YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Valley Life | sounds

Two Faces of Domine


For most of the last two decades, James Domine has conducted and served as musical director of the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra. Unknown to most of the ensemble's patrons, Domine has also led a secret life as a rock 'n' roller.

Along with other musicians from the orchestra, Domine, 45, performs in a rock band called the Screaming Clams. Some might ask: Where did this man, who knows the difference between a triad and a major seventh chord, go wrong?

"When I was in junior high, it was very popular to be in a rock band, so I took up the guitar and started a band," Domine said. "I started life as a rock player and I never gave it up."

Domine, a Pasadena native, studied classical piano for several years before he started playing guitar. He later picked up classical violin while on his way to earning music degrees from UCLA and USC, majoring in music theory and composition.

In 1980, he founded what eventually became the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra. It began as an informal group that served largely as a vehicle for its musicians to perform their own compositions. Over the years, Domine has guided the ensemble gradually toward professional status. It performed its first four-concert season in 1986.

The orchestra's repertoire includes original music by Domine and others, plus traditional and contemporary classical fare.

Now, the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra plays a six-concert season at Pierce College.

The Screaming Clams, on the other hand, do occasional weekend gigs at Sneaky Pete's, a bar in Reseda. "Sneaky Pete's is not really a mecca for music," Domine said. "But it's a friendly place."

Other members of the Screaming Clams are San Fernando Valley Symphony concertmaster Nancy Roth on violin, flutist Keiko Okamoto-Comfort, singer-violinist Krystal Vann, drummer Duffy Leahy, bassist Forrest Niles, guitarist Paul Zangri and sax player Geoff Nudell.

The highly trained rock outfit plays mostly originals as well as covers from the psychedelic rock era of the late 1960s, Domine said. "We do a half-hour version of 'Born to Be Wild,' plus 'Purple Haze' and a lot of blues-type stuff," he said.

Domine said he's working on the musical arrangements for the Clams to do a live performance of Side B of the Beatles' "Abbey Road" album. "We haven't unleashed that yet," Domine said. "The hardest thing about doing the Beatles' stuff are the vocals."

The Clams' other musical influences include Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Canned Heat and the Byrds. "The Screaming Clams have a semi-raspy style--we have a lot of fun with it," Domine said. "But it's not the kind of thing you'd hire for a wedding ... unless you're a biker from the 1960s."

Meanwhile, Domine's other band--the San Fernando Valley Symphony--has a gig Saturday night--its annual Halloween concert. The program will feature spooky favorites including Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain."

"This is one of our most eclectic concerts," Domine said. "And the orchestra members get to wear their Halloween costumes. I just hope they don't come as me."


San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra performs its Halloween Concert on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Pierce College, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. $10-$15. (818) 347-4807.

Los Angeles Times Articles