CSUSB Symphony Orchestra Performance Returns After Two Years – Coyote Chronicle CSUSB

The CSUSB Symphony Orchestra returned with a heightened performance after two years without an audience.

Dr. Lewis conducts the Symphony Orchestra alongside Juan Del Real playing clarinet. Photo by Edwin Alvarez Loza

The performance featured 2021-2022 Young Artists Competition finalists Eliana Jeong playing cello and Juan Del Real playing clarinet. Returning finalists from the 2019-20 Young Artists Competition Andrew Bora on cello, Joshua Rodriguez-Irons on violin and Judith Nuñez-Larios on saxophone.

Over the past two years, the CSUSB Symphony Orchestra and the CSUSB Music Department have continued to produce music and performances through various forms of online conditions. Many of these performances can be found on the CSUSB Music Department Youtube channel.

In an interview, Music Director and Orchestral Studies Program Conductor Dr. Lucy Lewis shared the emotional significance of the performance. “Before I went on stage, I told my students that we should never take the ability to make music together on stage for granted,” Dr. Lewis said.

The play performed on Thursday was originally scheduled to be performed on March 12, 2020 but was canceled the same day due to COVID-19 and campus closure. After a long two-year wait, the recital hall was filled with an audience eager and excited to hear the piece. Not only was it due to be performed two years ago, but the orchestra had been preparing for this performance for eight to ten weeks of hard work and dedication.

Among the audience was Principal Cellist of the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra and former CSUSB Music Department faculty member Ana Maria Maldonado. After the performance, she shared a few words of appreciation to Dr. Lewis.

“What Dr. Lewis did to her during her time here is incredible. Previously, the program consisted of only two or three violins, so what it is now is extraordinary.

Dr. Lewis has conducted guest orchestras in various states such as California, Michigan, Tennessee, Main and Florida. In 2019, she even led the CSUSB Orchestra on tour in South Korea where they performed at the Seoul Center for the Arts IBK Chamber Hall.

Susan West, first violin, occupies the first seat and co-directs the orchestra alongside Dr. Lewis. She was kind enough to share some insight into the challenges orchestra members have faced during this pandemic. “Some people were really excited to come back, others were more nervous in front of the live audience. Having to play with a mask is hard, especially for woodwinds and brass.

While working through COVID-19 safety precautions, orchestra members performing with masks impede their ability to express their emotions through facial features. This makes it harder to breathe and being able to breathe while playing is a major factor in performance. Nevertheless, the CSUSB Symphony Orchestra will be able to overcome this difficult period and continue to produce excellent concerts.

CSUSB alumnus Joshua Rodriguez-Irons was one of the special guests featured that night. He has been playing the violin for nearly 15 years now and will be graduating with his Master of Music degree in Violin Performance next May from CSULB. Rodriguez-Irons shared his plans for the upcoming future. “After graduating in May, I plan to apply for an Artist Certificate in Violin Performance, which is just another year of music only, with no curriculum. The next step will be to apply for professional orchestras.

Rodriguez-Irons is just one of many graduating students from the music program who have a bright future ahead of them. Judith Nunez is another alum who made a special appearance that night. She had started playing music at the age of eight, and during her time at CSUSB she had transitioned to saxophone while being an active member of nearly every instrumental ensemble on campus. Her plans for the future are to graduate as a teacher to become a music educator in the fall of 2022. Juan Del Real is currently attending CSUSB and pursuing a Bachelor of Music with a concentration in Music Education. He has been playing the clarinet since the age of 11 and his passion for music has led him to where he is today. He plays in the Symphonic Band, Orchester symphonique, Chamber Winds and Clarinet Choir here at CSUSB.

The CSUSB Symphony Orchestra closed the performance with a piece by Respighi entitled “Pines of Rome” which included all categories of instruments such as strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and keyboard. This piece has a four-movement tone that symbolizes four different pines in Rome at four different locations and times of day. Each tone brings a very different perspective, such as the first being children singing nursery rhymes and pretending to be soldiers, which leads to the last tone of soldiers marching down the road at dawn. It perfectly closed a festive night with a finale of one of the most triumphant last movements in the history of symphonic literature.

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