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Santa Barbara Symphony’s Wisdom of the Water, Earth & Sky Honors Ancient Chumash Culture

The Santa Barbara Symphony’s 70th Anniversary season continues with Wisdom of the Water, Earth, Sky on Saturday, November 19, 2022, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, November 20, 2022, at 3 pm, preceded by a pre-concert “Conversation with Kabaretti” at 2:00 pm.

Honoring the past in an intersection of connection, community, and culture, this program offers a symphonic and visual homage to the region’s centuries of Chumash heritage from local composer and nature lover Cody Westheimer. World-renowned pianist and Santa Barbara favorite, Alessio Bax returns to play Robert Schumann’s romantic musical gift to his future wife, the Piano Concerto in A minor with the Santa Barbara Symphony.  Rounding out the program are Jean Sibelius’ Valse Triste, and Mozart’s inimitable masterpiece, Symphony No. 40, delivering a deeply moving and moody tribute.

“I’m excited to collaborate with local composer Cody Westheimer, who was inspired by the storytelling of the Chumash people, and by collaborating with descendants composed his own music to accompany the words of wisdom of the Chumash tradition,” shared Nir Kabaretti, Artistic Director of the Santa Barbara Symphony. “We are so honored to feature descendants of the Chumash on stage performing this piece, and bring this rich culture to our community, while reminding people about our important connection to nature, and all that we risk losing if we do not protect it.”

Westheimer was born and raised in Santa Barbara, and his first exposure to symphonic music and orchestra was through the Santa Barbara Symphony’s Music Education outreach when he was in the 5th grade. He later joined the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony and had his first orchestral work performed by the Santa Barbara Symphony when he was 17 years old. He studied music composition at UCSB while in high school, and then in college at USC. Over the last two dozen years he’s written hundreds of hours of music for film and television, including the theme for the Tour de France and the Olympics on NBC in addition to his favorite genre – nature documentary films. Westheimer moved back to Santa Barbara with his family two years ago and became passionately involved with saving the San Marcos Foothills, which is where he met Chumash descendants Marianne Parra & Ernestine Ygnacio-DeSoto, who he eventually collaborated with in his composition, Wisdom of Water, Earth, Sky. Ygnacio-DeSoto learned how to speak the Chumash language from her mother, who was the last fluent speaker of the language. The piece features stunning visuals projected behind the orchestra, with most of the footage being shot by Westheimer, who in addition to being a composer also enjoys filmmaking.  

“I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to write this piece for my hometown symphony – a world-class orchestra – and to share with the world how the first people on this land enjoyed a more harmonious collaboration with nature,” shares composer Cody Westheimer. “If humans are to continue thriving, we must begin to restore that connection and learn from our animal co-inhabitants. My deepest thank you goes to Ernestine and Marianne who have entrusted me to help convey the wisdom of their ancestors and their brilliant stories musically. I hope that listeners will leave the performance longing to take a walk in nature and with a deeper appreciation of the non-human life that surrounds us.”

The Symphony is also honored to welcome renowned piano soloist Alessio Bax for this concert. Combining exceptional lyricism and insight with consummate technique, Bax is without a doubt “among the most remarkable young pianists now before the public” (Gramophone). He catapulted to prominence with First Prize wins at both the Leeds and Hamamatsu International Piano Competitions, and is now a familiar face on five continents, not only as a recitalist and chamber musician but also as a concerto soloist who has appeared with more than 150 orchestras. “Alessio is a brilliant artist who is sensitive, extremely musical, and intellectual. I love working with him, and he’s a perfect fit for this program,” added Kabaretti.

Nir Kabaretti, Conductor

Alessio Bax, Piano

Marianne Parra & Ernestine Ygnacio-DeSoto, Chumash Descendants 


Cody Westheimer |  “Wisdom of Water, Earth, Sky” – World Premiere

Robert Schumann |  Piano Concerto in A minor

Jean Sibelius | Valse Triste

W. A. Mozart | Symphony No. 40 in G minor

Wisdom of Water, Earth & Sky is generously sponsored by Principal Concert Sponsor Montecito Bank & Trust;  Artist Sponsor Barbara Ann Clark; Selection Sponsors Barbara Burger & Paul E. Munch, Libby & Stephen Erickson, and Janet A. Garufis.

Tickets for Wisdom of Water, Earth, Sky on Saturday, November 19, 2022, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, November 20, 2022, at 3 pm at the Granada Theatre can be purchased online here. Season subscriptions to The Symphony’s 70th Anniversary Season are on sale now with packages starting as low as $112 for a four-concert package, and $156 for a complete six-concert package. Two “One-Night-Only” events are available for subscribers to purchase:  “New Year’s Eve with The Symphony” and “An Evening with Sinatra.” For subscriptions and ticket information visit or call 805-898-9386. 

About The Santa Barbara Symphony

Now in its 71st year, The Santa Barbara Symphony delivers artistic excellence, outstanding music education stewardship and programming, and community collaboration – all through symphonic music. Under the artistic leadership of Maestro Nir Kabaretti as Music & Artistic Director since 2006, The Symphony is one of the region’s premier cultural institutions. Through his charismatic leadership, this globally admired conductor and Santa Barbara resident invigorates audiences and musicians alike through his passion, creativity, and vast experience. As the only music education program tied to a professional symphony orchestra in the region, The Symphony serves more than 4,000 students annually throughout Santa Barbara County. While The Symphony continues to evolve, bringing joy, engagement, and connection remain steadfast pillars of its mission and were evident in the organization’s ability to thrive during the pandemic including the historic announcement that board chair Janet Garufis and President & CEO Kathryn R Martin join Nir Kabaretti in making a five-year commitment to serve in their roles. For more information, visit

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