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Classically Trained: After years in the O.C. classical world, Corey set to retire

July 12, 2012|By Bradley Zint
  • Dean Corey, president and artistic director of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County since 1993, sits next to the piano in his home in Laguna Hills. After some 40 years in the business, he will be retiring in the summer of 2014.
Dean Corey, president and artistic director of the Philharmonic… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

LAGUNA HILLS — There were times in Dean Corey's young life when an appreciation for great music was encouraged during his earliest waking hour.

His mother liked to awake him to the dignified sounds of the early 19th century — specifically, the symphonies of Beethoven, Ludwig van.

"I could have my breakfast if I could identify which movement it was," Corey, 65, recalls with a smile from his home in Laguna Hills. "So I got that down, but then she started dropping a part randomly from any movement."

It was an innovative way for the boy growing up in Arlington, Texas, to learn the great composer's nine symphonies.

"To this day, I could tell you," he says in his Texas accent. "You could play me two notes anywhere in any of the nine symphonies, and I'll tell you where it is and in which movement."

Such knowledge certainly comes in handy when Corey lectures about Beethoven, and it further adds to his depth of knowledge as president and artistic director of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. Formed in 1954, the Irvine-based nonprofit serves as the county's eminent presenter of music, often from the classical world of orchestras and chamber ensembles.

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Corey oversees a staff of about 15 and a budget of around $4 million.

His job duties include overseeing the marketing efforts, networking, coordinating with arts managers and navigating the world of donors and their donations.

"You raise the money by yourself," he says. "We have no guarantees of anything. On July 1, all the counters go back to zero and you have to raise that first dollar all over again. It's a precarious business.

"It's kind of magical that it happens at all."

Since 1993, Corey has acted as the face of the organization and is often seen giving a brief speech before concerts. That's part of helping drive the brand home, he says, a brand that has no orchestra of its own yet has brought many of the world's best to town.

All such musical efforts began with the influence of his parents. His father was a flute player and high school band director. His mother encouraged music as well.

Corey received his bachelor's from the University of North Texas and a master's from Yale, and had a professional French horn-playing career for groups that included the New York City Ballet Orchestra.

Eventually, though, he felt he might prefer the management side of the arts, not just the playing side.

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