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Life and Arts

Philharmonic celebrates 20th anniversary

Steven Kerstein marvels at the fact that he’s spent the last 20 years making classical music with friends as founding conductor of the Burbank Philharmonic Orchestra.

Back in November 1990, it was known as the Burbank Chamber Orchestra. The late William G. Kneisel was the founding president.

“It’s been a privilege and a joy being the conductor of the philharmonic for the last 20 years because we have such fantastic musicians in the orchestra,” Kerstein said. “And having grown up in the San Fernando Valley, a lot of the musicians in the orchestra and soloists are people I’ve played music with over the last 40 years.”

Each season the audience has grown larger and larger, he said, because of the high-caliber musicians and soloists performing.


For example, tonight’s concert features two soloists who won the philharmonic’s Hennings-Fischer Young Artists Competition last year, he said.

Violinist Nigel Armstrong is featured on Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in d minor, Op. 47.

“He attends the Colburn School in Los Angeles and performs one of the most difficult and beautiful concertos written for violin and orchestra,” Kerstein said. “He makes it seems so easy when he plays it. He plays with such beautiful artistry and technique, the audience will be mesmerized.

Narine Ojakhyan of Glendale is the featured soprano. After graduating from Yerevan Komitas State Conservatoire, she received the Raffi Manoukian scholarship to continue her studies at the Royal Academy of Music Opera program in London where she earned her master’s degree and honorary diploma.


“She has one of the most beautiful soprano voices I’ve ever heard,” Kerstein said. “She recently participated in the Metropolitan National Council Auditions and was a Western Regional finalist. People will be thrilled with the two arias she will be singing.”

The orchestra has been providing free concerts to the community since it was founded as the Burbank Symphony by Grace Lovejoy in 1922, said philharmonic President Lynda Willner.

The orchestra was forced into inactivity at the beginning of World War II, but was revived by Leo Damiani in July 1944 and continued to provide free concerts until 1991, when the Burbank Chamber Orchestra was formed to carry on the tradition. The name was later changed to the Burbank Philharmonic.

“It’s been an amazing journey, from being the Burbank Chamber Orchestra to growing into a full-size philharmonic orchestra,” Willner said. “We are continuing our outreach to the community and working on grants to keep music in the lives of young people.”


What: Burbank Philharmonic Orchestra’s 20th Anniversary Season Gala Opening Concert

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Hall of Liberty, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive


Cost: Admission and parking are free




Glinka: Overture to “Russian and Ludmilla”

Sibelius’ Violin concerto

Rossini’s Una voce poco fa from “The Barber of Seville”

Thomas’ Je Suis Titania from “Mignon”


Beethoven’s Symphony #7