40 Years | 40 Stories

Our musical community—and our family of donors and audience members—have made it possible for us to thrive for 40 amazing years. Thank you for being part of our incredible history!

“The performing arts abound with stories of last minute, behind-the-scenes heroism the audience rarely knows about. The day in 2009 when I was the newly minted General Director of the Santa Fe Opera, I got a call from The Symphony Founder and Executive Director Gregory Heltman. He asked me if I knew a Verdi soprano who could step in to sing the Requiem the following night. After several days of rehearsal, the distinguished singer Kallen Esperian had come down with laryngitis and canceled Friday at noon, with performances scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. I had known Kallen since my first season as General Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Verdi sopranos don’t grow on trees! I called my longtime colleague and friend Christine Brewer—one of the world’s leading sopranos—on the unlikely chance she might be available to step in. She had recently recorded the Verdi Requiem with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra. I asked her if she could get on a plane to New Mexico later that night or the next morning to sing with the Santa Fe Symphony. She said, “Sure thing!” The next day, weather delays put Christine’s flight on the ground in Albuquerque at 4:40 p.m., instead of the scheduled 1:20 p.m. With the audience in their seats and no soprano in sight at 6:00 p.m., the quick-thinking symphony management offered a spontaneous lecture about the Requiem, then went on to present a local music educator with a well-deserved award. When conductor Stephen Smith led Christine and the other soloists onstage at 6:40 p.m., they all looked calm and radiant. Even though she’d had no rehearsal with the conductor, the other soloists, the chorus, or the orchestra, all the artists onstage and backstage stepped up for a splendid performance.”


Former General Director, Santa Fe Opera
“When I joined The Symphony two years ago, nothing could have prepared me for the warmth, talent, and passion of this incredible team. I stepped off the plane into Maestro Figueroa’s waiting car (whose license plate is lovingly imprinted: “BERLIOZ”) and went straight to my first-ever Santa Fe Symphony rehearsal. Tensions were high: We had just come out of 18 months of pandemic and virtual concerts, which had stretched musicians, board members, and arts administrators in every conceivable way. I wore a mask constantly, unable to see the smiles of the people who would become my closest friends and colleagues over the next two years.”


Executive Director
“One of my favorite memories with The Santa Fe Symphony was when we performed Berlioz’ masterpiece Roméo et Juliette with the full Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. This fulfilled a long-time dream for me, as I have been a passionate admirer and advocate of Berlioz for many years. His works are often large in scale, requiring lots of performers and singers, difficult in their technical demands, a costly undertaking, and therefore not performed as often as those of other composers. The effort and cooperation from everyone in our organization to present this work marks a milestone in the history of the orchestra. The fact that we were able to fully record and video this ambitious production means that we will have it forever to enjoy and to showcase the magnificence of this orchestra.”


Music Director
“Six years ago, I took the helm of The Santa Fe Symphony Chorus, and it has been such a delight to recruit and work with singers of all diversities from our beloved City Different and regions beyond—performing incredible music with our outstanding Symphony Orchestra.”


Choral Director
“It seems like only yesterday when SFS was formed from what was once the Orchestra of Santa Fe, of which I was a charter member when it began. We worked hard to build a cooperative orchestra structure with standards that are maintained to this day. I have been a music educator in Albuquerque for decades and cherish my time with the Albuquerque Youth Symphony, the roots for many of our valued members who perform with us now. I feel so fortunate to have had a lifetime of both performing and teaching.”


Violin II
“I was just a kid at the dawn of The Santa Fe Symphony and remembered going to concerts at the old Sweeney Center, being inspired by all that I heard there. My father was the concertmaster since its inception and I'm so honored to continue in his position. Here's to another 40 and beyond!”


“The COVID season was a period of huge obstacles and opportunities for The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. Our biggest challenge was identifying a way to keep our musicians fully employed and continue serving our audience, while keeping everyone safe during the worst of the pandemic. Through extraordinary creativity from our musicians, chorus, staff, and Board—and by leaning on our community partnerships—we were able to put together a compelling 10-concert virtual series that radically expanded patron & donor engagement and garnered an international audience. At times, it felt like we were laying the track as the train was coming—but I believe The Symphony is better for our out-of-the-box thinking!”


