Skip to content

Stanford Symphony Orchestra Performs in Catalina Island Continuing their Tradition

Last month, eighteen members of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra traveled down the coast of California across the sea to reach Catalina Island, following an annual tradition. Reports say that this is the fourth time that the orchestra has traveled to Catalina Island to perform at the Catalina Island Museum’s Annual Holiday Symphony Concert.

This tradition started in 2013, when Catalina Island Museum extended invitation to Anna Wittstruck, who is the interim music director and the acting assistant professor and conductor for orchestral studies in music, to perform a Symphony Orchestra concert in the island. The invitation was sent under Michael De Marsche, who was the executive director of the Catalina Island museum at that time. After their first concert, they returned every year since.

Wittstruck, citing the great impact that the Stanford student musicians have on the island community, said that, “this concert program is so unusual and special for the people who live in Avalon, and we are always overwhelmed and sincerely moved by how much the community appreciates our musical presence.”

In addition to the holiday concert that was conducted on Dec 16, the members of the orchestra also took part in a music education program at the Avalon School. The program was conducted for an informal chamber music performance and was followed by a late night karaoke.

“Visiting the local school is particularly rewarding,” said Wittstruck. “Our students, as they introduce their instruments and interact with the younger students, discover that they have something to teach and something powerful to give.”

The concert program for this year was arranged to compliment the Catalina Island Museum exhibition, Art Nouveau and Graphic Art: The PAN Publications, 1895-1900. The exhibition featured works by Johannes Brahms, Claude Debussy, Johann Strauss II, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Chen Zhao from the San Francisco Symphony was the special guest of the event, and he performed violin solo by Pablo de Sarasate. This is the second time that Zhao is visiting the island. The concert was closed with the holiday favorite “Jingle Bells.”


“The program selection was a favorite among this year’s attendees,” said Julie Perlin Lee, who is the present executive director of the Catalina Island Museum. “For many, it opened the door to classical music in such a positive way. They left wanting to know more – to learn more. That is what we strive for each year. We worked closely with Anna Wittstruck to tie the program in with our current special exhibition, and it worked beautifully.”