Musicians

Meet SASO’s first-chair players, among them an engineer, a pilot, college professors—and professional musicians!


Erika Roush

Co-Concertmaster

Erika Roush double-majored in music and math as an undergraduate at Illinois Wesleyan University. She played in the Waukegan Symphony Orchestra until moving to Tucson, where she joined SASO in 2002. Through her violin she has had the opportunity to travel to the Czech Republic, Spain, China and Mexico. Erika is proud to work with the solar installation company Technicians For Sustainability.


Jessamyn Schertz

Co-Concertmaster

Jessamyn Schertz started playing violin at the age of 4. She studied with Mimi Zweig and participated in the Indiana University String Academy through high school. She then moved to Northfield, Minnesota for college, where she was concertmaster of the Carleton College Orchestra. She seeks out community orchestras and chamber music opportunities wherever she goes, and has played with l’Orchestre La Folia de Lille while living in France, and the Nijmegen Symphony Orchestra in the Netherlands. She is very happy to have found a welcoming musical home with SASO as she completes her doctoral studies in linguistics at the University of Arizona.


Allen Tollin

Second Violin

Allen Tollin has been an active participant in the Tucson music scene for most of the last few decades. During that time he has played in most of the major ensembles in the area, including the Tucson Symphony, Arizona Opera and Tucson Pops orchestras. Though most of his college studies were in various technical fields (math and computer science), he did manage to sneak in some music training at Indiana University and the University of Arizona while completing his degree.


Tim Secomb

Viola

Growing up in Australia, Tim Secomb had lessons on the piano and the violin. Then, while studying mathematics and pursuing a scientific career, he played violin in a number of university orchestras in Melbourne, Cambridge (UK) and New York. In 1981, he moved to Tucson and joined SASO. He started playing the viola at that time. Over the years, he has played as principal viola and as principal second violin in SASO, as well as serving the organization as treasurer, president, vice-president and personnel manager at various times. Along with his orchestral playing, he is also an enthusiastic chamber-music player.


Zoran Stilin

Cello

Zoran Stilin is a native of Zagreb, Croatia and a prize-winner of the former Yugoslavia National Cello Competition. He was a performing soloist with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, the Radio-Television Orchestra, Music Academy Symphony Orchestra, and Gaudemus Chamber Orchestra. Zoran continued his studies in Switzerland, and later the University of Arizona, where he received a Master of Music under the direction of Gordon Epperson and Peter Rejto. During this time in Arizona is when Zoran first developed his skills as a restorer and maker of fine string instruments. He was a student of the late Karl Roy, German violin maker and one of the world’s leading authorities on violin making. By combining his passion for music and fine instruments, Zoran offers a complete approach to instrument making and repair. His instruments and bows have won top awards at the Violin Makers Association of Arizona International Competition. He is a member of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra; principal cellist of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, with which he has performed as a soloist in previous years; and an active solo and chamber musician. In this concert, he will be performing on his latest-made cello.


John Q. Harris

Bass

John Q. Harris started his music career in Iowa. He was assistant principal bass in the Sioux City Symphony for three years, and later performed in the Des Moines Symphony as a section player. He served as principal bass for the Tucson Symphony for several years, and from its inception through the 1980s was principal bass with Arizona Opera, later becoming principal bass with the Catalina Chamber Orchestra. John has been with SASO for several years and thoroughly enjoys the orchestra. He has been a family physician in practice in Tucson since 1969, and is still active. His family includes his wife, Patricia (principal harpist with the TSO); two sons—one an Air Force surgeon and the other a former Army armor captain now with Chevron—a yellow Lab named Winston and a horse named Leo.


Christine Harper

Flute

Christine Harper has been principal flutist with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra since 1999. Born and raised in La Porte, Indiana, she began her musical studies at age 9 as a pianist, adding flute lessons six months later. She continued to study both flute and piano, earning a double bachelor’s degree in both instruments from Indiana University in Bloomington. While at IU, Christine played in several ensembles and also studied organ for two years. Christine holds a Master of Music degree in f lute performance from the University of Arizona. While at the UA, she was principal flutist with the Arizona Symphony. In addition, she was a performing member of the Camerata Career Development Center in the UA School of Music. Christine has appeared at National Flute Association conventions in Phoenix, San Diego, Kansas City, New York, Las Vegas and New Orleans, both as performer and lecturer. She has performed with the South Bend Symphony, La Porte Symphony, Catalina Chamber Orchestra, Tucson Chamber Artists and Mid-Columbia Symphony. An experienced educator, Christine taught general music, band and beginning orchestra for nine years in the Tucson schools. She received great acclaim and standing ovations for her solo performances with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, playing the Griffes Poem in 2009, the Cimarosa Concerto for Two Flutes in 2007, and the Liebermann Piccolo Concerto in 2005. Christine also performs with the Skyline Flutes and The Christines flute and harp duo, and maintains a private teaching studio.


Sherry Jameson

Oboe

Sherry Jameson studied oboe with Robert Mayer. She has been with SASO since 1999. She is also a member of the Arizona Symphonic Winds and the Dolce Musica Quintet.


