The Orchestra

The West Los Angeles Symphony, a 501(c) (3) organization, is a dynamic musical group which is not only beating the odds against existence, but excelling in the presentation of live symphonic music.

The West Los Angeles Symphony was formed by a small group of civic-minded music lovers. We have built a reputation for musical excellence. We fill a unique niche in the Los Angeles musical landscape. Since 1999, we have made Royce Hall our home and regularly fill this outstanding auditorium on the UCLA campus with over 1700 enthusiastic listeners.

Notable Guest Conductors

Benjamin Wallfisch studied conducting in London with Sir Charles Mackerras and Vernon Handley and in Germany with Bruno Weil. He was awarded First Prize in the 2001 British Reserve Insurance Conducting Competition with a unanimous vote from both jury and orchestra. At the age of 22, he was appointed Associate Conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra and between 2003 and 2005 was Assistant Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. During this time he assisted Vladimir Ashkenazy, Valery Gergiev, Edo de Waart and Leonard Slatkin and frequently conducted the NRPO in venues including the Concertgebouw, De Doelen Rotterdam and the Muziekcentrum Vredenburg, Utrecht and in numerous studio recordings. Guest conducting engagements have included the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in a series of critically acclaimed live broadcast gala performances at the Sydney Opera House, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Other guest conducting highlights have included the Bavarian Radio Philharmonic, Weimar Staatskapelle, Hamburg Symphony, Zagreb Philharmonic, Netherlands Symphony, SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, and the orchestra of the Beethoven Academy Krakow as part of Poland’s prestigious Beethoven Easter Festival. Recent performances include the Bournemouth Symphony, Slovakian Philharmonic, the Israel Symphony and his debut at the Dvorak Prague Festival, conducting the Prague Philharmonia. In 2015, he served as the Music Director of the 70th Anniversary Program to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz, as well as composing the music for the documentary, Auschwitz, produced by Steven Spielberg. In 2016, he shared, with Pharrell Wiliams and Hans Zimmer, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score for the movie Hidden Figures. As a composer, Mr. Wallfisch has received over 50 commissions for the concert hall, cinema, ballet, and theatre since 1996. He made his BBC Proms debut in 2006 conducting the world première of Escape Velocity, the fourth work composed under his ongoing tenure as Associate Composer of the Orchestra of St. John's. His debut CD was released by Quartz in November 2006 to great critical acclaim and he signed an exclusive publishing agreement with Edition Peters in August 2006. Acclaimed by The Strad as “one of the finest accompanists anywhere on the podium,” Mr. Wallfisch has performed concerti with some of the world's finest soloists including Evelyn Glennie, Branford Marsalis, Igor Oistrakh, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and John Williams. In addition to a number of his own orchestral works, he has recorded Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto with Ruth Palmer and the Philharmonia, a disc of bassoon concerti with Karen Geoghegan and the Orchestra of Opera North for Chandos, and concerto recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra. In 2013, he premiered his Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. He was commissioned by the London Philharmonic Orchestra to compose and conduct three new orchestral works which were premiered at the Royal Festival Hall in 2013.

