Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra Suspends 2017-18 Season to Review Funding

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Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra Suspends 2017-18 Season to Review Funding

In an effort to gauge the extent of financial support from the community, the Board of Directors for the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra has elected to suspend operations for the 2017-18 season, pending a review of the organization's prospects beyond its current season. A specially formed committee will complete a comprehensive assessment of SBCO budget and programming models within 90 days, after which the organization's leadership will decide on a course of action. Options include presenting next season's program in its entirety as planned, offering a reduced number of concerts, or shuttering the venerable ensemble permanently. The orchestra will present its final concert of the 2016-17 season on Tuesday, May 16, at the Lobero Theatre.

"Like many classical music ensembles in the United States, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra is largely dependent on the largess of our community, which is to say ticket sales fund but a small fraction of our operating budget," said SBCO Board Chair Joe Campanelli. "We are confident this hiatus will serve to reaffirm our value to Santa Barbara, leading to greater financial support and a bright future for the orchestra. But should the unlikely occur, and we make the difficult decision to close for good, we'd do so with our heads held high. The fact is, this is an organization deserving of recognition whatever the outcome. The Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra should be celebrated in its home city and beyond."

"We've presented concerts of the highest quality in Santa Barbara for almost four decades, and are now hopeful that our patrons and others in the community, mindful of our tradition of excellence, will rally behind this exceptional orchestra," echoed SBCO Board President Don Lafler. "A successful future requires full sponsorship of concerts and events."

Founded in 1978 by conducting student Jeffrey Evans, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra was originally a community orchestra that performed in coffee houses and libraries. With the appointment of Heiichiro Ohyama as music director in 1983, however, the ensemble's stature rapidly grew. Today the Chamber Orchestra routinely attracts top industry talent. The season-ending concert on May 16, for instance, will feature acclaimed Italian pianist Alessio Bax performing Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto in A Minor. A local favorite, Mr. Bax has headlined a succession of memorable concerts with the SBCO in recent years, including a spellbinding performance of Beethoven's "Emperor" Piano Concerto No. 5 to conclude last season. Other notable guest soloists in recent years have included pianists Wendy Chen, Andre-Michel Schub, Jerome Lowenthal, and Yefim Bronfman; violinists Paul Huang, Cho-Liang Lin, Mark Kaplan, and Kyoko Takezawa; and cellists Lynn Harrell, Gary Hoffman, and Carter Brey. Former SBCO Concertmaster Sheryl Staples now serves as principal associate concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic.

Over the course of his distinguished career Maestro Ohyama also has served as principal violist and assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; principal chief conductor of the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra in Fukuoka, Japan, and the Osaka Symphony Orchestra; artistic director of La Jolla Music Society's SummerFest and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; music director of the Nagasaki Music Festival; and a professor of music at the University of California.

"I am exceedingly proud of all that the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra has accomplished over the course of its illustrious history, and can honestly say that regardless of what transpires the ensemble's legacy is secure," he said. "We have been part of a most noble artistic and community endeavor."

Recent initiatives undertaken by the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra include "Classical Connections," an innovative effort to study the therapeutic benefits of classical music for individuals suffering cognitive or neurological impairment, and the "Free Concert Seats for Families" program, which enables children ages 8 to 18 to attend regular-season SBCO concerts with a parent/guardian free of charge.

More information is available online at

Founded in 1978, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra is devoted to presenting concerts and programming of exceptional quality, and to fostering engagement with classical music among community members of all ages. The organization's reputation for excellence has long attracted world-class musicians. Current and former SBCO musicians perform with the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera, Pacific Symphony, and the Santa Barbara Symphony. Acclaimed conductor Heiichiro Ohyama has served as music director of the ensemble since 1983. For more information, visit

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