Classically Trained: A gift with no strings attached

June 02, 2011|By Bradley Zint

His was a tale of tough economic times.

A construction worker in his 50s. Couldn't find work. Newly homeless in Laguna Beach.

But with help from the Friendship Shelter and the Pacific Symphony, his life had a moment of rejuvenation. He got to hear a concert in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall — Orange County's grande dame of a venue — free of charge.

Surely the music soothed his soul, but not probably as much as hearing it in the concert hall he helped build a few years before.


"He had never been inside the finished product," said Dawn Price, executive director of the Friendship Shelter, as she recalled the story to me.

The worker finally getting to hear the music is but one of many inspirational stories that could be told about Heartstrings, the Pacific Symphony program that partners with social service organizations to provide free concert tickets and musical activities for Orange County's low-income and underserved population.

Price and other representatives were at the concert hall in Costa Mesa on Wednesday evening to celebrate Heartstrings, which last season circulated more than 22,000 tickets to some 200 organizations throughout the county. Symphony officials said the tickets amounted to some $1 million in revenue.

The 6-year-old program — supported by the Nicholas Endowment, various foundations and individuals — has 17 partners, eight of which are new this year.

Heartstrings realizes Music Director Carl St.Clair's belief that "music is a birthright that must be equally shared by all" and the Costa Mesa-based orchestra's core purpose of enriching "the human spirit through superior performances of symphonic music and community engagement."

Pam Blaine, the Pacific Symphony vice president of education and community programs, oversees Heartstrings. For the symphony employee of 12 years, it's been an inspiring highlight of her tenure.

"The fact that the symphony can open its doors to the beauty of music, which we all are just so compelled by, is really so rewarding," she said.

Others called it extraordinary. Transformative. A self-esteem booster.

I heard such words while talking with a few representatives from Heartstrings partners Wednesday, including Jerri Rosen of Working Wardrobes.

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