Angel Romero, one of the most sought-after musicians of his generation, is hailed as the legendary Spanish maestro of the classical guitar. He has appeared in the major cultural centers throughout the world and as soloist with such leading orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Mr. Romero studied conducting privately with Eugene Ormandy and has led numerous orchestras worldwide. Mr. Romero’s extensive discography includes highly acclaimed recordings for Delos International, RCA Victor Red Seal and RCA Victor Worldwide, Telarc, and Angel/EMI. In February 2000, he was knighted by the country of Spain in reverence of his astounding musical accomplishments. In 2007, Angel Romero was honored by the Recording Academy, producer of the Grammy Awards, with the Recording Academy President’s Merit Award. Maestro Romero is noted for his activities in the film industry. In 1989, he performed the entire score for “The Milagro Bean Field War,” directed by Robert Redford. In 1994, he composed and directed the musical score for the Gabriele Retes film “Bienvenido-Welcome.” For his work on this film, Mr. Romero won the 1995 ARIEL (the “Academy Award” of Mexico) in the category of music written originally for film. He also performed and recorded the entire score for the film, “By The Sword,” composed by Bill Conti, and played a cameo role in the major motion picture, “Bound by Honor,” a Taylor Hackford film. He is the youngest of the three performer sons of Celedonio Romero. He made his professional debut at the age of six and was an international touring artist by the time he was in his mid-teens. He made his United States debut at the Hollywood Bowl when he was 16, giving the West Coast premiere of the famed Rodrigo “Concierto de Aranjuez.” This occasion also marked the first time a guitarist was featured as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 1991, he gave the world premiere of Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Rincones de España” at New York’s Lincoln Center, and in 1992, performed in a global telecast from the United Nations General Assembly Hall at the invitation of Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Jorge Mester received Columbia University’s prestigious Ditson Conductor’s Award for the advancement of American music in 1985. Other Ditson award recipients include Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy, and Leopold Stokowski. During the 1980's, he served as Director of Juilliard School’s conducting department. Since he loves teaching, he has served as a mentor for such internationally acclaimed artists as Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Midori, and Renee Fleming. The maestro was the Music Director of the Louisville Symphony Orchestra where he produced 72 world premiere recordings. He was the guiding force for 21 years of the Aspen Music Festival. He has conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London, the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Cincinnati Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, and the Rochester Philharmonic, among others. He is a noted opera conductor and has led numerous productions for the New York City Opera, the Sydney Opera, Spoleto, and the Washington Opera. He has recorded for the Auracle label.

Lawrence Leighton Smith has led virtually every major orchestra in the United States including the New York Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Originally trained as a pianist, Mr. Smith went on to perform both as a soloist and as a recital partner for such celebrated vocalists and instrumentalists as Renata Tebaldi, Franco Corelli, Sherrill Milnes, and Pinchas Zukerman. While at the Peabody School of Music, he won a Ford Foundation grant for conducting, working under the guidance of George Szell. He began his conducting career in 1973 when he was one of the first prize winners in the Dimitri Mitropoulos Competition. New York appearances have included two Absolut Contemporary programs at Avery Fisher Hall, a Carnegie Hall concert with the American Composers Orchestra and soloist Emmanuel Ax, and a program at Alice Tully Hall with violinist Itzhak Perlman and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Mr. Smith has also served as Assistant Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera. In 1986, he became the first American conductor to record with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. He made his RCA recording debut with the London Symphony and clarinet soloist Richard Stoltzman. He received the Ditson Conductor’s Award for commitment to the performance of American music from Columbia University.

Patrick Flynn studied with Sir John Barbirolli and Sir Edward Downes which led to his first professional appointment as a conductor at the Australian Opera in 1970. Maestro Flynn went on to conduct the BBC Philharmonic, the BBC Concert Orchestra, and the Paris Opera. He collaborated with Mikhail Baryshnikov on major productions at the Met and conducted for Rudolph Nureyev on Broadway. He led world premieres which include Roland Petit’s “Phantom de l’Opera” in Paris, and John Williams’ “Clarinet Concerto” in California. In London, he conducted the television special “Salute to America” broadcast from the Royal Festival Hall and led the English National Ballet’s historic ballet-in-the-round performances of “Swan Lake” at the Royal Albert Hall. He conducted the Australian Opera at the Sydney Opera House for seven years in performances featuring Joan Sutherland and Kiri Te Kanawa. At Andrew Lloyd Weber’s request, he conducted the first concert performances of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Maestro Flynn made his New York debut with the American Ballet Theatre and conducted orchestras throughout the United States and Europe. He passed away in September, 2008.

Randall Craig Fleischer has appeared as guest conductor with many major orchestras in the United States and internationally including repeat engagements with the Boston Pops, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, and Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra and many others. Winner of Newsweek Magazine’s “Parent’s Choice Award” for his groundbreaking CD-ROM of “Peter and the Wolf,” Mr. Fleischer stands alone as the only American conductor to receive this prestigious award. He came to international attention while serving as Associate Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, when he conducted Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with Mstislav Rostropovich as soloist during the NSO’s 1990 tour of Japan and the U.S.S.R. Mr. Fleischer made his debut with the New York City Opera in 1995 conducting “The Magic Flute.”

