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Classically Trained: Getting ready for some musical Shakespeare

April 26, 2012|By Bradley Zint

But it's great stuff, among the greatest of all music, ballet or otherwise.

Prokofiev himself thought highly of it too. He arranged suites of it to be played on its own, without the dancers and sets.

I found it surprising that "Romeo and Juliet" was chosen, although according to Pacific Symphony staffers Molly Pontin and Alicia Frye, it's what the people wanted.


Pontin and Frye are both with the orchestra's Education and Community Engagement department. They said a survey taken last year showed "Romeo and Juliet" on the top 5 "dream list" of things to play.

I would've voted for it too, so I'm glad to see it on my stand.

It's really an old friend to me. I played parts of it in high school as part of a regional honor orchestra. Now, nearly a decade later, I'm playing the same "Romeo and Juliet" part I did back then: Horn II.

In high school I was led by Jung-Ho Pak, then the conductor of the San Diego Symphony. Now in front of me is Sharon Lavery, conductor of the Downey Symphony Orchestra and an assistant professor at USC.

She brought energy and experience to the podium that afternoon. And a good sense of humor.

The horns, as glorious as we may think we are, missed our entrance on the very first piece of the day — as in when we were supposed to play something, but no one did. Not a note.


"A little more horn, please," she said with good-hearted sarcasm.

I guess it was stage fright.

Soon enough, all four parts of the horns came in at the correct times, and we made overbearing, unsettling chords with the rest of the orchestra. It was the beginning to the section known as the "Dance of the Knights," which depicts the Montagues and Capulets. The pompous-sounding brass trading off heavy-handed notes arouses imagery of the two feuding families stomping about while heavily clad in armor.

After rehearsing some of the other "Romeo and Juliet" selections together — including one where the strings are required to play so fast that Lavery said she could "see the smoke" — the sections split out on their own.

The brass headed off to practice with David Stetson, a trombonist with the Pacific Symphony. We were in a small room for an awfully big brass section. Stetson, who's played with the orchestra since 1994, led us in all our loud glory.

We made some mistakes and progress here and there. All the while, he gave us a few tips about what it would be like to play on the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall stage, and what Carl St.Clair might want from us.

But we won't know for sure until we get there.

There are some 200 amateur musicians participating in this year's OC Can You Play With Us? That's double last year's participation, Pacific Symphony officials say, which is why they've made the event into four sessions over two nights: 7 and 8:30 p.m., April 30 and May 1.

Tickets to the concerts are free. You can visit to get them.

I'm assigned to the 7 p.m. May 1 session. I'll be there, golden horn in my hands and a smile on my face, ready for some musical Shakespeare.

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. Email him story ideas at or follow him on Twitter @BradleyZint.

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