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Here’s your chance to conduct the Downey Symphony — The Downey Patriot

“A wonderful experience,” Aaron said, and he thanked Bernice Mancebo Stumps for inviting him to pass the baton. When Bernice won the auction, she dedicated it in honor of her grandson, Christopher Parks.

Aaron volunteers for the Downey Foundation for Educational Opportunities with the String Ensemble. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because the DFEO was founded by his mother, Linda Saldana.

Several years ago, at the Downey Symphonic Society Guild’s BBQ fundraiser for the Music in the Schools program, I sat next to a woman who surprised me by saying, “I won the relay two years ago and brought 68 people. I saved for three years,” said Terry Wright. “My husband thought I was crazy. But I looked at it, eighteen cents, then two thousand. So I saved $2,500. And I won.

“I didn’t want to organize a march,” Terry said. “I wanted something more melodic and in a spirit of thanksgiving, so Sharon Lavery, the maestro, let me do Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, and I had tears, it was so handsome.”

Would Terry do it again? “In the blink of an eye, but I’ll have to wait and let the money pile up.”

Carolyn Osborn, our concertmaster who also enjoys playing auctioneer, highlights to the public all the benefits that music in schools brings to Downey children, such as the annual morning symphony concerts at the Downey Theatre, one for ninth graders year and another. for fifth graders. Both were created especially for Downey by bandleader Tom Osborn in the 1990s.

The third-grade concert introduces young people to classical music, and then fifth-grade students are encouraged to pick up an instrument when they arrive at middle school the following year. The outings are sponsored by the Kiwanis Foundation and the Downey Unified School District. A quintet also performs at each Downey K-5 school, and all of this is paid for by the Society’s Music in Schools Outreach Program.

Who will lead in April? Dottie Nadolski, a teacher who bid from the balcony two years ago, ended up with the winning bid to conduct the Orchestra, a new record high of $3,500. But that gig had to be canceled due to Covid restrictions. Dottie, a bidder who has been biding her time, will finally get her chance.

“Several years ago,” Dottie said, “I reconnected with my high school friend, Carol Novak Kearns. Carol and Frank are members of the Symphony Guild and they invited me to my very first Downey Symphony program. I was amazed at how the guest conductors made it so easy and fun, and was also curious about the auction held each spring for a chance to be a guest conductor.

“I started saving my money for the auction,” Dottie said, “and won the tender to conduct. About 16 friends and family will be coming. The play I will be directing is Simple Gifts , a Shaker song that Aaron Copeland used in Appalachian Spring, a tribute to Martha Grahame, one of the founders of modern dance.I am so excited to conduct this wonderful piece and hope to do it justice.

Dottie’s little black outfit has been sitting in the closet for two years, but she’ll finally get the chance to wear it when she leads on April 9.

“It was such a privilege,” said Cathi Peterson, “to stand in front of this talented orchestra and connect with them, bringing the printed notes to life. Who can do that? The committee gave me a beautifully framed photo of the event, which I hung proudly in my house to always remember the excitement of that evening. Hooray for the reopening!

The company’s president, Anthony Crespo, invites all future Gustavo Dudamels to come to the concert and bid. Tickets are available at or call the box office at (562) 861-8211.

The Downey Theater is located at 8435 Firestone Blvd. Beginning of the concert at 8 p.m.