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Pasadena Symphony and Pasadena Pops get a new name

March 3, 2009 |  6:00 am

Scratch the Orchestras of Pasadena.

No, the financially up-against-it Pasadena Symphony and Pasadena Pops have not gone belly up, but their new management has determined that the name the formerly independent organizations had adopted when they merged in 2007 was a flop. The new/old name is the Pasadena Symphony Association -- the longtime legal name of the Pasadena Symphony -- although the organization's website doesn't yet reflect it.Rachael Worby, Pasadena Pops music director

The change "has been met by a sigh of relief by everybody," says Paul Jan Zdunek, the chief executive who recently arrived from the Modesto Symphony, with a reputation of having engineered a fiscal turnaround there. The change to "Orchestras of Pasadena" had "removed that immediate recognition that people have had, at a time when we need people to know who we are to be able to help," Zdunek said.

Jorge Mester, Pasadena Symphony music director He figures that if folks in New England have no problem understanding that the name Boston Symphony Orchestra also encompasses the Boston Pops, music fans in Southern California should be able to cope with comparable nomenclature. In Pasadena, Zdunek noted, both ensembles draw from the same pool of musicians, placing them under different veteran music directors -- Jorge Mester (left) for the Symphony, Rachael Worby (above) for the Pops -- as the occasion dictates.

Read more on the jump.

Irish-American folk band Cherish the Ladies Meanwhile, a concert celebrating St. Patrick's Day that previously had been canceled is on again -- albeit in a scaled-down format in keeping with financially straitened conditions. The Irish American band Cherish the Ladies will perform March 21 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium; where the canceled program called for the Pasadena Pops to accompany Cherish the Ladies, this show will be strictly a Cherish the Ladies gig. Giving the Pops players the night off saves about $50,000, Zdunek said.

Overall, the chief executive says, the Pasadena Symphony has raised about $2 million since November, when it declared a fiscal emergency, laying off staff and canceling several concerts. He said it can sustain itself on a pay-as-you-go basis by raising an additional $2 million through the season's end. One caveat: A large chunk of the $2 million raised so far came from symphony supporters who had died since last fall and remembered the organization in their wills. Counting on the near-term demise of key supporters is not part of the symphony association's strategy for sustainability, Zdunek noted.

Zdunek said he has "let go" five of 11 staff members who were on board when he took over in January, but plans to replace all of them. One hire, Lora Unger, is about to begin as general manager, arriving from the Jacksonville Symphony Assn.; Zdunek had worked with her previously in Modesto. The competition for the still-unfilled positions of marketing associate and finance director says something about the state of the economy: "We got 70 resumes for both of them within a couple of days, and we only posted on Craigslist. It's good for us, but it's crazy."

One cheerful number was the symphony's near-capacity draw of about 2,800 for its last concert in January. The next classical program, labeled "Rebirth," is March 14, with spring-themed pieces by Vivaldi, Copland and Schumann. 

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Rachael Worby. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Jorge Mester. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Cherish the Ladies. Credit: John Francis Bourke