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Our First CD Is Available Now!

SASO "Celebration!" CD

Celebration! is SASO’s new CD, presenting attractive music by Tucson composers Pete Fine, Bruce Stoller, Jay Vosk, Richard White, Brian Goodall and A.F. Schultz. Linus Lerner conducts the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra in pieces that are alternately exciting, soothing, engaging and moving.

This is the only disc where you’ll find such intriguing music as Bruce Stoller’s Open Spaces for yucca shakuhachi flute (played by the composer) and orchestra, and Richard White’s tender For Patte—A Simple Song, written in memory of a beloved longtime SASO musician.

Online, each disc costs $18.50, including shipping and handling. Support SASO and encounter captivating new music by our own composers!

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Welcome to SASO!

Founded in 1979, the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra is a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a passion for music. The orchestra presents world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and classical gems. Our 2014–15 season will open in October with the bluster and mystery of Holst’s The Planets, and the elegance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 featuring …

Sandra Wright ShenSandra Wright Shen

Famed pianist André-Michel Schub has called Sandra Wright Shen “a dazzling pianist with a superb technique and a marvelous tone. She is a very intelligent musician and a thrilling performer. To me, the most wonderful quality in her playing is her unique lyrical gift. … [In Chopin], her poetry and charm [are] even more memorable than her total instrumental mastery. In short, Sandra Wright is a pianist of the first order. She has an important musical and pianistic voice that should be encouraged and heard by the largest audience.”

Sandra Wright Shen received her BM and MM in piano performance from the Peabody Conservatory. She has collaborated in chamber music with Vesselin Parashkevov (concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic) and cellist Nina Kotova, and has worked with the Alban Berg Quartet, Jörg Demus and Grant Johannessen. Sandra has made guest appearances with the Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, Redlands Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Moment Musical, and the Young Artist Chamber Concert Series at the Kennedy Music Center. Solo recital appearances include the Chicago Cultural Center, Steinway Society concerts and solo recital tours throughout the U.S. and Taiwan. Her Steinway concert set a record for attendance. She has also appeared in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing and the Frankfurt Cultural Center in Germany.

Sandra has recorded three CDs, debuting with Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto. She teaches at the Brevard Music Institute, and previously taught at Southern Illinois University. Mixing music and philanthropy, Sandra has raised more than $25,000 by playing benefit concerts for earthquake victims, foster chilren, education and assisted-living patients. An ambassador of classical music, she has taught classical music appreciation to beginning and advanced students young and old, CEOs, children with severe mental disability, and orphans. She was the host of a classical radio program for FM 97.5 in Taiwan.

Linus Lerner, DMA

linusPraised for bringing charismatic and passionate energies to music performances, Linus Lerner has conducted orchestras, operas, choruses and instrumental groups around the world. He’s conducted in Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Spain and the United States.

Lerner is music director of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil. He also serves as clinician and vocal coach here and abroad.

He’s led SASO on two tours of China. He’s also guest conducted the Hunan Symphony Orchestra, Fuzhou Symphony Orchestra, National Film and Radio Orchestra and Qingdao Symphony Orchestra, all in China.

Other engagements include the Orchestra Nacional de Valles in Spain, the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras of Porto Alegre and the Symphony Orchestra of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil, the International Opera Workshop in Bulgaria and Czech Republic, the Solistas Ensamble del Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes and the Primavera Symphony in Mexico.

Previously Lerner served as artistic director of Bayou City Performing Arts in Houston, and associate conductor for Opera in the Ozarks, Tallahassee Youth Symphony Orchestra and the University of Arizona Philharmonic. Lerner’s passion for music transcends cultural boundaries. Throughout his travels, he finds that music truly is the international language.

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Your support helps SASO continue to explore the world of music with our audiences.

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Special Thanks to our 2014-15 Season Sponsor
Dorothy Vanek

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SASO’s Story

The largest event SASO has produced was Berlioz Te Deum, presented at the Tucson Community Center Music Hall with the Tucson Civic Orchestra, Tucson Masterworks Chorale, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Pima College Singers.
SaddleBrooke is home to many of our loyal donors and the place where we’ve held our gala celebrations—first a black-tie dinner with music from "Phantom of the Opera" and later our annual StarStruck Gala evenings from 2008 through 2013.
In December 1995 SASO was the first to present a concert at SaddleBrooke. This was the brainstorm of concertmaster Sam Kreiling. The concert sold out, as did a four-concert series the following year. SASO has performed there ever since.
Early audiences had to be loyal followers of this itinerant orchestra, which performed all over the city, frequently in churches. In the 1980s SASO rented the Temple of Music and Art for a concert. The City of Tucson condemned the building the morning of the dress rehearsal and the concert was canceled.
The most colorful performance was a Halloween concert in Nogales—a ghoulish event where the conductor was a clown and all the musicians were in costume.
The visionary founders of SASO were Barbara and Bill Chinworth, Scott Bracher and Janet Lombard. Barbara has played with SASO through its entire history, originally in the horn section, now on bass.
One spring SASO proved it has animal attraction. When it played at the Reid Park Zoo, some of the critters sang along with the music
Our most famous alumnus is Rico Saccani, associate conductor of SASO our inaugural year and piano soloist for the second concert. He later conducted opera companies and orchestras around the world and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 2005.
The first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
Turkish maestro Orhan Salliel, after guest-conducting SASO in the fall of 2012, wrote to us, "The time in Tucson I shared with you in SASO for me was so special. I felt the real love of music from the bottom of everyone's hearts. It was something I do not feel often—never, ever in the professional world anymore. Please keep it, save it, try to build everything from this power of love for music."
Brazilian-born Linus Lerner, in his first year as music director, challenged the orchestra to learn his native Latin rhythms by playing Villa-Lobos. This proved surprisingly hard to do. We finally got it, but not until the week of the concert.
Adam Boyles was the music director for three seasons, bringing bountiful youthful energy and a passion to serve the music. Then the Tucson native moved East to brave the snow and conduct the orchestra at MIT in Boston.
Alan Schultz became music director in Year 2 and continued leading SASO for 15 seasons. He frequently conducted from the keyboard—organ or harpsichord. He also composed several works premiered by SASO.
Composer, pianist and conductor Warren Cohen served as music director for eight seasons, routinely commuting from his home in Phoenix, but one year all the way from Hawaii. His wife, coloratura Carolyn Whitacre, was a favorite soloist.
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