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Fashionistas, musicians to meet measure for measure at Burbank Philharmonic’s ‘Fashion Meets the Phil’

Members of the Burbank Philharmonic pose in fashions created by Woodbury University students during
Members of the Burbank Philharmonic pose in fashions created by Woodbury University students during a 2013 “Fashion Meets the Phil” concert. This year’s free concert takes place Saturday at 8 p.m. in La Cañada’s Lanterman Auditorium.
(Courtesy of Steven Kerstein)

Two art forms will take center stage at La Cañada’s Lanterman Auditorium Saturday as the Burbank Philharmonic Orchestra and Woodbury University Fashion Design department team up for a free “Fashion Meets the Phil” concert at 8 p.m.

The 29th anniversary gala concert will include works by Beethoven, Mozart, Rossini and Debussy (with assistant conductor Michael Stanley) and will begin with Los Angeles Times columnist Chris Erskine guest conducting musicians in the national anthem.

“It’s some of the greatest music ever written, all coming up in one performance,” said Steven Kerstein, founding musical director and conductor for the Burbank Phil and longtime La Cañada resident.

For a visual treat, soprano Esther Tonea and harpist Alyssa Katahara will be outfitted in customized gowns created especially for them by Woodbury University students in the school’s fashion program.


Kerstein said the partnership began five years ago after his teenage daughter recommended incorporating fashion into the annual concert as a way to engage a broader audience.

Since then it’s been mutually beneficial for the students, who get to work with real-world clients and showcase their work, and the performers, who walk away with pieces tailored to their movements, instruments and personalities.

“The fashions have to not only be beautiful, which they are, but they also have to be functional,” Kerstein said. “So the students listen to the music the performers are going to perform and incorporate the music in their designs.”

Anna Leiker chairs Woodbury University’s Fashion Design program and works with students to plan and execute the concert creations. This year, Woodbury junior Katrin Divinets was selected to work on Khatahara’s gown, while fellow junior Ahad Alshaea worked with Tonea to create a custom piece for Saturday’s show.


“It’s a wonderful civic engagement program that brings two art forms together,” Leiker said. “Our students learn from this program the full real-world design experience. And they have a real customer in mind.”

It’s also a lot of work. Students not only consider the mood and sound of the musical compositions, but work over the course of months to create muslin dress patterns, schedule fittings and respond to musicians’ feedback.

This year, while Tonea was out of state, Leiker and Alshaea mailed her a dress pattern to try on and conducted a video-conference fitting via FaceTime in order to build a dress form to Tonea’s exact measurements.

“It’s always a gamble, but everything looks beautiful,” Leiker said.

Lanterman Auditorium is located at 4491 Cornishon Ave., in La Cañada. For more information visit

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