Asheville Symphony, Executive Director / Former Santa Fe Symphony Executive Director
“Strategic planning provides a structural framework that transforms visions into actionable realities. Through the planning process, we have identified key initiatives, strategies for allocating resources, and envisioned an organizational structure which will ultimately culminate in a 5-year vision for our future. Our strategic plan will serve as a roadmap which will help us to stay competitive, focused, and adaptable to an ever-changing business environment.”As the Santa Fe Symphony continues to grow and inspire our community, I am honored to lead our strategic planning process!”


Board of Directors, Secretary
“You can take adopting a musician to any level. You can just feel a connection to that person and enjoy him at a higher level at your next performance, or you can reach out to him, sitting nearby at a dress rehearsal, or take him/her to lunch and get to know them better. I love heading this program because it's a way to support the Symphony, but rather than just writing a general donation check, you get to validate a specific musician. One of my adoptees has taught me the cello and helped with coaching my amateur conducting efforts.”


Board of Directors
“I vividly remember my first visit to The Santa Fe Symphony back in 2015. I was just beginning my professional performing life and was asked to play the Sibelius Violin Concerto with The Symphony. I was nervous entering the first rehearsal, but I remember immediately being put at ease by the most genuine smiles and warmth from the group. The joy, passion, commitment, and positive energy of this group is something very special, and as I’ve been fortunate to return for several years now, I love reconnecting with my friends in the orchestra and in the community. The Santa Fe Symphony will always hold a dear place in my heart, and I’m so looking forward to celebrating their 40th season with them!”


Guest Violinist
“My name is Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate. I am a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma and I am a professional classical composer. I am dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition and all of my works reflect North American Indian history, culture and ethos. I am honored and privileged that The Santa Fe Symphony chose to champion my music during the pandemic and I look forward to many years more of continued collaboration. In my work, Chokfi' (Rabbit): Sarcasm for Strings and Percussion, the orchestra expresses the energetic and diabolical nature of our Chickasaw trickster, the rabbit. The opening of the work is a combination of unpredictable and alternating time signatures, paired with a modernized version of a Muskogee hymn, sung to me by my good friend, Curtis Scott. Enjoy! Yakkookay!”


Performing Artist | Composer
“Thank you for giving me the chance to talk about this! I’ve been on the Programming Committee since 2019, and it always strikes me how creating a season’s programming magically develops. It’s equal parts collaborative brainstorming and fine clay sculpture; beginning with a lot of raw material and concluding with a thing of beauty. It’s a truly democratic process that is unique in our industry. Our chamber series, Strata, is also unique: the participating musicians all decide on the programming. Working about a year or more in advance, the Programming Committee begins by talking to the musicians and getting their ideas for soloists and repertoire, as well as possible guest conductors. We then get recommendations from the other members of the committee: our Music Director, our Executive Director, and our non-musician members of the Board of Directors. All of these ideas come together in a general pool, and the Chair, a musician member of the Board, helps the committee to sort through all of the detailed work, and the group collectively comes up with threads, themes, and ways to showcase our fabulous orchestra. There are always a lot of twists and turns, and finding consensus can take time, but it’s really enjoyable to be a part of something in such a spirit of partnership across the organization.”


Oboe | Programming Committee Chair
“Composing the Santa Fe 400th Symphony was an honor for me. To create a musical remembrance that honored the original Indigenous inhabitants in Movement 1 (featuring flute and orchestra), the Spanish roots featuring Anna Maria Cardinelli- Padilla on Movement 2 (with flamenco guitar and orchestra), and the City Different featuring New Mexico's Poet Laureate Valerie Martinez (with chorus and orchestra), was a rewarding and exciting challenge. I will never forget it!”


Performing Artist | Composer and Flutist
“From its founding, The Santa Fe Symphony has had a special structure and camaraderie. It was formed by musicians as a cooperative, and at the beginning we did everything from programming to publicity to setup. My specialty was rehearsal food. Violinist Elena Sopoci dubbed it "the city's different orchestra" after Santa Fe's "The city different" campaign. Forty years later The Symphony continues to prove that great music can be made through collaboration by all aspects of the organization.”


Principal Harp
"I think The Symphony's Adopt-A-Musician Program creates the perfect bridge between us musicians and our audience. Each time The Symphony office lets me know that I'm adopted, I'm truly honored and I can't wait to meet them."


Principal Violin II | Personnel Manager
“With outstanding musicians and Music Director Guillermo Figueroa, their performances showcase precision, interpretation, and technical mastery. Collaborations with renowned artists bring fresh perspectives, while educational programs and outreach initiatives foster cultural vitality. Santa Fe's intimate venues create an immersive concert experience, forging a connection between performers and listeners. The orchestra's commitment to showcasing varied musical styles and genres caters to a broad audience. Through their dedication to excellence and their contributions to the community, The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra has earned its reputation as an exceptional ensemble.”


