Symphony conductor first American to lead Syrian orchestra

Pacific Symphony conductor Carl St.Clair recently became the first American to lead the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra during his cultural diplomacy trip in Damascus in late March.

St.Clair, in his 21st season as the Costa Mesa-based orchestra's music director, conducted Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 with the Syrian ensemble March 30.

Accompanying the longtime Laguna Beach resident on the trip was Dr. Hazem Chehabi, a symphony board member and medical director of the Newport Diagnostic Center in Newport Beach.

Pacific Symphony officials said the visit completed "a cultural exchange" after the Syrian ensemble performed in Costa Mesa in 2009. The Syrian National Symphony's website says that its U.S. visit, which also included UCLA's Royce Hall, was one of its historic highlights since forming in 1993.

— Bradley Zint

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