce a sound! It wasn’t perfect but the fundamentals were there. Then began a long, arduous process of rebuilding his playing from scratch. Fortunately, the knowledge of repertoire, musicianship, and intuition were still there.

For the past 6 years, he has become increasingly engaged in the music scene in community orchestras and professional organizations east of Los Angeles. Jerry  is now principal horn for the Poway Symphony, 3rd horn in the San Bernardino Symphony, and a member of the Redlands Chamber Orchestra and Symphony. He is involved with small chamber groups and feels that his playing is back to a high level although not yet at the supremely high level of years ago. But just to be playing again is a dream come true.

Considering its relatively small population, San Luis Obispo (city and county) has had a remarkable history of enabling talented students to flourish and go on to professional careers even at the highest level.  Jerry Folsom is but one example among many; there are many stories to be told.

Congratulations to Jerry and all that he has accomplished.  I thought that it would be appropriate to reintroduce him to the community; most will not have heard of him.  Jerry comes back to San Luis Obispo occasionally to coach the local horn club, his only connection to his original hometown.  Perhaps someday we will be able to know him better.

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High Notes Humor

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November 2022

High Notes

Family Fall Festival Fun(d)raiser

You don’t want to miss the Family Fall Fundraiser! Meet us at the shed at the Octagon Barn in San Luis Obispo at 12:00 PM on November 5th for an afternoon of food, fun prizes, music, a pie walk, surprises, silent auction, raffle, and games for your entire family! The event will happen rain or shine. Some of the prizes include tickets to our upcoming New Years Eve Pops concert, a $250 gift card to the PAC, and tickets to the MeloDrama! You can even bid for a chance to pie Maestro Sewell in the face!

This is the first of its kind event to benefit the Youth Symphony, Music Education, Strings in the Schools, Petting Zoo, and the Music Van. Food is included with your ticket purchase and lunch will be provided by 805 Taqueria from 12:00PM until 1:30 PM! 

Many thanks to our first Fall Festival sponsors John and Becky Baer!

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Come Together For New Years Eve

Ring in the New Year with The San Luis Obispo Symphony as we present Come Together, a Pops concert created by Canadian-based symphonic rock group Jeans ’n Classics. Bring your friends and your party hats to enjoy the music of The Who, The Beatles, Prince, U2, and more. The Concert will take place at the Performing Arts Center SLO at 7:30 PM on Saturday, December 31, 2022.

Tickets are $100 and are available through the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo Box office at or by calling 805-756-4849. New Years POPS tickets are not included with a season subscription!

This concert is sponsored by Mary and Thomas Tanner and Jim and Melinda Avila. The Symphony’s season is sponsored by KSBY, KCBX, The New Times and Sun, Estero Bay News, and Dr. Klaus Gottlieb, Wealth Care Lawyer.

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GivingTuesday 2022

Giving Tuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity. Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Since then, it has grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

It’s a simple idea: whether it’s making someone smile, helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving some of what we have to those who need our help, every act of generosity counts and everyone has something to contribute toward building the better world we all want to live in.

Giving Tuesday is held each year on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. Since this first annual day of giving in 2012, nonprofits in the United States have raised more than $1.9 billion. In 2019, nonprofits in the US raised more than $500 million dollars online alone. This year Giving Tuesday falls on November 29, 2022.

As a non profit organization, the SLO Symphony relies on donations from our community to help us fulfil our mission statement! Founded in 1954 (later incorporated in 1961), The San Luis Obispo Symphony ignites a passion for music in our Central Coast community, creating connection and joy. By investing in promising local youth with the drive and determination to study orchestral music, SLO Symphony is building the next generation of musicians and music patrons. Through accessible performances and outreach opportunities, SLO Symphony enriches the region with cultural vitality and improved quality of life. Please remember us on November 29!

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Music Education Notes 

Surprise Appearance

On October 3, Maestro Sewell made a surprise appearance  at the Youth Symphony’s rehearsal! He guest conducted for the Youth Symphony’s Concert Orchestra and for Academy Strings, who were rehearsing a student arrangement of Beethoven Symphony 7 which the students got to hear the SLO Symphony perform at the No Ties dress rehearsal the following Saturday. What a treat! Be sure to catch the Youth Symphony’s Symphonic Winds group play a pre-concert performance in the lobby at the PAC before our concert on Saturday, November 12, 2022! 

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Orchestra Notes

Tribute To Dennis Cementina Written By Al Streder 

Our friend Dennis passed away on August 29 of this year, after an eight-year battle with cancer. His first concert with the SLO Symphony was opening night October 1995. Dennis lived here on the Central Coast from the time he was ten years old. He attended SLOHS and also Cuesta College. He played in the HS band, the jazz ensemble at Cuesta and was also part of the Collegians – the jazz ensemble – at Cal Poly. Marching band is where he was drawn to the snare drum. So, not surprising that we often saw Dennis at the snare drum during Symphony concerts.

During the mid 1970s, while on a musical tour of the US and Europe, he met his future wife, Kay, who was a singer with the group. Together they raised three great kids. December would have marked 47 years of marriage.

Dennis used his drumming talent at Grace Church in SLO, where he played for worship services and special programs for over 42 years.

Over nearly 50 years, Dennis played with many Central Coast groups, but the Symphony had a special place in his heart. His wife Kay mentioned that one of his most cherished memories was the Symphony tour to Australia in 2006 and [that] he counted it such a privilege to be a part of the Percussion Section of the symphony. Marshall Granger, our principal percussionist remarked that Dennis was always his roommate when the group toured, and so he got to know Dennis pretty well.

What you might not realize is that the percussion section is often the first group to arrive and last to leave because of all their equipment. Marshall Granger commented that Dennis was always there to help, always gracious and kind, and frequently the one to make the section laugh. He was always positive, always encouraging. Dennis was energized by his music, and he continued playing as long as he was physically able. And even as he battled cancer, Dennis served as a member of the Orchestra Advisory Committee (OAC) during the 2019 season.

Many do not know that he was a gifted craftsman and carpenter. In recent years, he was able to produce a number of beautifully crafted percussion instruments, including several cajons.

