Spring symphony offers eclectic mix of musical styles

Kelli Makenna Kuttruff
Arts Editor

As the grand finale to the spring season and semester, the La Verne Symphony Orchestra presented its spring concert Saturday in Morgan Auditorium. This free concert welcomed all music lovers alike to experience the wide repertoire of music the Orchestra has been practicing and perfecting for months. 

The 47 piece orchestra in this concert featuring strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and more, came together to enchant the audience with an incredible array of sound. 

About 65 people in the audience were able to experience the moving classics of Beethoven with “Egmont Overture,” to the romantic compositions of Ralph Vaughan Williams with his prelude “Rhosymedre,” all the way to the Latin rhythms in a tango piece called “Por Una Cabeza” by Carlos Gardel. 

In selections such as “Symphony No. 8 in B minor,” the unfinished work by Franz Schubert that followed the intermission, the different instruments played as if in melodic conversation with different sections speaking to each other, with each having a unique story to tell. The blend of sweet and contrasting powerful sounds played in different rhythms in this piece was just one of the carefully crafted selections of the concert. 

The Orchestra is made up of musicians of different levels including students, working musicians and community members. It was founded in 2013 and has been further matured in the past year and a half by current music director and conductor Sylvia Lee Mann. 

“We’re working to give everybody a positive experience and at the same time, pushing them to do their best and improve their skills to be able to provide a really good quality musical experience for those who come hear the concerts,” Mann said. 

Under her direction, the Orchestra community and student members meet once a week to hone their skills, and prepare for the two concerts they hold each year, one at the end of each semester. 

“I hope that the audience can see what we can do when we come together as a community to produce something exciting and beautiful,” Mann said. “I hope they can see that people of all ages and disciples can join together and do something like this.”

The diverse collection of musicians featured in the Orchestra forms a unique musical experience, and they are always looking for new members with no audition required. 

Catherine Bacus is an original member of the Orchestra on the cello, who has been involved since the very beginning in 2013 and has seen the orchestra grow from about a dozen musicians, to the large group that barely fits on the stage now. 

“It just seemed to kind of organically grow,” Bacus said. “We developed the idea of merging together students and musicians and community members at every level to make this an intergenerational very diverse group of people.” 

Bacus believes that Mann has taken their original idea and focus that started the group, and turned it into a magnificent orchestra that welcomes everyone.

Elizabeth Valdes is a student member of the Orchestra who plays the tuba, and has been involved in music since the sixth grade. She joined the Orchestra in Spring of 2023, and has fallen in love with playing the tuba.

“Music is just a great way to express myself,” Valdes said. “I feel like music lends itself to anybody allowed to express themselves as they are individually… In my opinion, without music there wouldn’t be life.”

In the audience seeing this performance in a new way was Sandy Gunn, the spouse of the conductor and a normal member of the Orchestra on the viola who has been unable to play this year due to health reasons. 

Gunn loved being able to hear the concert in a new way and experience the work of the orchestra as an audience member. She encourages more people to join, and laughed that the University will have to build another auditorium for this robust and ever-growing group of musicians. 

Gunn believes that listening to live music is a unique opportunity, and that the support in the community of the Orchestra has been incredible.

“I think that people have really lost the concept of listening to live music,” Gunn said. “Symphonic music is not for everybody and sometimes it’s hard to engage with it or feel it if you just listen to recordings. But when you’re here, you don’t just hear the music. You feel the feelings of the musicians… that is a thrill you can’t get any other way.”

Kelli Kuttruff can be reached at kelli.kuttruff@laverne.edu.

Kelli Makenna Kuttruff is a senior communications major with an emphasis in public relations. She is the arts editor of the Campus Times, and is in her second semester as a staff writer.

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