MUSIC : Santa Fe Violinist Has Driving Ambition to Play the Classics

Chris Pasles covers music and dance for The Times Orange County Edition.

Diana Halprin, concertmaster of the Orange County Chamber Orchestra, will go to great lengths to play classical music.

Nine-hundred miles, to be exact.

Each way.

By car.

"It's worth all the hassle of driving in," Halprin said in a phone interview from her condominium in Santa Fe, N.M. "It sounds crazy, but we're musicians, who are kind of known not to be your normal persons.

"Besides, we love to drive and it's a beautiful trip. If we do it straight, it takes about 15 hours," added Halprin, who will be soloist as well as concertmaster in a program led by Micah Levy on Monday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

A native of Michigan who admits to being "in my 40s," Halprin began studying when she was 3 with her violinist father, who was with the Detroit Symphony.

"I took to it very much," she said. "I did also fight it. I wanted to be just a kid."

She made her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra when she was 7 and went on to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Later, she moved to New York.

"But as a violinist, unless you're one of a handful, you don't earn a living playing concerts," she said, "and I didn't want to do orchestra work."

So she turned to the commercial world, earning a living by playing in "the jingle business" which "was absolutely marvelous to me."

"It enabled me to earn a good living and play concerts in Europe and Latin America," she said. "Then synthesizers came in. That took away an enormous amount of business for violinists. That was one of several reasons I left New York."

She moved to Los Angeles about six years ago to pursue similar opportunities in the film industry. She was fairly happy in making the change, she said, although "Los Angeles is in its own way just as hassled as New York.

"Then the big Whittier earthquake (October, 1987) literally shook me to the core," she said. "I'm not made for that."

So Halprin and her fiance, violinist Joseph Goodman, began looking for other options. They took several trips throughout the Southwest before settling on Santa Fe.

But they haven't abandoned the Hollywood studios because that work "pays the rent."

"We'll come in two or three times a month sometimes," she said. "Last time, we expected to stay for two days and brought enough clothes for two days. But work kept coming in and we stayed for eight. It was frustrating. We got invited to a party and all we had were sweats."

Nor has she abandoned classical music.

With the Orange County Chamber Orchestra, which she joined as concertmaster four years ago, Halprin will be soloist in Paganini's First Violin Concerto and Christian Sinding's Suite for Violin and Orchestra. She will continue serving as the first desk player in the other two pieces on the program--Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings and the Suite from Copland's "Appalachian Spring."

"It's an interesting challenge," she said, because "you experience a psychological shift in focus that is very dramatic.

"When you're sitting in an orchestra, as a good orchestra player, you don't play to your own drumbeat," she said. "You follow the conductor. You have to view yourself from the outside, looking at the whole totality of people around you. You have to blend.

"That's the exact opposite of being a good solo player where you have to have a laser-sharp focus on what you're doing. To make that shift (between the two styles of playing) is a bigger concern than anything else on that concert. But I like like challenges."

Who: Violinist Diana Halprin with the Orange County Chamber Orchestra led by Micah Levy.

When: Monday, May 20, at 8 p.m.

Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine.

Whereabouts: On the UC Irvine campus, on Campus Road near University Drive, across from the Marketplace mall.

Wherewithal: $11 to $22.

Where to Call: (714) 538-8391.

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