A Cultural Gem
10 Years of Exciting Evolution for the Poway Symphony Orchestra
The Poway Symphony Orchestra first performed in 2005 with only a dozen musicians and big dreams for the future. Ten years later the orchestra boasts 55 musicians, a broad repertoire of stunning music, a talented new conductor, and a beloved place in the hearts of North County community members. The musicians come from all walks of life but they share the same enthusiasm for expression through music and are proud to share that passion with their audiences. We speak with Orchestra Development Officer Bo Matthys about the orchestra’s accomplishments over the years, as well as what to expect for the current season.
Q&A with Bo Matthys – Orchestra Development Officer
When and why was the Poway Symphony Orchestra founded? What is the history behind it?
In the summer of 2004, Concertmaster Ulli Reiner had the idea to form a symphony orchestra. It was her vision that such a group would fill a need for classical music concerts in the community and for musicians interested in playing in a full orchestra. In fact, at the time no other organization offered live performances of classical masterpieces in a local venue. And that is still true today. So initially a small number of musicians signed up and enjoyed playing music together. Very soon more joined and a conductor was appointed, and as a result the first performance took place on April 15, 2005. The orchestra was organized through the Poway Adult School as a class for which the musicians sign up.
What is the Poway Symphony Orchestra’s mission?
As it was defined in 2004, the stated mission reads: “Our mission is to make live classical symphonic music accessible to audiences and fellow performers of nearby communities and towns of North County.” In order to fulfill that mission the orchestra presents three concerts each year in the Poway Center for the Performing Arts.
Can you tell us a bit about the Poway Symphony Orchestra’s composition?
At the beginning of the 10th anniversary season 2014-2015 and more specifically at the Nov. 23, 2014 concert, the orchestra comprised 55 musicians – as listed in the program. The string section counts 31 members, the winds 20, and percussion four. Of course, additional string players are always welcome in order to achieve the great sound required in some of the large orchestra compositions from composers like Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, or Brahms. The current string section is well on the way to further increase its numbers in the near future to reach that goal.
What communities does the Poway Symphony Orchestra cater to?
Although the orchestra is named after the City of Poway, its concerts are offered to the benefit of the greater area of San Diego North County. Audience members come from Poway and all nearby towns and communities, including Rancho Bernardo, 4S Ranch, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Rancho Peñasquitos, Sabre Springs, Santa Luz, Del Sur, Escondido, San Marcos, Vista, Ramona, Scripps Ranch, and parts of San Diego. The musicians of the orchestra live and work in the same areas.
What backgrounds do your musicians come from?
The orchestra is made up of a great variety of individuals. Some of them are professional musicians or music educators, others come from just about all walks of life and different occupations in the field of education, health care, engineering, software development, biotechnology, business, etc. They offer their time and talents to the orchestra and to the community.
How did you personally become involved with the Poway Symphony Orchestra?
Very soon after Ulli Reiner had started rehearsals with the group and I became aware of her initiative, it was realized that some help in promoting the concerts would be needed. Such promotion, although limited by available funds, has helped to some extent to increase awareness in the community in and around Poway of the existence of this unique cultural asset.
What is your current role within the organization?
Over the years my humble contribution has continued to include promoting and gradually increasing the exposure of the orchestra via the local press and other means. That requires quite a bit of coordination, phone calls, and emails, particularly several weeks before each concert. It is enjoyable and those publications have been very forthcoming in publicizing our announcements and press releases. More recently some efforts were initiated to develop contacts with potential donors or sponsors. We will be reaching out to more in the future as plans develop to further grow the orchestra.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Volunteering for an organization like this orchestra offers some real rewards. Far from taking credit for it, because many other factors also play a role, the growth and success of the orchestra represents a valuable benefit to the communities of North County. And it is heartwarming to hear people comment with “great performance” or “beautiful music” after the concerts, for which the musicians and the conductor are to be congratulated.
Can you tell us a bit about Ulli Reiner, Concertmaster at the Poway Symphony Orchestra?
The orchestra is forever indebted to Ulli Reiner for the idea and then the organization of it back in 2004. As concertmaster over the years, she has continued to be a pillar of this musical institution and gained the respect and appreciation of musicians and audience members alike. Her many other musical activities in the community include educational or conducting positions with several youth orchestras, including the San Diego Youth Orchestra and Conservatory and the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra of San Diego. She is also a string teacher at schools in the Poway Unified School District and directs several school orchestras. Literally hundreds of young boys and girls benefit every year from her capacity to teach them the art of violin playing and appreciation of classical music, and several of her students have gone on to further studies and musical careers. She also founded the Poway Symphonette, an adult string ensemble that focuses on baroque music. Her other accomplishments and positions, past and present, are too numerous to include here but are detailed in her bio on the orchestra’s website.
Can you tell us about your new Music Director, John LoPiccolo? How has his first season been?