We pay tribute to Dennis, partly because of his musical contribution, but even more because of the positive presence that he was – as part of the percussion section, and as a member of the San Luis Obispo Symphony.


Program Notes – By Maestro Andrew Sewell

Classics II – East Meets West

In this concert that celebrates Veterans’ Day, Valerie Coleman’s Umoja Anthem of Unity was commissioned and premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra in June 2019. Umoja is the Swahili word for Unity and is the first principle of the African Diaspora holiday Kwanzaa.  What began two decades earlier as a simple melody for women’s voices, the orchestral version brings an expansion and sophistication to the simple sweet melody. Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F was commissioned by the conductor Walter Damrosch immediately following his performance of Rhapsody in Blue in 1924. It took Gershwin another year and a half to complete the commission, which he orchestrated himself and was in a more traditional concerto style.  There are three movements 1. Allegro, 2. Adagio – Andante con moto and 3. Allegro agitato.  For this program, it is paired with his Soviet counterpart in the jazz world, Alexander Tsfasman’s Jazz Suite for Piano and Orchestra. The four movements are entitled 1.Snowflakes Allegro Vivace 2. Lyrical Waltz  3. Polka and 4. Presto.  Tsfasman was an important figure in Soviet Jazz from the mid-1920s until the late 1960s, in this unique pairing by piano virtuoso, Ilya Yakushev.  

In East meets West, the evening concludes with Tchaikovsky’s mighty Capriccio Italien. Op. 45,  Inspired by his third visit to Rome during Carnival in 1879, Tchaikovsky captures the excitement of carnival beginning with the opening brass fanfare reminiscent of the military barracks his hotel was situated close to.  This fantasy for orchestra was premiered in 1880 and is full of Italianate melodies that build to an exciting finale.

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High Notes Humor

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October 2022

High Notes

Single Ticket Sales!

That time of year is upon us! Opening night is fast approaching and we are so excited to kick off the sensational 2022-2023 season with our first Classics Concert in the Cohen on October, 8, 2022 starting at 7:30 PM at the Performing Arts Center SLO, BEETHOVEN’S SEVENTH, featuring Maestro Andrew Sewell, Concertmaster Emily Lanzone, and soloists Richard Dobeck and Lisa Nauful. Single tickets will go on sale via The PAC on September 9, 2022. Not only will you be able to purchase tickets to each of our five main stage concerts but, New Years Eve POPS tickets will also be availible that day! The Slo Symphony along with featured guest artists Jeans N’ Classics, will play hits by The Beatles as well as other rock and roll hits of the past. It is sure to be a rocking New Year!  You can visit or call them at 805-756-4849 to purchase tickets to all of our upcoming concerts. If you would like to subscribe to the season there is still time! Call our office at 805-356-1438 or visit to learn how


POPS By The Sea

POPS is this weekend! Can you believe it? Time is flying! We can not wait to see you this Saturday, September 3, 2022 at Avila Beach golf resort. Gates open at 2:45 pm and the concert begins at 4:00 pm. General admission tickets are still available. They are $25 for adults, $15 for children 13-17, and free for anyone 12 and under. You can purchase tickets at the gates but buying tickets ahead of time is the tried and true way to ensure you get a great view of the concert! Visit to reserve your spot for POPS today! 

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Development Committee Event Planning

The Symphony Board Development Committee is hard at work assisting staff in planning upcoming fundraising events for the 2022-2023 season. Currently in the works is a family fun fall event to be held November 5th at The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo’s historic Octagon Barn in San Luis Obispo. This event will include food, games for all ages, and music to support the Youth Symphony. Look for ticketing and event information soon in High Notes,, or via email in the near future.

On February 11th at The Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo we will hold our grand fundraising, gala dinner, with music, dancing, auctions and much more.  We are thrilled to bring this exciting much loved event back after the Covid hiatus! Ticketing and event info also TBA in the near future.  A May event is in the early planning stages; look for updates in the future on all events and concerts.

The symphony development committee, like the board, is a volunteer committee made up of community members. Some of us don’t know a sharp from a flat, a bass clef from a treble clef, but we are committed to the symphony because of the value it brings to our county. As you know, ticket sales do not even come close to covering the cost of concerts, even with sold out houses. Our task, like that of all non-profits, is to seek alternate forms of funding to keep the symphony viable.

If you are interested in working on the committee, or joining the board, or as an office or event volunteer we welcome your support and friendship. Please contact Tess Duffy at [email protected].

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Toireasa-Anne (Tess) Duffy, Marketing and Communications Manager

Tess is clear that she does not want to be defined by any one aspect or time of her life, but views her life as a compilation of experiences that brought her here to find a new happy place in San Luis Obispo.

She is a bit of an 80’s Goth child who can sing entire Broadway musicals for you. Her childhood dream was to perform in Broadway musicals, but as a self described “klutz” who can’t dance, the dream faded. She grew up in Dubuque, Iowa “and had the luck to be a nerdy theatre and choir kid” in a liberal family who adored all kinds of music. She was heavily influenced by her parents love of folk music (“they had thousands of records”) so much so that Tess has a tattoo of Woodie Guthrie, as well as one of a Tupac Shakur quote, and a baseball tattoo to honor her grandfather who was a minor league player.

Tess realized that her elementary school, high school, and college were all just four blocks apart. She said, “Iowa was a great place to be from and a great place to leave.” So, at 21 she moved to Venice Beach, California where, as a vocalist, she started her own band Friends in Low Places, that performed a mix of hard rock, country, swing, and punk. The band had a residency at O’Brien’s in Santa Monica. Tess loved the music scene in Southern California that “was supportive of women in rock.”

Trey Duffy was a neighbor, “an obnoxious guy, a surfer, not my type, kind of a Star Wars dork.” They married in 2017 after he proposed in “cheesy” fashion in front of the castle at Disneyland while the “Circle of Life” played in the background. They moved several times in southern California to be near his work as a computer developer-engineer and Chief Technical Officer. They had two children Finneas (Finn) now four and a half, named after a character in the John Knowles book A Separate Peace, and Ada now two and a half, named after Ada Lovelace, the mathematician known for her work on Charles Babbage’s mechanical computer. Tess said, “I loved being a stay at home mom. It was a job I could be passionate about.”

