Meet the maestro
The California Symphony turns 20 this month, and after two decades of racking up accolades and making a name for itself, the Symphony wanted to celebrate its anniversary in a big way. So, come October 15, the 2006–2007 season starts with Celebration!, which will feature two child prodigies performing a Mozart concerto. Expect lots of other big surprises during the rest of the season, such as founder and music director Barry Jekowsky performing as a percussionist with the Symphony for the first time. We caught up with Jekowsky to talk about the thriving musical institution’s past, present, and future.
The California Symphony has had many successes, both nationally and internationally. Which are you the most proud of?
There are so many moments; it’s like asking which one of your kids you love more. If I have to pick one accolade that sums up what we’ve done, it would be being chosen as Reader’s Digest’s  Best Symphony Orchestra in America. They took into consideration all of the principles that we thought were important: support of American music, support of young composers, support of gifted young musicians. It was a national pat on the back for all the important work we’ve done.
When you were asked to put together a symphony, did you expect it to become world-renowned?
When I presented the name and said I wanted to call it the California Symphony, the board kind of gave me a strange look. But I said, “Don’t worry. Ten years from now, people will be listening to our CD all over the world.” It was just my natural reaction to say that. But 10 years later, they were listening to our CD, Lou Harrison: A Portrait, all over the world.
What do you hope to see in the future for the California Symphony?
In the next 20 years, it’s to make people aware of what a jewel, what a gem they have in their own backyard.
If you could have any wish granted for the California Symphony, what would it be?
A new concert hall. That opens the door, I believe, in bringing in more kids and more children’s concerts. We have to build the house that will help to complete the dream of the California Symphony.
What can people expect from this anniversary season?
The unexpected. That’s always been part of the California Symphony. First, it will be by hearing two of, I would say, the most gifted young artists I’ve ever encountered, and what better way to open the season?California Symphony’s Celebration!, October 15 and 17, Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek. For tickets, call (925) 943-7469, or go to www.dlrca.org. For information, go to www.californiasymphony.org.