SASO hosts brother duo for Mendelssohn concerts this weekend

It’s taken them six years, but Bulgarian-born, UK-based brother act Ivo and Lachezar Stankov are making their encore appearance with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra this weekend. The concert celebrates the American release of the pair’s latest recording, “Mendelssohn,” with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London. SASO Music Director Linus Lerner, who also directs an…

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Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra puts on dancing shoes to open new season

The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 2021-22 season this weekend with its first full-orchestra in-person concert since March 2020. The volunteer ensemble, under the baton of Music Director Linus Lerner, has dubbed its season “Dance for Joy.” It’s a redux of the 2020-21 season that the orchestra had to postpone due to the…

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The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra kicks off the 2021-22 season with a celebration of movement in Verdi, Beethoven and Grieg

The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra opens its season on October 16 and 17 with a selection of works that celebrate the power of music to connect us and make us move. After a year of scaled back ensembles and live-streamed events, the full orchestra returns under the baton of Maestro Linus Lerner.  Internationally renowned concert…

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The 2021 Jim Click Millions for Tucson Raffle

Support SASO by buying a raffle ticket for a 2021 Ford Bronco and other fun prizes! 100% of proceeds go to SASO. Simply purchase a ticket for $25 (or 5 for $100) by clicking the link below. You will be entered into the drawing and your raffle tickets will be mailed to within 5 business…

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Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra to perform in-person concert at Tucson Mall

Nearly two dozen Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra musicians will perform a concert of Baroque music on Sunday, March 7 — the ensemble’s biggest concert since the pandemic began last March. “It’s going to be really nice,” said SASO Music Director Linus Lerner, who said the program celebrates a number of notable anniversaries, including the 300th for Bach’s Brandenburg…

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Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra debuts animated opera in collaboration with the Mexico-based San Luis Opera Festival

Join us for the Watch Party Premier on February 25th @ 7pm on our YouTube channel In recent years, the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra has traveled to Mexico to participate in the San Luis Opera Festival and Linus Lerner International Vocal Competition, in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. The festival normally occurs during the summer and…

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Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra honors Tucson nurses in virtual performance

Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra wanted to honor Tucson nurses on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic with a little music. One problem: The volunteer orchestra couldn’t gather in the same room to perform and its music director, Linus Lerner, was 5,000 miles away. So they did what orchestras worldwide have been doing since the pandemic…

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SASO’s Story

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