Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra

by: Jerome Kleinsasser

In 1862 the great French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz wrote: “Instrumentation is, in music, the exact equivalent of color in painting.”

On November 6, Music Director John Farrer will serve as our guide through a gallery exhibit of musical paintings that embrace nearly 200 years of orchestral history, ranging from Napoleonic Europe to California in the late 20th-century. Five colorful portraits in orchestral sound will take us from California to Austria, Germany, Bohemia and Russia.

The exhibit opens with Lutoslawki’s 1993 Fanfare for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a brief but intensely striking sonic mountain of dissonances pitting various instrumental groupings against one another in a shocking musical free-for-all. Before you know it, in the greatest surprise of all, everything resolves in silence.

Our visit through the orchestral gallery continues with music of heroic character and scale in Beethoven’s overture to his opera Fidelio. Born in the age of Napoleon, the powerful opening chords announce that this is music of great substance and character. Moments of genuine beauty follow as solo horns and woodwinds carry us on a journey of swelling emotional highs that speak to the spiritual courage within us all.

Next, in Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration we encounter a rather dark portrait of a solitary soul facing his final hours, alone, in the half-sleep of near death, where thoughts of childhood, youth and maturity combine in a panorama of life’s experiences. After a great emotional struggle, in conclusion all culminates in an aura of redemption and ultimately resounding transformation.

As we turn a corner we encounter something of a quite different color palette in Antonin Dvořák’s Scherzo Capriccioso. Here we are whisked away to the brilliant colors of a Bohemian folk celebration, with lilting dances and rollicking games. Instrumental colors of winds, strings, and percussion instruments are set off in joyous bold relief.

Our gallery presentation culminates in a lovely, but heart-rending portrait of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, as fashioned by the great Russian orchestral colorist, Tchaikovsky. The character of Friar Lawrence, and the warring Capulet and Montague families, as well as the fated lovers themselves, are wrapped appropriately in sonic costume of genuine clarity and sympathy.

Thus ends a memorable musical gallery exhibit of great depth and emotional meaning, presented by the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra led by Music Director John Farrer.

Don’t forget your tickets…


We are nearing the 36th year of performing Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet. This show has been a Bakersfield favorite requiring four shows each year. Nutcracker 2013 will be held on Friday night December 13th, two shows on December 14th, and final show on Sunday December 14th. The Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Dance Center are pleased to bring another year of fantastic dancing and wonder music as we unfold the story first performed in 1892. Here are some of the details for the December concerts:

Friday December 13th 7:30pm
Saturday December 14th 1:00pm
Saturday December 14th 7:30pm
Sunday December 15th 1:00pm

Tickets will be on sale November 20th for $34 or $38 per ticket. You can purchase tickets at Rabobank box office or the BSO office.

You can now listen to a few samples of what the orchestra will perform on October 5th, 2013. Plus you can view the concert program, along with the program notes, to ready yourself for an exciting evening. View the full post for a link to the audio clips.

New concert times are at 7:30pm held at the Rabobank Theater.


Preview samples for the October 5th Performance


American pianist Van Cliburn stunned the Cold War World in 1958 when he won 1st prize in the first ever International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. The Texan returned to the U. S. a national hero and was honored in New York City with a ticker tape parade down Broadway, the first ever for a figure in classical music. An instant celebrity, Cliburn went on to a career of sell-out concerts and best-selling recordings.

Perhaps his most significant gift to posterity is the piano competition that bears his name, held every four years in his hometown of Fort Worth. Formed merely four years after his triumph in Moscow, it has become for pianists the Everest of piano competition.

Why four years between each competition? Because this contest takes time. Beginning with over 130 highly accomplished young pianists selected from 40-minute recitals before live audiences in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, the judges cull 30 pianists to invite to Fort Worth. After a preliminary round the list is winnowed down to the 12 semi-finalists who each in turn play a one-hour solo recital and another in collaboration with a chamber ensemble, perhaps a string quartet. The six survivors then each play two concertos in concert with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. The selected repertoire ranges from Mozart to Prokofiev.

