Los Angeles Symphonic Winds, Stephen Piazza, conductor

April 28, 2024 | 6:00 PM

The Los Angeles Symphonic Winds are one of the most critically acclaimed and internationally recognized wind ensembles in the United States. Since 1983, the L.A. Winds have been a leading force in Southern California’s cultural community. Praising the Winds for their “dedication to the highest standard of musical excellence” former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote: “As one of the great cultural treasures of Los Angeles, your band has enchanted audiences with fantastic performances, elegant melodies and graceful harmonies.”

As a result of annual tours throughout the United States, Canada the United Kingdom, China and Europe, audiences all over the globe have delighted in the L.A. Winds’ eclectic programs. Membership is drawn from the vast pool of gifted Los Angeles-based musicians, many of whom have performed with major symphonies, motion picture and television recording studio orchestras and entertainment-world headliners. The L.A. Winds present a series of concerts in the beautiful Calabasas Performing Arts Center, and in the summertime, they perform before tens of thousands of appreciative concertgoers on the Warner Center Park summer concert series as well as broadcasts and podcasts from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Los Angeles Symphonic Winds (Fed tax ID # 83-1314966) is a charitable organization under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). With the help of grants and donations from a variety of governmental, corporate and institutional organizations, including the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Ralph’s Supermarkets and Merrill Lynch, the band has sponsored a significant number of community service events. Our Children’s Concerts, for example, introduce young audiences to the sonic delights of the symphonic band while our Chamber Music Concerts provide an intimate look into the multi-faceted wind repertoire. The release of the critically acclaimed CD “Raggin’ the Baby to Sleep”– a compilation of original American ragtime music for concert band– helped underscore the L.A. Winds’ commitment to both well-known and lesser-known music.

Premiere performances of works by contemporary composers such Pulitzer prize winner David del Tredici and Grammy winner Michael Daugherty help advance the quality of wind band music both nationally and internationally. A number of compositions written specifically for the L.A. Winds have also become part of the growing repertoire for symphonic wind ensembles. In addition, guest conductors such as Col. Arnald Gabriel, Col. John Bourgeois, and H. Robert Reynolds, have made significant contributions to the Winds’ development and notoriety. The high performance level of the Winds has led to performances with such internationally acclaimed soloists as Jens Lindemann (formerly of the Canadian Brass) and Dale Underwood (former soloist with the US Navy Band.)

The L.A. Winds’ repertoire encompasses a wide variety of classical, popular and commercial music in exciting arrangements that highlight the diversity of styles and sonorities of the contemporary wind band. As a result of their performance at the prestigious Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago in December of 2004, the Winds were invited to perform at the Mid Europe Festival in Schladming, Austria in July 2007. This was the Winds’ fourth European tour since their first tour to Italy in 2000. Recent tours have included Ontario, Canada and New York in May of 2010, Paris and Luxembourg in 2011, Eastern China in 2014 and California in 2015. More recently, the LA Winds were the featured performers at the 2016 Los Angeles International Music Festival at the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall.  Plans are also being developed for the Winds’ return visit to the Festival des Anchez in La Croix Valmer, France as well as multi-city concert tours of India and China.

Since his first performances at the Los Angeles Music Center in the early 1970’s, Stephen Piazza has been privileged to share the concert stage with some of the music world’s greatest artists. Zubin Mehta, Placido Domingo, Renee Fleming, Leontyne Price, Itzhak Perlman, Carlo Maria Giulini, Leonard Bernstein, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gustavo Dudamel, James Conlon and members of the Berlin Philharmonic are among the dozens of musical luminaries with whom Piazza has appeared. In addition to nearly 1,000 performances with the L.A. Opera Orchestra and the L.A. Philharmonic at the Music Center, Disney Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, he has also performed in such internationally acclaimed venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Paris’s Theatre du Chatelet, Mexico City’s Palacio des Belles Artes, Birmingham’s (U.K.) Sir Adrian Boult Hall, Cologne’s Philharmonie, Luxembourg’s Conservatoire de Musique and China’s Hangzhou Theatre. In October 2003 he participated in the nationally televised opening concerts of Frank Gehry’s magnificent Los Angeles landmark, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and conducted the Idyllwild Festival Wind Ensemble in the first wind band performance in Disney Hall. As a member of the Los Angeles Opera orchestra, he currently performs with the world’s most renowned conductors, singers and soloists.

1978 marked the year Piazza began performing with major motion picture, TV, and recording studio orchestras. His clarinet and bass clarinet are featured in such diverse films as “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “The Flintstones”, “The Soloist”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “White Nights” and “Nijinsky”. He also can be heard on the Sony label in performances of film music by Bernard Hermann, and works by Lutoslawski and Prokofiev. He has also performed and recorded with Barry Manilow, Josh Groban, and Barbra Streisand.

For over 35 years, Piazza served on the faculty of Los Angeles Pierce College. In 1983, he became chair of the college’s music department, a position he held for over 30 years. He also established the Pierce Symphonic Band as the college’s premier performing group and began to build a community–based ensemble—the Los Angeles Symphonic Winds– that would eventually perform throughout the United States, Canada, Italy, France, Austria, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Eastern China. The Winds have been featured at the world-renowned Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, the College Band Director’s National Conference and the California Band Director’s Conference. They have been invited to perform in Carnegie Hall and to return to the Festival des Anchez in La Croix-Valmer, France.

During the summers, Maestro Piazza conducts the prestigious Festival Wind Symphony at the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts. As director of the festival’s wind program for nearly 25 years, he has helped Idyllwild Arts become one of America’s leading summer music programs and year-round arts academies. Born in New York City in 1950, Piazza moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1957. He remained in California to earn both his bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Southern California. After studies with such legendary artist/educators as Mitchell Lurie, Ingolf Dahl, and Frederic Fennell, he began his own teaching career – first at California Lutheran College and, two years later, at Los Angeles Pierce College where he currently holds the title of Professor Emeritus.