Hometown: Stockton, CA
Web site: http://www.stocktonsymphony.org
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The Stockton Symphony is the third-oldest, continuously performing orchestra in California, surpassed in longevity only by the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In May 1926 the first concert of the newly created Stockton Symphony took place. The group of twenty local musicians was formed by pharmacist-by-day and conductor-by-night Manlio Silva. An Italian immigrant, Silva was an accomplished musician, having graduated from the Conservatory of Chiavari. The musicians gave the Stockton Symphony’s inaugural performance during “Music Week” for the Stockton Musical Club. Five months later, the first complete season opened in October 1926 at the California Theater on Main Street. At that time, tickets sold for 50 cents for adults and 10 cents for children.
Through the years the Stockton Symphony has continued to thrive. Under the twenty-seven-year reign of conductor Kyung-Soo Won beginning in 1967, the Symphony morphed from a community ensemble to a professional orchestra, gaining “metropolitan” status, as ranked by the American Symphony Orchestra League. During that time, guest artists of great national and international renown began to come to Stockton to perform with the Symphony. Longtime residents may remember the performances of eminent pianist Van Cliburn. In 1975 track and field star Jesse Owens traveled to Stockton to narrate Copland’s Lincoln Portrait for a sold-out performance. For the 1976–77 season, a generous grant from Tillie and Meyer Lewis enabled the Symphony to host Metropolitan Opera star Beverly Sills and pianist André Watts, who also played to standing-room-only crowds. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, local music lovers were treated to an outstanding array of famous guest artists, such as Itzhak Perlman, Robert Merrill, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Peter Serkin, Ruggiero Ricci, Pearl Bailey, Kyung-Wha Chung, Ravi Shankar, Christoph Eschenbach, Ransom Wilson, Leonard Rose, Thomas Paul, and Roberta Peters. With every performance, local patrons realized how fortunate they were to have a symphony orchestra of high caliber in the community.
The Stockton Symphony is currently conducted by Maestro Peter Jaffe, now in his fifteenth season. Under his tenure the orchestra has continued sustained growth in artistic excellence, introduced and developed several vibrant educational programs, and gained national recognition through composer residencies, the release of a commercial recording, and world premieres.