Classically Trained: Fresh concert season is here

There's a new performance space in town, and judging by what's planned for the opening night, it's off to a good start.

The Soka Performing Arts Center has called upon the Pacific Symphony to take center stage at the center's grand opening at 8 p.m. Saturday. The program at Soka University of America, a private college in Aliso Viejo, includes Prokofiev's version of "Romeo and Juliet" and Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor."

Under the baton of Carl St.Clair, the Costa Mesa-based orchestra takes comfort in the great indoors again after its annual summer residency at Irvine's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and outdoor park concerts. Attire for the grand opening is black tie optional, with a champagne reception for all attendees afterward.

Horacio Gutierrez is the solo pianist for the Rachmaninoff. Gutierrez, a Cuban American and Juilliard graduate, gave his first concert at age 11 in Havana and has since performed throughout Europe and the U. S.

The Soka Performing Arts Center, with about 1,000 seats, is a cozy venue that features acoustics by Yasuhisa Toyota, who also worked on the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

Also noteworthy about this venue are its ticket prices. The Los Angeles Times reported that the $73-million auditorium, which also serves as an arts classroom facility, seems to be offering the most affordable stubs around (for now, at least) that range from $28 to $48. These prices do not reflect the grand opening, however.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit


The Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, its plaudits still fresh from its Bulgarian tour this summer, is touring again — locally, that is.

The Irvine-based educational ensemble under the auspices of the Pacific Symphony will be playing with the Steve Miller Band in Corona on Saturday and Temecula on Sunday. Miller, a rock legend for more than 40 years, and his band will be performing a few of their many hits, including "The Joker" and "Fly Like an Eagle."

Saturday's 8 p.m. concert is at the Fender Center, 365. N. Main St. Sunday's 7:30 p.m. show is at Old Town Temecula's Civic Center, 41000 Main St.

Violinist David Coucheron, pianist Julie Coucheron and the Fender Benders — one of five combo bands at the Fender Center — are also slated to perform. The conductor and musical arranger is Rune Bergmann.

The concerts will be the premiere of "Rock Symphony" and promise to be "a hip romantic evening" of "classic rock meets classical music." All proceeds to these "black tie/leather optional" shows benefit the Fender Center's Kids Rock Free music education programs.

Tickets for either show start at $35. For more information, visit or


The Pacific Symphony is starting its 33rd season with violin virtuoso Sarah Chang performing Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto in E Minor" Sept. 22 to 24.

The program for 8 p.m. concerts in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall also feature Respighi's "Pines of Rome," Berlioz's "Roman Carnival Overture" and a revised version of "I Would Plant a Tree," by James Newton Howard.

Howard — most famously known as a composer for some 100 movies, including "Waterworld," "Hidalgo" and "The Sixth Sense" — was first commissioned by the Pacific Symphony in 2009 to write the abstract tone poem. It was the American composer's first orchestral work outside his Hollywood demands.

Chang, a child prodigy, made her debut with the New York Philharmonic at age 8. The 30-year-old, Philadelphia-born Korean American studied at Juilliard and has recorded exclusively for EMI Classics for nearly 20 years.

Chang will also be performing Sept. 25 for a "Classical Connections" concert at 3 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Tickets for the concerts start at $25. For more information, visit or call (714) 755-5799.

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. E-mail him story ideas at

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