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Hoping to jumpstart a new paradigm for presenting classical music, Orchestra Nova San Diego will debut its new Nova Classics season (Nova 2.0) with Mozart Loves Prague, happening Saturday, October 22 at Irwin M. Jacobs Qualcomm Hall in Sorrento Valley, and Monday, October 24 at Sherwood Auditorium in La Jolla.


Attendance for traditional performing arts has been in decline throughout the U.S. during the last decade. In response, many performing arts organizations have either cut-back, diluted their offerings or folded up all together. Ending the 2010-2011 season in the black and increasing their subscriber base has put Orchestra Nova on solid footing for the 2011-2012 season. How are they accomplishing this in the current economic climate?

The vision belongs to artistic director and conductor Jung-Ho Pak (pictured). After helping to save the San Diego Symphony from the brink of non-existence in 1997, he decided that what the art form truly needed was a new approach to presentation; the existing model had been around for over a century and appeared to no longer be relevant for 98% of the population.

Orchestra Nova has evolved since Jung-Ho Pak joined them in 2006 (then the San Diego Chamber Orchestra) and started the process of revolutionizing the concert experience. The changes that have been implemented break with tradition in multiple ways. The orchestra tunes back stage and walks out with maestro Pak, bowing together with him every time. And that's after they have greeted the guests as they come into the hall. He addresses the audience from the stage in a personal way, often explaining facts about the music they're about to hear in a fun and entertaining way.

The audience is encouraged to clap or express their appreciation when emotionally moved regardless of the arbitrary "rules" which have been a cause of anxiety (and barrier to enjoyment) for many uninitiated concert goers. Multimedia and technology are integrated, using large screens to illustrate his points and to augment the music with visual elements.

"We're going to be the un-orchestra as much as we possibly can, which isn't to say there's not a place for the traditional orchestra," says Pak. "I think there's going to be a revolution in orchestras that is going to be much more accessible to the average Joe. In fact, I would have to say that my favorite audience member is that person who has never been to a classical music concert, whether they're 18 or 55 years old and think that they're afraid of classical music and after the concert their eyes light up and they go 'Oh my gosh, I didn't know it could be this much fun!'"

The current season will mark another big step towards realizing the goal of presenting classical music in a way that is pertinent to modern society. Orchestra Nova is accomplishing this goal by presenting each program around an entire evening of entertainment.

The Nova Classics season opens on October 22 and 24 with a Mozart Loves Prague program. A red carpet will introduce the Nova Experience at 6:00 p.m. where attendees will be greeted by minuet dancers (participation encouraged!), a photo opportunity to take a picture holding an instrument with friends and "Jung-Faux," a display of Czech glass by The Bead Boutique of El Cajon, a presentation of Czech language and culture by Travel Resource Consultants, interactive facts and trivia via a live Twitter-cast as well as other surprises along the way before the musicians take the stage at 7:30 p.m.

The San Diego community is already responding positively, with 75% of its Nova Classics seats already sold through subscriptions. The orchestra is also planning for Internet and television broadcasting this season, both locally and nationally.

Orchestra Nova is extremely accessible to the public, extending free tickets to active military and their families and $10 tickets to students and educators. Call 858-350-0290 or visit orchestranova.org for ticket information.


Originally known as the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra Nova San Diego was founded in 1984. Jung-Ho Pak was announced the Artistic Director and Conductor for the 2006-2007 season, bringing with him a fresh new vision for the orchestra. Even while conducting the San Diego Symphony, Pak has created unusual programs like the eccentric Lightbulb Series, which sometimes featured a French chef preparing food onstage while the Orchestra performed.

The Orchestra turns up at various venues downtown, in La Jolla, and Rancho Santa Fe, as well as embarking on occasional short tours. Their annual performance of Handel’s Messiah has become a local holiday tradition at area churches and the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

In early 2008, Tyler Richards Hewes, a 2002 graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University's Performing Arts program, was named executive director of the Orchestra. Prior to his appointment, Hewes was the production manager for Mainly Mozart and manager of the Mainly Mozart Orchestra Festival, both in San Diego.

2009 found the Orchestra based in a new venue, Irwin M. Jacobs Qualcomm Hall in Sorrento Valley. Also in 2009, “Guests gave us the highest marks possible in a professionally administered audience survey,” according to Beverly Lambert, “the highest rating possible awarded by the City of San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture, a $275,000 grant from the Irvine Foundation, professional musicians, the best, who support and respect Jung-Ho Pak, our artistic director and conductor, whose revolutionary vision for classical music is bringing people in from all walks of life."

"We’re one of the few successes among arts organizations in the country today.”

Image Watch Lambert and Jung-Ho Pak discuss last year's successes and the excitement about the upcoming season: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ22_d...

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Gekko4321 Oct. 18, 2011 @ 2:38 p.m.

This article captures the Orchestra Nova experience perfectly. My wife and I went last year and found it to be a fantastic experience. Even if you do not like classical music generally, the acoustics are so amazing in Qualcomm Hall that you will appreciate the music like you never have before. We subscribed this year we liked it so much last season. And you cannot beat the price for a night out! Give it a shot.


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