CLASSICAL MUSIC / KENNETH HERMAN : 2 Chamber Music Groups Find Response in Teaching

Chamber music is usually associated with musical sophistication, a rarefied echelon of classical music reserved for the cognoscenti. Two chamber music ensembles from San Diego State University are proving that chamber music has an untapped potential for outreach, especially to high school and junior high school students.

Over the current academic year, Marian Liebowitz and the other four members of the Stauffer Wind Qintet, as well as the San Diego Brass Consort, have been performing and coaching in several San Diego high schools.

“We wanted to leave a more lasting impression on the students than just playing one of our typical concerts,” explained Liebowitz. “So we decided to meet with each school’s band director to set up coaching sessions with groups of their students.”

In a workshop for the College Music Educator’s Assn. convention last week at the Town and Country Convention Center, Liebowitz presented several student ensembles she and flutist Linda Lukas had been working with at San Diego’s Patrick Henry High School. The workshop proved to be the informal debut of these budding chamber musicians, and the students acquitted themselves in a way worthy of Stauffer’s pedagogy.


Both SDSU ensembles have found humor an indispensable element in making chamber music an effective outreach tool. The Stauffer Quintet demonstrated Luciano Berio’s “Opus Number Zoo,” a bouncy suite with a farcical text recited by the instrumentalists during rests, and the San Diego Brass Consort played tubist Brent Dutton’s musical spoof on Arban’s “Carnival of Venice Variations.” Each work demonstrated several levels of musical humor, while requiring a level of performance only a seasoned professional ensemble could bring off.

When Liebowitz fielded comments and asked for questions from some of the assembled music educators, a single comment from a professorial type seated in the back of the room no doubt characterized one of the main obstacles in getting a project of this nature off the ground.

“I’m surprised that you were able to find five members of the music faculty who were on speaking terms,” he observed.

This chamber music outreach project is funded jointly by the university and by a COMBO grant.

Orchestra bonanza. Two years ago, in the middle of the San Diego Symphony’s canceled season, symphonic music was on the local endangered species list. Now a visitor to downtown San Diego might suspect that the city is a symphonic mecca. Not only is the San Diego Symphony back to its regular weekend concerts at Symphony Hall, down the street at Civic Theatre the marquee boasted performances of three internationally noted orchestras in a 10-day span: the London Symphony, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Last week’s London Philharmonic concert under the baton of native Californian Michael Tilson Thomas broke the attendance record for the sponsoring La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s year-old International Orchestra Series. The society reported a house of 2,760 for the Londoners’ eclectic program of Berlioz, Gershwin and Glinka. Last night’s Israel Philharmonic concert under Zubin Mehta was close to sold out early last week, according to society officials.

Farewell Civic Theatre. After 25 years in Civic Theatre, the San Diego Community Concert series is moving to Symphony Hall for its 1989-90 season. A lack of available dates in the Civic Theatre, one of the reasons the local orchestra acquired its own hall four years ago, was cited as the reason for the move up “B” Street. The Empire Brass Quintet, which played in La Jolla last week with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, will open the group’s new season in Symphony Hall Oct. 15. Recitals by baritone Christopher Robinson and pianist Lincoln Mayorga, as well as a performance by the Tamburitzans dance troupe from Duquense University complete the season.

Previn’s La Jolla connection. While the La Jolla Chamber Music Society is not announcing the details of its SummerFest ’89 programming until next month, the La Jollans are already touting two appearances by Los Angeles Philharmonic music director Andre Previn on its August festiva. Although the society’s 3-year-old summer chamber music festival has never had any trouble filling Sherwood Auditorium, Previn’s participation two seasons ago gave the festival added cachet. The seven-concert series will run Aug. 18-27.


Excused Absence. Ethan Dulsky, the San Diego Symphony’s assistant principal horn, has come up with another impeccable reason to avoid duty in the orchestra’s summer pops season. He has been awarded a nine-week conducting scholarship to the Aspen Music Festival. Last summer, Dulsky, who conducted the Pacific Chamber Ensemble locally for several seasons, secured a conducting position at Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West.