Pacific Symphony, which marks its 36th season in 2014-15, is led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, who celebrates his milestone 25th anniversary season with the orchestra. The largest orchestra formed in the U.S. in the last 40 years, the Symphony is recognized as an outstanding ensemble making strides on both the national and international scene, as well as in its own community of Orange County. Presenting more than 100 concerts a year and a rich array of education and community programs, the Symphony reaches more than 275,000 residents—from school children to senior citizens.
The Symphony offers repertoire ranging from the great orchestral masterworks to music from today’s most prominent composers, highlighted by the annual American Composers Festival and a series of multimedia concerts called “Music Unwound.” Three seasons ago, the Symphony launched the highly successful opera and vocal initiative, “Symphonic Voices.” It also offers a popular Pops season, enhanced by state-of-the-art video and sound, led by Principal Pops Conductor Richard Kaufman, who celebrates 24 years with the orchestra in 2014-15. Each Symphony season also includes Café Ludwig, a chamber music series, and Sunday Casual Connections, an orchestral matinee series offering rich explorations of selected works led by St.Clair. Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutiérrez began serving in 2012-13 as music director of Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra and also leads Family and Youth Concerts.
Founded in 1978 as a collaboration between California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), and North Orange County community leaders led by Marcy Mulville, the Symphony performed its first concerts at Fullerton’s Plummer Auditorium as the Pacific Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of then-CSUF orchestra conductor Keith Clark. Two seasons later, the Symphony expanded its size and changed its name to Pacific Symphony Orchestra. Then in 1981-82, the orchestra moved to Knott’s Berry Farm for one year. The subsequent four seasons, led by Clark, took place at Santa Ana High School auditorium where the Symphony also made its first six acclaimed recordings. In September 1986, the Symphony moved to the new Orange County Performing Arts Center, where Clark served as music director until 1990 and since 1987, the orchestra has additionally presented a summer outdoor series at Irvine’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. In 2006-07, the Symphony moved into the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, with striking architecture by Cesar Pelli and acoustics by Russell Johnson—and in 2008, inaugurated the hall’s critically acclaimed 4,322-pipe William J. Gillespie Concert Organ. The orchestra embarked on its first European tour in 2006, performing in nine cities in three countries.
In 2013-14, Pacific Symphony released a new CD of Richard Danielpour’s Toward a Season of Peace, which continues the recent slate of recordings that began with two newly released CDs in 2012-13 featuring two of today’s leading composers, Philip Glass’ The Passion of Ramakrishna and Michael Daugherty’s Mount Rushmore, both the result of works commissioned and performed by the Symphony, with two more recordings due to be released over the next few years. These feature the music of Symphony-commissioned works by William Bolcom, Songs of Lorca and Prometheus, and James Newton Howard’s I Would Plant a Tree. The Symphony has also commissioned and recorded “An American Requiem,” by Danielpour and Elliot Goldenthal’s Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratorio with Yo-Yo Ma. Other recordings have included collaborations with such composers as Lucas Foss and Toru Takemitsu. It has also commissioned such leading composers as Paul Chihara, Daniel Catán, William Kraft, Ana Lara, Tobias Picker, Christopher Theofanidis, Frank Ticheli and Chen Yi.
In both 2005 and 2010, the Symphony received the prestigious ASCAP Award for Adventuresome Programming. Also in 2010, a study by the League of American Orchestras, “Fearless Journeys,” included the Symphony as one of the country’s five most innovative orchestras. The Symphony’s award-winning education programs benefit from the vision of St.Clair and are designed to integrate the orchestra and its music into the community in ways that stimulate all ages. The Symphony’s Class Act program has been honored as one of nine exemplary orchestra education programs by the National Endowment for the Arts and the League of American Orchestras. The list of instrumental training initiatives includes Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble and Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings as well as Santa Ana Strings.