Featuring Live Orchestra at the Civic Auditorium
by Betty Sanchez
This December, Maestro Pamela Martin will stand in the Civic Auditorium and raise her baton in front of 52 professional musicians. The combined skill of the conductor and the Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre Orchestra will bring Tchaikovsky’s beloved The Nutcracker score to life, in classic holiday celebration. Santa Cruz audiences are lucky to have such a high-quality local Nutcracker, one of very few pre-professional versions with live orchestra in the country.
SCBT’s The Nutcracker boasts talented pre-professional dancers, outstanding lighting and stage design, world-class guest stars, vibrant costumes, and graceful choreography which brings the time-honored tale to life. Together, these attributes support the collaboration of live musicians.
Maestro Martin serves as Music Director of Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre and has conducted its orchestra since 2012. She is also Principal Guest Conductor with the Master Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra and recently concluded a long tenure as Associate Conductor of the Vallejo Symphony. Maestro Martin has conducted for the Oakland Ballet, Ballet West and Cleveland/San Jose Ballet (which became Ballet San Jose).
Pamela Martin loved music and dance equally since she was a child, always amazed at how the dancing made the music visible. She received a Bachelor of Music from the Peabody Conservatory in Piano Performance. As a pianist, she worked with many dance schools, including San Francisco Ballet, Ballet Austin, Marin Ballet and Marin Dance Theatre.
She became comfortable working with dancers, and when she received a Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Texas at Austin, working with ballet companies seemed natural.
She says, “When I became a pianist — and later a conductor — working with dancers, I felt the real joy of combining the art forms. That is why, although I love my concert work, I am a ballet conductor in particular.”
Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker features professional guest stars in every performance. SCBT alumna Melody Mennite, a principal dancer with Houston Ballet, will perform the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, partnered by fellow Houston Ballet principal Chun Wai Chan.
Maestro Martin says Melody is one of the most musical Sugar Plum Fairies she has ever worked with, stating, “For a conductor, the more musical a dancer is, the more natural the whole process is.” She adds that the quality of musicians adds to her experience. “The Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre Orchestra is truly exceptional, with our players coming from all over the Bay Area. They are not only excellent players; they form a very cohesive group which responds quickly. It is my honor to stand in front of them.”
Maestro Martin continues, “We are presenting The Nutcracker as it was originally intended: the excitement of a live musical performance combined with the excitement of the dancing. The dancers and the orchestra are literally responding to each other, making a very different kind of experience for the audience. For anyone who has not had the opportunity to see The Nutcracker with live orchestra, it’s a whole new world!”
Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre presents
SC Civic Auditorium • Dec. 21, 22 and 23