Humans of SSO: Léa Bourgade


Name: Léa Bourgade
Instrument: Violin
Major: Psychology
Class of 2020

Lea lived in Paris for the first ten years of her life and is now a freshman majoring in Psychology. This is her first year in SSO, but she has already proved herself as one of the strongest violinists in the orchestra and currently serves as co-concertmistress of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra.

Why did you start playing violin?
My mother also plays the violin so I started playing when I was very young and have just continued playing ever since.

Why are you excited to go on tour?
I’m excited to go on tour because it is a chance for me to explore new plaes and to share music with people from a different culture. 

What is your favorite SSO Memory?
My favorite memory with SSO is probably laughing about the lyrics in Carmina Burana and playing with Chinese reflex bells in Blue Cathedral by Jennifer Higdon.

If you could choose one liquid to take a bath in, what would it be?
Probably herbal tea. Water is too basic but anything else would be really disgusting.

Humans of SSO: Andrew Jabara


Name: Andrew Jabara
Instrument: Violin
Major: Economics
Minor: Education
Class of 2018

Andrew is a junior majoring in Economics and minoring in Education. He has been playing in orchestras for twelve years, starting in the fourth grade, and has been a member of SSO since his freshman year. This year, Andrew is a leader in the community as Co-President of the SSO committee. He likes to play the violin because it “creates the song and soul of the orchestra”.

What superpower would you have and why?
I would want to be able to use telekenesis, because it would make things a lot easier to move around (relatable). Also, it would be nice to not get out of bed at night to turn off the lights!

Why are you excited to go on tour?
I have been waiting since freshman year to go on tour and think it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially since the SSO will be one of the first groups at Stanford to visit Cuba in recent memory. I am also excited to learn about Cuban and Mexican culture and to practice conversational Spanish.

What is your favorite SSO memory?
My favorite SSO memory was being woken up early in the morning by loud shouting and banging on my door – rollouts! That first moment when Bright [a violist in SSO] said “welcome to orchestra!”, and subsequently meeting all the other freshmen over breakfast, made me realize that I had been accepted into an amazing community.

Dinner with the Conductor

This past Thursday, a select group of musicians from the Stanford Symphony Orchestra got the chance to dine with Maestro Anna Wittstruck at FloMo’s famous Chef’s Table.

The Chef’s Table is situated in the heart of Florence Moore’s dining hall, curiously juxtoposed with the standard dining hall fare. Although normal dining hall food is all-you-care-to-eat, the Chef’s Table is a three-course meal freshly prepared and specifically for those who obtain a reservation. Each menu comes with a hidden theme, which is revealed by the chef himself after dessert is served.


The lucky musicians, from left: Chris Yeh, Trent Woodward, Tara Iyer, Monica Anuforo, Jennie Yang, Jason Lin, Aaron Levett, Tiffany Jiang, and Anna Wittstruck (not pictured and Photo Credit: Andrew Jabara)

After drinks and an appetizer, our main course arrived, elegantly plated with produce grown fresh at Stanford:


Overall, we enjoyed getting to chat with Anna and each other outside of our normal orchestra setting. Because orchestra rehearses on Thursdays starting at 7pm, we quickly rushed off Bing after polishing off our desserts!

Orchestra Retreat 2015!

Members of the SSO had a great time during this year’s retreat! From rehearsing Sibelius and the Halloween music to wild games of Cards Against Humanity and the idyllic scene of roasting marshmallows over a campfire, everyone enjoyed spending some time bonding and relaxing. Below are some photographs that capture the spirit of Orchestra Retreat, as well as the breadth of activities explored over the weekend. For more pictures, be sure to check out the Facebook post about Orchestra Retreat 2015.


Resting up before retreat!












During downtime, orchestra members enjoyed a variety of activities, including a Cards Against Humanity table.


Maestro Anna Wittstruck carefully plans her next move.











Of course, the orchestra spent a good deal of time rehearsing music together…


… and mingling in the dining hall.



The late-night bonding over the campfire, though, is probably the most memorable event of all (PC: Chris Yeh for these spectacular nighttime shots).




