Celebrate the La Mirada Symphony’s 60th Anniversary

by L. C. Harnsberger

Join the La Mirada Symphony at 3PM on February 19th as they begin celebrating the group’s 60th anniversary. The free performance features all the music played at the orchestra’s first concert which took place in 1964. Works include Humperdinck’s beloved Prelude to the Opera “Hansel and Gretel,” the Toccata by Frescobaldi, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 performed by the orchestra’s concertmaster Ruth Bruegger, and the stirring orchestral suite Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky-Korsakov.

The La Mirada Symphony was incorporated in 1963 by concert pianist and La Mirada resident Blanche Nissim along with a determined group of community advocates and local musicians. Their goal to provide free concerts for the community has blossomed and is still alive 60 years later thanks to the City of La Mirada and generous donations.

Joan Cain, a current board member, joined the La Mirada Symphony in 1963 and performed in the historic first concert. Joan found out about the fledgling group when she saw an article in the La Mirada Lamplighter about the forming of a new symphony. She went to a rehearsal and has been involved with the orchestra ever since. From that first concert, Joan played principal flute with the group, a position now shared by her son Brad Cain and fellow board member Laura Scott. Joan has been a loyal and dedicated board member of the symphony since 2000.

When asked about the first performance, Joan recalled that the concert was well received and had a very good turnout. She has seen the orchestra grow and improve over the years. “We started in the multi-purpose room of La Mirada High School and now we play in the beautiful La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.” The first conductor was Jay Dietzer, and after a series of other conductors, the group found stability when conductor Leon Guide accepted the baton and lead the orchestra for 33 years.

After Leon’s passing in 2001, the orchestra’s talented concertmaster David Stenske was appointed conductor and lead the ensemble until 2010. Alan Mautner, who was the principal cellist since 2007, became the current conductor in 2014. Mautner has taken the group to new levels with innovative programming, skillful conducting, and devoted leadership that involves the community and student musicians.

In 2002, the La Mirada Symphony embraced an additional mission to keep classical music alive with students through Youth Enrichment Programs that provided enhancement, education, classroom performances, and special daytime youth concerts with the full orchestra. Elements of this program have been on hold, particularly the daytime concerts, for the last few years due to rising costs and fund-raising challenges. The pandemic especially hampered the orchestra’s fund raising, but the board of directors is working diligently to increase funding and revitalize the Youth Enrichment Program so it can thrive again in the future.

As part of this year’s anniversary celebration, the orchestra was offered an extremely generous grant of $20,000 in matching funds. This means that every donation for this season’s fund drive will be doubled! You can follow the status of the fund drive and provide your own donations online at lamiradasymphony.com/support. You may also donate in person at upcoming concerts. Every gift brings the orchestra closer to their goal of $20,000!

Come and enjoy the historic recreation of the La Mirada Symphony’s first concert at 3PM on February 19th at the La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts. Conductor Alan Mautner will give a pre-concert lecture at 2:15 PM. The concert is free but you need to reserved your seats online at lamiradatheater.com/tickets or call (562) 944-9801.