Board of Directors
“It was an honor to Co-Chair the 2012 Painted Violins Gala, a two-year labor of love! The artists, both local and international, were hand selected for their remarkable, award-winning achievements. The violin was an unusual canvas and the artists accepted the challenge enthusiastically, as they turned 54 basic violins into works of art to support The Symphony. It was inspiring to see the talent and creativity the artists put into their creations. The Gala attendees were the beneficiaries of these beautiful violins, and the proceeds exceeded any fundraiser The Santa Fe Symphony had held to date. We are proud to have been a part of this significant event in the 40-year history of The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus.”


Patrons | Former Board Member (K. Schreiner)
“Orchestras that are not involved with their wider community and the organizations that are important to that community cannot benefit from community individuals and resources no matter its musical excellence. Our Symphony has committed to collaborate with these individuals and community organizations and the results, while still preliminary, show that we have benefited in many ways: We’ve saved on administrative costs, improved the range and targeting of our services, brought and received new ideas about delivering our services to more people, found more leaders, strengthened our voice to advocate for our mission, found new funding opportunities, expanded our programs and increased our brand exposure in the community. We have taken the first steps to change our Symphony so that all of its members are involved in serving the community as it exists and not as we want it to be. Let’s double down on our commitment to community collaboration in the next years so the musicians and other creative people in our Symphony will contribute their talent and imaginative power to our community. It’s good for Santa Fe and it’s good for our business.”


Former Board Member
“Strata, the innovative chamber group born within The Symphony in 2019, was created to serve as an ode to the multifaceted layers of music making. This ensemble was created by myself and David Felberg to showcase the richness and diversity of musical expression, intertwining various genres and instruments to create a mesmerizing sonic experience. Comprised of the talented musicians of The Symphony, Strata was created to unite classical virtuosity with contemporary flair, exploring a wide spectrum of musical traditions. Through these performances, Strata elevates the essence of collaboration, connecting with the audience on a deep level, and illuminating the profound beauty hidden within the complex strata of music's boundless universe.”


Principal Flute
"First, “I dreamed of annually partnering with other entities who shared our founding year of 1984, leading to the 'Smiles of a Summer Night' Summer Solstice fete with Casa Sena and Goler Fine Imported Shoes, the season opening Musicale at SantaCafé, and the splendid series of Music-Meets-Science original productions of our Voyages of Discovery with the Santa Fe Institute: Darwin & Mendelssohn, Holst’s The Planets, Bach on the Brain, and The Majesty Music & Math. With a DVD of 3M in hand, I approached Franz Joachim, General Manager of New Mexico PBS who was inspired by what he saw, and we proceeded to raise three-quarters of a million dollars to produce the television show which subsequently won a Western Region Emmy® Award. To all of my colleagues at all three institutions, I offer my undying gratitude for your creativity, commitment, and contributions to weaving this most exciting tapestry!”


Board of Directors, Vice President | Development Chair
Steven Smith, Former Santa Fe Symphony Music Director “A highlight of my tenure as music director of the Santa Fe Symphony is certainly the two performances of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess in August 2007. A landmark of the repertoire, Porgy and Bess is also a towering work of American music. Fusing the emotional power of opera with elements of popular song and jazz, Gershwin brought to life a purely African American story with memorable characters and a moving love story. We were honored to welcome an outstanding cast of leading singers from around the country who inspired all who were present, giving The Santa Fe Symphony a chance to shine for Santa Fe's summer audiences.”


Conductor, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra
“At a League of American Orchestras Convention, my wife Meri and I saw a video of “A History of Utah,” performed by the Southern Utah Symphony. This gave us the idea to do a history of Santa Fe, with music performed by children representing the many cultural groups in the city. We had attended a lecture by the New Mexico State historian, who decried the claim that New Mexican culture was based on three groups: Native American, Spanish, and Mexican. He said the culture was an amalgam of many groups—about 50, according to the census. I brought this idea to The Symphony Board, which approved the project for the 2010–2011 season. We used our volunteer contacts with the Symphony, Santa Fe Children’s Museum, and the Santa Fe Public Schools to assist us in the search for cultural organizations that supported children’s music groups. The contributions that each cultural group provided to the city, as well as the music, could be narrated by children. We filmed and recorded 11 groups over 12 months, with scripts in English and Spanish. The DVDs of the finished project, “We Are The Music,” were distributed to 84 social studies teachers of the third and fourth grades, as well as to all local libraries, the New Mexico Archives, and the PBS online learning channel.”