Lucy Huestis

Clarinet

Lucy Huestis joined SASO as principal clarinet in about 1985. She teaches band and orchestra at Roskruge K-8 and Sam Hughes Elementary, and assists the Tucson High marching band and Roskruge Mariachi. She has played with the Arizona Opera Orchestra, Tucson Symphony, Tucson Pops, Arizona Symphonic Winds, Invisible Theatre, Tucson Repertory Orchestra, and Southern Arizona Light Opera Company. She is married to Richard Noriega, an English teacher at Tucson High and a guitarist. They have two sons: Thomas, who is a student at Tucson High involved in football and orchestra (cello); and James, a student at Dodge Middle School who is a member of the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus.


Joe DeRaad

Bassoon

Joe DeRaad has a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Minnesota with a major in bassoon. He played bassoon, saxophone and clarinet professionally in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area during his early years. He is also a former high school band director. Joe worked for almost 35 years in the music business in Southern California, including retail, wholesale, import and export of musical instruments and accessories.


Gregory Helseth

Horn

Gregory Helseth began playing horn in his school band in 1972 and has since played in orchestras, bands and chamber ensembles across the United States, Mexico, France, Scotland, England and Germany. His first jobs were fourth horn with the South Dakota Symphony in Sioux Falls, and second horn with the Sioux City (Iowa) Symphony. He then joined the Tucson Symphony in 1985 as third horn. In 1989 he left Arizona to play principal horn with the Omaha Symphony in Omaha, Nebraska. After 13 seasons, he and his wife, Lynn, moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he played principal horn with the legendary Allentown Band, and began his career as a freelance hornist. In 2004 he and his wife returned to Tucson, where he is the happy stay-at-home dad for two girls. Gregory remains busy as principal horn with the Lincoln, Nebraska Symphony Orchestra; principal horn of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra; and as soloist, clinician and on-call hornist in Southern Arizona.


Michael Kiefer

Trumpet

Michael Kiefer began playing the trumpet in school in Tucson. He was a principal trumpet for the Tucson Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Philharmonia Youth Orchestra of Tucson. He graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in instrumental music education and worked as an assistant band director for Tom Leslie and the Palo Verde High School Titan Vanguard. He then attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as the graduate assistant for bands. He received his Master of Music in trumpet performance from UNLV and played trumpet in Las Vegas. He has performed with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Opera and the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra.


Graeme Shaw

Trombone

Graeme Shaw joined SASO in 2010, shortly after moving to Tucson from the United Kingdom. He started playing the trombone when he was 8 years old as part of his musical training as a chorister at Westminster Abbey. His music training as a singer was under the direction of organist and choir master Simon Preston, and this has been the foundation for the development of his musical abilities throughout his adult life. Graeme has played in numerous orchestras in the UK, including the Suffolk Youth Orchestra, Trianon Music Group, the Hertfordshire Philharmonic and most recently the de Havilland Philharmonic, where he also fulfilled the role of orchestra chairman.


Tim Welch

Tuba

Tim Welch hails from Eldorado, Arkansas and rejoined the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra as principal tuba player after many years away. Tim has played the tuba since age 13 and performed with numerous orchestras and concert bands around the country. When not playing music, he is usually found flying the Friendly Skies as a 777 pilot for United Airlines.


H.J. "Punch" Howarth

Timpani

H.J. “Punch” Howarth, principal timpani, was a student of Bill Schneiderman of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Alfred “Doc” Friese of the New York Philharmonic, and Saul Goodman of the New York Philharmonic, all principal timpanists. He performed in the Chautauqua Youth Symphony, Germantown Symphony, the Philadelphia Symphony Club sight-reading orchestras, and the Youngstown, Ohio Symphony for eight years, all as principal. He was an instructor at the U.S. Army Music School for two years. He graduated from Geneva Collage with a B.S. and the University of Pittsburgh with an M.Ed., and did graduate work in music at Duquesne University. Punch was founder and director of the Beaver Symphonic Wind Ensemble for 10 years. He has been in SASO for an enjoyable 20 years, watching it grow.


Carola Murphy

Percussion

Dr. Carola Murphy started playing classical music at age 5 when she entered the National Conservatory of Music in Lima, Peru. She studied classical piano for 15 years at the conservatory, along with many other instruments. Carola moved to the US when she was 20 to attend college, continuing to play in rock bands around Pennsylvania. She also learned to play Brazilian percussion in Bahia with the groups Olodum, Timbalanda and Ile Aiye. After moving to Tucson, she played Brazilian percussion and music with groups like Sambalanco. Linus Lerner heard her direct Sambalanco and invited her to play with SASO. She is constantly learning more and more about classical percussion and enjoys very much her time playing with SASO. She is a professor of foreign languages at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus.


Melissa Varga

Harp

Melissa Varga began playing harp at the age of 10. She came to Tucson to study music with Dr. Carrol McLaughlin and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in harp performance at the University of Arizona. While at the university, she performed locally and internationally with HarpFusion, touring to Belgium, Holland, Liechtenstein, Brazil and China. Melissa is a full-time mom and part-time musician. She loves to perform at weddings, parties, with orchestra, at church, and for The Nutcracker.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Top