During the pandemic, the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera found their doors closed to the public, leading to them having to meet them however they could — virtually.
This isn’t the first time the Sac Phil had to get creative with keeping music in the lives of residents. Back in 2015, the philharmonic canceled their season due to financial problems, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Around that time, Alice Sauro joined the team as interim director and had a plan to get live performances running again.
Over a seven-year tenure, Sauro not only got the performances up and running but also boosted guest attendance at concerts.
Now the philharmonic is getting a new executive director. In February, the philharmonic will welcome Giuliano Kornberg, who will be taking the helm as the organization’s youngest executive director at just 28 years old.
Sauro isn’t leaving just yet — she plans to stay on a bit longer as a senior advisor to Kornberg and others.
They both joined CapRadio’s Insight host Vicki Gonzalez to discuss their plans for the future of the philharmonic and themselves.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
On how Kornberg joined the Sac Phil and what his vision is as executive director
Kornberg: At the time, I was 23. I had just graduated from school in undergrad and grad school, and I really realized that for me, trying to find a job and build a career in the performing arts nonprofit administration, specifically in orchestras, it seemed like the right move.
… I just sent a whole bunch of feeler emails out to prospective employers … And one of the hits, one of the hits, in fact, was Alice … I came up in August of that summer to meet the team, and she decided to give a 23-year-old with not a lot of experience a shot to try to raise funds for the Philharmonic and Opera. I will certainly always be grateful for that experience …
We’ve had so much work to do. I think five years ago, just getting out there, like Alice said, listening to donors, listening to the community, really trying to cultivate supporters so that our vision of putting as many high quality shows as possible here for this community.
That was the focus at the time, and I think that really has continued to be this focus. How can we serve the community of Sacramento through our work and programming? How can we have conversations and build support and work collaboratively?
Alice and I, the staff with the board, with the musicians to give back to this community, because that’s why we exist — to perform great music and serve and give back to this wonderfully supportive community.
On how Sauro will still be a part of the philharmonic
Sauro: I wouldn’t want to leave this community. There’s still so much work to be done now that we have really built this solid foundation. Giuliano can take over the work of the day-to-day and getting everything going in that way.
I’ll stay on to still answer questions and be a mentor or whatever the staff will need, including Giuliano. But more importantly, one of the things that I took on early on because we didn’t have one was the music director role.
So for those of you who have come to our concerts, we have a different conductor every time. So I’ve been working on programming with our marketing advisor over these last seven years.
I will continue to do that while we explore what new conductors we want to bring in, what new music we might want to bring in, and keep the artistic integrity and quality of the organization high, as we have been over the last seven years.
And I so look very much forward to that.
On how Sauro worked at expanding the audience of the philharmonic
Sauro: We did a lot of listening. We had to see what were people interested in.
We did start our pop-up series where we — again for the first time, I should say — brought the music to the people. So we went right on street level. We were playing string quartets and brass groups, and the kids could come up and talk to the musicians and ask them about their instruments.
We met families at the farmer’s market. It was really organic, and the community loved it. And they say ‘Hey, let me see your brochure. I’d like to come and see you. I didn’t know we had a symphony or opera company here.’
On what Kornberg is most looking forward to this season
Korenberg: I think we're just excited to get back to live performance. We had our first show in Memorial Auditorium on Sept. 10, and we had a Fourth of July performance earlier this year at Sutter Health Park in partnership with the River Cats.
That was a lot of fun because about 4,500 people were there, many of whom were first-time attendees and young families. That was a great community event.
This Saturday, we're performing with Andrea Boccelli, the really big-time superstar tenor, at the Golden 1 Center. And, of course, we return to the newly renovated Safe Credit Union Performing Arts Center in November. At that point, we get into the flow of the season.
Being able to perform live from the stage, all of that is really integral to the DNA of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera, continuing to do that, continuing to listen, continuing to grow responsibly and be proper stewards of everyone's wonderful support.
That, I think, is how we will continue to be successful for the community of Sacramento. And that, to me, is just incredibly exciting.