Music Education Committee, Former Chair
“It was an absolute joy to bring my 'An Appalachian Christmas' program to The Santa Fe Symphony in 2019 playing to a sold-out house! It was made all the sweeter knowing that it was The Santa Fe Symphony that commissioned my first orchestral work back in 1993, 'The Fiddle Concerto.' A heartfelt thanks to Santa Fe for all of the years of music, Performances, and collaborations! Congratulations on 40 years!”


Performing Artist | Violinist and Composer
“Music encourages, sometimes demands, Connections. Connections through a sonic conduit of emotions that blends one’s own with those around you to realize a composer’s vision. When the stars align, the connection is effortless and flows easily between musicians, to the audience and back, intertwining in the stream of energy. Allowing yourself to step into the flow and connect can be a transcendent experience, only felt at a live music performance. I am grateful to have shared this musical connection with the Santa Fe community, as The Symphony has grown and flourished over the past 40 years.”


Principal Oboe
“My wife (Megan) and I are very much looking forward to the Santa Fe Symphony concert Charlie Chaplin Smiles with Philippe Quint on January 14. During this concert, our favorite music will be played, Clair de Lune. When I asked my wife to marry me, Clair de Lune was playing on the radio (KHFM). Thus, it has become our favorite. I have even learned how to play it on the piano. The remainder of the concert will be wonderful, but Clair De Lune will have special meaning for us. As a result, we are co-sponsoring this event.”


Board of Directors
“For forty years, The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus has been a mainstay of the artistic diversity and beauty of our community. During these decades, The Symphony has enhanced our quality of life, adding to the special character of this community we all love. It has reached across multiple generations; filling the Lensic with exceptional musical performances and inspiring future generations of symphonic music lovers through its diversified programs for children. As we celebrate the past, the future is even brighter for one of Santa Fe’s cultural gems. We look forward to sharing it all with you and continuing to grow with our community.”


Board of Directors | Events Chair — and John Macukas
“The Santa Fe Symphony opening its doors to the musicians of the Santa Fe Youth Symphony has transformed our students’ experience. It has not only given us an opportunity to play iconic symphonies and other classics that would otherwise be too far off of our fingertips, but it’s also helped raise the bar for our students’ expectations of themselves and of their peers. Being on stage with professionals playing on both sides has opened up our students’ ears and their understanding of what it takes to play at the next level. It’s an inspiring process that expands the students’ horizons, and all of us at SFYSA are grateful and elated to make music with The Santa Fe Symphony.”


Associate Artistic Director & Youth Orchestra Conductor
“As a board member with experience across the Symphony business, what does SFS do well? Where do you see we’ve grown the most during your time on the board? In my years with The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, I continue to be so impressed with the organization’s ability to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Whether it’s creating programs to meet the tastes of new audiences, successfully pivoting during covid, or creating collaborations with other artists, the focus is always on how to delight audiences with memorable experiences. None of this would be possible without, first, the devotion and talent of our world-class performers; second, the energy, passion and commitment coming from our staff and leadership; and third, the enduring vision and support from the Board. A magical combination!”


Board of Directors
“When The Santa Fe Symphony invited me to perform at the Olé Gala in 2019, I was thrilled. It is beautiful how music unites us, all of us, and Santa Fe is very lucky to have an endless flow of music, dance, and art of every kind. So with all of these choices, being asked to bring this centuries-old art-form from my culture to such an incredible group of classic music lovers was a true honor for me. Happy Anniversary, Santa Fe Symphony!”


Performing Artist | Juan Siddi Arte Flamenco, Artistic Director
“Daniel Davis enjoyed attending Santa Fe Symphony concerts for several years before he came up with an idea for a commissioning project involving each orchestra in New Mexico. Inspired by reading about all of the plans to celebrate the state’s upcoming centennial, his idea was for every orchestra in the state to commission a local composer to write a celebratory work to mark the 100th year of statehood in 2012. He wrote to all of the orchestras, hoping to have a body of work by New Mexico composers added to the orchestral repertoire by the time the centennial celebrations were concluded.”