The new Music Director and Conductor of the Poway Symphony Orchestra, John LoPiccolo, was appointed last August. He comes with a wealth of experience in conducting symphony orchestras and music education. For many years he served as music director and conductor of the Helena Symphony and the Idaho Falls Symphony, where he was instrumental in raising the artistic profile and financial growth of both orchestras. In addition, he was conductor for the Living Arts, Inc. tour production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which took him around the world. He also appeared as guest conductor to 15 orchestras across the country. In addition to his conducting, John was most recently an adjunct professor of music at Idaho State University. “I speak for the more than 50 musicians that comprise the Poway Symphony Orchestra when I say that we are excited to have Maestro LoPiccolo lead us into our 10th season,” said Ulli Reiner, Concertmaster and Founder of the orchestra, “It’s clear his enthusiasm and vision for the Poway Symphony will contribute to our continued growth and lead to engaging programming.” His full biography is posted on the orchestra’s website. In the short time available for rehearsals prior to the Nov. 23 concert, John has demonstrated a genuine ability to inspire the musicians and instill a sense of musical cohesion and cooperation. As a result, the orchestra has never sounded as good as at this concert, his first with the Poway Symphony. All this bodes extremely well for its future success.
How has the Poway Symphony Orchestra grown and changed over the past 10 years?
From the modest beginnings when only a couple of dozen musicians made up the orchestra, it has evolved into the full-size symphonic orchestra that it is today. There have been ups and downs, no doubt. But all in all, we now have arrived at a critical mass required for an enhanced musical profile and increased audience recognition. It is believed that in the near future, with the dedication and commitment of the musicians and under the leadership of our new music director, the Poway Symphony Orchestra will reach new heights in its quest to be a shining star in the cultural spectrum offered locally to the public in North County. Anyone interested in playing with the symphony should call John at 208-757-1980.
What have been some of your most exciting performances over the years?
Obviously, in the early stages of the orchestra, only works with limited instrumentation and complexity were performed. Over the years, however, the repertoire has built up to over 75 compositions from the great classical composers for full orchestra. Among these performances, several stand out as memorable moments in the orchestra’s history. To mention only a few: the Symphony No. 8 by A. Dvorak under the baton of Randal Brinton in June 2006, the Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor by J.S. Bach with as soloists two members of the orchestra, Ulli Reiner and Roger Pine, under the direction of Brendan Muresan in October 2007, and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Chetan Tierra as soloist and Warren Torns as conductor in March 2013. Of course there have been many other superb moments of enjoyable music all along, with lighter works containing popular tunes and melodies as well as complete symphonies and choral works.
What are some performances the community should look forward to?
The current season constitutes the 10th anniversary year of symphonic performances by the Poway Symphony Orchestra. The first concert of the season took place on Nov. 23 under the direction of John LoPiccolo. It was a tremendous success with record attendance of an appreciative audience. Preparations are under way to present an “Orchestral Gala” on March 22 at 4 p.m. in celebration of the 10th anniversary. Festive music will be programmed to showcase the orchestra. Following the performance the audience will be invited to a reception in the lobby of the center.
The final concert of the season on May 17 at 4 p.m. will include the popular Piano Concerto by Grieg with Chetan Tierra on the piano as a returning guest artist.
What are some ways that community members can contribute to the Poway Symphony Orchestra?
The performances of the Poway Symphony Orchestra constitute a valuable contribution to the quality of life in the area. Among the many cultural offerings here, the PSO is the only organization that provides live performances of symphonic music in a local venue, the beautiful Poway Center for the Performing Arts. The best way for community members to support this fine musical institution consists of attending the concerts and bringing some friends along. Of course, the orchestra welcomes and appreciates any financial contribution. Looking toward the future, further growth and organization will depend on donations from businesses, foundations, and individual sponsors or donors. For an easy way to give, a simple email to email@example.com to request a support form or a personal conversation will get the process started.
What do donations to the Poway Symphony Orchestra go towards?
Like other arts organizations that operate nonprofit, some funds are needed to cover expenses. Scores for the orchestra are either rented or purchased. Professional soloists need to be paid a fee. Other expenses cover promotional materials and incidentals. The celebration event on March 22 will cost some extra money, but we are very happy to have Café Merlot of Rancho Bernardo as major underwriter. It is hoped that other businesses will follow.
Is there anything you’d like to share that most people don’t know about the Poway Symphony Orchestra?
The fact that the players come from all walks of life and spend hours to practice, spend money on gas to come to rehearsals, take valuable time away from family, arrange for babysitting, etc. to bring beautiful music to our communities.
If you could grant the Poway Symphony Orchestra one wish, what would it be?
That the orchestra would be endowed financially. This would lift the burden of financial worries so that we could begin to concentrate on serious steps to secure the orchestra’s future growth and development.
If you had to describe the Poway Symphony Orchestra using only five words, what would you say?
It is a unique cultural gem for North County.
Is there anything else you would like to add for our 92064 Magazine readers?
We hope you will attend our performances to see for yourself what we are all excited about.
Poway Symphony Orchestra At-A-Glance:
Address: PUSD – Adult School, 13626 Twin Peaks Rd., Poway, CA 92064
Phone: 858-673-9702 (Bo Matthys); 858-668-4024 (Adult School)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Orchestra Development Officer At-A-Glance:
Name: Bo Matthys
Education: Electronic Engineering Degree, University of Ghent, Belgium
Hobbies/Interests: Classical music, piano, succulent gardens, European history
Favorite Spot in 92064: Blue Sky Ecological Reserve
Poway Symphony Orchestra
By The Numbers:
Number of Musicians: 55
Number of Principals: 12
Number of Volunteers: 3
Number of Performances per year: 3
Seats in Venue: 804