By Jerome Kleinsasser


Cliburn 1958Cliburn Broadway






Cliburn in Moscow, 1958 (Left) , Ticker-tape on Broadway (Right)

The pressure of performance in the final round can only be compared to the finals of the Olympics: four final concerts with orchestra, held on consecutive days in the magnificent Bass Hall Auditorium in downtown Fort Worth before rapt capacity crowds. During intermissions, strolling through the hall’s elegant lobbies or on the street outside, one hears a salad of languages from around the world, each person seemingly there to root for a particular contestant.

On the evening of the final day the awards ceremony resembles that of the Academy of Motion Pictures but without the commercials. Upwards of $200,000 will be awarded to players in several categories. There is, however, only one Gold Medal prize.

Thanks to the initiative of Music Director John Farrer, the last three Cliburn competition Gold-Medal winners have thrilled our BSO audiences. They were Stanislav Loudenitch, Alexander Kobrin, and Nobuyuki Tsujii, On October 5, this year’s winner, a brilliant 27-year old Ukrainian pianist, Vadym Kholodenko, will perform the piece with which Van Cliburn distinguished himself in Moscow in 1958, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 in Bb minor. To hear a sample of Mr. Kholodenko’s final moments in the Van Cliburn Competition, go to YouTube ( and enjoy.


President Putin and Van jpg Van Cliburn with Rubinstein and President Ford, 1976 Van Cliburn with Former President Truman, Kansas City, April 6, 1962 Van Cliburn performing in 1993Symphony Nobuyuki Tsujii






1. Van Cliburn with President Putin
2. Van Cliburn with President Ford and legendary pianist Arthur Rubenstein
3. Van Cliburn with President Truman
4. Van Cliburn performance in 1993
5. Nobuyuki Tsujii (2009 Gold Medalist during a Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra performance)



Musicians: Your passion and love for music will reach and inspire a whole new generation to appreciate music. The BSO has inspired audiences since 1932. As we continue with our mission to provide great concerts and music education to the young people of Kern County, we are holding auditions to join our family of musicians. Auditions will be held for trombone and all strings on Monday, September 16th. Times will be scheduled based on appointments which can be made by calling the BSO office at 661-323-7928. Music for the audition can be picked up at the BSO office.

PLEASE share this with anyone you think might be interested in auditioning for the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra.

Who: Trombone and All String Musicians
What: Auditions for the BSO
When: Monday September 16th
Time: By Appointment

After forty-eight years serving as Concertmaster for the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra (BSO), Rebecca Brooks has decided to retire, passing the torch to Julia Haney. Julia Haney has been Mrs. Brooks’ trusted Associate Concertmaster since 2010, and now it is her time to shine. Haney describes Rebecca Brooks as a “terrific mediator” who possesses “consummate leadership” — qualities of an effective Concertmaster. The Concertmaster’s primary devoir is to direct the violin section and to “help translate the conductor’s vision” to the orchestra, according to Haney. She knows that Brooks has left incredibly big shoes to fill but is up for the challenge.

img007Haney spent most of her childhood living in small, rural communities in Iowa. She started playing violin at age eight and took group classes and private lessons at her school. Because her father was a pastor, she was given the opportunity to play in church services and further develop her talent. Haney also participated in her school orchestra and in youth symphonies, where her dream initiated. She described playing in the community as “a really magical experience.”

When asked who has inspired Haney the most over the span of her musical career, her first answer was Itzhak Perlman, one of the most skilled violinists of the twentieth century. She remembers watching him on her parents’ small television set and “being mesmerized by his big hands and big fingers.” Haney was also bewildered by his “sensitive” style of playing. “That was a moment I will never forget.”

