Supporters Revive Local Symphony

The Conejo Symphony is back.

At least, that's the idea.

A die-hard group of Conejo Valley music lovers has created a new symphony to replace the home-grown orchestra lost last year when the Conejo and Ventura County symphonies were dissolved to form the regional New West Symphony.

The new orchestra--called the Conejo Valley Symphony Orchestra--includes many of the musicians displaced by the merger.

And although the former symphony's popular conductor, Elmer Ramsey, declined to lead the new orchestra--preferring to dedicate his retirement years to composing--Howard Sonstegard, the former symphony's assistant conductor, is back on board.

Support for the revival of the community orchestra, which comes less than week after Ventura musicians announced they were forming a new ensemble to replace the defunct Ventura County Symphony, appears strong.

"There are many subscribers who feel that New West is more of a regional than a local symphony, and we feel there is room for both," said Shirley Garrett, one of about 15 community members who created the new orchestra.

So far, the group has already collected nearly $20,000 in individual donations to support the new symphony and sold 150 tickets, at $15 each, to its first performance.

The March 23 debut will feature 43 musicians playing, among other pieces, "Carmen Suite No. 1" by Bizet and "Unfinished Symphony No. 8" by Schubert. A second concert is scheduled for June 15, after which the ad hoc committee will call a meeting to determine support for the new symphony.

Tickets for the debut performance, scheduled for 8 p.m. in the Ascension Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks, can be purchased by calling 492-1060. They may also be purchased at the door for $18.

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