Segerstrom Concert Hall. Despite a small hustle-bustle within the glass walls as last-minute preparations are made, all is calm compared to the havoc that is about to ensue. Manning his post in front of the hall, volunteer Joe Svehla stands looking down Town Center Drive for a line of yellow school buses that signals the start of a long but fulfilling day. Not too much time passes before he hears the murmurs of voices off in the distance. With an energy building that matches that of the growing noise, an infectious smile spreads across his face as he sees the first bus turn down the street. “Here we go,” he says into the radio, signaling all staff and volunteers to brace themselves.
As the bus’s brakes screech to a stop in front of the hall and the doors fly open amplifying the excited chatter that was once a distant murmur, Joe hops up the steps to a bus filled with excited children dressed in their best—which for some is a once in a lifetime experience—to hear Pacific Symphony perform live.
Having color coded the buses in an attempt to organize the 2,000 children soon to fill the hall, Joe shouts, “What color is this bus?” and turns his head to hear an uproar of “Green!” shouted back in unison from rows of smiling elementary school children. He then continues to welcome the children and their teachers to Pacific Symphony and helps them file off the bus. Repeating this process with multiple busses, each full of wide-eyed and excited children, Joe greets over 4,000 children a day for three days of Youth Concerts, helping to corral them into the hall. But he’s not done yet. After each concert, he helps load them back on the buses with hopes that they enjoyed their experience and the music—giving them a final impression of the Symphony and an experience they will remember for years to come.
Trusted to give the Symphony’s first and final impressions, Joe strives to—and without fail—always positively represents Pacific Symphony. Mastering one of the more daunting jobs of bus-jumping for the Youth Concerts for the past three years, Joe has made his mark with the Symphony—he has become more than a subscriber and a donor—he is an essential part of education’s operations.
First hearing of volunteer opportunities through his membership in the Pacific Symphony League, Joe has found even more fulfillment through volunteering for the Symphony, an organization that in his words “surpasses one of its purposes of entertaining the community with giving back and education.” Manning the buses of Youth Concerts in addition to helping with other events and community outreach, Joe has built personal relationships with the Symphony staff, volunteers, musicians and conductors. “Having built these relationships, I feel so much more connected to the Symphony,” he says. “I love being able to interact with the kids that come and get to benefit from all of the Symphony’s programs and feel that by volunteering, I am getting paid back for my monetary donation with invaluable memories and friendships.”
Joe received the “Hat’s Off” award at the Symphony’s annual meeting in 2012, and has been a member of the Pacific Symphony League for the past several years.
Rock O. Kendall
During the 1980s, when my two sons were growing up, they both played piano and violin and I frequently shuttled them and other young musicians to various competitions, auditions, rehearsals and, of course, performances. I was always curious about the goings-on behind the closed doors of the auditions. I credit their academic achievement to a large extent to their study of music. Today both are MDs, educated at USC's Keck School of Medicine.
More recently, I was happy to help out with auditions for Pacific Symphony Youth Ensemble at UCI's Music Complex. It was great fun to assist the bass players as an audition room facilitator. I not only opened the two pairs of double doors onto the audition stage, but I also introduced each musician to the three adjudicators and then waited in the wings until the selected pieces were performed. Then I would return the performer to the rehearsal room, and bring on a new performer in about four minutes, allowing the judges time to complete their difficult work. I never thought my eyes would go moist from any of this, but I was most surprised when one young bass player was just that good.
For more information on how to volunteer with Pacific Symphony, contact Lisa Harden at (714) 876-2364 or by email.