Various violin instructors and colleagues have also inspired Haney over the years. When she felt she could not practice any longer, her teachers and colleagues consistently encouraged her to strive for improvement. She asked herself, “How much are you willing to sacrifice for your dreams?” Haney then realized that the only way to reach her dreams was through sacrifice. Haney believes that sacrifice is an obstacle, but also believes “overcoming obstacles is a smaller matter than one thinks.” This realization strengthened her ardor for music. Now she understands that every additional focused hour of practice, however tedious, brings improvement.

In her career to date, Ms. Haney has performed with several orchestras, including the Des Moines Symphony of Iowa, the Greater Bridgeport Symphony of Connecticut, and the Minnesota Opera Orchestra. She has also played in the BSO since 2006. Furthermore, she IMG_7511has played in 150 student orchestral performances and over 250 professional orchestral performances. That is over 400 orchestral performances in total! She has many, many more to come. These performances were just a warm-up as she moves into the role as Concertmaster.

When Julia Haney is not spending hours practicing or performing, she enjoys being a mom to her eight-year-old son and her five-year-old daughter. She also teaches private violin lessons at CSU Bakersfield, where her husband is a music history professor. Haney is also involved in a local string quartet that meets weekly to practice and occasionally perform. In Haney’s spare time, she enjoys cooking, reading, and listening to all genres of music, including Pop, Jazz, Opera, Chamber music, and of course, Orchestral music. She is open to different styles and sounds of music and is convinced that “music is like people: the more you know, the more interesting it is.”

Julia Haney, champion of orchestral music, has now received the torch as she steps into her role as the new BSO Concertmaster. After years of hard work and dedication, she will see her musical dream become a reality during the 2013-2014 season. Julia Haney, Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra’s newest Concertmaster, will make history.

By: Ivory Parker, BSO Intern

By: Mary Moore

The Clarinet is a woodwind instrument with a cylindrical bore and a single beating reed. Made in eight different sizes, the Eb soprano is the smallest while the Contra Bass is the largest. Orchestral composers typically write for the Bb Soprano and A Clarinets. Those of us who play the clarinet for orchestras own both instruments since both are used often for different music pieces. The Bb Soprano Clarinet is the most commonly used for all other types of music, such as Band, Jazz and popular music.

ClarinetsFrom the late 17th Century on clarinets were used in Military Bands, and not used in Orchestras. Mozart was the first composer to use Clarinets in orchestra around the 1780’s.

The parts of the instrument including the mouthpiece, upper barrel, lower barrel, and the bell which are fitted together with cork socket connections. In the smallest Eb Clarinet the instrument is made in one piece in addition to the mouthpiece and bell.

The mouthpiece is tapered on the top to fit into the players mouth while the underside has a slot over which the reed vibrates held in place by a ligature. The barrel is used for tuning, by either pushing in or pulling out.

clarinetThe upper and lower joints are the major part of the bore and carry the finger holes and key work. The Clarinet is the only completely open holed instrument, meaning the fingers cover the 6 open holes, and the little fingers of each hand operate the keys. Weight of the instrument is supported by the right thumb, which fits under the thumb rest on the lower section.

bundy-clarinetClarinets are made from Granadilla, or African black wood with silver or nickel keys, however some student instruments are made from plastic or ebonite. The clarinet is pitched based on the length of the instrument. Clarinets pitched in Bb, including the Bb soprano the most widely used, sound one note higher than concert pitch, and those pitched in Eb sound a 3rd higher or a 5th lower than concert pitch. When the Octave key (register key) is pressed the pitch jumps a 12th instead of an octave; all other woodwind instruments jump an octave. Clarinets play three and one half octaves, a very large range. The three registers are, chalumeau (named after a sister instrument in use before the clarinet as we know it today), the middle register known as the clarion ( meaning clear, this is where the Clarinet gets its name), and the altissimo register, which is the very high register.

Clarinet-ResourcesEarliest known records of the invention of the Clarinet give Jocob Christoph Denner of Nuremberg as the inventor in 1710. Over the years, keys have been added and the mechanism revised. The Albert 13 key system came into use in in the early 19th century, and the Boehm system, a revised system of clarinet keywork, developed in 1839, coming into poplar use about 1870. The Albert system has been largely replaced by the Boehm system, however there are still a few being used.

