Arizona ArtBeat: Arizona Pro Arte

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Originally the Scottsdale Baroque Orchestra, Arizona Pro Arte calls itself a “flexible ensemble providing expert-level performances.” This summer, the orchestra has been performing at Tempe Center for the Arts for a three-part “cool classics series.” And this cool, soothing music is an antidote for the heat. Horizon attends a concert and focuses on two members of the group who don’t hold the kind of day jobs you might expect of professional musicians.

Ted Simons: In tonight's edition of "Arizona Artbeat," a look at a local orchestra that performs cooling music to ease the summer heat. What started as a Scottsdale baroque orchestra is now a chamber orchestra called Arizona Pro Arte. The group is currently experimenting with performances to see if valley residents want classical music in the summer. So far, the response has been positive. Reporter Lorri Allen and photographers Scot Olson and Steve Snow attended a recent concert and discovered that not only is Arizona Pro Arte unique, some of the group's members are too.

Lorri Allen: Word is getting out about the valley's chamber orchestra, Arizona Pro Arte. Its most recent concert attracted a full house. [applause] By night, these musicians are rock stars. Well, make that orchestra stars. But by day, most support themselves with another job. Sure, some play in a band and others teach music, then there's this guy. He's Robert Lee. He's been playing the French horn since he was 8. By day he's an information security.

Robert Lee: I worked as a penetration tester for years. If you're not familiar with that term, essentially I got paid to break into companies. All legal, of course. I got paid by the company that was breaking into, but we were testing how good their security was. So in that part the patterns, the logic, the mathematical part of music definitely translated. And if I'm thinking of a problem, I can go play music for a little bit and by the end of the session maybe come up with a solution that I was struggling with.

Debbie Exner: So when you think about a typical day in the life for you, three years from now, what would it look like?

Lorri Allen: Debbie is a coach and a speaker. Except when she's playing the bass. That's right, the big instrument.

Debbie Exner: At the time in high school I think it was exciting that it was such a large instrument. And I could carry it. That appeal is gone now. The most commonly asked question is, don't you wish you played the flute? I like the really low sounds. I think it's Gary Carr that talked about it sounding like chocolate. And I just really love that warm, rich sound. And the role that the bass plays in any -- First of all it's a very versatile instrument, it's used in lots of different kinds of music. And the role it plays in the orchestra, it's the foundation. So I just enjoy that process and that role very much.

Lorri Allen: Speaking can be a long job, so she appreciates the collaboration of Arizona Pro Arte.

Debbie Exner: Playing with an orchestra is just a magical experience. You're a piece of this huge tapestry of sound, and it's really fantastic to see it all come together.

Lorri Allen: She says being a musician makes her better in the workplace.

Debbie Exner: You're listening to what's going on in the orchestra, you're watching the conductor, you're looking at the music and what's on the printed page, and you are adapting and adjusting as you go along. And I think those skills are helpful as a speak tore read the audience and see how things are going, and to hear the changes in someone's vocal inflexion, or the way they're breathing, or to get in a sense cues about how they're sitting with whatever it is you're talking about at that time. I think it does help. It sharpens your senses and helps you to use all your senses so you can do a more effective job.

Lorri Allen: The conductor says the unusual professions announced his orchestra can be an advantage.

Timothy Verville: It gives them different background experiences, because we find in music, even through composers, they were still able to produce wonderful music and amazing works while still having different day jobs. So really I don't think in terms of better or not better, really applies here. I think it just gives them a different background and a different approach from where they're coming from.

Lorri Allen: And different defines not only the musicians' day jobs, but Arizona Pro Arte itself.

Timothy Verville: Some of the other things we do are collaborations with silent films, we work with different artists that are singers or actors. All throughout the season we have a large variety of what we do, but at our core we still have really great musical ensembles that everything is built around. We have a reach that's just even beyond the valley. We have an international call for scores where composers from around the world enter our competition. We received one today from Brazil and another from Japan. We're not only just making an impact here, we're making an impact globally. [applause]

Ted Simons: Arizona Pro Arte has one more concert in its summer cool classics series. It's set for August 24th and features works by Haydn and Schubert. For more information go to the website,

Pro Arte

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