After a decade of providing the Oxnard Performing Arts Center with its very own resident orchestra, the New West Symphony will celebrate its 10th birthday — and kick off its 2007-08 season — with a special performance of American standards on Sept. 14.
The symphony features approximately 60 musicians and performs in Thousand Oaks and Brentwood as well as Oxnard. With instruments including flutes, oboes, timpani drums, violins, violas, cellos, bassoons and basses, the New West Symphony operates under the leadership of music director and conductor Boris Brott. In a message on the symphony’s Web site, Brott wrote that although the past season marked the symphony’s 10th year of performing, the 8 p.m. performance at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center on Sept. 18 will commemorate the actual birth date of the orchestra.
Brott says the New West Symphony is unique because the diverse places it performs at require the symphony to appeal to a wide variety of audiences. This fosters a level of experimentation and flexibility that is not often associated with classical orchestras.
“The primary difference between the New West and more established symphony orchestras is that we serve a new and growing population, without the restriction of tradition,” Brott says. “We are free to establish our own tradition and practices.”
New West Symphony General Manager Peter Somogyi says the orchestra is very conscious of the unique character of each place it performs at. He says the New West Symphony’s staff and directors go out of their way to connect with the respective communities in which the symphony plays. The symphony has a long tradition of warm receptions from its Oxnard audiences.
“The Oxnard audience is a more established audience. The symphony has been there for a long time and they’ve become used to our concerts and highly anticipate them over the years,” Somogyi says. “We have development staff that try to reach out to them, and we have patrons from Ventura, Ojai and Camarillo … But as for the musicians, they’re happy to just play anywhere.”
Brott says the symphony thrives because of its ability to introduce all its audiences to new sounds, styles and special guests.
“I suggest that one of the things that distinguishes the New West is the opportunity to engage our audiences through a vital sense of discovery — finding deeper meaning from the performance of historically important orchestral works, as well as enriching our lives by presenting new and unfamiliar works,” Brott says. “Exceptional guest artists provide further enrichment through their individual, broad concert experiences.”
In the upcoming season, the symphony will feature guest artists that include Mark Tanner on the cello, George Gao on the erhu, Anne Akiko Meyers on the violin, singers Shana Blake-Hill and Cynthia Jansen and world renowned pianist Stewart Goodyear, who will be accompanying Brott and his orchestra in the opening night performance.
The program for the evening includes Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and George Gershwin’s “Concerto in F Major for Piano and Orchestra,” “An
American In Paris” and “Rhapsody in Blue.” Somogyi says the program is a perfect way to commence the symphony’s new season.
“It will be American, which is a great way to start the season and a great way to showcase the orchestra,” he says. “Those are big deal American pieces and it will really hit them between the eyes right off the bat.”
According to the program notes, compiled by Dr. Richard E. Rodda, “Rhapsody in Blue,” the program’s highlight, is one of the most widely renowned pieces of American classical music.
“There was critical carping about laxity in the structure of the ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ but there were none about its vibrant, quintessentially American character or its melodic inspiration, and it became an immediate hit, attaining (and maintaining) a position of popularity almost unmatched by any other work of a native composer,” Rodda writes.
Somogyi says the orchestra’s performance in Oxnard is just the beginning of a whole new path for the orchestra, and audiences can expect a lot of surprises from the symphony this season.
“The repertory is different,” he says. “We are focusing on different composers, new pieces and broadening our horizons for the repertoire and guest artists.”