SASO Welcomes Tuba, Violin and Harp Soloists Plus Tucson Junior Strings

TUCSON, AZ – Expect the unexpected at the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra’s April concerts. SASO welcomes tuba, violin and harp soloists plus the talented young players of Tucson Junior Strings. Eight composers are featured.

The guest artists are:

  • Lauren Roth, concertmaster of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, playing Henryk Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2.
  • Mark Nelson, a world-traveled performer and teacher at Pima Community College, soloing on the tuba in Adriana Isabel Figueroa Mana’s Tango Images III with the SASO strings.
  • Claire Thai, an 18-year-old harpist who won SASO’s Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition, playing one movement from Alberto Ginastera’s Harp Concerto Opus 25.
  • Tucson Junior Strings, performing the third movement of Pietr Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence on their own, then joining SASO musicians for Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.

The eclectic program also features Christopher Theofanidis’ Rainbow Body, Amanda Harberg’s Solis and Ginastera’s Estancia. SASO Music Director Linus Lerner compiled this rare combination of composers and soloists. He challenged himself to not repeat any major work in his first decade of programing for SASO and he’s accomplished that goal.

The performance schedule is:

  • April 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Desert View Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Dr. in SaddleBrooke. Tickets are $24 in advance or $25 at the door. They can be purchased online at or by calling (520) 825-2818.
  • April 15 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte in northwest Tucson. Tickets are $23 and can be purchased at, by calling (520) 308-6226 or at the door. Students age 17 and younger can reserve complimentary tickets.

Here’s more about the guest artists:

  • Violinist Roth is not only TSO concertmaster but also assistant professor of violin at the Fred Fox School of Music at the University of Arizona. The native of Seattle received a master’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2013. That year she also attended the Tanglewood Music Center and received the Jules C. Reiner Violin Prize. She earned two bachelor’s degrees at the University of Washington – one in violin performance and the other in Italian studies.
  • Tubist Nelson has performed internationally for many years. He has been at Pima Community College since 2000 where he heads the performing arts department, teaches a variety of courses, directs the PCC Wind Ensemble and maintains the Electronic Music Laboratory. He is considered a pioneer in the development of new solo literature for the tuba. He has commissioned and premiered more than 30 new works. No stranger to SASO, this season he serves as principal tubist.
  • Harpist Thai is both an award-winning musician and scientist. In 2017 she took first place in the International Portuguese Harp Competition and performed a solo recital in Hong Kong for the World Harp Congress, an honor given only to top performers around the globe. She’s competed twice in the International Science and Engineering Fair and received a Governor’s Award for Innovation from the Arizona Technology Council for her discoveries in chemistry and environmental engineering.
  • Tucson Junior Strings is an orchestra training program for young string players ranging from those who have played a minimum of one year through seniors in high school. Dennis R. Bourret has directed the program since 1970. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance at Colorado University and a bachelor’s in music education from Denver University. He has been principal violinist and violist of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Opera and Tucson Pops Orchestra.

Maestro Lerner has conducted SASO musicians both here and abroad, including two China tours, one tour of his native Brazil and several opera festivals in Mexico – three in Oaxaca and two in San Luis Potosí. Lerner completed a doctor of music degree at the UA.

Philanthropist and musician Dorothy Dyer Vanek is SASO’s season sponsor for the 11th consecutive year. Vanek also underwrote both of SASO’s CDs – “Celebration!” which features the music of Tucson composers – and the well-reviewed premiere recordings of two viola concertos with soloist Brett Deubner on the Naxos label.

SASO is a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a passion for music. Founded in 1979, this orchestra presents world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and classical favorites. For more information call (520) 308-6226 or visit

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SASO’s Story

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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.