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Crescendo to success

Music director of 20 years has led Pacific Symphony through tours, bolstered local education programs.

May 30, 2010|By Sarah Peters
  • Carl St. Clair and Joshua Bell performing with the Pacific Symphony.
Carl St. Clair and Joshua Bell performing with the Pacific… (Pacific Symphony )

Growing up in Hochheim, Texas, a young Carl St. Clair was once asked by a visiting journalist how many people lived in his town. After pausing for a moment to tally up the population, he replied, "36."

"I could count them all up in my head. Although I think that number may have dropped significantly since then," St. Clair said.

St. Clair is now the music director of the Pacific Symphony, where, at 20 years at the podium, he is the second-longest serving conductor of an American orchestra. During his tenure, the orchestra has toured to other counties, created recordings and propelled music-education programs forward in many Orange County cities.

"[St. Clair] is somebody who has a strong idea of an orchestra's role in the community and ways how the orchestra can remain vibrant and engaging," John Forsyte, president of the Pacific Symphony, said.

The Pacific Symphony makes its home in the Segerstrom Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, where St. Clair can be found not only conducting, but also balancing administrative and community responsibilities with the same gusto he brings to the stage.

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His unending love of music began in Hochheim — a small, unassuming town between San Antonio and Houston that sprang up on the junction of U.S. Highway 183 and Texas State Highway 111— with lessons on his aunt's piano when he was 6 years old.

His natural abilities landed him a spot early on in his school band and then a scholarship to the University of Texas. What he learned from his family and music instructors would later be instrumental in the implementation of more than 20 music education programs supported by the Pacific Symphony nationwide.

"I am a product of public school music education. It was a great gift that at fifth and sixth grade that I could already play in an ensemble," St. Clair said, "This is something that is being taken away from many schools today."

St. Clair is responsible for many of the youth and adult programs in Orange County, including Classical Connections, Class-Act and the art immersion program, Art X-press.

"[The Pacific Symphony and I] are just trying to make sure that people have a deeper and more knowledgeable appreciation of the art world," St. Clair said. "I believe that this is part of our responsibility in serving the community."

More than half the audiences that that hear the Pacific Symphony are able to do so for free because of the cumulative successes of the community outreach programs, Forsyte said.

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