San Bernardino Symphony welcomes Melissa Manchester, Bernadene Blaha, Sharon Lavery to March concert

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IECN photo SB Symphony: Maestra Sharon Lavery will lead the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra in their presentation of “An Evening With Melissa Manchester” on March 16.

The San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra will welcome three outstanding female musicians to the fifth installment of their widely-praised 2018-19 concert season.

“As March is Women’s History Month, this seemed a timely and relevant application of our artistic mission to the contribution of women in fine arts,” shared Symphony Board President Dean McVay.

The conductor for this concert is Maestra Sharon Lavery, the ninth talented contender in the Symphony’s two year-long music director search. Since 2007, Lavery has been music director of the Downey Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble hailed as one of the best metropolitan orchestras in Southern California. She has appeared as guest conductor with the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra, the La Jolla Symphony, the La Brea Sinfonietta of Los Angeles, and the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition Orchestra in Palm Springs.  Since 2004, she has held the post of cover conductor for the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, and has also served as cover conductor for the San Diego Symphony.  She has been the assistant conductor of the Pasadena Symphony, the associate conductor of the Herbert Zipper Orchestra of Los Angeles, and has also served as music director of the MUSE International Music Day Festival in Chiba, Japan.  

In conjunction with her professional duties, Ms. Lavery serves as resident conductor of the University of Southern California Thornton Symphony, Chamber Orchestra and Wind Ensemble.  She has led the Thornton ensembles in concert on countless occasions, and served as music director of the Thornton Concert Orchestra for seven years.  In addition to these duties, Lavery teaches instrumental conducting at USC. Lavery is also known as an advocate for music education.  She has conducted the International Honors Performance Series Orchestra and Band at Carnegie Hall, the Missouri All-State Orchestra, the California All-State High School Concert Band, and the Texas 4A All-State Band.

Hailing from Ossining, New York, Lavery received her bachelor of music education degree from Michigan State University and master of music in clarinet performance from the New England Conservatory of Music. She also earned a master of music in orchestral conducting from USC Thornton, receiving the Leonard Bernstein Memorial Scholarship for two consecutive years.

The first half of the concert will include two pieces by George Gershwin, “Selections from Porgy and Bess” and “Rhapsody in Blue,” which  will feature acclaimed pianist Bernadene Blaha. Blaha’s command of the piano, whether featured as recitalist, concerto soloist or chamber musician, has been heralded in performances throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Mexico. Piano and Keyboard magazine reviewed her as “a pianist of integrity, with lovely sonorities and total clarity of line.” 

Blaha first came to international attention as a prizewinner in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra Competition; the Young Keyboard Artists International Piano Competition, Grand Rapids, Michigan; the Masterplayers International Competition, Lugano, Switzerland; and the 11th Annual International Piano Competition in New York City. This latter award resulted in two highly acclaimed recital appearances at Carnegie Recital Hall and the Lincoln Center Library. Soon afterward, she was featured in the opening orchestra concert and a solo recital at the XXIX International Chopin Festival in Marianske Lazne, Czechoslovakia, followed by performances at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Blaha is a founding member of the piano trio Latitude 41, and her discography also includes recordings for the CBC, Centaur, and Analekta labels.

The second half of the concert will feature Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter and actress Melissa Manchester performing her tribute to “The Fellas.” This creative concept is Manchester’s inventive reimagining of beloved standards by artists such as Mel Tormé, Tony Bennett and Dean Martin. 

Manchester comes by her own love of the arts quite naturally. She was born in New York where her father was a bassoonist for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and her mother was one of the first women to design and found her own clothing firm, Ruth Manchester Ltd. They introduced her to all the classics, and by the age of 15, Manchester was already a published poet. After graduating from the High School of the Performing Arts, she entered New York University and enrolled in a songwriting class taught by Paul Simon, later landing a staff writing job at Chappell Music and performing as a solo singer/pianist in the clubs of Greenwich Village, where she met Bette Midler and Barry Manilow.

As a back-up singer for Midler, Manchester fulfilled her childhood fantasy of playing Carnegie Hall. Six months later, she had a recording contract, and went on to headline at Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall, and performed for sold-out audiences across the country. Manchester’s music established her as a compelling singer/songwriter, as did a string of hits including “Midnight Blue.”

Manchester and Kenny Loggins co-wrote the radio classic “Whenever I Call You Friend”, and her songs have been recorded by the likes of Barbra Streisand, Dusty Springfield, Alison Krauss, Roberta Flack, Johnny Mathis, Kathy Mattea, Peabo Bryson and Cleo Laine. Her international hits “Through The Eyes Of Love” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud” were written for her by her friend and frequent collaborators Carole Bayer Sager, Marvin Hamlisch and Peter Allen.

Manchester was nominated for a Grammy in 1978 and 1979 and received the Grammy Award in 1982 for Best Female Vocalist. In 1980 she became the first artist in the history of the Academy Awards to have two nominated movie themes in a given year — “Through The Eyes Of Love” and “The Promise” — and went on the make Oscar history by performing both songs during the worldwide telecast. She combined her acting and singing talents in starring roles in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ‘Song And Dance’ and ‘Music Of The Night’, and in a recurring role in the hit television series Blossom. She also worked again with Bette Midler, co-starring in the film For The Boys, released by 20th Century Fox.

Melissa Manchester recently received the Governor’s Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for her contributions to the music and recording arts, she is a professor at USC, and her body of work to date as a singer/songwriter was a featured exhibit at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum.

“It has been such a joy this season to feature so many talented individuals alongside the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra,” concluded McVay. “We made a concerted effort two years ago to focus our resources on building a strong arts foundation for the Inland Empire and this concert is yet another exciting example of that dream coming to life. We are so grateful to the many sponsors and community members who have embraced the concept that the Inland Empire can truly be a vital arts center as it was when the Symphony was founded 90 years ago.”

Ticket Availability

Tickets are available by calling the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra office at (909) 381-5388 or through our website: www.sanbernardinosymphony.org. Student and active military tickets are always $15; all other tickets are available at $30. $45. $55, and $65. Monday through Friday, tickets are also available at the Symphony’s new business office in the Garcia Center for the Arts, 536 W. 11th Street, Suite 1, in San Bernardino.

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