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Sunday concert shows potential for symphony performances in Tracy

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Stockton Symphony at the Grand

Thirteen-year-old Amaryn Olmeda performs a violin solo at last Sunday’s Stockton Symphony Concert in the Grand Theatre, while Peter Jaffe, music director and conductor of the symphony, accompanies her on the electronic keyboard.

After a 10-year hiatus, the Stockton Symphony returned to Tracy last Sunday afternoon. From what I saw, and heard, there’s a good chance it won’t take that long for another visit.

It wasn’t only the concert performed in the Grand Theatre by an all-strings section of the symphony, but also a violin solo played by a 13-year-girl that convinced me and other audience members that yes, the effort — and dollars — needed to make the Stockton Symphony’s Tracy concert an annual event will be well worth it.

“She was something else,” Byron Alvarez, lead organizer of the concert that honored the memory of his mother, music supporter Betty Anne Alvarez, said of the violin wizardry of Amaryn Olmeda, after the 13-year-old flawlessly performed a Tchaikovsky selection.

Peter Jaffe, the symphony’s music director and conductor, told those in audience that they will be able to tell others in a few years that they witnessed an international musical star perform as she began to launch her career at the age of 13.

The mid-afternoon concert didn’t completely fill the ground floor of the Grand Theatre, but Byron Alvarez counted the attendance at 245 people, a solid turnout that indicated the potential support of symphonic music in our town.

“A good number of people, including newcomers to Tracy, had never attended a symphony concert in Tracy before, and this gave them a taste of what is possible in future years,” Alvarez said.

He said money he and other sponsors invested in last Sunday’s concert wasn’t sufficient to cover the full cost of the concert, but that is typical of many musical events.

When Tracy Friends of the Stockton Symphony sponsored annual Tracy concerts in years past, the fact that the symphony performed the same concert selections in Lodi and Manteca within a few days of the Tracy concert spread the financial burden among three towns and also allowed symphony members to offer the same concert in three venues.

Now if Lodi and Manteca can rejoin Tracy in hosting the same annual concert, then a successful series is indeed financially and musically feasible. I know Peter Jaffe and his wife, musicologist Jane Jaffe, would be at the forefront of supporting such a venture. And Philip West, the symphony’s business CEO, also has voiced support.

In the meantime, it’s time to breathe new life into the now-dormant Tracy Friends of the Stockton Symphony. Let’s hope last Sunday’s concert was the first dose of oxygen.

Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at

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