Meet SASO’s principal players:

Erika Roush


Erika Roush double-majored in music and math as an undergraduate at Illinois Wesleyan University. She played in the Waukegan Symphony Orchestra until moving to Tucson, where she joined SASO in 2002. Through her violin she has had the opportunity to travel to the Czech Republic, Spain, China, Mexico and Brazil. Erika is proud to work with the solar installation company Technicians For Sustainability.

Tim Secomb

Second Violin

Growing up in Australia, Tim Secomb had lessons on the piano and the violin. Then, while studying mathematics and pursuing a scientific career, he played violin in a number of university orchestras in Melbourne, Cambridge (UK) and New York. In 1981, he moved to Tucson and joined SASO. He started playing the viola at that time. Over the years, he has played as principal viola and as principal second violin in SASO, as well as serving the organization as treasurer, president, vice-president and personnel manager at various times. Along with his orchestral playing, he is also an enthusiastic chamber-music player.

Zoran Stilin


Zoran Stilin is a native of Zagreb, Croatia and a prize-winner of the former Yugoslavia National Cello Competition. He was a performing soloist with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, the Radio-Television Orchestra, Music Academy Symphony Orchestra, and Gaudemus Chamber Orchestra. Zoran continued his studies in Switzerland, and later the University of Arizona, where he received a Master of Music under the direction of Gordon Epperson and Peter Rejto. During this time in Arizona is when Zoran first developed his skills as a restorer and maker of fine string instruments. He was a student of the late Karl Roy, German violin maker and one of the world’s leading authorities on violin making. By combining his passion for music and fine instruments, Zoran offers a complete approach to instrument making and repair. His instruments and bows have won top awards at the Violin Makers Association of Arizona International Competition. He is a member of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra; principal cellist of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, with which he has performed as a soloist in previous years; and an active solo and chamber musician.

Christine Harper


Christine Harper has been principal flutist with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra since 1999. Born and raised in La Porte, Indiana, she began her musical studies at age 9 as a pianist, adding flute lessons six months later. She continued to study both flute and piano, earning a double bachelor’s degree in both instruments from Indiana University in Bloomington. While at IU, Christine played in several ensembles and also studied organ for two years. Christine holds a Master of Music degree in f lute performance from the University of Arizona. While at the UA, she was principal flutist with the Arizona Symphony. In addition, she was a performing member of the Camerata Career Development Center in the UA School of Music. Christine has appeared at National Flute Association conventions in Phoenix, San Diego, Kansas City, New York, Las Vegas and New Orleans, both as performer and lecturer. She has performed with the South Bend Symphony, La Porte Symphony, Catalina Chamber Orchestra, Tucson Chamber Artists and Mid-Columbia Symphony. An experienced educator, Christine taught general music, band and beginning orchestra for nine years in the Tucson schools. She received great acclaim and standing ovations for her solo performances with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, playing the Griffes Poem in 2009, the Cimarosa Concerto for Two Flutes in 2007, and the Liebermann Piccolo Concerto in 2005. Christine also performs with the Skyline Flutes and The Christines flute and harp duo, and maintains a private teaching studio.

Sherry Jameson


Sherry Jameson, originally from Zion, Illinois, studied oboe with Robert Mayer. She is principal oboe with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, the Arizona Symphonic Winds and the Dolce Musica Quintet. Sherry has had the pleasure of performing with a number of local ensembles including the Tucson Sing-in Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Tucson, the Sierra Vista Symphony Orchestra, the Wieck Chamber Singers and Orchestra, the Arizona Repertory Singers, the Catalinas Community Chorus, the Southern Arizona Women’s Chorus and the Sons of Orpheus.

Through music, she has had the opportunity to travel to China, Brazil and Mexico.  When not making music, or working at the UA, she enjoys time with her family and friends in beautiful, sunny Tucson.

Lucy Huestis


Lucy Huestis joined SASO as principal clarinet in about 1985. She teaches band and orchestra at Roskruge K-8 and Sam Hughes Elementary, and assists the Tucson High marching band and Roskruge Mariachi. She has played with the Arizona Opera Orchestra, Tucson Symphony, Tucson Pops, Arizona Symphonic Winds, Invisible Theatre, Tucson Repertory Orchestra, and Southern Arizona Light Opera Company. She is married to Richard Noriega, an English teacher at Tucson High and a guitarist. They have two sons: Thomas, who is a student at Tucson High involved in football and orchestra (cello); and James, a student at Dodge Middle School who is a member of the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus.

John Spence


John Spence studied bassoon performance at the Eastman School of Music.