Grief is not a stranger to Tess. When she was 20 she was a passenger in a car accident and was thrown through the windshield. She spent months recovering. In February of 2021, her husband Trey passed away. In the same month her father and a nephew also unexpectedly passed away of unrelated causes. She soon moved to San Luis Obispo to be near Trey’s father and step mother, and this year her mother moved to the same neighborhood as Tess and her children.

Every night she wondered what the next day would bring, what was going to define this new Tess, as she said, “You go through this unbelievable amount of grief . . .  I am a musician, a daughter, I was a wife…I’m normally a happy person. Now I’m a single mother and a widow. What will define me now? I have my kids, my dogs, my family, and Dolly Parton . . . so many amazing things in this world that make life so worthwhile! You just have to keep pushing forward!”

Tess has created a new and fulfilling life in San Luis. She has worked for the symphony for 18 months where she creates marketing materials, promotes concerts and events, manages and writes for High Notes, develops sponsorships, plans events, manages the symphony’s social media accounts, sits on the development committee, and countless other tasks large and small. “Working in the arts is my dream job! I love my job!” are two phrases Tess says on a regular basis. She spends her free time with Ada and Finn exposing them to new experiences and travels, and hopes to someday take them to Europe.

Her top song playlist is:

Everybody’s Gotta Live – Love

Cosmic Dancer – T-Rex

Night Moves – Bob Seger

Wild Night – Van Morrison (“you have to have a song to dance to”)

Pretty Good – John Prine

Red Dirt Girl – Emmylou Harris (“you have to have a song to cry to”).

He favorite singer is Bonnie Raitt, and her favorite musicals are West Side Story and Cabaret.

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CLIF’S NOTES – By Clifton Swanson, Member of the Bass Section, and Conductor 1971-1984

Botso Korisheli,  SLO Youth Symphony Founder and So Much More

“I look forward to the next hour, next day, and no plans. I take what comes and absorb it as much as I can, mentally, physically, emotionally, visually, audibly. I drink it up.”  Wachtang (Botso) Korisheli.

One of  San Luis Obispo’s most charismatic figures in the arts, Botso Korisheli will be remembered by many as the founder and conductor of the San Luis Obispo’s Youth Symphony.  But those who knew him for many years were also fascinated by his life story, wide range of interests, devotion to teaching, and influence on so many in so many different ways.

Botso was remarkable because he forged his own destiny out of sheer tenacity and determination.  No wonder he was one of those chosen by Sky Bergman for her film “Lives Well Lived.” Born in 1921 (although he wasn’t actually sure of the year) in Georgia, Russia, Botso witnessed the arrest and execution of his father by Joseph Stalin who accused his father, an actor, as an “enemy of the state.” Subsequently, Botso was drafted into the Soviet Army to fight Germany at the Second World War, was captured and forced to be a translator for the other side. At the end of the war he emigrated to the United States where he studied at the California School of the Arts, received a bachelor’s degree in music at UC Santa Barbara, and much later completed a doctorate at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

Botso moved to Morro Bay in 1957 to teach music at Morro Bay Elementary School. With the support of the principal, he established what he proudly called his “conservatory.” At 7:00 every morning, before the school day began, he opened up the band room and coached his students on the fundamentals of each instrument, music excerpts, difficult passages and etudes. Cellist Nancy Nagano (flutist at the time) describes how students couldn’t wait to get there even at that hour; it was the highlight of their day. According to Nancy, as each student achieved an assigned level their name was placed on the chalk board, and they eventually earned a “reward” which was often to accompany him on his International Harvester Scout with a winch to retrieve rocks from the ocean or off-road sites for his next sculpture. Being around Botso was always an adventure.

Out of his program came an amazing group of students including a family of cousins: Nancy Nagano (cellist), Joan Nagano (pianist), and Kent Nagano (conductor). Even though not all of his students went into music professionally, Botso made an indelible impact on their lives as was reflected in responses to his obituary in 2015 when countless former students responded with their love of the man and what he taught them about life and living.

In 1965 Botso decided that San Luis Obispo should have a youth symphony. Beginning with a volunteer group of parents, the San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony soon flourished with an impressive repertoire, student and professional soloists, and strong community support. In 1977 the Youth Symphony traveled to Guatemala to perform concerts. This was reciprocated when the Guatemala Youth Symphony came to San Luis Obispo. After his retirement Botso continued to teach at his home in Morro Bay until the day he passed away at the age of 93.

Many musicians (and audiences) will remember the “Haus Konzerts” that Botso organized every year. His home, which he built with assistance from his many friends and even students, was designed so that the studio opened up to a large patio where an audience of up to 50 people could enjoy performances by friends, students, and invited artists. For Botso, the music was part of a much larger picture, the opportunity to come together in friendship and collegiality. If you lingered after a rehearsal you were inevitably invited to participate in a Georgian tradition, a toast using the horn of a deer…the challenge to quaff it in one gulp.

Botso was equally well known as a sculptor. His works are found in many homes and public sites. He was commissioned by the City of Morro Bay to sculpt the “Pelican Family” and to create the giant chessboard (with large moveable pieces) overlooking the harbor. This was followed by the 12-foot sculpture in the center of the roundabout entrance to the city. He was also commissioned by the Cultural Ministry of the Republic of Georgia to sculpt a work as a symbol for Tbilisi, the city of his birth. 

All of this is to barely scratch the surface of this remarkable man, fondly remembered by many and memorialized by his influence and works of art.

Highly recommended films:

Lives Well Lived, directed by Sky Bergman and currently available for rent or purchase on

Botso: the Teacher from Tbilisi: Directed by Tom Walters.  Currently available online for free at : Donation is optional and proceeds support the SLO Youth Symphony.

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High Notes Humor

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August 2022

High Notes 

Music Library Revamp

The Symphony recently received a grant that provided funds to give our office space an upgrade, this included funds for new cabinets for our music library! The staff has been hard at work rearranging, organizing, and building! We hope to have everything finished in the coming weeks!