The clarinet is known for its beautiful clear tone. Orchestral and band musicians seldom use vibrato to color their tone. Vibrato is mainly used by the jazz or popular music musician. One myth that haunts the Clarinet is the occasional squeak which is actually an overtone.

Exciting changes have been undertaken by the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra as M. Bryan Burrow facilitates a re-branding of the BSO. This 80 year old organization has a wonderful and very talented orchestra. Many of its members have been part of this orchestra for decades. Unlike many symphony’s across the United States, the BSO has stood the test of time through very difficult economic times. With generous supporters, Mr. Burrow is adding programs back into its lineup to better serve this community. “We are continuing to live our mission of great performances and music education to the youth in our community”, said Mr. Burrow. The BSO is looking at the way it does business as well as how all of its programs are facilitated. Excellence is top of mind and top of priority in all it does.

Many of its changes will affect audience sizes, concert experience, community outreach, and expansion of its youth programs. Here are a few changes so far…

1. Lower ticket prices for the 2013-2014 Season
2. Revamped and improved Conductor’s Circle
3. New logo, new website, and new commercials
4. Focus on having our musicians hired for community events
5. Improved business operations
6. Volunteer Opportunities

Becky Brooks serves as the Concertmaster and Principal Violin musician for the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra (BSO).

She, along with her brother Ronald, grew up in the small town of Cheney, Washington. Her father was a Ford Dealer and her mother taught piano at Eastern Washington University. Coming from a musical family (her mother played piano and, according to Becky, her father was accomplished at playing the radio), it seemed natural that she have musical talent as well. After her mother discovered that both she and her brother had “perfect pitch,” there was no question that their musical talents would be developed. They often sang Brahms’ Lullaby at bedtime, harmonizing all the while.

Becky began studying the piano at age 5, and switched to the violin at age 7 after asking her mother how a musician was able to play each string without touching the other strings. Her mother, eager to have her daughter pursue violin studies, arranged for her to take lessons from a local musician. Becky continued to study the violin during her youth, and went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance from the University of Washington (UW). Unsure of how she wanted to apply her degree, she enrolled in the Master’s program at UW, but discontinued her advanced studies when she was asked to work in a temporary assignment teaching music at UW. During this time, she was also accepted as a violinist in the Seattle Symphony Orchestra where she played for seven years, married her husband Dale, and had two children.

Dale, an accomplished pianist who earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from UW and studied at Julliard, wanted to teach. His job search led him to Bakersfield where he joined the staff of Bakersfield College (BC) in 1963. Early in his career at BC, Dale, Becky, and other BC music staff performed lunchtime concerts, which, if the gleam in Becky’s eyes when she recollected this time of her life, was truly a labor of love.

A Conversation with Becky Brooks, Concertmaster and Principal Violin Musician 

By Renée Kinzel



According to an August 9, 2002 Washington Post article by Tim Page entitled The Modern Orchestra Concertmaster: First Among Equals, “. . . the position requires not only superb playing ability and broad musicianship, but also grace under pressure, the optimism of a cheerleader and the finesse of an ambassador.” Rebecca (Becky) Brooks embodies all of these qualities.

In preparation for writing this article to celebrate the musical career and impending retirement of Becky Brooks from the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, I spent an enjoyable visit with her at her home on a pleasant spring day during which she shared her history and experiences growing up, marrying and forming her own family, and pursuing a career in teaching and playing the violin (she also teaches viola). The following summarizes our discussion.


She joined the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra in 1963, then under the direction of Edouard Hurlimann, and strived to perform to the best of her abilities. In 1964 her efforts were rewarded when she was named Concertmaster and Principal Violin, paired with Jean Dodson on the first stand. This pairing and ability to “play as one” continued for 46 years, according to Conductor John Farrer.

