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June 29, 2022

Santa Cruz Symphony looks ahead to 2020 with concerts, outreach

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—Last weekend the Santa Cruz Symphony (SCS) brought two powerful performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 to the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and the Henry J. Mello Center in Watsonville.

The concerts marked the Symphony’s mid-season point. Two more are planned: On March 28 and 29, Serge Prokofiev’s “Metamorphoses,” with local dance group Esperanza del Valle, and on May 2 and 3, “Rapture,” a program surrounding Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” cantata, featuring the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus.

“I don’t know a region as small as ours that has such a world-class symphony,” said SCS Marketing Director James de Leon. “You’d have to go to a much bigger [city], like San Francisco or Los Angeles. We are incredibly lucky.”

The symphony, de Leon said, relies on the community for support. Even if they sell out a show at the Civic and the Mello, it only pays for about half of all costs.

“It’s through the community—our sponsors, donation… that we’re able to keep this amazing group playing,” he said.

In addition to its main concerts, SCS will hold its final “Spotlight On the Symphony” recital at the Samper Recital Hall in Aptos on April 19, featuring husband and wife percussionists Kristen Lou and Kumiko Ito. Families are also invited to the Symphony’s free Open Rehearsals (March 27 and April 30): a behind-the-scenes look at the symphony in a laid-back setting.

According to de Leon, Open Rehearsals have been known to spark musical interest in children.

“Kids have come to watch… and then taken up an instrument,” he said. “It is a great way for them to get exposed to music.”

On March 1 is “The Orchestra Sings—Family Concert,” a hands-on event where guests can bring their own instruments and play along with the orchestra, guided by Master of Ceremonies Omar Tau Williams. Similar concerts are also organized for student groups during the year through Carnegie Hall’s LinkUp program. Students are taught songs in class on recorder, then get to play along with the orchestra.

“The first budgets to disappear [from public schools] are always the arts,” de Leon said. “But teachers have told us that when music is included in classrooms, it has a calming effect… it helps with overall education.”

De Leon said that today, the main goal of the Symphony is outreach—bringing in new listeners, especially young ones.

“Historically, symphony-goers are an older demographic,” he said. “We’re trying to change that… To show people this music is for everyone.”

For information and to order tickets visit

Johanna Miller
Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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