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Jean Oelrich
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joelrich@pacificsymphony.org

Santa Ana Strings wraps up its first year with a final performance featuring Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutiérrez at Pacific Symphony's Plazacast, June 8

June 03, 2013

Inspirational fourth- and fifth-grade violinists from Santa Ana Strings (SAS)—a new program launched last summer as a three-way partnership between Pacific Symphony, Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) and THINK Together—show off all they’ve learned this past year during a final public performance at Pacific Symphony’s “Inside and Out” Plazacast and Community Celebration. Since its inception, the strings program has grown from 150 students to nearly 250 aspiring musicians, and is generously supported by a Getty Education and Community Investment Grant from the League of American Orchestras and Newport Beach arts philanthropists Mary and Phil Lyons. SAS is designed to foster creativity, discipline, perseverance and self-esteem, as well as develop teamwork skills, while strengthening school music programs and building parental support for them. For the third performance this year (SAS also performed at Dia del Nino in Santa Ana and after the Symphony’s Family Musical Mornings concert, “Under the Sea”), the children’s ensemble performs short works alongside Symphony musician coaches, plus an exciting modified version of the theme from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” led by special guest, Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutiérrez.

Taking place Saturday, June 8, on the arts plaza of Segerstrom Center for the Arts, this free event starts at 5 p.m., with SAS performing at 6:45 p.m. and the Symphony’s concert, “Rite of Spring Turns 100” beginning at 8 p.m. A dress rehearsal with Gutiérrez takes place June 6 at Carr Intermediate from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

“After the Family Musical Mornings concert ‘Under the Sea,’ where the Santa Ana Strings students saw me conduct as ‘Captain Alejandro,’ I came to talk to them and give them some motivation,” says Gutiérrez. “I just love to see their eyes and their reaction to me. Speaking to them in Spanish and English, they were so inspired to see someone with Hispanic roots serving as a conductor. It gives them great hope that they have the same possibilities to succeed. I am greatly looking forward to conducting and rehearsing with them.”

The strings program began as a pilot last summer with Santa Ana students from Diamond, Harvey and King elementary schools participating in a five-week program of intensive summer instruction on the violin, concluding with a performance at the Orange County Great Park. Since starting back up in February as part of THINK Together’s after-school academic support program, children have two lessons a week after school with a SAUSD music specialist. On Saturdays, the students from all three sites come together at Carr Intermediate for group rehearsals featuring a lead teacher from SAUSD and 10 Symphony musician coaches. They also participate in small-group sectionals led by Symphony musicians. Over the course of 11 Saturdays plus concerts and the final dress rehearsal, Symphony musicians spend nearly 40 hours total with the young musicians providing instruction in technique and performance etiquette.

In addition to providing music coaches and performance opportunities, the Symphony has donated 175 violins to SAS students who are not enrolled in SAUSD’s school-day violin program. The Symphony also provides further educational opportunities by inviting students and their families to attend the Family Musical Mornings series at no cost as part of Heartstrings.

With the end of the season drawing near, the students express their gratitude and keep their eyes looking to a future involved in the arts: “Thank you for the violins and for teaching us how to play the violin. I always dreamed of playing the violin,” said Josephine from Harvey Elementary. “You guys really inspire me on encouraging my dream of being a professional cello and violin player. I hope one day I can be on stage with you guys.”

“Thank you for letting us play our violin at SAS. You have helped us become stars. I am really thankful for everything!!” said Kimberly from Harvey Elementary.

“The teachers taught me how to play songs and sing to the notes. I am now a musician!” said Litzy from King Elementary.