Susanville Symphony History

Looking back ten years ago there is a serious sense of wonder and nostalgia that hits me when I think of how this, The Susanville Symphony Society, all came to take place. As most of you know I do love to tell a good story, and there is none in my lifetime that is better than this.

I was living in Palm Beach Florida during the summer of 2001. I was sick of the heat and humidity and I missed northern California weather and people so much that I found myself looking at the classified ads for Redding, Ca.   Down at the bottom of the educational section was a small posting to hire a new Soccer Coach for Lassen Community College. I applied, interviewed and was hired as the news women’s soccer coach and found myself moving back across county to Susanville, a place I had never visited!

Dennis Roberts heard that I had played trumpet professionally before becoming a soccer coach so that December of 2001 he hired me to play in the Messiah. I was amazed at the local musical talent and was inspired that such a small community could put on such a performance. In 2002 Ray Craig approached me and asked if I would play in his brass group Take 5, which I readily agreed. We quickly set up a Brass Quintet concert and at that event Eric Toews asked if I would play in his woodwind group, jokingly called the Janesville Philharmonic.  The last piece of the puzzle was when I came to visit the Roop Street Strings, a string only group led by Carol Fontana.

All of these instrumental groups put on concerts during the 2002 year and there was quite an infusion of classical music being poured into the community. I was continually impressed by the support of the local community when we would put on these various chamber concerts for free and saw that there was a hunger and need for this type of venue in Lassen County.

I started passing the word with the core of local musicians (which became our charter musicians that you will find in the program) that we should start our own symphony orchestra. The idea was readily accepted and in February 2003, 17 musicians met in the Lassen College cafeteria for our very first practice. Personally I had no idea what I was doing on the podium having never conducted an orchestra in my life. The musicians also had been a long time outside of a performing group such as this and the music I selected to practice was VERY BASIC.  But we all had a passion for being there, playing music and enjoying the camaraderie and excitement of our very own symphony! Four months later in May 2003, 24 musicians (word had obviously spread) took the “stage” at the united Methodist Church to perform our first concert, then called, The Lassen Community College Symphony Orchestra.

Looking back at that year I don’t think any of us realized how very much this was going to change our lives. I feel so blessed at what we have accomplished, so amazed at how this community continues to support our endeavors and concerts, and hope fervently that we have all done our part to change our community. When people ask me why I love Susanville, I tell them this…”It is great if in this lifetime you are able to change the course of a single person, even better when you can change a group of people in their endeavors. But to have an impact on an entire community is something that far exceeds anything I’ve ever felt in life.”

Back to the story…after that first concert Victor Sainte-Marie, a huge supporter of my soccer team, the symphony, a friend and mentor met with some of the musicians, to revel in the sold out crowd at the United Methodist Church and what we had accomplished. It was at that meeting that Sainte-Marie said in no uncertain terms that we should separate from the college, form a nonprofit organization, and become The Susanville Symphony Society. That weekend he and I wrote the original bylaws, talked to a lawyer to submit the nonprofit paperwork and began to form a board of directors. We planned an ambitious concert season in the next few months and the word was out. I still remember the first two couples that called me at the soccer office to say that they wanted to sign up as charter members for the Susanville Symphony: Paul and Ruth Schlotterbeck and Helen and Marshal Leve.

Over the last ten years, we have continued to amaze not only the audience but ourselves as well. It has been an incredible journey so far, but we also look to the future to see that we all want this symphony to be here for another decade and beyond. You have all joined us in this adventure and we say thank you over and over again. This synergy between the audience and orchestra is so very special and I personally look forward to seeing you all again and again at the symphony.