Following the loss of trumpeter and assistant conductor Jerry Schwartz, the Valley Community Orchestra of San Joaquin will dedicate its spring concert to him.
Schwartz’s death on Jan 17 was unexpected. He suffered from organ failure before passing from a heart attack.
“I remember the last time I saw him, he was talking about going from practice to a board meeting. It was just the same routine stuff, we never would have expected,” Valley Orchestra violinist Dara Degala said.
Conductor Elizabeth Sanders broke the news of Schwartz’s death to the orchestra members during practice the night after he passed.
“I just remember getting a call and someone had informed me of what had happened and I could not believe it,” Sanders said.
Since Schwartz’s passing the group has felt incomplete, Sanders said. They decided to dedicate the concert to Schwartz because he did not have a memorial, and they wanted the opportunity to honor his memory.
Schwartz is remembered by many in the orchestra as being energetic and highly talented.
“He was such a funny person. He was easy to engage with, you could easily join him in any conversation,” cellist Nancy Mellor said.
Schwartz’s charismatic personality was reflected in his music. He was an avid trumpeter who studied music at the University of the Pacific's Conservatory. He spent 35 years as a music educator for Manteca Unified where he taught students from elementary through high school, and he conducted the honor band as well as a multi-school marching band for the annual Christmas parade.
In addition to teaching, Schwartz was an avid trumpet player and performed with the Valley Concert Band during the Concerts in the Park series. He also played with the Valley Community Orchestra and a local garage band.
Schwartz had a love of early music and for many years played a yearly Christmas concert with Woodes so Wilde. He also played with the Sacramento Recorder Society.
“Jerry was an experienced recorder player and wanted to incorporate recorders into the orchestra. He was always looking for new, creative ways to incorporate new instruments,” Sanders said.
As the assistant conductor, Schwartz would lead orchestra practices. When he wanted the group to learn a slow beat he would have everyone play the song at a rapid pace so that they could learn to hit the slower beats better.
“Whenever he wanted us to put more emotion into the music he would draw out the notes until the feeling drew from the notes we were playing,” Mellor said.
The spring concert will feature guest soloist Erik Alvarez Urbina, who will be performing with the orchestra as they play an eclectic mix of music. The Valley Orchestra will perform variations on a Korean Folk Song, Shenandoah, Concerto in D, and Port City Soundscape, which was written by Sanders.
The Valley Community Orchestra is a nonprofit, which has allowed the Lodi Arts Commission to fund the group’s artistic efforts, including the spring concert and other musical endeavors.
“We pay for some of lesser experienced orchestra members to receive lessons,” Sanders said. “We have a diverse age group which ranges from 14 to 97 years old.”
The orchestra will be performing on Sunday at the United Congregational Christian Church, 701 S. Hutchins St., at 7 p.m. The event is free for all to attend.
The Valley Community Orchestra is always accepting new members. Anyone interested in joining the orchestra can follow their Facebook page at www.facebook.com /The-Valley-Community-Orchestra-of-San-Joaquin-County for more information.