The Topanga Symphony

An orchestra of friends and family. Topanga Symphony members, Pamela Goldsmith and Jim Stanley. Photo courtesy of Topanga Symphony

An orchestra of friends and family.

Keeping the Topanga Symphony playing three free concerts a year has taken a dedicated group of amazing musicians, classical music lover volunteers and appreciative supportive community members. This formula comprises the family of musicians that has made up the Topanga Symphony for the past 36 years under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Jerome Kessler.

One of the Symphony’s most important goals is to provide an opportunity for young aspiring musicians and amateur adult musicians to perform the classical masterpieces with professionals.

At the concert on October 29, this warm friends-and-family atmosphere permeated the room from the start of the concert to the final note played, especially since three children of Symphony members were playing.  

Topanga Symphony performances traditionally begin with one of the orchestra members addressing the audience. At this concert, long time violinist, Bonnie Lockrem spoke about her 30 years playing with her fellow musicians. Her sense of family is particularly strong with the orchestra because her husband, Steve Ravaglioli, is principal trumpet and their daughter, Raquel, plays in the first violin section.  Bonnie expressed her admiration for the orchestra members as they have shared births, deaths and marriages. She explained how she has developed lasting friendships throughout the years.

There was another set of family members who shared the stage, bassist Chris Williams and his 11-year-old son, Liam Williams, playing trumpet.

The concert began with Francesco Geminiani’s “Concerto Grosso,” Opus 3, No. 2.  This beautiful piece, written for string orchestra, incorporates sections that are performed by a quartet of principal members of each string section. Ruth Bruegger, concertmaster, Bonnie Lockrem, principal second violin, Judy Garf, principal viola and Peter Ragni, principal cello, each contributed an exceptional performance.

Peter Ragni is a new member of the Topanga Symphony, who is a recent graduate of Hamilton High School Music Academy and currently on a full scholarship at LA City College studying cello performance. He represents the young, talented student performers that the Topanga Symphony strives to nurture.

The soloists were the exceptionally talented Jim Stanley, principal clarinetist, and Pamela Goldsmith, a virtuoso violist who is a favorite soloist with the orchestra. She exudes the comfort of home whenever she appears on the Topanga Community House stage. They performed Max Bruch’s “Double Concerto in e minor for Clarinet and Viola,” Op.88.  They both played with an unmistakable sense of ease, demonstrating the highest level of performance skills, expression and dramatic flair.

Keeping with the theme of family and friendship, the final piece on the program was Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations,” Op. 36. Following intermission, Kessler addressed the audience to describe the piece, a series of 14 variations on an original theme. Each enigma is a short musical representation written as a tribute to a friend of Elgar. Prior to performing the piece, the orchestra demonstrated a few of the melodies as Kessler explained their meaning.

The first was for Dora Bella, a friend with a speech impediment, the second was about the minister’s dog, Dan, who fell into the river, and the final enigma is a musical representation of the composer himself.

The unique combination of sounds and unmistakable expressions of human emotions expressed in each enigma inspires admiration for the complex variety of human personalities that connects us one to another.  This music represents the unique people we all know and love in our lives.


Every Topanga Symphony concert provides the listener with a fulfilling sense of gratitude and satisfaction for the beauty of the music. To help keep these wonderful musicians playing in Topanga donate at and become a Friend of the Topanga Symphony.  

SAVE THE DATE: The next concert is on March 4, 2018.  


No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.