Music News & Reviews

Michael Nowak to lead new symphony in Concert for Harmony

Conductor Michael Nowak leads the San Luis Obispo Symphony through a rehearsal in 2011.
Conductor Michael Nowak leads the San Luis Obispo Symphony through a rehearsal in 2011.

The ousted music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony will participate in a concert later this month aimed at helping the community heal.

Michael Nowak, who led the symphony for 31 years, will conduct about 60 of the symphony’s 76 musicians — performing as the New Hope Symphony — at the Concert for Harmony on June 28 at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande.

The concert is being presented by the San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble.

“We’re happy to get together and play music together,” Nowak said. “That seems to be the one thing that will unify us as a group and, hopefully, the community as well.”

In a decision that was announced publicly on May 14, the San Luis Obispo Symphony’s board of directors voted unanimously to terminate Nowak’s contract, leading to threats of resignation by symphony musicians. No official reason has been given for Nowak’s ouster.

Symphony board president Liz Summer wouldn’t comment Thursday on whether the nonprofit organization plans to reinstate Nowak as music director. Nowak and his wife, Zette Harbour, confirmed Thursday that the board has not asked him to return.

“This has been rather a shock to all of us in music,” said Gary Lamprecht, founder and musical director of the San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble. His wife, symphony violist Pat Lamprecht, will perform June 28 as part of the New Hope Symphony.

Nowak and the musicians will take the Clark Center stage for a program that features Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5,” Aaron Copeland’s “Our Town” and Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Brandenberg Concerto No. 6.” (Nowak will play viola on the latter piece.)

The concert will close with “All You Need Is Love” by John Lennon.

Lamprecht said some Vocal Arts Ensemble representatives will likely join the musicians for the final number.

Admission is $25. Proceeds will go to local music education programs including the Summer String Program, Aug. 2 through 9 at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria.

For more information about the Concert for Harmony, call 441-6688, email or visit or

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