Five Stars of San Luis Obispo County Music
By Rouvaishyana, Chorusmaster, Pacific Repertory Opera
SLO County is fortunate to have a variety of superb talent in the world of classical music. From symphony to opera, great choral works to intimate a cappella vocal ensembles, this area ranks with much larger cities in what it offers to aficionados of great music. I’d like to illustrate this by introducing readers to five outstanding leaders in musical performance.
Let’s start with the SLO Symphony. Michael Nowak has been conductor of the Symphony since 1984, having previously established himself as a conductor of studio orchestras for movie scores. He has taken the local symphony orchestra through fine readings of symphonic works, concertos with soloists from all across the US and abroad, and collaborative efforts with other local ensembles. His music education concerts and efforts have reached over 7,000 students. For more information, go to www.slosymphony.com
Dr. Jill Anderson co-founded Pacific Repertory Opera (PRO) in the 1985 and led it for over 23 years, with the mission of bringing professional opera to the Central Coast. She built a strong local opera chorus, using her own background singing in the San Francisco Opera chorus. She recruited and found rising operatic soloists from all around the country, and gave them unique opportunities to sing principal roles here. Sometimes those were their debut performances. In other cases the young stars were already experienced at carrying principal roles. In all cases they were part of a cast of wonderful singers, strong actors, and skilled performers. Check www.propera.org
In 2008, Robert Ashens took over the position of Artistic Director at PRO. Maestro Ashens is a concert pianist with a wide range of experience conducting orchestral and operatic performances with Opera Oregon and Eugene Opera. He has led us through two great operas - Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” and Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” His goals are to develop an even more professional choral experience, to put on non-staged opera concerts, and to introduce new audiences to opera.
Many local choral singers have worked with Dr. Tom Davies. He has been Professor of Music at Cal Poly, where he conducts several choral ensembles and teaches classes in music. He is also well-known as conductor of the Cuesta Master Chorale, a community chorus with both student and seasoned adult singers. He has given this community performances of mighty choral works including oratorios, masses, Requiems, and more. He has also conducted performances for Pacific Repertory Opera. His students have performed such challenging works as Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” and in 2009 his combined student and community choruses (about 180 singers!) performed the Brahms “German Requiem.” See http://music.calpoly.edu
Our 5th star is Gary Lamprecht, conductor of the Vocal Arts Ensemble, an elite group that performs mostly a cappella (unaccompanied) works. The group performs entirely from memory (as do opera singers), and their selections are a tour-de-force of Spanish, Hungarian, Asian, and African songs, and works from and inspired by many other cultures around the globe. He is retired from conducting at SLO and Morro Bay High Schools from 1973-2006. During this time, he became renowned for taking one of only 3 High School choruses selected to perform at the prestigious Carnegie Hall. Truly a national-class musician! For information on the Vocal Arts Ensemble, see www.vocalarts.org
Any one of these incredible conductors can lead performers to soul-stirring musical endeavors. We are blessed to have them all living or working in the SLO area. Even better, sometimes they work together. If you love classical and operatic music and haven’t heard their performances, it’s high time you did. A treat for the ear, the mind, and the heart await you.