Bringing live classical music to the Santa Maria Valley since 2000
The Santa Maria Valley is home to acres of succulent strawberries, extraordinary vineyards and iconic barbecue. It is also home of the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society. As a professional orchestra in residence, the Philharmonic offers excellent classical music concerts for enthusiastic audiences, as well as special programs for the children of the Santa Maria Valley community.
Led by Maestro Michael Nowak and Concertmistress Sharon Cooper, the Philharmonic hits all the high notes with lovely classical music concerts each season.
Michael Nowak began his music studies in the Rhode Island public school system, where he learned violin, clarinet and tuba. His interest in composition and conducting led him to Indiana University, where he met and became a student of the legendary violist, William Primrose, who inspired him to devote himself to the viola. Nowak has served as Assistant Conductor and violist with the Dallas Symphony, conductor of the Young Musicians Foundation Début Orchestra and the Monterey Chamber Orchestra, and has appeared in guest conducting engagements with the Oregon Mozart Players, the Oregon Bach Festival Chamber Orchestra, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, and the University of Southern California Chamber Orchestra. As a violist, he was a member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra with Sir Neville Marriner until 1980. He made his début as a conductor at Carnegie Hall in April 2001 with the San Luis Obispo Symphony. He is currently the Director of the newly formed Novo Orchestra in San Luis Obispo County and Music Director of the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society. Maestro Nowak is active as a recording musician and conductor in the motion picture industry. Among the many notable films conducted by Michael Nowak are Academy Award winning Life of Pi, King Kong, Under the Tuscan Sun, Bobby, American Gangster, Disney’s Bedtime Stories and The Kite Runner. He currently conducts the highly popular ABC show, Once Upon A Time.
When Sharon Cooper is not busily involved choreographing bow strokes, her fellow musicians and industrious board members, she is an active freelance violinist throughout central and southern California. Her love affair with the violin began when she was 5 years old and saw her mother, an accomplished pianist, rehearsing with a violinist. She began learning violin shortly thereafter, studied chamber music at San Francisco Conservatory, and holds a BA degree in Music from Stanford University. Her coaches have included Kathleen Lenski, Russell Cantor, David Abel and Jenny Rudin. Sharon has performed throughout California, Europe and Australia in many recitals, chamber ensembles, and orchestras. She has been featured soloist with numerous orchestras. In addition to her position in Santa Maria, she is regularly concertmistress of Cabrillo Music Theatre (Thousand Oaks), and the Moorpark Symphony. Sharon can frequently be heard on the soundtrack of Fox TV’s animated features as well as other TV, movie, and diverse musical recordings.
The Santa Maria Philharmonic Society understands that the next generation of orchestra musicians and soloists surround us. Through their music education program, their Music Van arrives in late April of each year and travels to all of the elementary schools in the Santa Maria Valley, providing short presentations to the third grade classrooms. Students are given the opportunity to discover the various instruments of the orchestra and actually perform on them as a highlight of their experience. Toyota-Scion of Santa Maria donates the Music Van for the nine-weeks of the program’s operation. The music instruments for this program are provided by a generous donation from the Santa Barbara Symphony Children’s Program. The Santa Maria Philharmonic Society also hosts Children’s Concertos and Youth Showcases, a recital by audition, as part of their programming and commitment to music education.
Explore all you can do in and around Santa Maria Valley. You’ll find it’s the perfect home base, where you can eat, drink, take in the arts and simply do more for less. Boasting 34 tasting rooms, 6 unique AVAs, 13 beaches, and a growing selection of local breweries all within a beautiful 30-minute drive, visitors can discover a wide range of activities, both indoors and out.