Stringing music together

After its summer hiatus, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra is back in business for the season, and Burbank musician Julie Gigante says she’s happy to return. A violinist with the orchestra since 1986, Gigante put it simply: “We love it. It’s really nice to get back to the orchestra and see everybody and play great music.”

On Sept. 24, the chamber orchestra performs at the Alex Theatre in Glendale under conductor and pianist Jeffrey Kahane. The Netherlands’ Wiek Hijmans will also appear, with his electric guitar performance in a Derek Bermel concerto. Gigante said the electric guitar paired with classical music is nothing short of surprising.

She said she’s performed with an electric guitar only in pop music settings, but in one way, she’s used to the guitar-classical music pairing. Her husband is guitarist Tom Rizzo, and, she said, he’s known to practice more than she does.

For the past 25 years, Gigante, whose married name is Rizzo, has raised her family in Burbank, where they’re “really involved in the community,” she said. They moved into their 1928 Burbank home not long after moving to California from the East Coast.

“We kept thinking we were going to move, but we never wanted to,” she said. “I really like it here.”

Their children, James and Annie, have both sung with John Burroughs High School’s choir program. And before James, a college freshman, could drive, Gigante hired drivers when all four family members were performing in different corners of Los Angeles on the same night. Gigante said it’s happened more than once, causing her and her husband to break a house rule. “We have a policy that one of us really has to be there. We really try,” she said.

Gigante grew up in a musical home in Alexandria, Va., the youngest of five sisters. Her mother taught violin and her father, a former Army colonel, worked at the Pentagon. “We all had to play an instrument. We would play together,” she said. One sister, Beth Gigante Klingenstein, has since become a pianist and educator.

Gigante graduated from the Eastman School of Music and debuted at Carnegie Hall in 1981. She is a founding member of the Angeli Duo and Capitol Ensemble and has played violin for films and television.

Perhaps millions of people have seen an eight-story-tall mural of Gigante and her violin facing the Harbor Freeway. It was completed by Kent Twitchell in the early ’90s.

“It’s a beautiful work of art,” Gigante said. “I’m flattered, but it’s a bit overwhelming. I’m just a violinist.”

Rarely will a day pass without Gigante playing her violin, and she attributes the hard work to her success. She likens being a violinist to being an athlete — only the muscles to keep in shape are smaller. “You have to prepare. You have to know the music; if you haven’t played a while before rehearsal, it shows.”

The life she’s made with music is one she said she’d never dreamed about. “There’s nothing else I wanted to do with my life,” she said.


What: The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra performs works by Mozart, Osvaldo Golijov, Derek Bermel and Beethoven

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 24

Where: The Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale

Tickets: $24 to $105

Call: (213) 622-7001, Ext. 215

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