SASO Presents Pete Fine’s Concerto for Electric Guitar March 10 & 11

TUCSON, AZ – Rare indeed. Mix together electric guitar and a symphony orchestra for a musical experience seldom heard. Tucson composer and guitarist Pete Fine will perform his Concerto No. 2 for Electric Guitar and Orchestra on March 10 and 11 with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra.

This is the first time Tucson audiences will hear this four-movement work, which was composed in 2011. The premier performance was in 2016 by the Symphony Orchestra of Rio Grande do Norte in Natal, Brazil, with Linus Lerner conducting and Fine as the soloist.

He said, “My goal in composing concerti for electric guitar is to create a piece of symphonic music that is challenging and exciting for electric guitar players – yet is melodically and emotionally appealing to traditional classical concertgoers. Guitar is my personal tool but the orchestra is my palette. Music is the very soul of my life. I have been influenced by a long line of great classical masters and I hope my compositions move people to experience all the emotions that make us human.”

Fine was born in New York City and began studying guitar at age 13. He moved to Tucson in 1974. His experience includes performing with ensembles of many different styles of rock and jazz-rock, as well as recording session and orchestra pit work. He’s considered a virtuoso acoustic and electric guitarist. He also is a self-taught composer and orchestrator. SASO previously performed Fine’s Landscapes both in concert and on its Celebration! CD that features the works of Tucson composers.

This concert program features SASO’s favorite soprano Christi Amonson, performing Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and Poulenc’s Gloria with the 45-voice SASO Chorus. The orchestra also will perform with the winner of SASO’s annual Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 and 18. Longtime SASO Music Director Linus Lerner conducts.

According to John Bawden’s program notes, “Poulenc’s very distinctive style expresses a wide range of emotions, from lyrical serenity to unashamed glee. His sense of humor and love of life shine through all his music, however solemn the text might be. One of his friends said of him, ‘There is in him something of the monk and the street urchin.’ The Gloria brilliantly expresses these characteristics, with its captivating mixture of solemnity and mischievous exuberance.”

Poulenc’s wealthy parents intended him for a business career in their family pharmaceutical company, and did not allow him to enroll at a music college. As a result, he was largely self-educated musically. He was a member of a pious Roman Catholic family in the south of France. His mother Jenny Poulenc was from a Parisian family with wide artistic interests. In Poulenc’s view, the two sides of his nature grew out of this background – a deep religious faith from his father’s family and a worldly and artistic side from his mother’s. Gloria was written in 1959, four years before his death.

Barber described his Knoxville: Summer of 1915 as a lyric rhapsody. The lush, evocative music is set to a 1938 prose poem by James Agee. Barber was struck by the uncanny similarity between his and Agee’s childhood – both were five years old in 1915 and were raised in a small town by loving parents and an artistic aunt and uncle. Barber paints an idyllic, nostalgic picture of Agee’s native Knoxville, Tennessee. Throughout the piece, Barber looks to the text for his melodic cues.

Opera News described soprano Christi Amonson’s sound as “liquid silver.” A longtime SASO favorite, she’s soloed with the orchestra frequently and accompanied SASO on its first tour of China. Amonson has won vocal competitions in Philadelphia, New York City and Seattle. In New York she sang with several opera companies and directed choirs for the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Urban Voices Program. Amonson completed her doctorate in voice and theatre at the University of Arizona and now serves on the faculty of Troy University in Alabama.

The performance schedule is:

  • March 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Desert View Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Dr. in SaddleBrooke. Tickets are $24 in advance or $25 at the door. They can be purchased online at or by calling (520) 825-2818.
  • March 11 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte in northwest Tucson. Tickets are $23 and can be purchased at, by calling (520) 308-6226 or at the door. Students age 17 and younger can reserve complimentary tickets.

With SASO you can expect the unexpected. Maestro Lerner challenged himself to not repeat any major work in his first decade of programming for SASO. He has conducted SASO musicians both here and abroad, including two China tours, one tour of his native Brazil and several opera festivals in Mexico – three in Oaxaca and two in San Luis Potosí. Lerner completed a doctor of music degree at the UA.

The SASO season continues with the final concert on April 14 and 15. Tucson Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Lauren Roth joins SASO to perform Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Also on the program are Theofanides’ Rainbow Body and Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances.

Philanthropist and musician Dorothy Dyer Vanek is SASO’s season sponsor for the 11th consecutive year. Vanek also underwrote both of SASO’s CDs – “Celebration!” which features the music of Tucson composers – and the well-reviewed premiere recordings of two viola concertos with soloist Brett Deubner on the Naxos label.

SASO is a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a passion for music. Founded in 1979, this orchestra presents world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and classical favorites. For more information call (520) 308-6226 or visit

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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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.