Friday, February 23 , 2018, 6:58 am | Fair 45º


Santa Barbara Music & Arts Conservatory Instrumental in Making ‘Classic’ Cool

Its young musicians will perform a free community concert on Sunday at UCSB, with 17-year-old Nicolas Sterner making his conducting debut

You’ve heard of The New Cool, right? While some of the community’s tech-savvy students create fantastical robots, others know that “classic cool” is the way to go — it’s always been in style. In fact, it thrives at the Santa Barbara Music & Arts Conservatory.

In celebration of the hard work and dedication of this year’s conservatory students, the public is invited to attend a free concert — a “finale extravaganza” — at 3 p.m. Sunday in UCSB’s Lotte Lehmann Hall.

The program will showcase the musical talents of young Orff musicians, children’s choir and string players. Ernest Richardson, resident conductor of the Omaha Symphony Orchestra, will lead more than 50 musicians from the Junior Virtuosi and Virtuoso String ensembles in Camille Saint-Saëns’ timeless Le Carnaval des Animaux (“The Carnival of the Animals”).

The piece will be narrated by conservatory theater students and feature duo piano soloists John Etsell and Michael Sikich. The Virtuoso Strings group will go on to perform the Adagietto from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in C-Sharp Minor. In addition, 17-year-old GMAC cellist Nicolas Sterner will make his conducting debut with the Junior Virtuosi rendition of Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite.

“I recognize what is so special about these young people,” said John Sant’Ambrogio, former principal cellist with the St. Louis Symphony and a conservatory mentor.

“Besides being brilliant musicians, technically and musically, they all seem to love what they are doing. They care about each other and love being part of the whole event — something so important for young people today. They feel this experience is the coolest thing they could be doing — more fun than the behaviors our present culture might throw at them.”

Lana Bodnar, SBMAC founder and director added: “In this day and age of a highly ‘wired’ youth culture that may appear to be unfocused and overscheduled, we offer a curriculum that is instrumental in creating a safe haven for traditional arts education and freedom of expression — far from the isolating, artificial electronic world of computer games, Facebook and other social media. As a result, our students flourish; they use their talents to give back to the Santa Barbara community, through concert performances and annual fundraisers such as the recent ‘Service for Soldiers Benefit’ concert for the Wounded Warrior Project, where they helped to raise $6,000 in donations. And, they go on in their lives to do great things — obtain scholarships for college, attend conservatories, perform as professionals, teach, and of course, keep the arts alive for others to enjoy.”

The Santa Barbara Music & Arts Conservatory, originally founded in 1989 and home of “The Young Soloists Showcase,” is a unique program dedicated to fostering full growth and creativity in youths, the pursuit of excellence in a safe environment, and the celebration of artistic tradition as an expression of humanity.

The organization receives in-kind support from The Granada and the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts. It offers classes during the school year in string orchestra/chamber ensemble performance, music history and advanced theory, visual arts, creative writing, poetry and theater. Classes meet on Saturdays during the school year on the campus of Girls Inc. at 4973 Hollister Ave. in Goleta.

The conservatory administers sustainable arts education to meet the expanding interests and needs of more than 140 students ages 4 to 19. For more information about the organization, including ways to provide financial support and the upcoming “Music and Arts by the Sea” summer camps for junior and advanced string players, call Cathy Oliverio at 805.680.2548.

— Sarah Ettman-Sterner is a parent volunteer for the Santa Barbara Music & Arts Conservatory.

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