Press Releases

SASO Presents Soul-Stirring Music by Gould, Rachmaninov, Dvořák

Lush, haunting and hummable melodies infuse the next program of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra on Jan. 31 in northwest Tucson, Feb. 5 in Green Valley and Feb. 6 in SaddleBrooke. Three fabulously famous classics by Morton Gould, Sergei Rachmaninov and Antonín Dvořák are woven with Old-World folk tunes, a patriotic Civil War anthem and…

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Music Students Invited to Enter Youth Concerto Competition

TUCSON, AZ – Talented young musicians age 13 to 18 are invited to apply for the 2016 Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition sponsored by the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra. The deadline is Feb. 14. Prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded. In addition, the judges may present one Performance Award – an opportunity…

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SASO performs Mendelssohn, Sibelius and Vaughan Williams

TUCSON, AZ – The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra welcomes three international guest artists Nov. 7 and 8 for concerts featuring the music of Sibelius, Mendelssohn and Vaughan Williams. Bulgarian brothers Ivo and Lachezar Stankov share the spotlight in Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings, written by the child prodigy in his early teens and described…

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SASO Season Opens with Viola Concerto, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6

The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra opens the season with Amanda Harberg’s Viola Concerto, composed for and played by her friend Brett Deubner, a champion of new works for the viola. The Oct. 10 and 11 concerts also feature José Pablo Moncayo’s Huapango and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, known as the “Pathétique.” Deubner has soloed with…

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Phoenix Violinist Wins Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition

Fifteen-year-old violinist Bobae Johnson won the 2015 Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition sponsored by the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the $1,000 cash prize, she was invited to solo with the orchestra on April 10, 11 and 12. Johnson will play the third movement of the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No. 3. She attends…

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SASO presents Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, Dvorak’s Eighth

Tucson music lovers are in for a rare treat on Feb. 20, 21 and 22 when the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra presents Beethoven’s seldom performed Triple Concerto, a dynamic musical conversation among cello, violin and piano soloists. The concerto includes a particularly challenging part for cello solo, played by Zoran Stilin, SASO’s principal cellist. A…

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Music Students: Apply for Youth Concerto Competition

Talented students who love to play music are encouraged to apply for the 2015 Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition by Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. Competitors vie for $1,000, $500 and $250 prizes. Judges also may invite the winner to perform their selection with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra on April 10, 11 and 12. SASO…

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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