San Luis Obispo Symphony’s Newsletter

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MAY 2022


Spring Fundraiser 

On April 6th, 2022 the San Luis Obispo Symphony held a fundraiser in support of the 2022-2023 season at Tolosa Winery. 15 musicians from the orchestra played music by Victor Ewald, Alec Wilder, and Karl Goepfart. The weather was unusually hot that day but, the white wine was cold and the food, provided by Chef’s Table, was delicious.There were over 100 people in attendance and we were able to raise over $50,000 for things such as our “No Ties Allowed” dress rehearsals. The music will continue because of those who showed up and gave their support! Our staff, musicians, and board of directors are forever grateful for our hosts, Tolosa Winert, for everyone who attended this event, and for people like you, who continue to engage with the symphony, and all of the arts in the Central Coast! You help to keep the music going! Bravo!


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!



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


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

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: By Music Director Andrew Sewell 

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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String Auditions :  April 7 – 9

Wind And Brass Auditions : June 2 – 4

contact: or visit our website for more information

The 2021-22 season is sponsored in part by: John and Rebecca Baer, The Foulke Correa Foundation, FPAC Clifton Swanson Community Access to the PAC Fund, Chevron, The Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County, City of San Luis Obispo, California MENTOR, Harold J. Miossi Charitable Trust, Harvey’s Honey Huts, Susan Polk Insurance

Concert Sponsors: Minke WinklerPrins, Jim and Beverly Smith, Kathryn and Brendan McAdams, Melinda and Jim Avila, Mary and Thomas Tanner, Roger and Jan Verity, Jeff and Melodee Brady, Peggy Lance Little, Thomas Miller and Pam Dassenko, Len Jarrott, Monday Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo, and In Loving Memory of Bonnie McIvor

Media Sponsors: KCBX Public Radio, New Times

Symphonic Forays Sponsor: Michael and Ursula Fitzgerald

No-Ties Allowed Sponsor: Ann Shaw and Charles Boccadoro, in Loving Memory of her father John Leo Sigmund