First SASO CD Is Celebration of Tucson Composers

TUCSON, AZ – The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra has released its first CD—Celebration!—showcasing the diverse musical range of six Tucson composers.

The eight selections are:

  • Landscapes by Pete Fine, inspired by travels through Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Open Spaces by Bruce Stoller, featuring the composer as soloist on yucca and agave flutes he crafts by hand
  • Running the Rim by Jay Vosk, depicting a New Yorker’s first impressions of the Grand Canyon
  • For Patte—A Simple Song by Richard White, dedicated to “a singularly remarkable woman”
  • Celebration! by Richard White, composed specifically for SASO and dedicated to its longtime benefactor, Dorothy Vanek
  • Walk Without Fear by Brian Goodall, commissioned following the tragic shootings in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011
  • If Life Were As It Seems, also composed by White, is an aria from his opera Rappaccini’s Daughter, based on a short story by Nathanial Hawthorne
  • Sinfonietta for Strings by A. F. Shultz, called “Baroque-like music for the 21st century” by SASO Music Director Linus Lerner.

“This is the only disc where you’ll find such appealing and intriguing music. You’ll find this music to be alternately exciting, soothing, engaging and moving,” Lerner said. “This is a professional-level recording and I’m immensely proud of our SASO musicians.”

This recording project was funded by longtime SASO supporter Dorothy Vanek.

Four of the featured composers studied in New York before relocating to Tucson. That includes Fine, a progressive rock guitarist who stumbled upon Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony and was overwhelmed by that introduction to classical music. He began borrowing music scores from the Lincoln Center library in New York and taught himself composition and orchestration.

Stoller studied at the Manhattan School of Music. He plays piano and flute, including flutes from various cultures. After he moved to Bisbee and explored the surrounding Mule Mountains, he found the inspiration to use dried agave and yucca blooms to make five-holed flutes.

Vosk studied composition at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. His orchestra, band, chamber and choral music has been performed in the U.S., Europe and Asia. His musical style is strongly influenced by Leonard Bernstein.

White attended the Mannes College of Music in New York City where he majored in composition, then worked for nine years with American composer Elie Siegmeister. White taught piano privately in New York, then Tucson. He also conducts and plays classical guitar, violin and viola. He performs with SASO in the viola section.

Schultz also has strong ties to SASO, serving as music director for 15 seasons, from 1980 to 1995. The orchestra premiered many of his works, including concertos and symphonies. Schultz is an organist, harpsichordist, music scholar and poet, and taught English and literature before retiring.

Goodall has written various types of musical composition for nearly 20 years including works for full orchestra, string ensembles and chorus. Recently he’s composed almost exclusively for concert and film. His music is infused with a sense of hope and resolve.

Excerpts from SASO’s inaugural CD were played during intermission at the orchestra’s three-concert season finale that featured Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and sold extremely well, according to James Reel, SASO’s general manager.

The 75-minute CD is on sale now at for $18.50 including shipping.

SASO rehearsed and performed these compositions throughout the 2012–13 season, then recorded them during the 2013–14 season, adding White’s song composed for Patte Lazarus, SASO musician and graphic artist who died in October of 2013 at the age of 47.

The CD was recorded in Catalina Foothills High School Auditorium. Producers are maestro Lerner and Gary Ray of Gary Ray Media. Soprano Christie Amonson is the soloist for White’s aria.

The composers shared these insights about the music:

  • Fine on Landscapes: “The majestic views of the Rocky Mountains—the beautiful streams and waterfalls, the drives and views at 14,000 feet elevation and the wonderful wildlife—were all very inspiring.”
  • Stoller on Open Spaces: “This is an elemental expression of my rootedness and adaptation in the desert—an homage to Bisbee and enduring relationships. It is definitely a Sonoran Desert work.”
  • Vosk on Running the Rim: “There is a bright intensity one experiences when first viewing the Grand Canyon. I also view this work through the eyes of a native New Yorker, which might explain its energy and jazzy quality.”
  • White on Celebration!: “This is scored for large orchestra—with extra woodwinds, a full contingent of brass, six percussionists, piano and harp. It bespeaks my joy in orchestra sounds.”
  • Goodall on Walk Without Fear: “This is a string ensemble piece commissioned for those most closely affected by the tragic shooting in Tucson, where six died and 13 were injured. My work carries with it a sense of hope and resolve.”
  • Schultz on Sinfonietta for Strings: “This commissioned work is written in a neoclassical manner. The forms incorporated into the various movements are from bygone era, but are represented with a modern voice.”

Lerner has conducted orchestras, operas, choruses and instrumental groups in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and China. SASO has toured China twice under his baton. In the summer of 2013 he directed the inaugural Oaxaca Opera Festival in Mexico, coaching singers from Mexico and conducing SASO musicians. Plans are to return in August of 2014. Lerner also is music director of the Symphony Orchestra Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil.

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

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SASO’s Story

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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.