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 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 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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Saxophonist returns to Tucson, this time with Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra

The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra is pulling out the stops as it heads into the homestretch of the 2016-17 season. In three performances this weekend, audiences will experience: A veteran and celebrated saxophonist performing a significant work in the limited saxophone solo repertoire. A young pianist who took top honors in the orchestra’s 2017 Dorothy…

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S. Korean violinist returns for SASO gig

Edwin Kim must really like us. The violin virtuoso is making his third appearance with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, this time to tackle Elgar’s magnificently emotional Violin Concerto. Kim will join the orchestra for three performances — at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, at Valley Presbyterian Church, 2800 S. Camino del Sol, Green Valley;…

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SASO’s Story

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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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