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POPS By The Sea

Hi, it’s me, Tess again! I’ve been working for the symphony for over a year now but I’m relatively a newbie to SLO county as I’m a transplant from Los Angeles. I was tasked with writing a piece about the history of Pops by the Sea and decided to start diving into the archives we have here in the SLO Symphony’s office.

We have folders filled to the brim with old concert programs and brochures with information about past balls and galas the symphony threw as fundraisers. I found a booklet with information about a Symphony ball that was held in 2002 which was titled, ” A night at the Moulin Rouge,” and I was a bit jealous that I wasn’t at that party… I was in highschool at the time so it wouldn’t have worked out anyway! I started finding fliers and leaflets with information about POPS by the Sea and immediately realized how important it is for the Symphony and for the community of San Luis Obispo that POPS By The Sea is returning this year.

POPS has been a tradition for nearly 30 years and to bring it back to our community, after the last few difficult years, is such a statement. It’s a way for the Symphony to say, “We’re still here, the arts will always be important, and the music the Symphony provides for our community is essential!”

POPS has traditionally been held on Labor day weekend and this year is no different. This year’s concert will be held on Saturday, September 3. The gates will be opened at 2:45 p.m and music will begin at 4:00 p.m. The program will include music by John Williams, Aaron Copland, John Philip Sousa, and more and of course our amazing Maestro, Andrew Sewell, will be conducting.

Past programs have been themed. In 2009 the theme was “POPS Goes to Hollywood,” where local favorites the Damon Castillo Band, accompanied the Symphony.  In 2011 the POPS concert theme was, “Summer of Love.” The Symphony played music by John Fogerty and Paul Simon. Another year the POPS concert was called, POPS Romantico Ole. The featured artists that year were Jose Maria Gallardo del Rey on guitar and Anabel Garcia del Castillo on violin.

We at the Symphony hope you are as excited as we are for the return of POPS by The Sea. Not only is this a celebration of our return to the POPS stage at Avila Beach Golf Resort, but it’s a celebration of the 60th year since the Symphony began and became a staple of the San Luis Obispo community. This is a celebration of the arts and of music. This is a way for our amazing musicians to share their craft and to bring joy to the patrons who attend this concert! We hope you join us for an afternoon of family fun in the sun. The Symphony hopes to keep the rich tradition of throwing POPS concerts on Labor day weekend alive in our community!

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Symphony Sponsorships

Supporting music in our community is truly a win-win. By sponsoring an event, educational program, or even the entire season, you can provide exciting and creative cultural experiences for clients, reward your employees, and demonstrate your philanthropic commitment to our community. You can do all this while connecting your business’ name with thousands of music lovers from around the region. You can even sponsor a specific musician or section or you can choose the amount you would like to donate and we will match you with a musician who needs a sponsor.

San Luis Obispo Symphony’s musicians are talented members of our community, you can show your appreciation for their hard work and honor their accomplishments by sponsoring the chair of an orchestra member. The Symphony would not exist with out support from our patrons and we would not be able to throw events such as POPS by the Sea or provide educational programs to the youth of SLO county with out the resources provided by our donors and grants. We would like to extend our gratitude to everyone who has supported us through the years, especially the 2022-2023 season co sponsor – Wealth Care Lawyer – Dr. Klaus Gottlieb! You are the reason the music will be able to continue for many years to come!

We asked a few of our donors, why they support the symphony. Two of our biggest supporters Garrett Foulke and his wife Dorthy Correa said, “We believe the performing arts are an important part of society that needs our support so that it can continue and flourish. Our donations to the symphony sponsor musicians and its music Director to continue its mission.” Anothor one of our donors, Jeff Brady said, “When I listen to music or play music I can feel myself becoming a better more heartfelt person. I believe that having music in our lives as an audience, musician or student allows that individual to feel the same. And the world becomes a better place to live.” When asked why she donates to the Symphony Melinda Avila stated, “We donate to the Symphony because we value them.  We are able to enjoy the BEST musicians, and the BEST conductor, Andrew Sewell.  The programming is so versatile and enjoyable, and honestly it is obvious that Andrew enjoys it also.”

It brings the staff, musicians, and board of directors at the SLO Symphony so much joy to hear that the work we do and the art that we share impacts so many people in such a positive way. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! 


Staff Notes 

Operations Manager, Sarah Raines 

Welcome Back Sarah! Sarah wore several hats such as librarian, personnel manager, and event coordinator for the symphony from October 2020 to June 2021. Her career prior to the symphony was in teaching and nonprofit administration. During her year away from the symphony, she focused on vocal performance before returning in May of this year.  

A native of Austin, Texas, Sarah earned her degree in classical voice at New York University.  She taught voice and choir in public schools and private colleges. Locally, she was the program director at Lompoc Youth Theater where she worked to acquire non-profit status for the organization, and she also coordinated Youth Arts Alive in Santa Maria. 

Since returning to the symphony, Sarah said, “If I’m going to work in an office I’d rather it be a symphony office.” She came just in time to delve into the nitty gritty details that no one likes to do (except her) for the Avila Pops-by-the-Sea concert on September 3rd. 

As operations manager for the Pops, Sarah coordinates with the venue, Police, Fire, emergency services, staging, sound, rental companies, and a long laundry list of “must haves” that no one else considers. Sarah is also heavily involved in the planning of opening night October 8th, New Year’s Eve Pops, and future fundraising events.

In her spare time she continues to teach music and theater. Sarah is a much needed and welcomed addition to the symphony staff, and while her contract with the symphony is temporary and part time, we hope she will be able to continue permanently with the symphony. 


July 2022

Instrument Petting Zoo at Live Oak

Our Education Program Manager, Thomas Grandoli, brought the Music Van to the 2022 Live Oak Music Festival.Thomas has been going to Live Oak since he was 17 years old and was super happy that the festival was back in action this year! He hosted the Symphony’s Instrument Petting Zoo in the children’s area and was able to allow the youngest of festival goers a chance to make some music of their own! Catch our Instrument Petting Zoo at the Downtown SLO Farmers market every other Thursday starting July 7th. 


