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. After we take our holiday-season break, we’ll be back with two all-time favorite works …

The “New World” Symphony and luscious Rachmaninov, Jan. 31 and Feb. 5–6

Linus Lerner returns to conduct the orchestra in Dvorák’s “New World” Symphony, in which the great Czech composer tried to teach Americans to write truly American music. That’s paired with one of the richest of all Russian Romantic piano concertos, Rachmaninov’s Second, featuring as soloist SASO’s own Sheryll McManus. The concert kicks off with Morton Gould’s American Salute, based on When Johnny Comes Marching Home. Order your tickets here.

Linus Lerner, artistic director


Linus Lerner shares his trademark energy, charisma and passion for music with the world. He’s charmed artists and audiences alike throughout Mexico, Brazil, Europe, Eastern Europe, Israel, Australia, China and the United States.

This native of Brazil gets around. Along the way he inspires performers to their personal best and thrills audiences with little-known gems of music as well as popular classics. He is fluent in the universal language of music.

SASO audiences welcomed him as music director in 2008. Since then he’s taken orchestra musicians along for the international ride with two tours of China and three trips to rehearse and perform in the Oaxaca Opera Festival, which he co-founded with Maribel Sanchez.

Lerner is equally comfortable conducting musicians and coaching singers. He began his career is an award-winning opera singer. Today he conducts instrumental groups and orchestras, operas and choirs.

He also champions new music by contemporary composers, and SASO has performed many premieres. In 2013, the orchestra SASO released its first professional recording—Celebration!—showcasing the diverse musical range of six Tucson composers.

In 2016 he hopes to take SASO musicians to perform in Natal, Brazil, where he is artistic director of the Symphony Orchestra of Rio Grande do Norte. He’s also artistic director of the Gramado In Concert International Music Festival in Gramado, Brazil.

Through his travels he meets talented artists from many countries and introduces them to SASO audiences.

This well-traveled artist is seemingly tireless and packs light—except for the tuxedo. His motto could well be “Have baton, will travel.”

Earn SASO Donations While You Shop

When you shop through Amazon.com’s Smile portal or buy groceries and other goods with your Fry’s V.I.P. card, those companies will donate a small percentage of your purchase prices to the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra—at no extra cost to you! Learn how.

Order Our CD!

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!

Buy CD

Support Us

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


Special Thanks to our 2015–16 Season Sponsor
Dorothy Vanek


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SASO’s Story

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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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.