The two violinists share a love of music and a respect for one another that has extended into their personal lives. Together they formed a string quartet in which they continue to perform at numerous venues and weddings. In addition to music, they both enjoy sewing and have a shared interest in family values. Becky also provided violin lessons to Jean’s daughter Donna, who has since formed a string quartet of her own.

Other fellow musicians respect Becky’s talent and knowledge, and her advice has often been sought over the course of her career. In 1992, Barbara Byers (also a player in the BSO strings) requested her assistance with the reinvention of the Bakersfield Youth Symphony Orchestra (BYSO). Since then, the BYSO has continued to grow and thrive as an important contribution to the musical education of our community and its youth.

In addition to leading the strings, Becky has performed solos several times with the BSO, including such works as the Violin Concerto by Sibelius and Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Saint Saens. She expressed her admiration of Conductor John Farrer for having built the BSO from an amateur group to a professional group and for his musicianship and judgment. She appreciates having had the opportunity “to flower under his baton.”

Conductor John Farrer expressed his appreciation for Becky’s outstanding service to the BSO and incalculable value to the organization during her tenure through the quality of her playing and inspiration to everyone in the orchestra to reach the highest level of performance possible. He commented, “As the leader of the string section, she has provided first-class professional advice about all aspects of string playing, especially bowing and the finer points of string technique. Throughout, she has maintained a cheerful attitude and provided a vital communication bridge to all of the musicians of the orchestra. We will miss Becky very much, and wish her the very best of everything in the years ahead.”

In addition to her work with the BSO, Becky extended her musical talents to play in the Mozart Festival in San Luis Obispo for 18 years. During this period, she visited with her brother Ronald, who was an accomplished pianist and harpsichordist who taught at Cal-Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Since 2010, she has been paired with Julie Haney, Associate Concertmaster, who Becky respects as “an accomplished musician, well-equipped, and a wonderful person.” Having observed them together on stage, this writer feels it is evident that a similar camaraderie to that with Jean continues to exist at the first stand. Julie Haney will succeed Becky as Concertmaster following her retirement at the close of the 2012/2013 Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra season.

Contributions to the Community

Becky enjoys teaching violin and viola to local students, and considers this her greatest gift to the community. She has trained many accomplished musicians who have gone on to perform in the BYSO and BSO.

The Music

In discussing the meaning of music, Becky related that “music tells a story; every musical phrase can be adapted to something in your life.” She recalled a time when one of her students was having trouble playing a piece, and she gave him the assignment of writing a story to accompany the music. The student returned to the next lesson with a story for every note in the piece, and ultimately played the piece very well. She feels that applying meaning to the music helps to contribute toward the overall performance.

She shared that there was a time when she was performing on stage and “got lost in the music,” and forgot that she was playing for an audience. Afterward, she felt that this was the best she had ever played. That was a moment she will not forget and attributes it to having had a “connection” to the music.

She recalled another time when a guest pianist soloist commented that he loved watching her because she looked like the music sounded. Becky is very expressive in her face and movements while playing, and one can observe that she is not just playing the music, but is the music.

When asked what musical piece might encapsulate her life’s experiences, she could not name one piece, but identified one composer – Sergei Prokofiev. Prokofiev’s music has been with her and her family, beginning with her courtship with Dale, and continuing throughout their lives. She recalled a time after having her third child and returning from rehearsal to find Dale rocking the child to the strains of Prokofiev’s opera, The Flaming Angel ,in anticipation of her return to nurse the baby. If you know the music and the story behind the opera, you may think this an odd choice, but for the Brooks family, Prokofiev has been the music of their life.


After retiring from the BSO, Becky will continue to teach violin and viola, become more engaged in her other interests (i.e., sewing and gardening) and will finally have the opportunity to attend the BSO as a patron of the arts. It will be the first time in 49 years that she will be able to truly listen and enjoy the music. She’s excited at the prospect.

Four members of the BSO were featured in the February 2013 issue of Bakersfield Life. Courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian.

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