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Joining me at South Coast Symphony's "Hawaiian Luau" at Wilcox Manor in Tustin is SCS's Founder and Conductor Barry Silverman

Joining me at South Coast Symphony’s “Hawaiian Luau” at Wilcox Manor in Tustin is SCS’s Founder and Conductor Barry Silverman

Barry Silverman is passionate about South Coast Symphony, the symphony he founded in 1996. Serving as its music director and conductor these past 18 years, Barry is proud that the resident orchestra for South Orange County continues to provide 15 diverse communities with a professional, accessible and affordable symphonic experience. Billed as the “Unstuffy Symphony for the OC,” South Coast Symphony performs a wide variety of orchestral literature from the classics and opera to light classics, Broadway and pops.

In talking more to Barry, who, by the way, I’ve been singing with for many years in the 120-member Chancel Choir at Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Santa Ana, I find he is even more passionate about the symphony’s two educational outreach programs – Koncerts for Kids and the “Young STARS of the Future” Competition. According to Barry, for 15 years, the symphony has performed to more than 40,000 students through its Koncerts for Kids program. “To see these kids reactions when they come to our concerts is just incredible,” he says. “They’re jumping up and down in their seats.”

The “Young STARS” Competition is just as heartfelt for Barry. “Our finalists have gone on to star on Broadway, television and opera,” he shares. The auditions bring aspiring young musicians from Orange County to compete, and a jury of professional musicians adjudicate. Three finalists are chosen and each receives a $1,000 scholarship, along with a performance with the South Coast Symphony. Barry is especially proud of Krysta Rodriguez, one of the finalists who has gone on to star on Broadway in the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line, The Addams Family and in the television series Smash. He tells me that Krysta has returned quite often to perform with SCS since she hit it big and is returning again this fall, when she will direct the Orange County School of the Arts’ production of A Chorus Line (she is an OCSA alumna). Barry will guest conduct OCSA’s Ambassador Jazz Orchestra for the show. He is well known at OCSA, as he most recently served four years as Director of the Instrumental Music Consesrvatory and currently is Conductor of the OCSA Concert Orchestra and Coordinator of Guitar Studies.

I recently attended the symphony’s annual fundraiser, this year dubbed “Hawaiian Luau” 2014, at the historic Wilcox Manor in Old Town Tustin. It seemed an incongruous venue choice for a luau, but, as it turned out, it was perfect. The home has a spacious grassy yard, surrounded by green foliage and colorful flowers, which lent itself to the island theme. The 125 guests were greeted by girls in Hawaiian dress dispensing leis and a fellow strumming on a ukelele. The side terrace proved a popular spot as mai tais and pina coladas were among the tasty offerings (Ottavio made me a yummy pina colada!). The tiki torches were lit, and everyone was in a party mood.

Docents were available for tours of the Victorian home, which was recently recognized as a home of historical importance. Owned by Lindburgh McPherson and Michael Demoratz, the duo has turned it into a showplace with opulent furnishings. Beautiful antiques, with an abundance of clocks and chandeliers, are prevalent, and the dining room features a magnificent Baccarat chandelier, which was a gift to McPerson from a royal palace in Iran (McPherson is the son of a former ambassador). But, the room that will blow you away is the bathroom. McPherson and Demoratz told me they had just finished it. It features a lovely “lobby,” if you will, and four separate bath rooms, with gilt furnishings, Victorian paintings, and, of course, the ubiquitous chandelier in every room!

Dinner under the stars on the grassy lawn was great fun with tiki torches burning (and sparkling chandeliers overhead!) and Don Ho singing “Tiny Bubbles” in the background. Bavera Gourmet catered an island menu – loved the pulled pork! – and SCS board chair John Kendrick enjoyed poured wine for his table. The symphony supporters are like family! The live auction featured LA Kings tickets, an Angels vs. Dodgers game with seats at home plate and two one-day passes to Disneyland, two nights at the Fairfield Inn Anaheim and tickets to a performance at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney. Janice Lee of Tustin won two of the 20 raffle prizes. She was ecstatic, exclaiming, “I’ve never won anything!”

Guests enjoyed a talented troupe of Hawaiian dancers, as they demonstrated a variety of island dances, and a spirited “Coconut Challenge” ensued, where a designated guest from each table hammered a coconut to open it. One last challenge brought volunteer male dancers from the audience to dance and, whoever generated the most applause, won. Ray Morrison from Irvine was the “Hawaiian Idol” winner. You can see Ray in his grass skirt in several photos.

Among those making it happen were luau chair Nancy Lowery, who is President of the SCS Alliance, auction chairs Nancy Kendrick and Nancy Lowery, and committee members Nancy and Ottavio Orro, Wendy Nicosia, Luba Lowery, Lisa Gray, Sue Mahoney, and Mark Lowery. Students from the symphony’s Junior Alliance volunteered their time as servers. The effort generated $10,000 for the Koncerts for Kids program. Visit southcoastsymphony.org to see the schedule of concerts for the upcoming season (the website will show the upcoming season by Aug. 23). Purchase some tickets, be entertained and support a very good cause!

Pssst….I wanted to let you know that Wilcox Manor has a conditional use permit for nonprofit use, and charities are encouraged to plan fundraisers there. Lindburgh and Michael are very generous with helping nonprofits raise money for their causes. Contact Lindburgh at lmcpherson@wilcoxmanor.com or call 714-669-0601.