-Andrew Jabara

SSO Spotlight 4: Andy Lan


Name: Andrew (Andy) Lan
Instrument: Violin
Class of 1994

Our fearless (and ageless) leader Andy Lan hails from Los Angeles, California. After earning a B.A. in Slavic Languages and a B.S. in Biology at Stanford in 1994, an M.P.H. from UC Berkeley in 1999, and an M.D. from UC San Diego in 2000, Andy began his career as a pediatrician, which he currently practices at RAMBLC Pediatric Medical Group in Los Gatos. However, that’s not the only thing he practices; After a two-decade hiatus, Andy returned to the violin section of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, where he still manages to show up on time and splendidly perform at every rehearsal.

When did you start playing the violin? Did you/do you play any other instruments?I started playing violin when I was 5 (the story goes that I took a pair of chopsticks and was pretending one stick was a bow and the other a violin, so my parents figured I was telling them something and they enrolled me in Suzuki lessons!).  I also started learning viola in high school.

Do you have any hobbies, outside of music?
I don’t have too much leftover time after music and my work, but when I do I enjoy traveling, the outdoors, playing board games, reading, and salsa dancing.

How long have you been in the SSO? What has been your favorite/most memorable moment so far?
This is my 7th year (I was in SSO for all 4 undergrad years and 3 years since rejoining).  My favorite memories have to be our tours to China in 1995 and Europe in 2013 as well as the opening of Bing Concert Hall. 

Despite commuting in as a community member, you are always on time for rehearsals, have your music annotated and ready to go, and leave smiling! How do you balance your job commitments with your musical ones?
In true INTJ personality-type fashion, I try to be as organized as possible in all things and I am very fortunate in my job situation in that, since there are 9 of us pediatricians, I can arrange for coverage or swap calls so that I can embrace the full SSO experience (rehearsals, retreat, social outings, tour)!

What is one interesting, non-musical fact about you? The less likely someone would guess this about you, the better.
It’s a bit hard for me to think of an interesting fact about myself that doesn’t involve music…but I suppose one factoid that qualifies is that I’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

SSO Spotlight 3: Elise Lasker

Elise Lasker SSO photo

Name: Elise Lasker
Instrument: Oboe
Dorm: Toyon
Class of 2017

Hailing from Sugar Land, Texas, Elise Lasker has a disposition as sweet as her hometown suggests. Elise is currently in her second season of the SSO, and as a sophomore in the oboe section has tackled a wide variety of challenging repertoire. Although she hasn’t yet declared a major, Elise has already proven herself at Stanford to be a brilliant, caring, and talented member of the Class of 2017.

How and when did you get your start on the oboe? Did you play any other instruments beforehand?
I started playing [the oboe] in the 6th grade, in band class. I played piano for a few years before that.

What’s an enjoyable experience or funny anecdote you’d like to share from your time in SSO?
Well, hanging out in the oboe section is generally fun. One anecdote is that Max and Edward [the fellow oboists in the SSO] sing a lot of musical snippets during breaks.

What’s an interesting, weird, and non-musical fact about you?
I had a childhood fear of condiments (especially mayo and ketchup).

Do you have a cause or passion that you care deeply about?
I love people [laughs]! This may come as a surprise, since I am not the most outspoken person ever. I’m pretty quiet, but I love listening to people. I’m working on becoming a peer counselor at the Bridge, and I’m a small group leader for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. If anyone ever wants to talk, I’m all ears!

SSO Spotlight 2: Jake Gold

Jake Gold SSO Photo

Name: Jake Gold
Instrument: French Horn
Dorm: Roble
Major: Earth Systems and Civil Engineering
Class of 2018

Jake Gold, an up-and-coming freshman from Santa Monica, has already become one of the best French Horn players in the Symphony. Raised by two environmentally-conscious parents, Jake has always been aware of the global climatic issues facing both future generations and his own. That’s why Jake is firm in his resolve to major in Earth Systems and Civil Engineering; they offer him an education and a career that can better both himself and society. With a charming smile and an altruistic mindset, Jake continues to make the best of all Stanford has to offer.

How (and when) did you get your start on the French Horn? Did you play any other instruments beforehand?
I began playing French Horn when I was in 8th grade. At that point, I had already been playing trumpet for 5 years, and thought adding another instrument for my high school career would be valuable. The two instruments seemed similar enough to me, but both sent me on very different paths performance-wise. 

