Coronado residents are arts enthusiasts. The two local theater groups enjoy strong support. Visual art dots the town, with even an established walking art tour. The Coronado High School is home to Coronado School of the Arts (CoSA). We have Art in the Park and each summer Sunday at 5 or 6 p.m. a music concert drifts through town.
In July 2021, residents attended an inaugural concert of the Coronado Philharmonia sponsored by the library at the high school’s Black Box Theatre. The string chamber orchestra, organized and led by Osvaldo Mendoza, had 18 professional musicians from the San Diego area who volunteered to help draw attention to the goal of establishing a Coronado orchestra. Publicist Stacy Eaton expressed the hope to grow the group to a high-level symphony of 30 to 40 musicians with wind, brass, and percussion instruments. Eaton said, “Our whole vision is to have a full symphony.”
The Philharmonia name is unique and according to Nathan Eaton, the publicist’s husband, “[It] feels really nice, smooth and new and cutting edge, which I think is what we’re looking for.”
The preforming musicians for the first performance are professionals with impressive credentials. Coronado must have current, former, or retired professional musicians or those who played in college, who would like to join a performing music group. Audition dates for Coronadans will soon be posted. As Eaton stated, musicians have a passion to perform.
When he was the music director for CoSA, Mendoza envisioned a Coronado Symphony. By chance, Eaton, a school employee with shipping and receiving, saw music on the counter as Mendoza was preparing copies for his class. A new resident with professional experience in the music world, she was eager to find a group to join. Their conversation led to him sharing his vision of a city orchestra and her quick response to help get it started. COVID delayed any immediate plans, however. Since marketing and communication staled, they had to use connections that musicians have as performers in different quartets. Musicians know each other, and the news of a new group starting in Coronado spread. When Mendoza gave the signal to proceed, Eaton was ready.
Their first venture, while held in a small venue, ignited interest not only in those attending but also as word spread. Representatives from the City and from the Arts Council who attended the event encouraged the idea of pursuing a chamber ensemble which could grow. Eaton received emails asking for information. “‘Are you going to do it again? I want to be a part of it.’ We’ve had a whole wind quartet say, ‘Do you need a wind?’ A harpist saying, ‘Do you need a harp?’ Because people want to play, especially after a couple years of COVID. People are ready to get back out there as much as we can. We’ll put the audition dates on our social media so people can see it.”
Assembling a quality program requires monetary support and manpower. Ivy Weston from the library staff had been invaluable in assigning tickets for the Black Box event so attendees would be assured of a seat. Venues with proper lighting and acoustics require funds. “The level right now of the musicians is quite professional. They’re pretty high, but in order to maintain that … it’s always money. We have to be able to support them and their time, but we also like to invite community members who are not professionals, adults that just want to play their instruments.” According to Eaton, discovering if Coronado will adequately support a city music program to be proud of is the next question to be answered.
Several churches have been contacted about hosting a performance. Mendoza is considering the possibility of a December presentation of the Nutcracker. The October auditions, the securing of a location, volunteers to work behind the scenes, sponsors, and strong residential support are key factors in proceeding.
Mendoza, while no longer with CoSA, developed an affection for the town and its residents. He has been active in music circles throughout the country, not only conducting but, also, performing and composing music which have been performed at the Plaza Theater in El Paso, the Strathmore in Washington, DC, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Mendoza is the founder of The Orchestra Project North America (TOPNA).
Eaton studied violin at Brigham Young University and UVU in Utah and has performed in 8 or 9 orchestras around the country. She performed in live orchestra with symphony productions in Las Vegas and was president of Heber Valley Orchestra in Park City, Utah.
Besides being an accomplished violinist, she is no novice in working to establish city music groups. “I’ve done this before with another orchestra, brand new, and grew it for 5 years, and we were able to unite with other established arts groups in a town, so you would have an orchestra behind… celebrities, country singers Michael Martin Murphy and Suzy Bogguss. [We] also performed for a theater group, community group, doing live music for the ‘Music Man’ … We also had a choir.”
Eaton is adamant that “Arts elevate a community.” She believes a music void exists in Coronado. “Coronado has a lot of visual art but not a Coronado orchestra. This will offer an opportunity for adults to play. Because once you’re out of college you still want to have a hobby; you still want to play, to make friends, to enjoy beautiful music. It pulls adults out of their homes, gets them socializing. But the other bigger reason is because it’s an example for the youth. Youth can look up to them and even perform with them. When you perform with older people it makes you want to stick with it and keep going, and then you fall in love with it, and then you won’t leave. We have to be an example to the younger groups, too.”