San Luis Obispo Symphony’s Newsletter

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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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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

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