Volunteer for the Symphony

It takes a lot of work to run the Symphony! We rely on volunteers to help us with concerts, music education programs, special events and more. Our volunteer needs fluctuate throughout the year, and new opportunities pop up all the time. This summer we’ll be looking for volunteers to help us with the Insrument Petting Zoo and in September we’ll be in need of volunteers for our Pops by The Sea concert! If you are interested in volunteering visit our website, or email me, your friendly neighborhood Highnotes staff member, and communications coordinator for the SLO symphony, at [email protected]

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Orchestra Notes 

Viola and Music Librarian

Peter’s love of music, and his joy at finding the perfect career, is obvious.  During his entire 150 minute interview he never stopped smiling.

He was raised in a musical and artistic family.  Brother Bob is a cellist,  his grandmother and grandfather were professional violinist in Boston, his father played violin, and his uncle was the chairman of the music department at MIT. As a young woman his mother was a scenic designer and his sister restores historic carousels.

Originally from Ann Arbor Michigan,  Peter moved with his family to southern California when he was 10.  He attended high school in Palos Verdes, and played for conductor Warren Balfour in the orchestra of only seven players.

 As an English literature major at U.C. Berkeley he played in the symphony orchestra. Peter stated, “When I was playing viola in the UC  Berkeley Orchestra in college, the Music Director Michael Senturia taught us how to express the feeling of a work. We were rehearsing Debussy’s La Mer (The Sea) and he asked us to be part of an ocean’s wave. He told us to listen to the other instruments in the work, not just play the notes on our instrument’s page. After he made this suggestion, we sounded more like the sea!” One of his most memorible experiences while playing with the UC Berkely Orchestra was when he played in the first concert at Zellerbach Hall. The program was to have been conducted by Igor Stravinsky who fell ill and was instead conducted by Robert Craft. Stravinsky was able to attend the performance, and Peter said one of the  many highlights of his career was to meet Stravinsky, and to hear him praise the UC Berkeley Orchestra.

Much of Peter’s career has been as a marketing and sales representative for independent record labels including Angel Records, and the French label Harmonia Mundi, where he promoted conductor Kent Nagano.  The labels were primarily classical but some included world, jazz, and folk music, artists.

Peter said, “promoting classical music in my job was a great fit, going to record stores and concerts to promote the artists was an easy job because it was something I cared about.” But it wasn’t just the classical music he loved; he mentioned shocking friends, who thought he was a “classical music nerd,” when they saw him backstage at a Rolling Stones concert.

He once tricked the stage door crew into letting him in backstage so he could meet Bonnie Raitt, who was not one of his artists. In his university days you could have found him at The Fillmore or Avalon Ballroom, or playing the “fiddle” with roommates. The musicians  union wouldn’t allow The Chieftains to play at a record store promotion, so Peter gave them his fiddle so each musician took turns playing solo.

Peter has played with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra for over 50 years, and he played the debut concert for each of the four conductors, including Kent Nagano. He played his first concert with the SLO symphony in 1999.  As music librarian for the SLO Symphony he is responsible for ordering and organizing the parts for each concert, and getting them returned post concert. Peter said “I try to get the musicians their parts as soon as possible.  The sooner they get their parts the better they can play at the first rehearsal.” Peter was also the the music librarian for the Berkeley Symphony for ten years.

In a letter of recommendation for Peter, Conductor Kent Nagano praised his skills in marketing and promoting the symphony, and said “During his tenure as Music Librarian he helped produce some of the most challenging concerts including the ballets of Frank Zappa, numerous works by Messiaen, many U.S. and West Coast Premiers, and concerts with special guests including the Kronos Quartet.” If you see Peter at a concert or around town please give him a big hello, and stop to chat if you both have the time. He’s an interesting and engaging man. 

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Dave George, section bass player for the SLO Symphony since 2015 and General Manager at Festival Mozaic

Dave George grew up in Arlington, Virginia just outside of DC. His dad was a federal employee and because of this his family spent two years living in Berlin, when Dave was in 4th or 5th grade. This is when he picked up the bass.  “I had already been studying piano from age five, which I continued through high school, but I wanted to get involved in a group ensemble.  The school there had us fill out a survey and choose three instruments we’d be interested in.  I was interested in playing jazz and my first choice was actually saxophone!  The orchestra teacher put me on bass (my second choice) because I was very tall for my age, and I’m glad she did!  The bass is super versatile and makes appearances in so many different genres.  Nowadays I focus mostly on orchestra, but growing up I played in jazz combos, big bands, wind ensembles, along with orchestras.  Occasionally my wife and I will play together (she plays guitar and is an amazing singer).  After high school I went on to study bass at the Cleveland Institute of Music in Ohio and then came back to the DC-area for graduate school at the University of Maryland.”


In 2009, while in Ohio, Dave met his wife Jessica. They were married in 2012 and will be celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary this year! When describing how they met Dave said,   “I was actually very good friends with her brother, also a bass player at the Cleveland Institute, and we met through him.  We now have two daughters and a son – Hazel (age 6), Cody (age 4) and Cora (age 1).”

Dave and his wife moved to SLO at the end of 2014. Everyone in his immediate family had moved to California for various reasons, his parents both being natives of California, and they decided to make the move as well. Dave got an interview to be operations manager at Festival Mozaic and he felt that, “the fit was just right.”

Festival Mozaic was founded in 1971 as the SLO Mozart Festival by a group of Cal Poly professors including former SLO Symphony bassist, and High Notes writer, Clifton Swanson!  It started as a weekend of summer concerts in three different venues , including Mozart and other composers, and it grew over the years to encompass orchestra, chamber music, jazz, opera, and world music concerts throughout SLO County.  The Festival was rebranded in the mid 2000s to reflect the wide range of music it offers (they still do a LOT of Mozart and other composers).  The Festival continues to bring top-tier performers to SLO from across the country, and occasionally the world, to perform concerts for audiences on the Central Coast.  This year there are several chamber music performances, orchestra concerts, free daytime concerts, special jazz and Broadway guest artists, films, wine tastings, and more! 

