New Symphony Season Brings Back Old Friends : Music: Rio Hondo Orchestra features several longtime players and draws a faithful audience.


Wayne Reinecke was a high school student in the 1950s when he first played violin with the Rio Hondo Symphony. Now he is the conductor.

The Pasadena City College music teacher is not the only musician with deep roots in this community orchestra, which begins its 60th season Sunday at the Whittier High School Auditorium.

He is one of several who have played with the group 15 to 20 years. Five of the musicians have chalked up more than 34 years, said orchestra Manager Lou Anne Barth--a 34-year member of the violin section.


The audience also keeps coming back. Each of the orchestra’s four free Sunday afternoon concerts draws more than 1,000 people to what the musicians call their Symphony Hall--the Art Deco high school auditorium built by the Depression-era WPA in 1940.

“We have a tremendous crowd and we’re pleased at that. The people do appreciate classical music,” said Louis Galindo, president of the Rio Hondo Symphony Assn.

More than 400 people regularly contribute to the orchestra, giving about $24,000 of the orchestra’s $55,000 budget.

Whittier, Santa Fe Springs and Pico Rivera also provide money, as does Rio Hondo College.

“A lot of local people hold it together,” Reinecke said.

When they are not making music, Rio Hondo Symphony players, like their counterparts in other community orchestras, hold down a variety of jobs. Many are music teachers.

Violist Joan Everett, whose contact with Rio Hondo goes back to her high school days in the 1950s, is a pediatrician. Maxine McLain, who first played violin with the Rio Hondo Symphony in 1948, is a retired bank vice president who would get up at 4:30 a.m. to practice before going to work. She was Rio Hondo’s concertmaster before giving up the post two years ago.

Although most players receive a per-concert stipend of about $100, they call it “gas money” because it barely covers their transportation to five rehearsals and a performance. Some musicians commute from Long Beach, the South Bay and the San Fernando Valley.


“The reason people play is not the money,” said clarinetist Anne Young, a 27-year Rio Hondo Symphony veteran. “It’s because other people are good, and we love the music. It beats going out and playing in a lounge somewhere.”

“My standards are professional, and while I’m not about to play with the (Los Angeles) Philharmonic, I want to play a high quality of music that satisfies me,” McLain said.

Despite their bread-and-butter jobs, many players consider themselves primarily musicians, Everett said. “A lot play in other community orchestras. Some have their own quartets,” she said.

The newest members of the orchestra play with several groups. Violist Newts Guilbeau and his wife, Margaret, a cellist, also perform in Fresno and Bakersfield. Sunday marks their debut with the Rio Hondo Symphony.

As conductor and music director, Reinecke chooses the orchestra’s music and must find works that challenge his players but please his audience.

Reinecke favors works by the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. “We do tend to choose literature that is from the standard repertory as opposed to more modern things,” he said.

Avant-garde compositions are given a wide berth, and some musicians recall an original composition a few years ago that left the audience cold. The orchestra has done Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto, which Reinecke said has “some nice dissonant moments.” The group is in the fourth year of performing a cycle of Dvorak symphonies. This season, Symphony No. 8 in G Major will be performed Feb. 21.

Each concert features a touring artist or music student as soloist. Sunday, Czech cellist Jiri Barta will play the Lalo cello concerto. A regular soloist with the Prague Symphony, he has played with orchestras in the former East Germany and Soviet Union and is studying at USC.

The final concert is always a Young People’s Concert, featuring the winner of the orchestra’s Young Artists Audition, which encourages new talent.

Many of the longtime players were first drawn to the orchestra by a Whittier College violin teacher, the late Ruth Haroldson, who founded the group 60 years ago as the Whittier College-Community Orchestra. The name was changed to Rio Hondo Symphony in 1964 to acknowledge its broadened community base.

Reinecke and Everett were Haroldson’s violin students when she introduced them to symphonic playing. McLain liked the fact that Haroldson programmed the classics, not popular music--which she said is fun for audiences but not very interesting to musicians.

Haroldson conducted the orchestra for more than 30 years and gave its philosophy and direction.

“She was concerned about students and the community, and it was an absolute obsession with her that we should never charge admission but bring (music) free to the community,” Barth said.

“She put interesting programs together. She just seemed to care a great deal.”

Rio Hondo Symphony

The community orchestra will begin its 60th season, giving four free concerts. Here is the schedule of major classical works to be performed, including guest artists. Sunday

Strauss: Serenade for Winds

Lalo: Concerto for Cello; Jiri Barta, cello

Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor Nov. 15

Rossini: Overture to “The Barber of Seville”

Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 in B Flat Major

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor; John Novacek, piano Feb. 21

Barber: First Essay for Orchestra

Poulenc: Gloria; Chorale Bel Canto, Stephen Gothold, director; Jean Gothold, soprano

Dvorak: Symphony No. 8 in G Major April 25

Young People’s Concert featuring Young Artist Audition winners

Mussorgsky: “Night on Bald Mountain”

Copland: Dances from “Rodeo”

Other works to be announced All concerts are at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Whittier High School Auditorium, Whittier Avenue and Bailey Street in Whittier. Free admission.