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Junior Philharmonic celebrates life of longtime conductor with concert

By Hayley Fox
Published: Wednesday, June 06, 2012, at 09:24AM
Jr. Philharmonic Orchestra

Gary S. Greene and the Junior Phil will be performing tonight at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

In a concert on Wednesday night at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a vast array of musicians, actors, composers and creators will be celebrating 75 years of the Junior Philharmonic of California -- and the life of the young people's symphony orchestra's longtime leader.

The Junior Phil consists largely of high school students and tonight at 7:30 p.m. they will be joined by the alumni orchestra and musical celebrities to honor founder Ernst Katz who died in 2009.

Katz created the group in 1937 and conducted the young musicians for more than seven decades.

The Los Angeles Times reports in Katz's obituary that he never charged fees for participation and funded almost the entire organization out of his own pocket. He lent out instruments to musicians who didn't have their own and paid for the tuxedos required for performance for those who couldn't afford them.

According to the organization's website, more than 70,000 musicians between the ages of 12 and 25 have participated in annual auditions for the orchestra, and more than 10,000 have been selected for membership.

Katz said of his work: "Music transcends everything. It builds hope where hope doesn't exist...There's nobody else except my immediate family and my country that I love more than the orchestra."

Tonight's show is being produced by Katz's great-niece, Debra Greene, and conducted by her father, Gary S. Greene. Weird Al Yankovic of "Amish Paradise" and "Eat it" fame will be participating in the "Battle of Batons" and Florence Henderson will be singing Broadway hits from "The Sound of Music."

Debra Greene said they're expecting a full house and an overall entertaining night of music.

Alumni members of the Junior Phil include Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- who was a member when he was in high school and who has returned for performances in previous years.

Tickets for tonight's show range from $15 to $75 and can be purchased at online or at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office.

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