SASO Musicians Present Highlights from 2015 Oaxaca Opera Festival

Twenty-five musicians from the Tucson-based Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra returned recently from Oaxaca, Mexico, where they performed in the Oaxaca Opera Festival for the third consecutive year. The full orchestra will perform highlights of the festival on Sept. 15 in a special Mexican Independence Day concert featuring vocalists from the festival and Mariachi Sol Azteca….

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Honored for a Lifetime of Giving: SASO Season Sponsor Dorothy Vanek Receives Legacy Award

For much of her life, Dorothy Vanek has been a giver. Whether supporting the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, True Concord Voices and Orchestra or many other charitable causes, Vanek is always ready to give. Through the years, those gifts have covered hundreds of thousands of dollars, helping the organizations thrive when times…

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Oaxaca Opera Festival in Mexican press

SASO, Linus Lerner and the 2016 Oaxaca Opera Festival are receiving plentiful advance coverage in the Mexican press. If you read Spanish, or if you’re just a monolingual voyeur, follow the links to short pieces from La Onda Oaxaca, Diario Marca, ADN Sureste, B&P Mexico, NSS Oaxaca, El Imparcial, Libertad and Quadratin Oaxaca. And check…

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SASO, Lerner heading back to Oaxaca

Opera is not native to the culturally rich southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, but a Tucson conductor and his orchestra are among those trying to change that. Linus Lerner, conductor and music director of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, will lead more than 100 vocalists from Mexico, the U.S., Italy and Lerner’s native Brazil in…

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2015-16 Season Tickets Now Available

Through May 17, you may purchase early-bird-discount season tickets for SASO’s five 2015-16 concerts at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian for only $80. That’s five concerts for less than the cost of four single tickets! Season ticket prices will increase to $90 after May 17—still a bargain, but you can do better if you order now. We…

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Desert Vista student 1st violinist to win Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition

Desert Vista High School student Bobae Johnson knows a thing or two about winning a competition, but for her it’s not a sport she’s playing — it’s music. She’s won the Arizona ASTA (American String Teachers Association) State Competition junior and senior, the Phoenix Youth Symphony Young Musicians Competition Senior Upper Strings Division, she was…

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SASO’s Story

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."
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.