Arts and Entertainment

Auburn Symphony Orchestra's cellist makes most of the moment; concert Sunday

Brian Wharton - Courtesy
Brian Wharton
— image credit: Courtesy

Whether he teaches or performs, Auburn's Brian Wharton delivers something special for all to hear.

It comes from the heart, and the strings of a cello.

Wharton, principal cellist for the Auburn Symphony Orchestra, (ASO), is as much a player as he is a listener. He enjoys all kinds of music, and has played with some of the legendary performers of his diverse times – ranging from R&B tunes with Smokey Robinson to Italian operatic tenor classics with Luciano Pavarotti.

"I'm very passionate about teaching as well as playing," Wharton said of his craft. "I have a lot of pride in the orchestra. I feel it's a great honor."

That appreciation extends to a community that supports the arts. As a way of giving back, Wharton and the ASO will perform a benefit concert – Music Especially for You: Familiar Favorites and Classical Beauties – on Sunday, Oct. 21, beginning at 2:30 p.m. at the Auburn Performing Arts Center, 700 E. Main St.

Wharton and his colleagues are donating their services to the concert in a pitch to help finance its operation.

In a response to its audience, the orchestra will play familiar music. Conductor Stewart Kershaw has chosen several "classic" pieces familiar to the audience.

"It's something fun," Wharton said of the selections. "They are familiar tunes. It's an opportunity to showcase masterwork pieces in orchestra literature, including ballet music."

It's also an opportunity for Wharton to perform as a soloist. Wharton, who has been with the ASO for 12 years, will perform "The Dying Swan", from French late-romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns' "Carnival of the Animals."

Wharton will perform the sometimes humorous work in a more serious manner.

"I chose it because it was successful at the ballet and makes a wonderful encore piece for audiences," Wharton explained.

Wharton appreciates the chance to perform on stage. Music is dear to him,

Wharton, who grew up in Moscow, Idaho, received his bachelor's degree from Western Washington University and his master's from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He studied under and performed with heralded musicians, instructors and composers. He has held fellowships at the Congress of Strings and the Aspen Music Festival.

Today, Wharton lives in Auburn and maintains an active career in performing and teaching. He was a member of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra and has appeared with the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera. He has performed as a soloist with orchestras throughout the Northwest. He also has performed for many groups in chamber music. He currently performs with the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Wharton helped usher in a chamber music series with the ASO in 2005. Today, it has blossomed into a self-sustaining concert series

Wharton also is a sought-after instructor in the region. He has taught at PLU and maintains an active private studio. His students continue to receive the highest honors in regional and state solo and ensemble contests.

Wharton and his wife, Melinda, have two children, Hailey and Connor.

Besides Wharton, Brittany Boulding will perform a solo from Carmen, and Federal Way's Karla Flygare, ASO's principal flautist, will perform Vaughan Williams' "Greensleeves".

"It's a celebration of the orchestra being a part of this community and all the players involved with it," Wharton said.


Benefit concert

• Program: Auburn Symphony Orchestra's Music Especially for You: Familiar Favorites and Classical Beauties.

• Time, venue: 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 21, Auburn Performing Arts Center, 700 E. Main St. Prior to the performance, Kershaw and KUOW host Dave Beck present a pre-concert lecture, focusing on the composers and their works, beginning at 1:45 p.m.

• Selections: The orchestra will perform the following: Rossini, "Galop" from the William Tell Overture; Mascagni, "Intermezzo" from Cavalleria Rusticana; Strauss, "Blue Danube Waltz"; Barber "Adagio for Strings"; Bach, "Air on the G String; Tchaikovsky, "Waltz from Act 1 of Swan Lake"; Sarastate, "Carmen Fantasy"; Brittany Boulding, soloist; Vaughan Williams, "Greensleeves"; Karla Flygare, soloist; Offenbach, "Can-can"; Saint-Saens, "The Dying Swan": Brian Wharton, soloist; Elgar, "Pomp and Circumstance March #1". The concerts are sponsored in large part by the City of Auburn.

• Tickets: Reserved seats are $34 adults, $27 seniors, $10 students. Call 253-887-7777 or purchase online at

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