Best of Los Angeles: The Santa Monica Symphony

Ira Israel
Jun 9 · 3 min read
photo by Kevin Tu

Bucking the stereotype that Los Angeles is full of superficial people who are only interested in fame and money, for the past 74 years the Santa Monica Symphony has been creating community and enriching people’s lives for free. Each year the symphony performs an amazing season of six concerts featuring world-class musicians as soloists, such as superb violinist Roberto Cani, the concertmaster for the Los Angeles Opera.

Last Sunday, the orchestra began with the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring 19 year-old Nicholas Mendez Del Valle who has already performed at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. What made his performance exceptionally compelling was not just his virtuosity on the keyboard but the way it brought a diverse audience together in rapturous enjoyment.

Check out his magnificent playing here:

The Santa Monica Symphony is a diverse mix of professional, preprofessional and talented community players. The one thing that they have in common is their love of music, working together to create joyous communal experiences. Musicians range in age from 19 to 77 years-old. A retired doctor shares his music stand with a young techie. An immigrant musician sits side-by-side with a school teacher born and raised in Santa Monica. Professional union musicians play in harmony with music students. Making music knits together a wide range of individuals whose paths otherwise might not cross.

The orchestra performs everything from orchestral favorites like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphonyto new works by up and coming composers, such as Benjamin Boone’s Waterless Music. Held in historic Barnum Hall on the campus of Santa Monica High School, neighbors from this progressive community mix and mingle before and after the show.

Now in his seventh season as musical director and conductor, Guido Lamell infuses the symphony with vigor and excitement. Maestro Lamell always engages the audience with a brief introduction of each musical offering as if he were casually chatting with friends in his living room; he shares fascinating historical tidbits as well as anecdotes from his nearly 40 years as a violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“I am thrilled with the way our orchestra has grown in its capabilities as an ensemble of the top ranks,” Lamell said. “It’s my greatest joy to see how the Santa Monica Symphony has grown year after year in terms of precision, power, nuance, and musical expression.”

As the orchestra enters its landmark 75th season, Maestro Lamell said that he feels honored to be its conductor as the symphony prepares to celebrate this historical milestone: “This is a time to move forward and challenge ourselves so that the next season and the 74 seasons after that one will be even greater than those of the past,” he said. “This is a very exciting time for us.”

For its 75th season, the Santa Monica Symphony is commissioning a new concerto for flute and harp by Emmy-award-winning composer Bruce Broughton, whose music you would recognize from the films Silverado, Tombstone, and Homeward Bound. Other musical treats will include a performance of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto by LA Philharmonic principal cellist Robert deMaine.

photo by Kevin Tu

If you are in Santa Monica, do not miss the orchestra’s renowned Summer Concert in the Park taking place on Saturday, July 27th at 6pm in Reed Park,1133 7th Street near Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. It is the perfect opportunity to bring friends and a picnic and listen to symphonic favorites while enjoying the sunset.

Ira Israel

Written by

Psychotherapist, Career Counselor, Relationship Coach, Author, Esalen & Kripalu Happiness Workshop Facilitator