Community Outreach

SASO musicians participate in the Musical Gold in the Morning program. Photo by Explorer News

SASO musicians participate in the Musical Gold in the Morning program. Photo by Explorer News

SASO participates in the Musical Gold in the Morning music-appreciation programs presented by the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, serving 1,200 unduplicated school children. It introduces students from kindergarten to fifth grade to the works of composers that range from Bach to Copland. An approximately five-minute part of a piece is played through the school’s sound system at the beginning of each day, followed by a script that provides background information on the music. The same excerpt is replayed for the remainder of the week, allowing students to become more familiar with it.

SASO’s participation consists of presenting live performances of some of the pieces that were played to the students each day over the sound system. Each 30-minute program is performed four or five times (twice at one of the schools) and presents several musical excerpts. For each program, one of the presenters (Tim Secomb) acts as narrator, introducing the pieces and discussing the composers and the compositions at a level that is accessible and understandable to elementary school students.

The students respond enthusiastically and attentively. The chance to see and hear the music performed live clearly makes a big impression on many of them. Students at Prince, Maldonado and Banks schools are predominantly Hispanic, representing an audience that is underserved by classical music performances.

SASO members are also available for other musical learning programs for adults or children, such as An Introduction to the String Quartet. To arrange a presentation, call 308-6226.

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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.