SASO was the only show in town last weekend

One by one last week, Tucson’s classical music world canceled weekend concerts over fears of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s guest violinist was already in town when the orchestra announced that it was calling off shows last Friday and Sunday. Civic Orchestra of Tucson canceled two performances of its spring concert featuring guest violist…

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Eclectic Orchestra Concert Features Mime, Youth Competition Winner, and World Premiere

Eclectic Orchestra Concert Features Mime, Youth Competition Winner, and World Premiere TUCSON, AZ – The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra presents an eclectic and dazzling concert on March 2nd in SaddleBrooke and March 3rd at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian. SASO’s 4th concert cycle of the season is full of variety, including a unique live performance by Tucson…

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Renowned Conductor and Two Award-Winning Soloists to Join SASO in Concert of Classics

Tucson – In February, the sweeping, evocative music of Mendelssohn and Brahms will fill the music halls at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian and SaddleBrooke. SASO is privileged to welcome three notable guest artists to the stage for this program: celebrated conductor Peter Leonard will take the podium to conduct the orchestra, joined by solo violinist Madeleine…

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SASO Presents Orchestral Gems and Trumpet Showpieces

TUCSON, AZ – On November 17 & 18 the Southern Arizona Symphony presents a program of pieces that combine symphonic power with melodic grace and lyricism in the music of Borodin, Bernstein, Arutiunian, and Jobim.   Award-winning Brazilian trumpeter Flávio Gabriel joins Maestro Linus Lerner and SASO to delight audiences with Arutiunian’s landmark Trumpet Concerto…

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Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra Opens Season with Flare

TUCSON, AZ — The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra performs a riveting program of Mexican and French masterpieces in their season-opening cycle on October 20th and 21st, led by internationally recognized conductor Linus Lerner. Pianist Sandra Shen will join SASO for a second time, performing Saint-Saëns’ popular Piano Concerto No. 2. Shen enjoys a rising international…

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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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.