Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra ceases after 38 years

Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra ceases after 38 years

Staff Report

The Board of Directors for the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra has elected to shutter the venerable ensemble permanently. The decision follows a Board vote in April to suspend operations for the 2017-18 season, pending a review of the organization’s prospects. The Chamber Orchestra presented its final concert of the 2016-17 season on May 16 at the Lobero Theatre.

“The SBCO has exceeded its mission, and the time has come to close its doors and celebrate almost 40 years of exceptional music,” said SBCO Board Chair Joe Campanelli. “This difficult decision was made after efforts to garner increased community support and seat a new Board came up short. I want to personally thank all those who have supported this great orchestra over the years. The organization also deeply appreciates the extraordinary dedication of our talented musicians and brilliant music director, Heiichiro Ohyama, as well as our Board. If funding is available, a grand celebratory concert may be planned.”

Founded in 1978 by conducting student Jeffrey Evans, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra was originally a community orchestra that performed in coffee houses and libraries. With the appointment of Maestro Ohyama as music director in 1983, however, the ensemble’s stature rapidly grew, and it increasingly attracted top industry talent. Notable guest soloists in recent years have included pianists Alessio Bax, Wendy Chen, Andre-Michel Schub, Jerome Lowenthal, the late David Golub, and Yefim Bronfman; violinists Paul Huang, Cho-Liang Lin, Mark Kaplan, and Kyoko Takezawa; and cellists Lynn Harrell, Gary Hoffman, and Carter Brey. Former SBCO Concertmasters Sheryl Staples and Michelle Kim now serve as principal associate concertmaster and assistant concertmaster, respectively, of the New York Philharmonic; former SBCO Concertmaster Nina Bodnar went on to serve as concertmaster of the St. Louis Philharmonic under Leonard Slatkin.

Over the course of his distinguished career Maestro Ohyama also has served as principal violist and assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; principal chief conductor of the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra in Fukuoka, Japan, and the Osaka Symphony Orchestra; artistic director of La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; music director of the Nagasaki Music Festival; and a professor of music at the University of California.

Recent initiatives undertaken by the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra include “Classical Connections,” an innovative effort to study the therapeutic benefits of classical music for individuals suffering cognitive or neurological impairment, and the “Free Concert Seats for Families” program, which enabled children ages 8 to 18 to attend regular-season SBCO concerts with a parent/guardian free of charge.

Founded in 1978, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra is devoted to presenting concerts and programming of exceptional quality, and to fostering engagement with classical music among community members of all ages. The organization’s reputation for excellence has long attracted world-class musicians. Current and former SBCO musicians perform with the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera, Pacific Symphony, and the Santa Barbara Symphony. Acclaimed conductor Heiichiro Ohyama has served as music director of the ensemble since 1983. For more information, visit www.sbco.org.