Music Director José Luis Gomez Announces Inaugural Season

by Tucson Symphony

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Choral,” Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, Debussy’s Afternoon Of A Faun And Mozart’s Violion Concerto No. 4 Among Works Showing His Artistic Journey

Gil Shaham, Rachel Barton Pine, Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Vadym Kholodenko and Arturo Sandoval among Featured Soloists. All New Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II for Thanksgiving Holiday and 2 Special All Souls Procession Weekend Performances

(Tucson, AZ)— José Luis Gomez has programmed music reflecting his life’s musical journey for his inaugural season as Music Director of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. His choices are important, beautiful and even surprising.

Maestro Gomez will open the season celebrating the great Venezuelan composer Inocente Carreño with Margariteña and conclude with Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “Titan,” music that he has performed since his youth. The opening will also feature Zhang Zuo, the award-winning young pianist hailed by the Los Angeles Times for her “powerful, passionate and compelling representation of pure artistry,” performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The 2017-18 season will end on a triumphant note with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Choral,” with four top soloists and the Tucson Symphony Chorus and a children’s chorus performing the magnificent “Ode to Joy.”

Other season highlights include Debussy’s Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun, which Gomez remembers his father performing when he was principal flute of the Maracaibo Symphony, and Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4. Gomez has played it many times and now looks forward to conducting Concertmaster Lauren Roth at the opening program of the Masterworks Series.

Gomez will also conduct Gil Shaham’s performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, ten time Grammy® Award-winner Arturo Sandoval’s SuperPops! program, and Mariachi Los Camperos on All Souls Procession weekend. The Grammy® nominated   mariachi ensemble collaborated with Linda Ronstadt on her hit recordings, Canciones de Mi Padre and Mas Canciones. The finale to the weekend will feature him conducting the TSO in a free concert after the parade on Sunday.

On the Classic Series, in addition to the opening and closing programs, Gomez will conduct Stravinsky’s Firebird and Vadym Kholodenko’s performance of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff. On Masterworks, he will conduct Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3, “Scottish,” and second symphonies by Brahms and Schubert.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein. As part of the Tucson Desert Song Festival, Gomez will conduct the TSO premiere of Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish.” The performance will be narrated by the composer’s daughter, Jamie Bernstein, a noted author and broadcaster.

Music education was the core of the Maestro’s upbringing. Music Directors can connect with young people who may become musicians and Gomez is eager to make those connections through conducting the Family Series. This season he will conduct The Story of Babar, the Elephant by Poulenc, narrated by Jason Jacobs, Reid Park Zoo administrator.

Multimedia “New World Symphony,” Grieg Piano Concerto, Pictures at an Exhibition Featured on Classic Series

Dvořák’s most popular symphony, “From the New World” will be presented as a multi-media production by the team behind one of this season’s biggest hits. Conductor Mei-Ann Chen and visual artist Adrian Wyard who brought The Planets on the Big Screen to life will give a similar treatment to “From the New World,” using the latest technology to illustrate America’s wide open spaces and diverse music that so impressed the Czech composer.

Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto, one of the most popular ever written, will be performed by the 2017 American Pianists Association Fellow (who will be announced this spring) on a program with Sibelius’ Finlandia and the TSO premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3, “Polish.” Michael Stern, Music Director of the Kansas City Symphony, will make his TSO debut on the podium. Young Brazilian conductor Marcelo Lehninger will make his TSO debut conducting Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, a program that will also feature the return of Rachel Burton Pine for the first time in more than a decade to perform the Khachaturian Violin Concerto.

Masterworks Series

The Leonard Bernstein tribute continues on the Masterworks Series with Three Episodes from On the Town and the TSO premiere of his one-act opera, Trouble in Tahiti.  This concert version of the story about a couple in suburban New York in the early 1950s features the husband and wife team of Grammy® Award-winning soprano Sasha Cooke and bass baritone Kelly Markgraf, hailed by The New York Times for his “charismatic and powerful” stage presence. Julian Schwarz, son of Seattle Symphony Music Director Gerard Schwarz, will make his TSO debut on the Masterworks Series performing Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, originally composed for one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century, Mstislav Rostropovich.