Notable Soloists

Jens Lindemann, Trumpet, is acclaimed as one of the most celebrated soloists in his instrument's history and was named "International Brass Personality of the Year" by the Brass Herald. Classically trained at the renowned Juilliard School in New York, Mr. Lindemann’s proven ability to perform as a diverse artist places him at the forefront of a new generation of musicians. His career highlights range from recording with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to playing lead trumpet with the renowned Canadian Brass and a solo command performance for the Queen of England. He has been nominated for both Grammy and Juno (Canadian Recording Industry) awards and won the highly influential Echo Klassik Award in Germany. He has performed and recorded with noteworthy conductors such as Sir Neville Marriner, Charles Dutoit, Gerard Schwarz, Bramwell Tovey, Angel Romero, Jukka Pekka Saraste, Eiji Oue and Doc Severinson. Appearances with leading orchestras and symphonies throughout the world include the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Detroit Symphony, among others. In 2005, Mr. Lindemann appeared as a featured soloist at the World Exposition in Aichi, Japan. As the only Canadian, he performed in front of the Super World Orchestra, an ensemble of selected members of the Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic. Mr. Lindemann has made numerous television and film appearances and has recorded for BMG, EMI, CBC and the BBC.

Raphael Wallfisch, Cello, was born into a family of distinguished musicians. While studying with the great Russian cellist, Gregor Piatigorsky in California, he was chosen to perform chamber music with Jascha Heifetz in the informal recitals that Piatigorsky held at his home. At the age of twenty-four he won the Gaspar Cassadó International Cello Competition in Florence. Since then he has enjoyed a world-wide career playing with such orchestras as the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, BBC Symphony, English Chamber Orchestra, Hallé, City of Birmingham Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Berlin Symphony, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Indianapolis Symphony, Warsaw Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic and many others. Mr. Wallfisch has recorded nearly every major work for his instrument. His extensive discography on EMI, Chandos, Black Box, ASV, Naxos and Nimbus explores both the mainstream concerto repertoire and countless lesser-known works. He has recorded a wide range of British cello concertos, and many of Britain’s leading composers have worked closely with him and have written works especially for him. He is regularly invited to play at major music festivals worldwide. He has played at the BBC Proms, the Edinburgh International, Aldeburgh, Spoleto, Prades, Oslo, Bergen International, Montpellier, Pablo Casals, Wratislavia Cantans and Schleswig-Holstein Festivals. Teaching is one of Mr. Wallfisch’s passions. He is in demand as a teacher all over the world, holding the position of professor of cello in Switzerland at the Zürich Hochschule der Kunst and at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

Ben Hong, Cello, has collaborated with such artists as Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Lynn Harrell, Janine Jansen, Lang Lang, Cho-Liang Lin, Bobby McFerrin, Christopher O'Riley, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Shanghai String Quartet, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Lars Vogt, and Long Yu. Los Angeles Philharmonic Assistant Principal Cellist since 1993, Hong has appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and served as Acting Principal during the 2011-2012 season.  Mr. Hong has appeared as soloist in Tan Dun’s Crouching Tiger Concerto both at the Hollywood Bowl with Long Yu conducting and with the San Diego Symphony with Tan Dun as conductor. He gave the U.S. premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's cello concerto, Kai, with Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the June 2000 Ojai Music Festival. The year 2006 found Mr. Hong performing a Bach Cello Suite with accompaniment added by the hip-hop orchestra, DaKah, at Walt Disney Concert Hall as part of the annual Grand Avenue Festival. Mr. Hong served as a consultant to the 2009 DreamWorks film, "The Soloist,” functioning as an on-set technical advisor, while teaching the star, Jamie Foxx, to convincingly handle the cello.  Mr. Hong’s playing is featured on the film's soundtrack.

