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.
This program is not currently scheduled for broadcast.
Read more about Tal Skloot, who directed, produced, edited, and filmed Freeway Philharmonic.
Read more about Steven Baigel, who co-produced, edited, and helped film Freeway Philharmonic.
Freeway Philharmonic: Crew & Credits
Produced and directed by
Camera and Editing
Sound Design and Re-recording Mixer
Paul Zahnley, CAS
Disher Music and Sound
David L. Brown
Aerial Footage Courtesy of
David L. Brown Productions
The Emily and Jerry Spiegel Foundation
Film Arts Foundation
Special thanks to the musicians, conductors, executive directors, sound recordists
and staffs of:
Napa Valley Symphony
New Century Chamber Orchestra
Santa Rosa Symphony
The Five Chairs Quintet
The San Francisco Brass Quintet
The Sor Ensemble
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No 2.
Horn Concerto No. 4
West Side Story
"I Want to Live in America"
from the Well Tempered Clavier
Symphony No. 5
Parable for Solo Trumpet
Symphony No. 9
New World Symphony
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Air from the 3rd Orchestral Suite
Concerto for Cello
Divertimento in D Major
Brandenberg Concerto No. 2
The Good,the Bad and the Ugly
Morning Mood from Peer Gynt
C minor piano quartet
Stephen Dorian Miner
Meg Walker, Kaiser Permanente
President, Musicians Union Local 6
Produced in Association with KQED
Dedicated to all my music teachers.
Tritone Films © 2007
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