Courtesy of Riverside Philharmonic
Courtesy of Riverside Philharmonic

For most students, the term “classical music” conjures up images of fancy men and women with monocles, as if classical music is fundamentally foreign to us. However, for those looking to experience an actual classical performance, the Riverside Philharmonic is gearing up for the beginning of its new season.

Founded in 1959, the Philharmonic performs four concerts at the Fox Theater every year. These four performances, beginning in the fall run through summer, ending with a performance on the 4th of July. This performance accordingly, tends to be the most packed performance, as it takes place in public right around the time that fireworks go off.

We were  able to catch up with Riverside Philharmonic’s permanent music conductor, Tomasz Golka. Golka is a critically acclaimed conductor and composer, who has appeared in many different philharmonics, ranging from Warsaw and Baden-Baden to Boston. In 2003 Golka won the Eduardo Mata International Conducting Competition. He took over the position in 2010, with his vision for the Philharmonic being to, “find ways to make classical music relevant and important to this community.”

This mission in fact, gets to the heart of the outreach programs that the Riverside Philharmonic runs. One of the programs, titled “Heartstrings,” aims to make their musical performances accessible and available to underserved communities, such as disabled children and adults to victims of domestic violence. Through this program, almost 20,000 individuals have been able to attend philharmonic performances for absolutely free.

Speaking of the philharmonic performers, Golka stated that these are some of the finest musicians in Los Angeles. In fact, many of these performers are known as some of the finest studio musicians in the world. “In fact, many of the musicians you will be seeing you have probably heard before, playing the music in some of your favorite films,” suggested Golka. “These performers have played in films like Star Trek or Batman.” According to Golka, the level of playing is on par with that of the Disney Concert Hall.

Furthermore, one would expect any Philharmonic to have a rigorous practice schedule in order to prepare for such detailed and complex performances. However, Golka stated, “The performers usually practice about three times together before the performance.” These practices begin the day before the actual performance. Because of the high level of skill that the players have, it is not necessary for any philharmonic to practice more times than that.

And this gets to the fundamental part of what makes the Riverside Philharmonic such a wonderful institution: It brings a brand of culture and level of elegance that is comparable to any major city. Moreover, Golka gave his heartfelt thanks to the community. “Since 2008, so many different philharmonics have been financially struggling, many have even gone under,” says Golka. However, the Riverside philharmonic has, every season, sold out its show. “The Riverside community has maintained and supported us, and every year the audience is filled with people of all different ages!” he enthusiastically claimed.

Moreover, this season will feature the philharmonic playing the works of composers Brahms and Marchini, both of whom are more modern composers — a term he stated he disliked. However, Golka wanted to clarify that the composers and artists he is conducting are artists whom he absolutely loves, and whose works seem very relevant to the time period we are living in.