Do you have a funny anecdote, or a good memory from your time in SSO so far?
During the SSO retreat, [the Symphony] had just finished a two-and-a-half hour rehearsal, ending around 10 PM. We were all extremely tired and were heading off to an enjoyable bonfire get-together with both staff and students – this was our chance to take a break from playing and have fun getting to know each other. The French horns had that exact mindset… but from a different perspective. We spent the next two-and-a-half hours in the hall playing octets with one another until our lips gave out and we called it a night. The best break from one type of music is another!

What’s an interesting, non-musical fact about you? Bonus points if it’s something no one would ever suspect about you.
I was born with a heart defect known as transposition of the great vessels. This is a life-threatening ailment that results from the aorta and pulmonary arteries being switched with one another. The science to perform the surgery was less than a decade old when I was born, so [for that] I am extremely grateful.
(Bonus points awarded)

 Do you have any siblings? Are they as musical as you?
I have two extremely tone deaf siblings, a brother and sister. My brother is a senior here at Stanford studying Marine Biology and Environmental Engineering. He’s very bright, and we often hang out around campus when we have free time. I also have a younger sister in 10th grade who is a remarkable swimmer. She can be a drama queen sometimes, but is also extremely intelligent.


Girl with the Flaxen Hair: Hannah Thompson (SSO Spotlight 1)

hannah thompson SSO photo

Name: Hannah Thompson
Instrument: Viola
Dorm: Burbank
Class of 2018

From a small town in Wisconsin, freshman Hannah Thompson has joined the ranks of violas in the Stanford Symphony Orchestra. A member of the Class of 2018, Hannah has not yet declared a major, but plans on pursuing something within the engineering department. With musical gifts, bouncing golden locks and a sharp mind, Hannah has embraced Stanford and all it has to offer.

 What’s your musical background?
I started out on piano, and then moved to the viola, and now I also play the guitar. With viola, I play in orchestra, pit orchestra, quartets, and everything fun because it’s amazing! With guitar, I’m involved at Jewish services, so that’s a big part of my life. Piano, I just play for fun.

Everyone has a hidden talent, or “fun fact” about them. What’s yours?
I enjoy cycling, as a sport. I’ve ridden by bike, I’d say… 2000 miles in the past two years. It’s really fun! We do big rides where we carry all our stuff… so, that’s what I do.

You’ve only been on campus a short time, but I’m sure lots of things have happened. What has been your favorite moment on the Farm so far?
That’s a good question… it’s not a moment, but hearing all the music from Burbank, because it’s got the ITALIC learning community with all the arts students. I’m not in [ITALIC], but it’s so much fun to be in such an artsy environment, where everyone will just have jam sessions in the halls.

One final question; do you have any favorite/funny moments from SSO?
I think, [during rehearsal in Fall quarter 2014] when everyone turned around, still trying to play and look at their Mahler music, just to see the guy with the hammer [laughs]… that’s my favorite moment.

SSO Spotlights: Introduction

In the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, musicians are united by their shared love of music. Behind the instruments and elegant attire, a community diverse in every way imaginable thrives. The SSO is home to a wide range of interesting musicians, from freshmen to seniors, grad students, and community members, of many nationalities, circumstances, and backgrounds. Most importantly, though, the Symphony is filled with incredible people. It is my sincere hope that, through learning about the members of the SSO, you will view this vibrant community in a new light.

-Andrew Jabara
Coordinator, SSO Committee

Five members of the SSO, from left to right: Brad Girardeau (Violin), Elise Lasker (Oboe), Ben Yeh (Cello), Tessera Chin (Viola), Jake Gold (French Horn)

A few of the amazing members in the SSO; from left to right: Brad Girardeau (Violin), Elise Lasker (Oboe), Ben Yeh (Cello), Tessera Chin (Viola), Jake Gold (French Horn)





Goodbye, Dink, and hello, Bing!

It’s been a busy couple weeks here for us at SSO – we just had our final concert at Dinkelspiel Auditorium before we officially move into Bing Concert Hall, our new home! Our concerto competition winner (and SSO violinist!), Eric Wu ’13, played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 magnificently, and we rounded out the performance with Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No. 5

We also started rehearsals in Bing this month! It is truly a marvelous venue, and we are so incredibly fortunate to be able to call it our new home. We are looking forward to helping usher in a new era for SSO and the arts at Stanford in January!

Finally, we’ve got a new Facebook page! Make sure to head on over to and “like” us to stay in touch, receive up-to-date news and concert info, and get exclusive behind-the-scenes sneak peeks of all our activities!