As general manager of Festival Mozaic, it’s Dave’s job to organize the concert venues, hire musicians, and supervise stage production. He’s also involved in volunteer management, and special event planning. Other duties involve managing the Festival website, email marketing, and lots of other random things. 

When Daves not working at Festival Mozaic, or spending time with his family, you can find him in the kitchen! When asked about his hobbies he stated,  “I love baking!  I got really into it during the pandemic when I was at home with the family.  You can follow my baking on instagram @davidzgeorge – some of my favorite things to make are layer cakes, fruit tarts, and ice cream.  Apart from that, I also really love cooking, reading thriller novels, and watching really cerebral TV series like Ozark.”

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Concert on a New Court Yard

On June 5th members of the SLO Symphony played a concert for thirty guests hosted by one of our patrons and biggest supporters at an old tennis court site that they transformed to create a new outdoor gathering/performance space.

Since we’ve had unusually high winds as of late, our stage manager Thor Larsen, got to work on a plan to keep the musicians out of the elements as they played. This involved
several large tents and zipties!

With Maestro Andrew Sewell in attendance two separate groups performed – Orchestra members Carol Houchens (piccolo/flute), Jessica Hoffman (oboe/English Horn), Richard Dobeck (clarinet), Sarra Hey-
Folick (clarinet), Nancy Mathison (bass clarinet) David George (bass), Rebecca McClaflin (electronic keyboard) John Astaire (drumset), and Emelia Banninger (bassoon), played six Alec Wilder wind octets;and a string quartet comprised of Emily Lanzone (violin and SLO Symphony concertmaster), Valerie Berg-Johansen (violin), David Hennessee (viola), and Jeanne Shumway (cello) played the Beethoven String Quartet No. 10 Op.74.

The concert was a success and our orchestra members were happy to be playing a concert even though our 2021-2022 season is over! We’re all excited for Pops on September 3 and the start of our 2022-2023 season in October! 

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String Auditions : November 3-5

contact : [email protected] or visit our website for more information about string auditions

Youth Symphony Auditions :  August 18-20

contact : [email protected] or visit our website for more information about Youth Symphony auditions

JUNE 2022

High Notes

Closing Night
In case you missed it, May 14th was the final concert of the 2021-2022 season. Music Director Andrew Sewell began the evening with the Symphonic Foray pre-concert talk with guest virtuoso violinist, Gilles Apap, and principal cellist and Youth Symphony conductor, Nancy Nagano.
The concert itself began with a surprise when Maestro Sewell conducted the orchestra in the Ukrainian National Anthem, bringing tears to the eyes of many of the audience of over 900 patrons. He then launched into the scheduled program with the Brahms Serenade No. 1 in D, Op.11.
The Brahms was followed by Tchaikovsky’s tour de force Violin Concerto in D, Op. 25 showcasing Mr. Apap’s dynamic, playful, and intense performance generated an instantaneous audience standing ovation after just the first movement, and again as the piece ended.
During the course of the concert Maestro Sewell paid tribute to Nancy Nagano who is retiring from the orchestra after her final concert conducting the Youth Symphony Orchestra on May 22nd. He also introduced three new orchestra members Jayden Perez on viola, and Titus Shanks and Lyubov Solovyova on cello.
The maestro also paid tribute to two long-time orchestra members  who recently passed: Barbara Hoff, former SlO Symphony pianist, and Luba Staller, cellist.
After intermission the orchestra performed the crowd-pleasing Mozart Symphony No. 4 in g minor. Another surprise of the evening found Mr. Apap slipping into the back stand of the first violin section to play the Mozart symphony. The concert concluded with another standing ovation by an obviously happy audience.
The orchestra, staff, and board gathered for a post-concert reception at Cafe Roma to celebrate the close of the season, and to honor Nancy Nagano.
With enormous gratitude we thank and acknowledge our audience, sponsors, donors, friends, and family who supported and encouraged us to carry on through three never-to-be forgotten seasons. We did it because we love the music and our community. Without you we would have ceased to exist as the San Luis Obispo Symphony. Thank you!

Floriade 2022

In April Music Director Andrew Sewell along with 20 symphony supporters attended the Floriade 2022 Expo in Amsterdam. The Floriade is an international garden festival and horticultural exhibition that is held only once-in-every 10 years. The tour, planned by board member Bob Gordon, included a several day Avalon river cruise of Holland and Belgium including Ghent, Antwerp, Rotterdam, and several other cities.
Tour members visited the breathtaking colors of Keukenhof, known as the “Gardens of Europe,” and the world’s largest flower auction in Aalsmeer, Netherlands. Beverly James, symphony development committee member said “I think we should get Bob to plan more of these cruises! He did a great job  . . . even had the flowers blooming at their peak for us!”
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2022- 2023 A Sensational Season 

Its time to renew your season subscription! The 2022-2023 season promises to be a sensation! Opening night will be on Saturday, October 8, 2022 where the Symphony will be playing Beethovenss Seventh and Haydn’s Symphony No 13. in D. Richard Dobeck (clarinet) and Lisa Nauful ( bassoon) will be our featured soloists.
The Symphony’s November 12 concert will feature soloist Ilya Yakushev on piano. This concert will show case music by Coleman, Gershwin, Tsfasman, and Tchaikovsky.
This season will consist of 5 concerts at the PAC as usual, with a New Years Eve Pops celebration happening in December that you can purchase tickets for seperatley. The final concert of the season will be on Saturday, May 6, 2023. To check out the entire season’s schedule click the button below. You can also request to subscribe to the season by visiting out website!
Pops By The Sea Returns
The San Luis Obispo Symphony announces the return of Pops-by-the-Sea on Saturday, September 3, 2022 at the Avila Beach Golf Resort, where the San Luis Obispo Symphony will be celebrating their 60th year. Gates will be open at 2:45 PM and music will begin at 4:00PM. The SLO Symphony, under the direction of Maestro Andrew Sewell, will play music by John Williams, Aaron Copland, John Phillip Sousa, and more!
For 30 years, the San Luis Obispo Symphony’s family-friendly Pops-by-the-Sea concerts have entertained thousands of music lovers on the Central Coast. This year’s event honors that tradition and offers the community an afternoon by the sea of sun, fun, and great music.
Tickets are available for purchase online or by calling 805-356-1438. Lawn seating is $25 for adults and $15 for minors ages 13 to 17. Children under 13 are free with a paying adult, so bring along the entire family! You can also reserve a single chair in theater seating for $50. Table seating will be available for $75 a seat (or $600 for a table of 8.) Parking is free and a parking pass will be attached to your printable ticket! No outside drinks are permitted and ice chests will be inspected upon entry
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Finale Youth Symphony Concert 

On Sunday, May 22, all of the ensembles of our Youth Symphony performed at the PAC stage for a live audience for the first time in 3 years since May 2019
Our groups include the percussion ensemble led by John Astaire, Symphonic Winds led by Al Streder, Preparatory Strings led by Emily Lanzone, Academy Strings led by Grace Seng, and the Concert Orchestra led by Nancy Nagano.

