Somewhere between surprising and unique, the small-town, all-volunteer Valley Center symphony orchestra seems to strike the right note. A culturally uplifting — shhh… — community secret, the local concoction of musicians ranging from first-time practitioners to seasoned professionals seems as dedicated as it is diverse.
“Few communities can say that they have their own orchestra,” said Ed Labrado, a master of understatement as well as oboe and clarinet. Labrado serves as symphony treasurer and spokesman, among other hats he wears.
Membership is open to anyone, really, including high school students of which there are a few. It’s audition free. Symphonic players practice Sunday afternoons at Ridgeview church. New members are welcome, BYOI, or bring your own instrument. They play fairly often at special concerts either on the road or at home, the Valley Center Library community room. Best of all, all events are free.
The current assemblage features a half-dozen violinists, viola, cello, a half-dozen woodwinds. four brass and one percussion. Add in a partridge and a pear tree and you’re ready for their annual Christmas concert.
Show tunes to high brow
“We are a community orchestra whose objective is to provide an opportunity for the community to make and enjoy music,” Labrado said.
“We have about 20 musicians including adults, retirees, college and high school students,” Labrado continued. “We provide a variety of concerts for the community; for instance. Last April year we had an Oscars night concert featuring music from movies such as Jurassic Park.
Labrado, added: “We also have provided music for musicals such as ‘The Sound of Music,’ “King and I’ and “Fiddler on the Roof;” ‘Annie Get your Gun.’” We have performed at the Maxine theatre, the Valley Center Library, and Ridgeview Church as well as various senior housing residences.”
Enter Susan Padilla, symphony president and resident cello master. “The group has been going for more than six years, with the last year as an official non profit organization,” Padilla said. “We have been fortunate to have a lot of community support, and thanks to Ed’s efforts in fund raising.”
Padilla added: “The group has maintained a stable number, but we would like to increase our membership. We do not have any fees or dues. Students or adults with basic music reading and instrument skills are always welcome to try us out. We also do not audition members, we are very casual, people find their appropriate spots.”
Many flew over the musical nest
It’s a quirky bunch as well it should be. Similar to the Chicago Cubs rotating managers in the 1960s, the symphony features a slew of diverse conductors. It’s an interesting arrangement with conductors rotating depending on time and interest.
“We’ve had a variety of volunteer conductors throughout the year to conduct our orchestra,” Labrado said. “We have had music majors from Palomar college and Matt Owensby a graduate student from San Francisco Conservatory of Music conduct our orchestra.”
Owensby is Padilla’s son, by the way and has been leading the way this summer as the group prepares to get on with its next show. Padilla characterized him as “patient,” a great attribute given the wide range of experience levels in the group. Bill Bonhivert conducted the group for a long time helping build skills while maintaining enthusiasm.
“I love the orchestra members,” Padilla said, “They have a variety of experience and skill, and we are a mix in age too. Most of our members have been with the group for at least two years. We always have fun in rehearsals. We love performing and enjoy entertaining others, particularly the senior residential facilities because they love it.”
Presenting past and future
The symphony presented a “Peter and the Wolf” concert series at the Valley Center Library as part of the “Read to the Rhythm” reading program on July 25.
“The objective of this series was to familiarize children and adults with various instruments and how they integrate within a musical score,” Labrado said. “Each orchestra group performed solos, duets and demonstrated to children the strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion instruments.”
Next up for the plucky band of musicians is a not-so-scary turn presenting a Halloween Concert on Saturday, October 17 at Valley Center Library. This concert will be conducted by Cheryl Knapp, a retired Oceanside school district music teacher.
Just as the symphony gives back eclectic and free, according to Labrado, they get a little help from their friends. It’s a 501(3)c non-profit dependent on donations to purchase orchestra supplies such as sheet music.
The Rincon of Luiseno Indians, San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, Friends of the Valley Center Library, Ridgeview Pre-school and Valley Center Lions.each help sponsor programs.
Want to help get the show on the road in coming months and, hopefully years. If any musicians are interested in more information, call (760) 751- 4190 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is http://vcsymphony.weebly.com.