Di Wu, Piano, was praised in The Wall Street Journal as “a most mature and sensitive pianist.” Ms. Wu made featured debuts at Chicago’s Ravinia Festval, the Cincinnati May Festival under the baton of James Conlon, the Fort Worth Symphony with Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducting, in Germany with the Hamburg Philharmonic, and in Tokyo, Japan, where she appeared as soloist with orchestra to an audience of 11,000 people. Ms. Wu has also been welcomed as a recitalist in Washington, where she was hailed by the Washington Post for her “fire and authority,” in Philadelphia, where the Inquirer praised her “charisma, steely technique and keen musical intelligence,” and in California, where the Bay Area’s Peninsula Review critic declared, “I would gladly crawl over broken glass to hear her again.” In 2011, she made a return to Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall as soloist under the baton of Christopher Eschenbach. In 2009, she made her New York Alice Tully Hall recital debut as winner of Juilliard’s William Petschek Piano Debut Recital Award, was named Artist of the Month by MusicalAmerica.com, and was awarded a Vendome Virtuosi prize at Lisbon’s prestigious Vendome Competition as well as one of the coveted prizes at the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Ms. Wu’s recording of Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Books I and II received praise from Musical America’s Harris Goldsmith.

Eric Zuber, Piano, is one of the leading and most decorated American pianists of his generation. Mr. Zuber is a laureate of the American Pianists Association Fellowship Award. In addition, he holds an astonishing nine major prizes from some of the world’s most important international piano competitions: Honens, Cleveland, Arthur Rubinstein, Seoul, Sydney, Dublin, Minnesota, Bosendorfer (Gold Medal), and Hilton Head (Gold Medal). He was also awarded the Arthur Rubenstein Prize for his outstanding achievements by The Juilliard School. Mr. Zuber has made appearances at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, the Sydney Opera House, and Severance Hall. After making his orchestral debut at the age of 12 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, he has gone on to perform with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, the Minnesota Symphony, the Calgary Philharmonic, the Korean Symphony, and Ireland’s RTE National Symphony Orchestra, among many others.

Milena Kitic, Mezzo Soprano, made her operatic debut at the National Theatre in Belgrade. In 1998, she earned the German Music Critic’s Award as “Performer of the Season.” During 2000, Ms. Kitic debuted at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and performed the role of Maddalena in the Salzburg production of Rigoletto. She has appeared at Carnegie Hall with the Opera Orchestra of New York in Verdi’s Otello, and performed the title role of Carmen in the 2004-2005 season of the Los Angeles Opera. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Carmen in October 2005.

Gilles Apap, Violin, was hailed as the “violinist of the 21st century” by Yehudi Menuhin. He is embraced worldwide for his distinct talent of incorporating styles of music as diverse as American bluegrass and Gypsy fiddling, with the standards of the classical repertoire. French film maker Bruno Monsaingeon featured Mr. Apap in a two hour documentary entitled, The Unknown Fiddler of Santa Barbara calling Apap’s sound, “music at its maximum purity.” In 2000, he founded the fiery ensemble, Colors of Invention, and records on the label Apapaziz Productions.

Robert Thies, Piano, is an artist renowned for his consummate musicianship and poetic temperament. He first captured world attention in 1995, when he won the Gold Medal at the Second International Prokofiev Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia. With this victory, Thies became the only American pianist to win first prize in a Russian piano competition since Van Cliburn’s famed triumph in Moscow in 1958. Mr. Thies has worked and recorded with many top musicians including film composer Lalo Schifrin, jazz artist David Benoit, and the Grammy- winning Angeles String Quartet.

Michele Zukovsky, Clarinet, former long-time principal clarinetist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and frequent soloist at the Hollywood Bowl and with orchestras throughout the world. She gave the world - premiere performance of John Williams’ “Clarinet Concerto” with the Boston Pops. She has recorded for London/Decca, Avant, Nonesuch, and Summit Records.

Roberto Cani, Violin, top-prize winner in the Paganini International Competition in Genoa, Italy. He also won first prize in the Chateaux de Courcillon International Competition in France. He concertizes throughout Europe and the United States and recorded on Golden Records and Arcadia Records. Mr. Cani is currently the concertmaster of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra.