Nancy Nagano conducted the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro by Mozart and and the Finale from the New World Symphony 9 by Dvorak for her final concert. Nancy is retiring after conducting the Concert Orchestra since 1999. She started in the Youth Symphony as a cello student when Botso Korisheli founded the organization in the 1960’s.

To conclude the concert, we welcomed 18 brand new students as part of our String Celebration program to join all of our ensembles performing our final piece. Over 100 musicians joined together to play the Ode to Joy Festival, a multi-level arrangement with beginner, intermediate, and advanced parts in a joyful celebration of returning to the stage and making beautiful music together!

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By Clifton Swanson, Member of the Bass Section, and Conductor 1971-1984

Clif is taking the summer off to do some traveling with his wife Jane. His next article will publish in September. He’s looking for ideas for future articles, so please help him out by sending your ideas to Clif at in[email protected]. In the meantime the rest of the hardworking HighNotes staff will still be here over the summer keeping you up-to-date on the latest Symphony news.

Clif for 50th
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Wind And Brass Auditions : June 2 – 4

contact:  [email protected] or visit our website for more information

MAY 2022

High Notes

Digital Content of Febraury 5 Concert

Click the buttons below to view the complete Symphonic Forays and the complete recording session from our February 5, 2022 concert. Although nothing can beat an in person concert, we hope you enjoy these outstanding videos!


Orchestra Notes

Academy Strings

The Youth Symphony’s Academy Strings performed at the Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day Service at Congregation Beth David on April 27th. The students performed the Israeli National Anthem Hatikvah (I Hope) and Ani Ma’Amin (I Believe). The text of this traditional Hebrew prayer and song provided comfort to the victims of the Holocaust, and served as a beacon of hope for humankind.

Academy Strings consists of violin, viola, and cello under the direction of Grace Seng, symphony violinist. The Academy has 25 students of mostly middle school age. Players become members of the academy by passing an audition of scales, prepared pieces, and sight reading. They rehearse Monday evenings throughout the school year.  

This season they played a variety of string orchestra arrangements; ranging from 300-year-old French baroque music, to Argentinian ballet music, to Disney hits from Encanto and the Mandalorian.  Their performance at Congregation Beth David was a beautiful and meaningful gift of music to our community. For additional information regarding Academy Strings please contact Grace Seng at [email protected]


Final Youth Symphony Concert of the Year 

On Sunday, May 22, 2022 the SLO Youth Symphony will be performing their final concert of the season at the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo, at 4:00pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and free for anyone under 18. We hope to see you there! 

In Memoriam 

Barbara Hoff (Pianist) and Luba Staller (Cellist), two pillars of the  music community, were lost to us last month. Both were cherished inspirations and will be dearly missed by musicians and audiences alike.  Their legacy will long endure in our county.

Barbara, along with her husband Lowell, came to San Luis Obispo in the late 1960’s and quickly endeared herself to the music community with her flawlessly accurate, well prepared, reliable playing skills. Lowell started a nursery that eventually became Sage nursery. Barbara was organist, pianist, and vocal director for 54 years at Trinity Methodist Church in Los Osos. As pianist for the Symphony for many years her playing can be heard on Craig Russell’s recording of “Rhapsody for Horn and Orchestra.”  

Luba attended the Manhattan School of Music, Sarah Lawrence College,  studied cello at Julliard, and won a Fulbright scholarship to study cello. Luba and her husband Bob, a world-wide agricultural consultant, moved to California in the 1970’s where she played with the Ventura Symphony, Tulare County Symphony, and Bakersfield Symphony. Luba and Bob moved to Morro Bay in the mid 1980’s and they quickly became active with the Mozart Festival. She played with the SLO Symphony from 1985 until 2018.

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Clif’s Notes

Concert Reviews:  Who Needs Them?

Artist managers crave them. Artists read them in hopes: they love a positive review while dismissing its importance lest the next one be negative.  Audiences are curious to find out what they should have thought.  Media struggle to find a reviewer who is informed and who can review at a level that can be trusted.

Sometimes you hear reactions like “that wasn’t the same concert I went to last night.”  

Stories (anecdotes) abound. I attended a recital by pianist Byron Janis many years ago where, due to an injured finger, it was announced at intermission that he would not be able to continue.  Sure enough, the next day the review gave a detailed account of the second half! A review by Heuwell Tircuit for the San Francisco Chronicle led to him being fired because as described in his obituary, “His tenure with The Chronicle came to an abrupt end in 1987, after he published an inaccurate review of a performance by the San Francisco Ballet at Stern Grove. It included harsh criticism of the dancing in a pas de deux that had been scheduled, but was replaced at the last minute by a different work.”

What is the purpose of a review? That could be the topic of a lengthy scholarly dissertation. The obvious could be points raised in the first paragraph. Less obvious might be that reviews cultivate awareness of an organization if the reviews are good or maybe even critical.  Consistently negative reviews can be an obstacle to the growth of an organization. On the other hand, San Luis Obispo Symphony Music Director Andrew Sewell points out that a glowing review encourages one who missed a concert to want to attend the next performance.  Reviews can even have a life of their own when they serve as documentation that there even was a concert…such as one from 100 years ago before most performances were ever recorded.