Bond Film Music, Dance & Carole King Tribute for SuperPops!

In addition to Arturo Sandoval, the SuperPops! Series will feature music from James Bond films, “Let’s Dance,” and a tribute to the legendary Carole King.

The Cuban trumpet virtuoso, Arturo Sandoval, seen by millions on the Oscars and Grammy Awards, joins the TSO for a program in partnership with the Tucson Jazz Festival. Sandoval received the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2015 received the Hispanic Heritage Award.

From the surf rock guitar riffs of the James Bond theme to Adele’s Oscar-winning “Skyfall,” 007 movies have racked up countless hits. Hilary Kole, a “musical marvel!” (Rex Reed, NY Observer), joins the Tucson Symphony for “Goldfinger,” “Nobody Does it Better,” “For Your Eyes Only,” “Live and Let Die,” and many more to open the SuperPops series with The Music of James Bond.

“Let’s Dance” combines the classic and popular dance styles including Waltz, Cha Cha, Tango, Swing, Jazz, 50s Pop and Dirty Dancing. This toe tapping program is complemented by orchestral showpieces that emphasize a dance theme and features two vocalists along with a troupe of competitive professional dancers.

Carole King’s music has been the gold standard of pop and rock for the past half century. Tony® nominee Liz Callaway (Broadway’s Baby, Cats, Miss Saigon) will weave a magnificent tapestry of King’s chart-topping tracks like “You’ve Got a Friend,” “So Far Away” and “Natural Woman” when she joins the TSO for these performances. Ann Hampton Callaway, her sister, is known to TSO patrons for her Barbra Streisand tribute SuperPops! program in 2012.


Violin virtuoso Gil Shaham, the Día de los Muertos concert with Mariachi Los Camperos, Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II, Magic of Christmas and Messiah will be the 2017-18 Specials.

Called “One of today’s preeminent violinists” by The New York Times, world renowned Grammy® Award-winner Gil Shaham will make his Tucson Symphony Orchestra debut performing Tchaikovsky’s breathtakingly beautiful Violin Concerto. When he performed it at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Times said, “We were lucky Gil Shaham was the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. His was old-school, big-personality, enormously engaging Tchaikovsky playing.”

Bugs Bunny’s last appearance with the Tucson Symphony was a sell-out in 2009. Now he’s back with scores of new additions to the show just in time for two Thanksgiving holiday weekend concerts. Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II continues the TSO’s holiday tradition of a multimedia family concert to launch the holiday season.  Classic Looney Tunes favorites like The Rabbit of Seville and What’s Opera, Doc? are projected on the big screen, paired with their original live scores inspired by the master composers—just as everyone remembers them!

Holidays with the TSO continue when Chorus Director Bruce Chamberlain conducts the annual performances of Handel’s Messiah in the acoustically superb Catalina Foothills High School. Michael Hall returns to conduct the Magic of Christmas with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, UA Dance and other special guests at the Tucson Music Hall.

Family Programs

Along with Maestro Gomez conducting Poulenc’s beloved The Story of Babar the Elephant, the Family Series will feature Josefina Javelina: A Hairy Tale. In the story by local Tucson author Susan Lowell with music by the TSO Young Composers Project instructor Ilona Vukovic-Gay Josefina dreams of being a ballerina and sets out for California where she impresses everyone with her fancy footwork and becomes famous, starring as the Sugar Plum Hairy in the Nutcracker.

The Early Bird subscription renewal date is March 5. Subscriptions can be renewed online  at, at the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Box Office, 2175 N. Sixth Avenue, by phone at 520.882.8585 and at concerts. TSO Box Office hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. unless otherwise indicated. All programs, prices and artists are subject to change.