Many years ago, Monroe DeJarnette, a local musician, dreamed of a home-town volunteer symphony orchestra in Auburn. Scoffers said, “Impossible!” Monroe’s vision never wavered. He was determined to create a community symphony where musicians and audiences together could enjoy orchestral music.
DeJarnette met with Bruce Cosgrove, director of the Auburn Chamber, to discuss a plan to form a community orchestra. Others caught his vision. In July 1987, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce approved the formation of the Auburn Civic Symphony. By December, Clyde Quick, a Placer High School music teacher, was selected as conductor. Betty DeJarnette was Concertmaster. On May 20, 1988, an enthusiastic audience filled the Placer High auditorium to hear thirty orchestra members perform the premiere, entitled The Birth of an Orchestra. With the final strains of the concert, the audience jumped to their feet clapping and calling, “Bravo!” The Auburn Symphony was launched. The Symphony performed three concerts the following year. In 1989, the Messiah-Sing-Along was established followed by the Symphony on the Green (1990) held at the Library Garden.
In 1990, the first Auburn Symphony Board of Directors was elected. The Symphony Guild, now the Symphony League, was formed to support the Auburn Symphony.
Michael Goodwin was appointed Artistic Director and Conductor in 1995. Under his leadership, the orchestra thrived and grew to nearly 70 musicians. In 1999, Goodwin initiated the KinderKonzert (now the Family Concert) and the Young Artists Competition followed in 2002. In 2005, he led the orchestra’s first historic performance at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis, now a tradition. Our educational outreach programs, Symphony Goes to School and Symphony Goes to Preschool, were launched at the same time as the KinderKonzert and have helped us reach over 100,000 students in Placer County.
Michael Goodwin tragically died on February 7, 2012, a result of an auto accident while driving to rehearsal.
The orchestra and community reeled at his death. The KinderKonzert was just days away and the Masterworks concerts were still to be performed. Conductors from the area stepped forward and led the Auburn Symphony through the final concerts. A special Memorial Concert honoring Maestro Goodwin was presented. Pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski, a favorite guest artist, introduced to Auburn by Maestro Goodwin, flew from New York to perform as a tribute to Michael and our friend Pete Nowlen conducted.
Peter Jaffe, who had just wowed audiences as a guest conductor for the Auburn Symphony, was selected as the new Music Director. He ushered in the 25th anniversary of the Auburn Symphony. Under his leadership, the orchestra soared to new artistic heights. Musicians traveled from Sacramento, Davis, Folsom, Grass Valley/Nevada City, and elsewhere to perform under his direction. Maestro Jaffe introduced a Halloween “pops” concert which drew a very large appreciative audience of all ages. Never to be forgotten by musicians and audiences alike, the Auburn Symphony performed The Alpine Symphony, a very difficult and extravagant presentation requiring over 100 performers, at the Mondavi Center on Mother’s Day, 2017. A documentary titled Auburn Symphony: Scaling the Heights was released in December 2020. Visit our YouTube channel to watch this wonderful hour-long film.
At the end of the 2020-2021 season, Maestro Jaffe stepped down as Music Director. An extensive search has been conducted and three candidates will participate in the Finalist Showcase Series before a selection is made.
Can a small town have a symphony? Absolutely. The Auburn Symphony has been hailed as one of the nation’s finest community orchestras, thrilling audiences of all ages. We are indebted to Monroe DeJarnette. His dream of an Auburn Symphony in which everyone can take pride and enjoy is a dream fulfilled and a gift for all.
– Audrey Mueller –
The history of the Auburn Symphony is a mix of triumph and tragedy. “Birth of an Orchestra” unfolds the compelling first 25 years of Northern California’s great community orchestra based out of Auburn, California.