The Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, led by Maestro John Farrer, has been hugely successful for decades. Much of the credit can go to the symphony's musicians, who have wowed local crowds with their beautiful music.
These four women have been performing with the symphony for more than a combined 150 years. Each adds a special touch to the orchestra with her instrument, and they have the ability to teach the newer members skills to better their performances.
The orchestra's season continues Feb. 9 at Rabobank Theater with the "Verdi and Wagner 200th birthday celebration."
Mary -- the orchestra manager, librarian and first chair clarinet -- is the longest playing member of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, playing for 53 seasons.
What was your first instrument, and how old were you? I played the violin at age 3, wasn't really interested, and began piano in grade school. But as soon as I was old enough to play an instrument, which was fifth grade, I dropped piano.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra?Being a member is a very rewarding experience. It gives me the chance to play unlimited musical literature, to play my instrument as a professional, and enjoy the camaraderie of my fellow musicians.
What is your favorite music piece to perform? I cannot say I have a favorite piece of musical literature, but I do have favorite composers, especially those who write well for the clarinet: Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Sibeliius, Mahler and many more.
Can we find you performing anywhere else outside of the orchestra?Yes, I play in the Masterworks Orchestra, my clarinet quartet, and choir. And also at various churches and several workshops in California and Oregon.
What has been your best memory with the orchestra and why? It is that adrenalin high we all get during a concert. It is a feeling like no other and the satisfaction of a concert well played.
Becky is the concertmaster and first chair violin for the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. She moved here in 1963 from Cheney, Wash., joined the symphony in 1964, and has been playing with it ever since.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra? I enjoy and love playing music and enjoy working with Mr. Farrer, the music director. And there are social aspects: all of my friends play instruments and are in the orchestra, and it is privilege to play music to the community.
What is your favorite song to perform?Probably the Brahms symphony. Johannes Brahms wrote four of them, and I enjoy performing them because they really explore what the violin can do. I get to play loud and soft, and fast and slow with my violin.
What has been your best memory with the orchestra? Well, of course, I enjoy being a soloist with the symphony. I have played soloist about four times, and they were the most exciting times. It's nerve-wracking, but definitely fun!
What would be your advice to a musician interested in joining the orchestra?They really have to be prepared. The music is hard and we have to learn it quite fast, which means they have to spend a lot of time practicing. But it is a lot of fun. We get the music two weeks before the concert, and we have to learn it before the rehearsals start, which is one week before the concert.
Can we find you performing anywhere else outside of the orchestra? My husband and I have had a string quartet for a long time, and we play for weddings. My husband is a great piano player, and we have given concerts together at the Bakersfield College, and local churches. He plays his piano and I play my violin.
Amy is the first chair, second violin in the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. She joined the symphony at age 17, in the 1970s, when she met Maestro John Farrer. Although she has a teaching career, she has always been available to play with the orchestra.
What was your first instrument, and how old were you? I began playing the violin in my public school music program in fourth grade. I looked up to my older sister, Jeanene, and she played the violin, too. Also, my music teacher, Mr. Tesovnic, had an Austrian accent that I just loved. He became my mentor as I grew up to become a music teacher as well -- without the Austrian accent, I'm afraid.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra?I enjoy performing for a live audience, making music and playing with friends. On a deeper level, the interpretation of great works of art and the passion of personal expression feed my soul. On a lighter note, I enjoy carpooling with concertmaster Rebecca Brooks as we share cooking secrets and cure the problems of the world.
What would be your advice to a musician interested in joining the orchestra?It's a wonderful opportunity. Performing with 80 fellow musicians can be magical. You won't make a lot of money, but you will love it. I would invite you to audition and prepare by practicing sight reading, and learning how to play "inside your section." There are three golden rules for success: be on time, know your part and follow the conductor. I guess that is true in all walks of life.
If you could choose another instrument to play what would it be?As a music educator, I play all of the instruments of the band and orchestra. But if I were to perform on something other than the violin, it would be the electric bass guitar I have waiting for me in my studio. It seems there is never enough time to rock out, but then I think the orchestra is not ready for Amy's candy-apple red bass guitar, anyway.
Can we find you performing anywhere else outside of the orchestra?I enjoy playing chamber music with my symphony friends, and travel to play in chamber music workshops all throughout the state. Also, I love playing music with my husband and keyboardist, Dan McGuire. We play weddings and private parties, where I get to play classical, and a little pop, blues and jazz.
Elvira is part of the violin section and has been playing with the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra for 13 years. The Russian native said she loves to perform here.
What was the first instrument you played and how old were you? I grew up in a small town in the eastern part of Russia. When I was 6 years old, I was first introduced to violin and fell in love with it. After a rigorous competition, I was accepted into a music school for children, where I started taking violin lessons. I continued my studies at the school for eight years, after which I completed my education at the Ekaterinburg State College of Music.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra?I enjoy sharing my passion and love for music, and a wonderful performance experience with many good musicians in the orchestra. I also enjoy the leadership and artistry of our conductor John Farrer.
What has been your best memory with the orchestra?My recent greatest memory includes a performance of the second piano concerto by Sergei Rachmaninov with the Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii. It was one of the most touching and powerful interpretations. I will never forget how warmly the audience received the pianist and his playing. Many listeners had tears of joy, and it was very heartwarming for me.
If you could choose another instrument to play what would it be?In addition to violin, I also play piano. My next choice would be harp.
What would be your advice to a musician interested in joining the orchestra? I would recommend any good musician to join our orchestra. The experience for me is life-enriching and fulfilling. It also stretches my boundaries as a performer and exposes me to a variety of repertoire. Each member of the orchestra has a unique personality, high standards and adds greatly to our unified team that is led by our maestro, John Farrer.