San Luis Obispo Symphony’s Newsletter

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February 2024


Happy Anniversary High Notes!

We are celebrating the 2nd Anniversary of High Notes! Our first issue published via email, and on the Symphony website, February 4th, 2022. The issue highlighted the Youth Symphony, orchestra members Michele Meyers and Nan Hamilton, and Music Director Andrew Sewell’s program notes for the February 5th, 2022 concert.

Also introduced in the inaugural issue was Clif’s Notes by Clifton (Clif) Swanson, a member of the bass section and conductor from 1971 to 1984. You can find a reprise of his first Clif’s Notes if you read on in this issue. We published an article on married orchestra members Tanya and Al Streder in  March 2022. We surprised many members of the orchestra who, after knowing the Streder’s for years, learned many new things about this fun duo. In August of 2022 we welcomed back operations manager Sarah Raines after her brief hiatus. And in April 2022 Clif tickled us with So, What is English About an English Horn? generating a raft of funny comments.

Our goal was to keep you informed on the happenings of the orchestra, music education, the board and staff, symphony events, and ideas we wished to share that struck our fancy. We hope you feel we are meeting those goals. We also want to express our appreciation to many of you who reached out to us in support and made suggestions about what you would like to read and learn.

Regarding suggestions, please keep them coming! We love hearing from you!  And, if you are interested in being a regular or occasional contributor by writing articles (or have comments) please contact Anna Magri-Moore at [email protected]. Thank you for your readership.

Inaugural Clif’s Notes 

February 2022
By Clifton Swanson, Member of the Bass Section, and Conductor from 1971 to 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.”

Host a Musician!

For several years members of our community have hosted musicians, and many have forged deep, long lasting bonds with them. Many of our hosts request to re-host the musician if we contract them again. We have a profound appreciation for our past and present hosts, and we are pleased to continue this tradition of hospitality. As a thank you we offer our hosts two tickets to a Classics concert, and recognition of this in-kind donation. Click below to learn more.

Housing Guidelines

If you’re interested in hosting, click here.

Staff Comings and Goings

Welcome Liz!

Our Executive Director, Rachel Cementina Sabalbaro, is out of the office for a few weeks. We are very lucky to have Liz Summer, who has worked with the symphony for many years, filling in for the interim. Welcome Liz! We’re so happy you’re here!

Happy Trails Tess!

If, in the last two years, you had a question about a concert, or musician sponsorship, or just called the office, you most likely spoke to Tess Duffy. In December Tess resigned her position as Marketing and Communications Manager to take quality care of her two active children Finn 6, and Ada 4, and to “take better care of myself.”

Part of her job was keeping patrons up to date on symphony happenings via social media, and as managing editor and writer for High Notes, and just about anything that needed to be done from planning and working on symphony events, to generating sponsorships, to preparing concert programs. Her title was not all inclusive of her work. Often Tess could be heard to say “I love my job.”

“Music means the world to me. I loved being around such great music, it was so special. I loved my job” said Tess. She misses the people, the concerts, the joy of being part of a creative process. And, she will be missed, but we hope to see her soon at a concert.

Music Education Notes 

Youth Symphony Orchestra Fundraiser

On December 10th, Bob Garrett hosted a fundraiser for the Youth Symphony at his lovely Varian Ranch home. The Mariposa Quartet, with Symphony musician, Music Education Manager and Preparatory Strings Conductor Grace Seng on violin, Symphony musician and Academy Strings Conductor Tanya Streder on violin, Symphony musician Karen Loewi Jones on viola, and retired Symphony musician and Youth Symphony Conductor Nancy Nagano on cello, performed an hour of holiday and classical selections.

Funds generated from the event will support the Youth Symphony trip to Universal Studios Hollywood on February 10th where fifty-three students, ages 12- 18, will perform musical selections from films including Harry Potter, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Jurassic Park on the City Walk Stage. Their performance will also be broadcast live on the park Jumbotron.

Regarding the reason for the trip Grace Seng said, “Besides it being fun, the trip helps these young musicians build community. They have very little time to connect during the busy rehearsals so the trip helps them to deepen relationships, share experiences, and work together on the common goal of a good performance. Sometimes even a difficult experience is important, like last year when it poured rain on them at Disneyland. They still talk about it in a positive way.” The yearly trips also offer them the opportunity to perform for a new audience in an exciting venue.

When asked why fundraising is required to support the trip Grace explained that the transportation alone costs over $3,000, and the entire cost is more than twice that. Several students require scholarships to attend, and fundraising reduces the cost of the trip for all families.

The Youth Symphony rehearses most Monday evenings and will have their next concert on March 18 at the Harold J. Miossi Cultural and Performing Arts Center (CPAC) at Cuesta College. For more information on the Youth Symphony contact Grace at [email protected].



February 4, 2024 Concert Program Notes

Last season, we were introduced to the music of Hollywood composer Patrice Rushen with her Sinfonia. The Grammy nominated artist wrote Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory as a tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King and his “I Have A Dream” speech given at the March on Washington, 60 years ago. The second movement is especially poignant with reflections from his time in a Birmingham jail. The first commercial recording of this work will be released in March by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, under the Albany Records label.

Soviet and Armenian composer, Alexander Arutunian, was well known as a pianist, and is especially for his trumpet concerto in A flat major, composed in 1950. It is a single-movement work divided into seven major sections performed without a break. The concerto reflects Arutunian’s Armenian heritage with its folk-like melodies and rhythmic impetus. Trumpet virtuoso, Andrew Balio returns to San Luis Obispo to perform the Concerto. Having visited in 2021, his performance with Susan Davies was filmed in Harold Miossi Hall as part of our virtual Classics series. He also worked with both Cal Poly and SLO Youth Symphony brass players. We are thrilled to have him return.

Brahms was 40 years old when his Symphony No.1 was first performed. With the legacy of Beethoven weighing heavily on his shoulders, he delayed its publication and performance until after many revisions. With such care, it is no wonder that his four symphonies are part of the standard orchestral repertoire. In the fourth movement, we will be joined by members of the SLO Youth Symphony, playing side by side with their SLO Symphony peers. This is an inspiring learning and mentoring opportunity. The first three movements follow the standard symphonic form, an Allegro Sonata form, a slow second movement, and a grazioso third movement. The finale, begins with a solemn introduction, then modulates to the triumphant key of C major. The famous string theme has often been set to words as a hymn setting.

Coming Up

Classics IV Bartok and Beethoven – Saturday, March 2, 2024 — 7:30 PM

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. 

Sponsored By Melinda and Jim Avila and Susan Minker

Reserve your seats HERE.


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