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‘Symphony in the Garden’ Cultivates Growing Support with Celebration of 60th Anniversary

Michael and Anne Towbes host the Santa Barbara Symphony's afternoon fundraiser at their Montecito home

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the event.]

A “Symphony in the Garden” gathered more than 100 guests as part of the 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Santa Barbara Symphony at the beautiful home of Michael and Anne Towbes in Montecito.

“I’ve been a supporter of the Santa Barbara Symphony for many years, and I think that they continue to improve year after year and it’s so great to see the quality of the symphony that we have here,” Michael Towbes told Noozhawk. “We’re so very fortunate to have our own symphony orchestra in Santa Barbara.”

The event was not only an anniversary celebration but also an opportunity to acknowledge three donors who each contributed $60,000 this season — Marilynn Sullivan, Daniel Gainey for the Elaine F. Stepanek Foundation, and the William H. Kearns Foundation with Maxine Prisyon and Milton Warshaw.

Youth Symphony violinist Ian Bankhead greeted guests upon arrival as hors d’oeuvres and wine were served poolside. The Youth Symphony is an orchestra of nearly 70 musicians ages 12 to 20 from Santa Barbara and Ventura county schools that study under the direction of conductor Andy Radford, and no students are refused entry because of finances.

Guests also surveyed auction tables set up across the impeccably manicured grounds with unique items, including “Christmas for Two in Florence with maestro Nir Kabaretti,” conducting La Strada, an original ballet by Nino Rota, the composer of the music to The Godfather film at the Florence opera house, including four nights at the Rocco Forte Hotel Savoy. Also offered were two private performances, including a private piano recital at home with Santa Barbara Symphony principal keyboardist Natahsa Kislenko, and private chamber music with Central4 Strings.

Additional offerings were 2014 Grammy tickets, jewelry from Bryant & Sons and A.H. Gaspar jewelers, and oil paintings by Meredith Brooks, “Still Life with Sunflowers,” Ralph Waterhouse, “Evening Light,” and Whitney Brooks, “Symphony in the Garden,” which was also the event program cover art.

Musicians from the Santa Barbara Symphony also entertained guests a performance of Wolfgang Mozart among others.

“Our musicians are at the top of the scene. It’s very tough to get on an orchestra — if you want to come and play you have to really win an audition in order to come and play with us,” Kabaretti said. “Today we have a short selection of music with a few of our members. They are all audition winners, and they play with some of the most prestigious orchestras in the country.”

This group of talented musicians included Erik Rynearson on viola, Elizabeth Headman on violin, Ina Veli on violin, Jennifer Johnson on oboe and Trevor Handy on cello, setting the festive mood.

As the afternoon drew to a close, guests again gathered poolside for delectable desserts and coffee, soaking in the early evening sunshine that concluded a successful afternoon that raised about $50,000.

More than 25,000 guests enjoyed 14 scheduled concerts plus a New Year’s Eve Pops program during the 2012-13 season, including collaborations with State Street Ballet and the Santa Barbara Choral Society.

The 2013-14 season will begin Oct. 12 with Richard Wagner’s Percussion and Space, an evening with conductor Kabaretti and guest soloist Ted Atkatz on percussion and performances of Wagner’s Tanhauser overtue and Gustav Holst’s The Planets at the Granada Theatre.

The season will continue Nov. 23 with “All Mozart with Mattias Bamert,” New Year’s Eve Pops, “Giuseppe Verdi’s Greatest Opera Hits” on Jan. 25, “Salute to Love” with pianist Helene Grimaud on Feb. 16, “Classical Knockouts” on March 15, “Beethoven Seven” on April 12, and “Dvorak and Schostakovich” on May 17 with Sara Sant’Ambrogio on cello.

Also, back by popular demand are special Behind the Music concert talks with musician and music scholar, Said Romon Araiza that are held one hour before every subscription concert.

The Santa Barbara Symphony was founded in 1953 on the “belief that a special city deserves a special orchestra,” and the unique qualities extend to the impact on local youth.

“The symphony does a very good job of engaging younger people and bringing them to special events at the Granada, and I think it’s all very important so they grow up listening to that kind of music,” Michael Towbess said.

These education programs enriched the lives of 4,500 Santa Barbara County schoolchildren over the last year, such as the Youth Symphony program that includes Junior Strings, designed for beginning and intermediate string players, ages 9 to 14, and is currently made up of 25 young musicians who work with conductor Marisa McLeod.

Also part of the program is String Workshop that provides free weekly lessons and instruments to 140 aspiring musicians in the Goleta Unified School District.

Another program that benefits local youth is the Music Van donated by Marilynn and Tom Sullivan that has been in operation since 1978. This mobile classroom is filled with orchestral instruments and serves 2,000 students in more than 40 schools every year with one-hour sessions for students.

Concerts for Young People is another program that for more than 50 years has introduced children in grades 4 to 6 to the wonders of the orchestra with interactive and friendly concerts that are free to students and teachers.

Additionally, this year the Santa Barbara Symphony will invite up to 16 groups to participate in the Community Engagement passes program that offers up to 20 tickets for a concert fitting the organizations “musical personality,” and includes a pre-concert talk with Araiza.

Upcoming events benefiting the symphony include an Afternoon Tea at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore on June 26 in support of the Symphony League.

Full seven-series subscriptions and flex four-series tickets are available online with individual tickets on sale in the fall.

Ticket sales and other earned income cover less than 35 percent of total operating costs and donor opportunities include opportunities at various levels from $50 for the Etude Club to the $5,000 Gold Circle and $25,000 Maestro Circle. For more information, click here or call Kelly Cornell-Weichbrod at 805.898.0107 or Christine Hollinger at 805.898.0316.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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