Out of the Concert Hall, and Into the Community

Inquiring minds check out our instrument petting zoo at the Chevron Family Theatre Day in Walnut Creek, July 15 2017.

Princesses, pirates, and patient parents, flocked to the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek to bring smiles to children’s faces at the Chevron Family Theatre Festival one sunny Saturday in July. Costumed characters, including Darth Vader, ewoks, Stormtroopers, classic Disney princesses, Disney villains paraded and performed at the cornered off block outside the Lesher Center.

The California Symphony was also there with a booth that included an instrument petting zoo, consisting of a 1/16 size violin for the little ones, flutes, assortment of other violins, a clarinet, percussion instruments, and more! We had a story-telling area to tell the mystery, The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket, which features music by Bay-Area composer, Nathaniel Stookey. It’s a piece in the same vein as Peter and the Wolf that’s intended to introduce the different parts of the orchestra to children, and it’s also the star of our super fun, family-friendly holiday concerts in December. We also handed out magnifying glasses to help children eager solve the case.

But amidst all the excitement of their favorite costumed characters, kids still wanted to discover where the magic of music comes from. While pulling their parents arms, children jumped at the opportunity to try out the musical instruments. And the best part, the parents were happy to support their children in developing an appreciation for the arts.

Over a thousand people came by the booth in the blazing 96-degree heat that day — not sure how the Stormtroopers and Darth Vader survived — but a huge thank you to our volunteers, including members of the Alliance! They brought smiles and specialized attention to hundreds of kids that day. Through story-telling and mini music lessons, they sparked a musical interest that could last for years and potentially a lifetime. Thanks again to everybody who came by!


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 program at Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, CA, which 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.