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West Covina woman saves the symphony

Conductor leads W.C. symphony back from oblivion
Sandra T. Molina, Staff Writer


 

WEST COVINA - Professional musician and symphony orchestra conductor Sylvia Lee Mann believes in the power of music.

So much so, she has used her own money to finance the relaunch of the West Covina Symphony.

The organization had been dormant for about 20 years before Mann, who is a professional musician and conductor and lives in the West Covina home in which she she grew up, relaunched it nearly two years ago.

"When I moved back from Louisiana to care for my ill parents (who are now deceased), I was surprised the symphony no longer existed," said Mann, 55.

She is now the musical director and conductor of the symphony, which had gone dormant because of no financing.

"It was too important not to do something about it," she said of rejuvenating the symphony.

It hasn't been easy.

"Through the generosity of many in the community, we've kept afloat," said Mann, who played in the symphony's original incarnation as a child and into her teens.

"I think it's heroic," said Ruslan Biryukov, Russian cello soloist, of Mann's financial and musical leadership. "I don't know anyone who has made such a positive change of this magnitude."

Biryukov, who immigrated to the United States in 1995 and now lives in Silver Lake, should know.

He founded the Glendale Symphony.

"This woman revitalized an orchestra from nothing," said Biryukov, who will be under Mann's leadership as the guest soloist in the orchestra's upcoming show

The West Covina Symphony will perform at 4 p.m. June 6 at Haugh Performing Arts Center at Citrus College, 1000 Foothill Blvd., Glendora.

Biryukov, who's toured the globe as a playing professional since age 11, called Mann's rejuvenation of the symphony not only commendable, but vital for the community.

"The positive social impact of music to a community is impossible to estimate," he said. "It changes the appearance of the city completely."

The orchestra consists of more than 60 musicians at every concert, with musicians ranging in age from 14 to 81.

"They come from all over Southern California to perform with our orchestra," Mann said.

"Some even tell stories of rediscovering their passion for life through playing in the symphony, of finding healing through their music," she said.

The symphony also has an educational outreach program which offers free concerts for local area schools, a music academy offering music lessons and a solo competition for music students.

The winners are featured at an annual concert with the orchestra.

Mann, whose original recorded music is now available at iTunes, Napster and a number of other digital music services, said she will continue to lead the symphony for as long as she can.

"Music is very important to a person's well-being, whether you play or listen to it," she said. "It's about the betterment of the bigger self."

Tickets for the show are $20 VIP, $10 Reserved and $5 for seniors.

Free parking is available at the venue.

For tickets and more information, call 323-445-6558 or visit www.celloart.com.

Money from ticket sales will help fund the symphony. Donations can also be made by logging on to www.westcovinasymphony.com.

sandra.molina@sgvn.com

562-698-0955, ext. 3029


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