The usual LAS concert season spans October through May or June. The season begins with a Pops concert produced by the Livermore-Amador Symphony Guild. More formal concerts follow in December, February, March or April, and May or June.
In 1963, women from the Livermore-Pleasanton branch of the American Association of University Women identified the need for an amateur orchestra in their area (which is within the Tri-Valley area at the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area). They became determined to establish a community orchestra with professional leadership. The AAUW committee, which had interviewed many candidates, recommended Keith Polk as conductor. Polk, a doctoral candidate in musicology at the University of California, Berkeley, was hired. Rehearsals began in mid-September, 1963.
The AAUW music section evolved into a steering committee of interested community members; it represented many segments of the community and acted as an interim board of directors. The fledgling Livermore Symphony presented its first concert on January 25, 1964. See the program for that first concert(4.7MB pdf). Naming conventions have changed!
Within a few months, Keith Polk completed his doctorate, accepted a position with the University of New Hampshire, and notified LAS that he would be leaving at the end of its first season. LAS held interviews and selected a new conductor, Arthur Barnes, who was a doctoral candidate at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, in musical arts and conducting. While fostering the growth and development of the orchestra, Barnes completed his degree. Hired to teach at Stanford, Barnes continued to drive between Stanford and Livermore, an approximately 80-mile round trip. Years later, he retired from Stanford but not from LAS: Barnes continued as conductor and music director of the Symphony for 50 years after his acceptance of the position in 1964!
The Livermore Symphony Association incorporated in 1966 and authorized the contracting of a professional concertmaster and, as needed, the hiring of extra players. In 1971, the official name of the orchestra became the Livermore-Amador Symphony.
The Symphony Guild (initially known as the Livermore Symphony Auxiliary) also was founded in 1963. The annual Competition for Young Musicians began with the 1973–74 season. LAS provided a pit orchestra and conductor for Valley Dance Theatre productions of the Nutcracker ballet each December from 1995 to 2013, and the LAS pit orchestra often played at VDT’s mid-year shows. (In 2014, Valley Dance Theatre formed its own pit orchestra; LAS horn player and former LAS assistant conductor Bob Williams continues as its conductor, and many of the musicians are also members of LAS.) LASYO, the Livermore-Amador Symphony Youth Orchestra, was founded in 2009.
2012–2013 marked the memorable and celebratory 50th season of LAS. Have a look at our 50th-season page for highlights. 2013–2014 was the 50th season of Dr. Barnes’ tenure as conductor and music director. Lara Webber became conductor and music director of LAS upon the retirement of Barnes after the final concert of the 2013–2014 season. Barnes is now music director emeritus.
Collaborations and Affiliations
The Symphony collaborates with other musical groups and reaches out to youth. LAS has provided family and school concerts (this despite difficulties such as the limited availability of volunteer musicians during school hours and, once, the need to limit the exposure of stringed instruments to direct sun!). A good example of collaboration was heard at the LAS concert in May 2013 (the culmination of the orchestra’s 50th season of concerts): A performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 included singers from the Valley Concert Chorale and Pacific Masterworks Chorus (now renamed Chorus Eclectic); in addition, singers from the community who attended rehearsals (and who could sing in tune!) were welcome to join the chorus.
The Symphony is a member of the Livermore Cultural Arts Council (LCAC), the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO), the League of American Orchestras, and the chambers of commerce of the cities of Livermore, Pleasanton, and Dublin, California.
Today, the orchestra comprises approximately sixty musicians, from teenagers to folks in the “65 sounds young” crowd.
This was stated in the booklet The First Twenty Years (1963–1983), but it’s still accurate:
“The success of the orchestra is truly the work of many hands, both on stage and behind the scenes. The symphony looks forward to the future and the continuing opportunity to welcome listeners to the wonderful world of music.”