As the Youth Orchestras of Fresno celebrates its 65th anniversary Sunday with a big bash at the Saroyan Theatre, I was reminded by executive director Julia Copeland how many illustrious alumni the organization has produced over the years. Some of them will take the stage on Sunday to participate in the concert. Copeland put out a call for alums to update folks on their careers. Here are some who shared:
Christopher Barrett, tuba, 2000-2004
I'm still, and will always be, a musician! I play tuba, run a band called Phaze Theory and an international collective called PTC. Barrettchristopher.com Phazetheory.com. I’ve just moved back to the Central Valley with my wife, a bass player from England.
Michael Downing, percussion, 1997-2002
Never miss a local story.
I'm currently percussionist with the Sacramento Philharmonic, Stockton Symphony, and Tulare County Symphony. I am the percussion professor at Fresno Pacific University, and the founder of the Impetus Percussion Quartet. I also direct the award winning University High School Percussion Ensemble.
Justin Emerich, trumpet, 1990s
Justin Emerich is associate professor of trumpet at the Michigan State University College of Music. Emerich’s orchestral experience includes serving as acting associate principal trumpet of the San Francisco Symphony, as well as performing with the St Louis Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, San Francisco Opera, Malaysia Philharmonic, Seoul Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, Grant Park Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Grand Rapids Symphony, Palm Beach Opera Orchestra, and the New World Symphony. He has been a featured soloist with the Seattle Symphony and the Fulcrum Point New Music Ensemble in Chicago. In April 2013, Emerich was singled out as one of the San Francisco Symphony's "superb soloists" by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Richard Giddens, bass, 1995-1998
Richard Giddens is a Bassist from Fresno, CA, with a BFA (2007) and MFA (2009) from California Institute of the Arts. Giddens is currently a professor at Fresno State, and a member of The Gavin Templeton Quartet, Daniel Rosenboom's "Burning Ghosts", The Lost and Found Orchestra, and many of his own ensembles. He has performed or recorded with the likes of Charlie Haden, STOMP, Larry Goldings, Joe La Barbara, The Chapin Sisters, Peter Bernstein, Robert Glasper, Gerry Gibbs, Mary Halvorson, Jason Lowenstein (of Sebadoh), Rusty Santos, Arturo Sandoval, and as a guest soloist with the Fresno Philharmonic, among many others. He is currently working on his first album as a band leader for Orenda Records, featuring Matt Otto, Adam Benjamin, Storm Nilson, and Tomas Fujiwara.
Eric Gratz, violin, 2000s
Currently in his third season as concertmaster of the San Antonio Symphony, Eric Gratz enjoys a multi-faceted career as a chamber musician, soloist, and teacher in the U.S. and abroad. Following the January release of his eponymous debut album, Eric charted on Billboard Classical as the top independent American label for traditional releases. He made his concerto debuts in Spain, Portugal, and the U.S at the age of 14. At age 17, he appeared as soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall, and made his recital debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He has since appeared with the National Repertory Orchestra, Rice University Campanile Orchestra, Lexington Bach Festival Orchestra, and enjoys regular solo appearances with the San Antonio Symphony.
Paloma Griffin Hébert, violin, 1984-1990
I am a professional violinist. I left Fresno my senior year to finish high school at the New England Conservatory prep Divisipn (Walnut Hill School), the Eastman School of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory. I did post graduate work with Michael Tilson Thomas at the New World Symphony in Miami. I became the assistant concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony in 1999 and moved to Portland Oregon where I also became a member the band Pink Martini. I am now a member of the modern classical ensemble Fear No Music (Artistic Director 2010-2015). I coach chamber music programs at Oregon State University and Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and maintain a full private studio in Portland. After sustaining an injury I left full time orchestral performing and now play part time as assistant concertmaster of the Oregon Ballet Theater orchestra. I have had the honor of being an occasional guest concertmaster for the Eugene Symphony and tutti violinist in the Kristiansand Symphony in Norway. I play in the Oregon Bach Festival orchestra and at Arizona Musicfest in Scottsdale. My major teachers were Claudia Shuih and Charles Castleman.
Walter Haman, cello, 1987-91
Cellist, Utah Symphony Orchestra. Also Principal Cellist of the Grant Park Orchestra (summer music festival in Chicago). Perform regularly on the NOVA Chamber Music Series, Intermezzo Chamber Music Series, and Vivaldi by Candlelight in Salt Lake City.
In a later email, Copeland also tells me:
Alum Mark Grisez is now acting associate principal trumpet in the San Francisco Symphony.
He got the job while still a student at the SF Conservatory--a very recent alum of the Youth Orchestras.
I left out a bunch of alums. Also failed to mention the many alums who play in the Fresno Philharmonic, among them violinists Cynthia Stuart and Matt Mazzei (and recently retired violinist Janice Fleming), violist Claudia Shiuh, cellist Judy Robinson, bassist Tim Giannopoulos, flutist Jan Erickson...those are just a few I'm remembering off the top of my head. Bassoonist Larry Gardner, while not an alum, will be performing on Sunday also – all three of his children are YOOF alums, and he is a past board member as well. Violinist John Morrice will be performing also – he is a past YOOF conductor. Violists Roz Gratz and Jeff Sandersier are also past conductors of the Youth Orchestras.