Published January 20, 2015
Volume 23, Number 1

Directing a Bright New Future for the Symphony
Livermore Amador Symphony

By Zoe Francis

Lara Webber is eager to get local school children and, quite frankly, everyone tapped into extremely good music.
The new music director and conductor of the Livermore-Amador Symphony firmly believes the group’s role is not just to entertain the masses, but to educate them about the importance of music.
“It’s not just that we want to build our audience,” Webber said. “And it’s not just that this is great music. But this part of our culture needs to be re-established and fought for. There is nothing as exciting as the sound of a live orchestra. Music gets your creative juices flowing. It stimulates your imagination and provides opportunity for expression, not just in the people making the music, but from those hearing it as well.”
Webber has already initiated outreach with the 70 members of the all-volunteer community symphony. Local fourth- and fifth-graders were invited to hear the group perform at the dress rehearsal before the December performance.
“Students who might not otherwise speak up will find their voice, literally, when they sing or play music,” she said. Unfortunately, “music is no longer a part of daily life. It used to be everyone sang in school or learned an instrument in school. It was a natural and normal part of the school curriculum and it isn’t anymore.”
Music, she added, “is part of who we are. It’s part of what makes our culture unique.”
While Webber played cello in her middle and high school orchestras, her true passion was singing.
“When I was in college, I was a voice major,” she recalled. “I pursued a music education degree and took conducting classes as a function of the music education program. When I took these classes, the teachers all pulled me aside and said, ‘You know, you’re really good at this.’ “
Webber got a vocal performance degree from Oberlin College & Conservatory in Ohio, then explored her newfound enthusiasm for conducting at the University of Southern California, where she earned her master’s degree in conducting.
She has held various conducting jobs around the country, including a four-year stint as associate conductor with the Baltimore Symphony.
“I conducted about 80 concerts a year there,” she said. “They are, as many professional orchestras are, a full-time orchestra. They perform hundreds of concerts a year. You have to have a music director and a secondary staff conductor to fill in.”
Webber has lived the last decade in Livermore, where her husband works at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She has focused her efforts on raising her two young children, Elsa and Sam, while keeping her career going as a guest conductor with various groups.
“When I realized that my own hometown had this long tradition of the Livermore-Amador Symphony in existence and they invited me to be a guest conductor, my response was, ‘Why not?’ “ she said enthusiastically. “I so thoroughly enjoyed the experience that when they came back and asked me to be their music director, I said yes.”
Webber took control of the local symphony in September at the start of the current season, with performances from October through May. The group performs four classical concerts and one pop concert per season.
“Community orchestras are not hard to find in this area and around the country,” she noted.
What makes the Livermore-Amador Symphony stand out is its 52-year history.
“One with a history and legacy as long as ours is not often found,” she said proudly. “It’s pretty unique that they have maintained their service to the community as long as they have, and they have grown. Their abilities have grown.”
The hiring of Webber sparked new interest in the symphony.
“A majority of the orchestra is Livermore-based, but a substantial portion of the orchestra commutes in from a fair distance because they want to play,” she said. “They love the organization. They love the community. They love to play together. It’s a real interesting mix of generations and of professionals from different fields. Many of these people have had substantial training on their instruments over the years.”
Webber is enthusiastic about the symphony, which has also experienced a boost due to its relatively new performance home at the Bankhead Theater.
“The musicians are already demonstrating a level of commitment and dedication in their rehearsal and in this last concert that’s incredibly encouraging,” she said. “I feel like the potential is limitless.”
The symphony’s next performances are in February, April and May. Learn more about the symphony and Webber at livermoreamadorsymphony.org.


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