Inside USD

USD Symphony Still Making Beautiful Music at 50

Friday, April 23, 2010


Henry Kolar has living proof not only that dreams can come true, but also that they can thrive for more than 50 years.

The University of San Diego’s Symphony Orchestra, founded by Kolar in 1960 with only a string group and a few woodwinds, has fulfilled its promise. The full-fledged unit now performs at university functions as well as at community events and international venues.

“It’s very gratifying when you start something and see it build and continue to grow,” said Kolar, Professor Emeritus of Music, who retired from full-time status in 1990. “It’s something that enriches the whole campus. It’s a real plus for the university.”

Tonight at 8 and again at 2 p.m. Sunday in Shiley Theatre, the symphony orchestra will celebrate its golden anniversary with a concert featuring current students, alumni, past faculty and, as usual, an infusion of community musicians.

Kolar said bringing in community musicians was done in order to play larger music pieces. Kolar, connected to the San Diego Symphony, extended an invitation to their performers who needed a place to play. “The symphony moved from evening to morning practices and you couldn’t leave your job for what was being paid in those days. When this opportunity opened up, people with a lot of experience had an advantage.”

The bond has been to everyone’s benefit. “You have different age groups playing together and they mingle very nicely,” he said. “I enjoy seeing the camaraderie between them.”

Angela Yeung, PhD, associate music professor, directs the symphony orchestra and chamber music ensembles these days. She was aware of the orchestra’s mix of performers when she arrived at USD in 1994. Yeung, who took over director duties in fall 1996, has increased orchestra’s exposure by performing at events such as the  Kyoto Prize Symposium, the Linda Vista Multicultural Fair and in Mexico.

“It’s always been Henry’s dream to have a symphony orchestra at the university. The music department is small, but I know he’s very happy to see the symphony orchestra going strong,” she said. “It’s survived 50 years and to have members of the community get together to let the students have the experience of playing is wonderful.”

The lineup for the weekend concerts includes Kolar himself. He will be a conductor for two of his own compositions. Professor Emeriti Marjorie Hart, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Bill deMalignon and USD alumni Ken Jerahian and Alan Kolar will join him. Soloists include Briana Robell ’12 performing Schumann’s Piano Concerto and Clara Truong and Justin Li, winners of a 14-and-under Music Teachers Association Concerto Competition, playing a Piano Concerto by Mozart and Haydn, respectively.

“I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Robell (pictured, top, far right, with Li, Yeung and Truong), who has played piano since age 6.  Robell’s music selection repeats the anniversary theme of the concert, as 2010 also marks the 200th anniversary of Schumann’s birth. “I think it’s a wonderful experience and I’m ready to take it on and really express the music to people.”

Hart and USD alumna Kellie Evans-O’Connor will present a special tribute to Ilana Mysior, a USD music professor from 1966-91, who passed away last month. Mysior started the first USD opera workshop and was the first vocal coach on staff in the early days of the San Diego Opera. Mysior, Hart and Henry Kolar played together as the Alcalá Trio — Mysior on piano, Hart on cello and Kolar a violinist. Their 2004 CD, “Accolades & Abellimenti”, is available for purchase at the USD Bookstore website.

— Ryan T. Blystone

Tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors, USD faculty and alumni and $5 for students for each show and can be purchased at the door. The audience can also purchase raffle tickets for $2 each for a chance to sit on stage within the orchestra to experience the performance in a unique way.

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