Principal Bassoon | Steering Committee Chair
“My favorite Santa Fe Symphony memory was our very first concert, not coincidentally on Labor Day, 1984. The last chord of Beethoven's 2nd was like a cannon and the packed crowd went nuts. I was worried that the balcony in St. Francis Auditorium would collapse from all of the foot stomping and 'Bravos!' What an auspicious beginning!”


Former Symphony Violinist
“Coming to New Mexico and performing with The Santa Fe Symphony is one of the most treasured moments of my artistic career. Bringing my Caribbean heritage to the St. Francis Auditorium with Mariano Morales, and later performing his Concerto with Maestro Figueroa and the Orchestra at the Lensic, was an enriching, transforming experience. I really look forward to coming back and being part of this living treasure, The Santa Fe Symphony, the Crown Jewel of the Southwest. Congratulations on your 40th Anniversary and thank you for your meaningful contribution to the culture of this region.”


Performing Artist | Multiple Grammy® Award-winning Flutist
"As Board President, I want to take this opportunity to share with you just one of the dozens of things that make me so proud of this organization—one that is of great importance to our success, but that may often go unnoticed. That is the true sense of teamwork, camaraderie and mutual respect that exists within The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. Our talented orchestral and choral musicians, our exceptional Music Director and Choral Director, our active Board and Committee Members, and of course our truly amazing Executive Director, administrative staff, and volunteers all give 110 percent daily. In the truest sense of the word 'team,' they work together to get the job done, and they all make me proud every single day."


Board President
In 1983, at age 25, I returned home to Santa Fe following membership in orchestras in Venezuela and Israel. While overseas, I had often thought it would be great if Santa Fe had its own symphony orchestra—a philharmonic, if you will. After all, there was the Santa Fe Opera and Chamber Music Festival, so why not a professional orchestra to complete Santa Fe’s rich cultural tapestry? The opportunity to lay the foundation for such an orchestra came about in the summer of 1984, and the Santa Fe Chamber Symphony, as the orchestra was initially known, gave its inaugural concert on September 2 of that year.


Founder of The Santa Fe Symphony | Executive Director, 1984–2018
“How Blessed we are to have a World Class Symphony Orchestra & Chorus in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I fell in love with The Symphony 40 years ago and am so proud of how they impact the schools, community, and the entire state. Thank you all for entertaining us with your beautiful music!”

Carole Eitzen & Dr. Harold Eitzen,

“The most memorable concert I ever heard was a re-creation of a concert that was conducted by Igor Stravinsky in Santa Fe's Cathedral Basilica that happened on July 17, 1960. The main feature on the program was Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, a magnificent performance conducted by our Music Director, Maestro Guillermo Figueroa. I also remember a program featuring violinist Nikki Chooi that was memorable for me, because he performed the Chausson Poem for Violin and Orchestra, which was one of my favorite pieces to play in my own career as a concert violinist, and his performance was as fine as any that I’ve ever heard in my life, quite beautiful.”

Everett Zlatoff-Mirsky

Board of Directors
“My favorite Symphony memory is Emma Scherer's first speech as Executive Director. I'd flown in to Santa Fe during the middle of rehearsals elsewhere and was in town for less than 12 hours, but in that time I got to hear my wife welcome the audience back after the pandemic season. It was a moment I'll never forget!”

Zachary Nelson

Performing Artist | Baritone
“I was on my way to Santa Fe to sing Alceste with the Opera when I got a call to see if I might be able to jump in to sing the soprano solos in Verdi's Requiem with the Santa Fe Symphony. It's a piece that I've sung often and love to sing, but the call was for THAT night! I remember a quick ride from the airport to the hall and getting dressed quickly and preparing for this monumental piece. There is a kind of energy when stepping in at the last minute that exceeds the normal energy before any performance, so I really can't remember too many details, but I do remember the warmth from the orchestra and the audience and the other soloists. All of that love and warmth made me feel like I could do it! And now I send my warmth and love to the Santa Fe Symphony for their 40th anniversary of making beautiful music! Happy 40th and many more years to come!”

Christine Brewer

Performing Artist | Soprano
“Our favorite choral performance with The Santa Fe Symphony was the Brahms Deutsches Requiem (2019). It is one of the few major classical choral works not named “Messiah” that the Chorus has done in recent years. We love singing such things; and it is one of our favorites. I (Dick) first did it as an undergraduate, with the Boston Symphony; and we both came to love it as we performed it multiple times at the University of Illinois. We were so glad to be able to do it again here, and were proud of how well the performance went. We want more!”

Judy Rowan and Dick Schacht

Santa Fe Symphony Chorus