Richard Bernstein, Bass Baritone, is at the forefront of the singers of his generation. He garners praise from critics and audiences alike and has made the lead in The Marriage of Figaro his signature role. He has performed frequently with the Los Angeles Opera and now spends the majority of his performing time with the Metropolitan Opera and on opera stages around the world.

Giora Schmidt, Violin, a former student of the late Dorothy DeLay and Itzhak Perlman, Mr. Schmidt was a 2003 Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient. He has appeared with the Chicago Symphony, Detroit Symphony, and Israel Philharmonic, and performed with Mr. Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman at Carnegie Hall. He appeared on television in the Kennedy Center Honors. He won First Prize in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Albert M. Greenfield Competition and the Concerto Competition at the Music Academy of the West. In the 2005-2006 season, he made his Paris and Tokyo debuts, as well as a debut recital recording.

Julie Ann Smith, Harp, is an active recitalist and soloist with orchestras internationally. Currently, she is the Principal Harpist of the San Diego Symphony and has established herself as one of the most prominent young harpists today. She was a Silver Medal Winner in the 2004 U.S.A. International Harp Competition. She has held principal positions throughout the country and periodically serves with the St. Louis and Milwaukee Symphonies.

Nigel Armstrong, Violin, is a recipient of numerous international awards. He received prizes from the Tchaikovsky, Buenos Aires, and Menuhin violin competitions. Since his solo debut with the Baroque Simphonia in 2002, Mr. Armstrong has performed concerti and show pieces with the Boston Pops Orchestra, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Orquesta Estable del Teatro Colon, the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, and the American Philharmonic, among others. He received First Prize in the concerto competitions of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, among others.

Naoko Takada is a renowned marimbist with a wide range of repertoire. She is an arranger as well as a performer and her transcriptions have been published by Studio 4 Music as part of the Naoko Takada series. She won first prize in the 2002 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. She performed the New York premiere of Kevin Puts’ Marimba Concerto with Leonard Slatkin conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

Susanna Guzman, Mezzo-Soprano, performs as a principal artist with many international opera companies. She was nominated for the prestigious Helen Hayes Award and was the 1997 recipient of the first Placido Domingo Award for Outstanding Contribution by a Hispanic Artist to Opera. She co-hosted LA Opera Notes.

Kirill Gliadkovsky, Piano, attended the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, the most prestigious music institution in Russia where he received many awards and honors. He has won numerous international prizes and has performed many times on live television and radio broadcasts on such networks as Russian State TV and Radio, CBS, PBS, and NPR. Among his recent recordings are two CDs for Alexei Records and four CDs for CMK Classics.

Andrew von Oeyen, Piano, made his debut at age 17 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen. Several of Mr. von Oeyen’s performances have been broadcast on National Public Radio and he has been a featured guest on NPR’s “Performance Today.”

Mark Salzman is the Pulitzer Prize nominated novelist and author of “The Soloist.” Mr. Salzman’s cello playing appears on the soundtrack to Academy Award winning documentary, Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien and the documentary The Living Museum. Mr. Salzman performed with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax at Alice Tully Hall.

Works Premiered

SYMPHONIC FANTASY by Aaron Kaplan. Mr. Kaplan has extensive television and film credits including music for Amazing Love Stories and The Akido Master.

AWAKEN by Lennie Moore. Mr. Moore works in Los Angeles as an orchestrator and composer for television and film music. AWAKEN featured a solo on the Electronic Valve Instrument, which took the art of music performance into the 21st century. The EVI has been used in film scoring since its first striking impressions in the film Apocalypse Now.

The West Los Angeles Symphony takes great pride in the large number of community members we have touched and impacted with our concerts. Our audiences are drawn from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, and age groups. Listeners travel from all points of Los Angeles County and beyond in order to enjoy our performances, thus continually expanding our reputation.

Our mission is to continue to provide world-class, professional symphonic concerts, free of charge to the community.