Contest-Winner Concerto

Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra April Concert

3 p.m. Sunday, April 6

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church 7650 N. Paseo del Norte

297-7201; www.sasomusic.org

The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra has assembled another top-notch lineup for its April concert, with selections from Tchaikovsky, Liszt and Rimsky-Korsakov. It’s the kind of performances SASO has become known for since 1979. But this month’s concert will feature an extra offering, this one coming from one of Tucson’s best up-and-coming musicians. Rebecca Shiao, a senior at Catalina Foothills High School, will perform Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 during Sunday’s show at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. It’s the same piece she performed recently to win SASO’s fifth annual Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition. “She did it with real confidence and style, and with a very strong sense of the music,” Timothy Secomb, SASO’s competition committee chairman, said of the 17-year-old Shiao. “She did a very persuasive performance.” Shiao’s concerto took top honors at the youth competition, which had about 20 entrants and was held in early March. It was the largest field ever for the event, and shows the growing interest in classical music by Tucson’s younger population, Secomb said. “I think it’s a great opportunity,” said Secomb, SASO’s principal violist, who has been with the organization since 1981. “Several of our past winners have gone on to top music schools.” Shiao’s performance will actually be one of two piano concertos in the April show, joining Russian pianist Mikhail Korzhev’s rendition of Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. “It fits in really well, since we’re doing two other pieces by Russian composers,” Secomb said. “This concert will have a strongly Russian influence.” Tickets for the concert are $20 and can be purchased at the door. Guests 17 and under are admitted free.

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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 first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
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 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.
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