CLAIRE CHASE (flutist) I grew up in north San Diego County, and went to public schools where there was no music program. A lot of my musical education happened instead at the San Diego Youth Symphony, which is, I think, a really important cultural organization. It has this storied and really progressive history. California is this maze of contradictions. It has this D.I.Y. fervor — and I don’t mean in the corporate, Silicon Valley co-opting of that word — that gave birth to and sustains every artistic organization: Asian Improv Arts, the Tape Music Center and Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley’s “In C” being a totally D.I.Y. concert.
I have these beautiful memories of Pauline barefoot with her accordion embodying this you-can-be-whatever-you-want-to-be feeling that’s so typically Californian and beautiful and true. She was this queer iconoclast doing her thing but also community building.
GILMER When I was going to move out here, someone told me, “Whatever you can dream, it’s possible.” I really think that’s true. I don’t know where else I could have opened the Rady Shell [an open-air stage on the San Diego Bay] and started a hall renovation within five years.
RAFAEL PAYARE And anyone can see us at the Shell because it’s outside in the park. We are rehearsing, and there’s someone walking their dog.
Building in Los Angeles
SALONEN When I did my debut with the L.A. Philharmonic [in 1984], I’d never been to this country. They put me up in the Biltmore, which in those days had a suite with a grand piano. I tried to go for a walk, and the doorman said, “Shall I call you cab?” I said I’d just stroll around a bit, and he said, “I don’t recommend that.” Anyway, there was an older cellist who came up to me after the second rehearsal and said, “Welcome to your new home.” I started coming back every season, and when André Previn stepped down, there was this letter from the board that modestly said they would like to develop the L.A. Phil into the world’s best orchestra, would I like to be a part of that process?
One morning much later, when I was living in Santa Monica, I got up really early, and my kids were still asleep. I sat in the kitchen, made myself a coffee and thought, What is this weird feeling? And I realized: I’m happy. I feel free, not straight-jacketed by some kind of European, dusty modernist discourse.