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Freeway Philharmonic

Watch this entire Truly CA episode: Freeway Philharmonic by filmmaker Tal Skloot. (Running Time: 58:15)

"Music is my spirituality, my personality, my ecstasy. When it's good, there's nothing better, and if you can do this for a living, [a] good gig."
-- Robin Bonell, cello

Freeway Philharmonic follows seven San Francisco Bay Area freelance classical musicians as they perform with regional orchestras across Northern California. Unlike musicians who have a permanent position with a major symphony, these musicians live from one season to the next. The film depicts their efforts to balance a love of music with a road-warrior lifestyle that often requires traveling hundreds of miles a day to rehearse, teach and perform. These individuals have an unrelenting desire to perform for a living, sometimes at the expense of their families and well-being. The film shows the dedication, perseverance and rigorous life of the musicians, while they grapple with their desire to succeed on a difficult career path and come to terms with their limitations in their quest for artistic accomplishment.

"It's really hard for small to medium sized orchestras to stay afloat. It's a tough industry."
Kale Cumings, trumpet

In addition to profiling the individual and often interconnected stories of the seven musicians, the documentary illustrates the state of music and the arts in local communities across the country. In common with many small arts organizations, regional orchestras struggle with funding. They rarely have enough to hire permanent artists; instead they fill their chairs with freelance musicians contracted to perform from season to season. Each year thousands of conservatory-trained musicians end up in these arrangements, serving the cultural needs of small communities across America. Without these individuals, regional orchestras in cities like Marin, Santa Rosa, Napa, Berkeley, and Stockton, simply would not exist.

Many of the freelance Freeway Philharmonic musicians came up through public school music programs. Now they are ambassadors for music back to those same schools. With music programs disappearing from schools everywhere due to insufficient funding and a shift in educational priorities, players often contribute by teaching and performing for students. They are trying to fill the gap left by limited public music programs and to be role models for the next generation of musicians.

[Original air date: Sun, Jan 27, 2008]

This program is not currently scheduled for broadcast.

Filmmaker Profiles:

Tal Skloot

Read more about Tal Skloot, who directed, produced, edited, and filmed Freeway Philharmonic.

Steven Baigel

Read more about Steven Baigel, who co-produced, edited, and helped film Freeway Philharmonic.


Freeway Philharmonic: Crew & Credits

Produced and directed by
Tal Skloot

Steven Baigel

Camera and Editing
Tal Skloot
Steven Baigel

The Musicians
Robin Bonnell
Meredith Brown
Bruce Chrisp
Kale Cumings
Karla Ekholm
Karen Shinozaki
Eugene Sor

Sound Design and Re-recording Mixer
Paul Zahnley, CAS
Disher Music and Sound

Online Editor
Shirley Guiterrez

Hiawatha Bradley

Tal Skloot

Associate Producer
Anette Skloot

Production Assistant
Shira Skloot

David L. Brown
George Csicsery

Aerial Footage Courtesy of
David L. Brown Productions

The Emily and Jerry Spiegel Foundation

Fiscal Sponsor
Film Arts Foundation

Special thanks to the musicians, conductors, executive directors, sound recordists and staffs of:
Berkeley Symphony
Marin Symphony
Napa Valley Symphony
New Century Chamber Orchestra
Santa Rosa Symphony
Stockton Symphony
The Five Chairs Quintet
The San Francisco Brass Quintet
The Sor Ensemble

The Music
Symphony No. 1
Robert Schumann

Symphony No 2.
Johannes Brahms

Horn Concerto No. 4
W.A. Mozart

Maurice Ravel

West Side Story
"I Want to Live in America"
Leonard Bernstein

Contrapunctus 9
from the Well Tempered Clavier
J.S. Bach

Symphony No. 5
Jean Sibelius

Sorcerer's Apprentice
Paul Dukas

Parable for Solo Trumpet
Vincent Persichetti

Symphony No. 9
L.van Beethoven

New World Symphony
Antonín Dvorák

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Claude Debussy

Air from the 3rd Orchestral Suite
J.S. Bach

Concerto for Cello
Gan Situ

Divertimento in D Major
W.A. Mozart

Brandenberg Concerto No. 2
J.S. Bach

Appalachian Spring
Aaron Copeland

The Good,the Bad and the Ugly
Ennio Morricone

Morning Mood from Peer Gynt
Edvard Grieg

Igor Stravinsky

C minor piano quartet
Johannes Brahms

Thanks to
Hiawatha Bradley
Kenya Davis
Hadley Dynak
Jon Else
Gina Gaiser
Vivien Hillgrove
Shane King
Jane Kinzler
David Kennard
John Knoop
Janet Marsden
Janet Maestre
Stephen Dorian Miner
Rachel Raney
Gail Silva
Ann Swift
Meg Walker, Kaiser Permanente
Molly Walker
Christopher Whiting
Jack Young
David Schoenbrun
President, Musicians Union Local 6

Produced in Association with KQED
Public Television

Dedicated to all my music teachers.

Tritone Films 2007

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