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A Symphony With a Youth Movement

Orchestra's 25th Anniversary Festival Puts Kids Choruses -- and the Future -- Up Front

June 06, 2004|Arlene Martinez | Times Staff Writer

Aggressively planning the future as it recognizes the past, the Pacific Symphony will hold a 25th anniversary festival next week at the Orange County Fairgrounds that will end with hundreds of schoolchildren joining the orchestra onstage.

Dubbed a "Celebration of Music," the June 13 event will include a chorus of 600 children, along with the 120 voices of the All-County High School Honors Chorus and the All-American Boys Chorus. Also joining the Orange County orchestra will be a professional adult chorus, the John Alexander Singers.

Pacific Symphony officials say the participation of children represents their campaign to educate and develop future audiences as it prepares for its 2006 move into a new venue, the Orange County Performing Arts Center's Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

"We want to be seen as an organization that brings together the geographic and ethnic diversity of Orange County," said John Forsyte, president of the Pacific Symphony.

"We see this as an opportunity to build excitement and build audiences as we prepare for the hall."

The festival begins at 4 p.m., when local bands, chamber groups and soloists -- in addition to the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra -- will perform on three stages at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.

Event-goers can wander the fairgrounds to meet the musicians, take an instrument lesson, picnic or get their faces painted.

The main event will begin at 7:30 p.m.: a concert by the Pacific Symphony and more than 1,000 singers at the Pacific Amphitheater. The concert will culminate with the world premiere of "On Music's Wings," a 32-minute, six-movement work commissioned by the orchestra for the festival.

It's the first time that composer Peter Boyer -- best known for "Ellis Island: The Dream of America" -- has composed for children.

While many American orchestras have struggled in recent years, the Pacific Symphony has grown, adding about a dozen concerts this season for a total of nearly 100.

The orchestra has recorded budget surpluses for 12 straight years. The budget for this season was $13.5 million, up from $7.5 million five years earlier.

Though Performing Arts Center officials have struggled to keep up with fundraising goals for the new concert hall, the orchestra itself received nearly $5 million in contributions last fiscal year, a 19% increase over the previous year.

It expects to receive a little more this fiscal year, which concludes June 30, said spokesman Christopher Trela. Ticket sales rose 6%, to $4,951,508, for the same period.

Last fall, the orchestra launched "Symphony in the Cities," a series of free performances in parks throughout the county. The symphony also has 20 youth and adult programs.

These include the Chinese-American League Showcase for Young Musicians and the Frieda Belifante Class Act, which, among other things, brings music lessons to the classroom.

Pacific Symphony sets aside $1.2 million of its budget -- including nearly $100,000 in state and federal funds -- for such programs, which rely heavily on volunteers.

All are part of an effort to develop future audiences and make up for cuts in music education programs in the public schools.

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