Pasadena Symphony Musician, Emily Bernstein, Loses Battle With Cancer

After Emily Bernstein recorded the clarinet solo for the score of the motion picture "The Terminal," director Steven Spielberg - a former clarinetist himself - insisted that Bernstein's name appear in the film's end credits, although traditionally individual musicians performing in studio orchestras remain anonymous.

Bernstein considered this experience, which took place in March 2004 between chemotherapy treatments, not only a great honor but an even greater source of comfort.

"The whole experience with 'The Terminal' has given me so much during a difficult time with my health," Bernstein said. "It has been a light in my life."

Bernstein, herself, was a "light" in the musical life of the Pasadena Symphony for 10 years. She first came to the attention of conductor Jorge Mester during rehearsals for Igor Stravinsky's "Fairy Kiss" in 1994. The work includes a prominent clarinet solo, and when the principal clarinetist at the time took ill at last moment, Bernstein stepped in for the final two rehearsals and performance.

JoAnn Turovsky, Bernstein's partner and the Pasadena Symphony's principal harpist, remembers Bernstein's first rehearsal with the orchestra vividly. "The thing I remember most was the look of utter relief on Jorge's face," she recalls. "At one point, he even said, 'I can't bring myself to make a suggestion to such a talented performer.'"

A decade later, Mester's respect and regard for Bernstein have risen even higher.

"When our orchestra manager suggested that Emily work with us on 'Fairy Kiss,' he described her as 'a treasure,'" Mester said. "He was absolutely right. Emily was an incredibly gifted musician - an invaluable and irreplaceable member of our orchestra - and a good friend. I will miss her greatly."

As she fought the cancer that ultimately took her life on Jan. 26, Bernstein approached the Pasadena Symphony about establishing a fund in her name. This fund, she hoped, would enable future generations who share her love of classical music to continue to enjoy performances by the Pasadena Symphony - an orchestra Bernstein claimed was "filled with the area's best players."

Bernstein was also principal clarinetist for the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and a member of the acclaimed contemporary music ensemble XTET. As a studio musician, she recorded over 500 movie and television scores, including "Catch Me if You Can," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Seabiscuit" and the series "JAG." Bernstein also served on the faculty of the Henry Mancini Institute in Los Angeles.

But undoubtedly, the Pasadena Symphony held a special place in Bernstein's heart. Interviewed recently, she said: "At the Pasadena Symphony ? I looked forward to every rehearsal and every concert ? Playing in such a great orchestra is what I loved to do most."

Adds Tom O'Connor, acting executive director of the Pasadena Symphony, "Emily's generosity has ensured that her love for our orchestra will live on. Our symphony family - musicians, staff, subscribers and music lovers throughout the Southland - owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude."

To make a contribution to the Emily Bernstein Fund at the Pasadena Symphony or for more information, call 626-793-7172, ext. 21.

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