Gregory Helseth


Gregory Helseth began playing Horn in his school band in 1972 and has since played in Orchestras, Bands and Chamber Ensembles across the United States, Mexico, France, Scotland, England, Germany and Brazil. His first jobs were Fourth Horn with the South Dakota Symphony, Sioux Falls, SD, and Second Horn with the Sioux City Symphony, Sioux City, IA. He then joined the Tucson Symphony in 1985 as Third Horn.

In 1989 he left Arizona to play Principal Horn with the Omaha Symphony, Omaha, NE. After 13 seasons, he moved to Allentown, PA, where he played Principal Horn with the legendary Allentown Band, and began his career as a Freelance Hornist. In 2004 he returned to Tucson where he was a stay-at-home dad for two daughters. Mr. Helseth joined the University of Arizona in 2016 for one year as Adjunct Faculty Horn Professor.

He remains busy as Principal Horn with Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra, Lincoln, NE,
and as soloist, clinician, and on-call Hornist in Southern Arizona.

Michael Kiefer


Michael Kiefer began playing the trumpet in school in Tucson. He was a principal trumpet for the Tucson Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Philharmonia Youth Orchestra of Tucson. He graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in instrumental music education and worked as an assistant band director for Tom Leslie and the Palo Verde High School Titan Vanguard. He then attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as the graduate assistant for bands. He received his Master of Music in trumpet performance from UNLV and played trumpet in Las Vegas. He has performed with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Opera and the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra.

Graeme Shaw


Graeme Shaw joined SASO in 2010, shortly after moving to Tucson from the United Kingdom. He started playing the trombone when he was 8 years old as part of his musical training as a chorister at Westminster Abbey. His music training as a singer was under the direction of organist and choir master Simon Preston, and this has been the foundation for the development of his musical abilities throughout his adult life. Graeme has played in numerous orchestras in the UK, including the Suffolk Youth Orchestra, Trianon Music Group, the Hertfordshire Philharmonic and most recently the de Havilland Philharmonic, where he also fulfilled the role of orchestra chairman. Graeme is also the trombone coordinator for and plays regularly with the Tucson Repertory Orchestra.

Mark Nelson


Tubist Mark Nelson joined the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra for the 2017-2018 season but he is no stranger to the orchestra.  He has soloed with the orchestra under music director laureate Warren Cohen and has subbed for years most recently for the final concert of the 2016-2017 season.  He has been the Performing Arts Department Head (music, theater, dance) at Pima Community College since 2000 where he teaches music fundamentals, exploring music, electronic music, conducts the wind ensemble, and teaches studio tuba and euphonium.  Previous appointments include Professor of Music at Millikin University, Associate Professor of Music at the University of Vermont and several years as a public school music instructor.  His doctorate in solo performance is from Arizona State University where he studied with noted tuba pedagogue Daniel Perantoni. During his long career as a music educator, Dr. Nelson has performed recitals, concertos and given master classes in such diverse locations as Australia, Austria, Canada, England, Japan, and across the United States.  Over thirty new works for tuba have been written for him, many on his two critically acclaimed CD recordings New England Reveries and Aboriginal Voices. He served for twenty-six years as the New Materials editor of the International Tuba Euphonium Journal and served for many years as the Vice President of Professional Development and Vice President for Collegiate/Research with the Arizona Music Educators Association.  Previous symphony appointments include nine years as Principal Tuba with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and regular appearances with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Tucson Pops Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Illinois Symphony and the Tempe Symphony Orchestra.

Carola Murphy


Dr. Carola Murphy started playing classical music at age 5 when she entered the National Conservatory of Music in Lima, Peru. She studied classical piano for 15 years at the conservatory, along with many other instruments. Carola moved to the US when she was 20 to attend college, continuing to play in rock bands around Pennsylvania. She also learned to play Brazilian percussion in Bahia with the groups Olodum, Timbalanda and Ile Aiye. After moving to Tucson, she played Brazilian percussion and music with groups like Sambalanco. Linus Lerner heard her direct Sambalanco and invited her to play with SASO. She is constantly learning more and more about classical percussion and enjoys very much her time playing with SASO. She is a professor of foreign languages at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus.

Melissa Varga


Melissa Varga began playing harp at the age of 10. She came to Tucson to study music with Dr. Carrol McLaughlin and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in harp performance at the University of Arizona. While at the university, she performed locally and internationally with HarpFusion, touring to Belgium, Holland, Liechtenstein, Brazil and China. Melissa is a full-time mom and part-time musician. She loves to perform at weddings, parties, with orchestra, at church, and for The Nutcracker.

SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.