Asked for his thoughts on concert reviewing, Marvin Sosna, who (long ago) reviewed many concerts for the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune (now The Tribune) mused that he tended to take into consideration the nature and level of the performer(s), the expectations of the audience, the choice of repertoire, its complexity, and the nuance of the presentation, always striving to enhance community support for an organization.

Perhaps there are times when a seriously negative review might be in order.  But what does that actually accomplish? At an ACSO (Association of California Symphony Orchestras) conference many years ago, San Francisco Chronicle reviewer, Robert Commanday, spoke on the subject. It was refreshing to hear him describe a situation where he was assigned to review a regional high school band festival.  He found it to be painfully bad but then how should he describe it? He was able to write a review that communicated that the experience was less than satisfying. However, he shifted his emphasis to the lack of support for public school music programs. This provided each band director with a document that he/she could wave in front of their principal and school board to support the need for instruments, appropriate music spaces, and equipment.

Asked to comment further, conductor Andrew Sewell, responded “My perspective is that we must roll with the times. Reviews can be helpful or not, and with it comes responsibility. With the ‘i-generation,’ attitudes are changing.  People tend to read bytes of information on their devices.  Headlines grab our short attention spans, and reporting is more about efficiency and expediency.”  

People today tend to go from one thing to the next without pausing to review, reflect, and fully appreciate what they have experienced. 

There was a time when the San Luis Obispo Tribune reviewed concerts, theater, and other arts events. The legendary Jim Hayes, arts and entertainment editor many years ago, was known to phone an organization and say “Let’s do something for the Symphony/Festival/Vocal Arts,” etc. I believe he, personally, had a lot to do with the explosion of the arts and arts organizations in San Luis Obispo over the years. Those days are pretty much gone as local printed newspapers have had to become more conscious of their budget.  

Sarah Linn, Entertainment editor for the S.L.O. Tribune, relates that the policy of the paper for the past 10 years has been that the best way to serve the community is to respond to the need for publicity and promotion of an event rather than review it afterward when it is too late for the public to attend. True, publicity of any sort is always welcome.

And there are many other considerations.  A well known soloist once remarked to me “Isn’t it nice to be able to play and not have to worry about what the review will say the next day?”  It is a challenge to find a reviewer who can sustain meaningful reviews over time.  In the course of their first years, they tend to rely  upon a sort of missionary zeal exposing personal opinions or pet issues that creep into their writing, ultimately losing momentum.  Eventually, all we learn about is that a musician missed notes, or worse, what the soloist was wearing.

Concert reviews will always be controversial. No matter how one looks at it, they can be engaging, enlightening, constructive, cultivating, stressful, or, unfortunately…infuriating.  

Just musing…

Clif for 50th

Program Notes

Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Brahms May 14, 2022

Brahms Serenade No. 1

In this final program of the 21/22 season we welcome everyone to the PAC for a concert of composer favorites. Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Mozart. Johannes Brahms wrote two Serenades for orchestra prior to writing his first Symphony. It was 1858 and he was also working on his first piano concerto. There are a total of six movements and while serenades were originally intended as a series of unrelated movements intended for utilitarian use, such as a garden party, or outdoor occasion, it nevertheless gave Brahms the opportunity to test his creative skills in orchestration and a precursor to the symphonic form.  The first movement is extensive and in this instance we are presenting it as a standalone overture.  It is beautifully written and hopefully we may hear the entire Serenade in a future concert.

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Op.35

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is a tour de force and at the time of its writing, in 1878 was considered unplayable.  Like most endearing concertos and great works of art, time proves otherwise.  It is indeed one of the standard orchestra repertoire pieces for any virtuoso and we welcome back our good friend, AG resident, and virtuoso violinist, Mr. Gilles Apap for a riveting performance.  During the 20/21 season, he performed a solo recital with Susan Azaret Davies, for our Drive-In and online performance and provided a wonderful Symphonic Foray with Mark Sherman.  He brings amazing artistry to his performances, is an extraordinary talent and one not to be missed. 

Mozart Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K 550

When Mozart wrote his last three symphonies in 1788, this was the middle of three in a minor key and with no slow introduction.  However, the opening bars are as well known as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony opening four notes.  One of only two symphonies written in the minor key, the other being No. 25, it is often referred to as the Great G minor.  There are four movements and Mozart later added clarinets from his Paris years, so that two versions of the symphony now exist.  


Brahms Serenade No. 1 in D,  Op. 11  

                         I. Allegro molto

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35  with soloist:  Gilles Apap, violin

I. Allegro moderato  

II. Canzonetta  

III. Finale: Allegro vivacissimo


Mozart Symphony No. 40 in g minor, K 550

I.Molto Allegro

II. Andante

III. Menuetto: Allegretto

IV.Finale: Allegro assai


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APRIL 2022

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.

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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.

Clif’s Notes 

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.

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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.

 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 protected], I would very much enjoy hearing from you!

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String Auditions :  April 7 – 9

Wind And Brass Auditions : June 2 – 4

contact:  [email protected] or visit our website for more information

MARCH 2022 

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 [email protected].

Spring Fundraiser 

Join Symphony artists, board members, staff, and fellow supporters on Wednesday, April 6, 2022 at 5:00 pm at the beautiful Tolosa Winery, for our spring fundraiser. Surrounded by the landscape of Edna Valley, nestled between the northwest-southeast running volcanic hills of San Luis Obispo, you will dine al fresco on sumptuous spring-inspired dinner prepared by Chef’s Table, with signature wines from Tolosa paired with performances from SLO Symphony musicians.
Tickets are $125 per person, including dinner, wine, and a $50 donation to the symphony. If you choose to sponsor a musician’s meal for $75, a Symphony member will join your table! This event is limited to 100 guests. RSVP Online by March 25, 2022 or call 805-356-1438. Please be sure to include your meal selection and seating preferences when you register. 
Thank you for supporting YOUR Symphony – the music is possible because of you!

Orchestra Notes 

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!

Marley Eder | Flute

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.

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String Auditions :  April 7 – 9

Wind And Brass Auditions : June 2 – 4

contact:  [email protected] or visit our website for more information



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 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. 




Family Ties 

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.


Michele Meyers

Nan Hamilton


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.