Happy Birthday to Local Aspiring Composer Margaret Martin!

Margaret Martin with her brother Gregory, after opening night of the Lamplighters’ “Yeomen of the Guard” in the Lesher Center this summer.

We were delighted to learn that the winner of our Symphony Surround auction package to meet incoming composer-in-residence Katherine Balch, is an aspiring composer in her own right!

Margaret’s mom spotted the auction package — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shadow Katherine as she prepares to deliver like a broken clock, her first commission for the California Symphony — and instantly knew it would be a wonderful 16th birthday gift for her daughter.

Music has always been a passion for Margaret, who is entering her junior year at SF University High School this year. She has sung with the San Francisco Girls Chorus for 10 years, and she is a member of the Lamplighters Music Theater company. Her interest in composing was piqued by a music class she took at school last year. After learning about fugues, she thought to herself, “Why not write one?” And so she did. Composing has been a focus for the Berkeley native since then.

Here’s her composition breathe, which premiered at the San Francisco Conservatory on July 14 this year. The piece is part of a planned series that explores the theme of mental health, including depression and anxiety. Margaret explains that the lower case title relates to the “small voice” her mother says she gets when she gets stressed out.

(Also of note, the video features California Symphony principal oboist, Laura Reynolds, who coordinates the SFCM’s summer camp which Margaret attended.)

So from all of us at the California Symphony, Happy 16th Birthday, Margaret! So much achieved already, and so much more to come, we’re sure!

We can’t wait to see you again when you get to meet Katherine Balch in January. We are certain you’ll have a lot to talk about.



The California Symphony, now in its fifth season under the leadership of Music Director Donato Cabrera, is a world-class, professional orchestra based in Walnut Creek, in the heart of the San Francisco East Bay since 1990. Our vibrant concert series is renowned for featuring classics alongside American repertoire and works by living composers. The Orchestra is comprised of musicians who have performed with the orchestras of the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, and others, and many of its musicians have been performing with the California Symphony for nearly all its existence.

Outside of the concert hall, the symphony actively supports music education for social change through its El Sistema-inspired Sound Minds program at Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, CA. The initiative brings intensive music instruction and academic enrichment to Contra Costa County schoolchildren for free, in an area where 94% of students qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program.

We also host the highly competitive Young American Composer-in-Residence program, which this year welcomes its first female composer, Katherine Balch.

California Symphony has launched the careers of some of today’s most-performed soloists and composers, including violinists Sarah Chang and Anne Akiko Meyers, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and composers such as Mason Bates, Christopher Theofanidis, and Kevin Puts. The Orchestra performs at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

For more information, please visit californiasymphony.org.