Bahai News -- Ventura County Star - The family that plays together

The family that plays together

"My father played saxophone and clarinet; I started playing drums with my father when I was 12 or 13," says New West Symphony violist Jorge Moraga, who plays with his family Sunday in Ventura.

Cherie, Paola, Giovanna and Jorge Moraga (from left) rehearse at home in Oxnard. "They've always loved music," Dad says of his daughters.

Moraga clan's deep love for music will be showcased Sunday in a free concert at Ventura City Hall

By Frank Moraga,
April 24, 2003

Music in the blood does not adequately describe the passion that can be found in one Oxnard family.

From performing in front of schoolchildren and church groups to backing up such performers as *NSYNC and Boyz II Men and appearing on the scores of such hits movies as "Daredevil" and "Solaris," the various members of the Moraga family have made their share of contributions to the cultural arts.

Jorge Moraga is a member of the New West Symphony viola section; his wife, Cherie, is also a multi-talented musician who can play the oboe, piano and English horn.

Their daughters have an affinity for music, as well; Giovanna is a cellist and Paola's a violinist.

The community will have a rare chance to hear them all play together when the Moraga Family Quartet performs a free concert 3 p.m. Sunday at Ventura City Hall.

The performance is part of a series of events sponsored by New West Symphony.

The story of the musical Moraga family begins in the 1970s in Guatemala, where Cherie was completing work as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Besides earning an undergraduate degree in psychology at Stanford, the East Coast native also enjoyed a love for music and started playing with the Guatemala National Symphony, where she first met Jorge in 1973.

Born in Guatemala, Jorge comes from three generations of musicians.

"My father played saxophone and clarinet," he said. "I started playing drums with my father when I was 12 or 13. I then went to the conservatory of music in Guatemala."

After performing together in Guatemala, Jorge and Cherie relocated to Mexico and soon joined the Chamber Orchestra in Guadalajara and then the Orchestra Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico in Toluca.

It was in that city that their first daughter, Giovanna, was born.

Shortly after her birth, Jorge exclaimed: "Did you see her long fingers? She's going to be a cellist!" Cherie recalled.

"The poor kid didn't have a chance after that," said Cherie, who added that her husband had wanted to be a cellist but the positions had already been filled at the conservatory. He saw a chance for that dream to be realized through his daughter.

"He zeroed in on her long fingers," she said and his intuition proved correct.

Soon Giovanna began attending her parents' concerts, traveled with the orchestra and started practicing her cello skills on her father's viola until her formal cello lessons began when she turned 6.

In 1983, daughter Paola was born and soon she also was enamored with musical instruments.

Jorge said he never had any trouble convincing the children to take up music.

"They've always loved music," he said.

"Music is a big part of our lives because Cherie has a master's degree in music education from Stanford and I was raised with it," he said. "Music is the language for all of humanity."

By 1985 the family had moved to the Los Angeles area so Jorge could be close enough for free-lance musical work, including a job drumming for the group Nuestro.

"Coming from a pristine mountainside community near Mexico City to the states was a big contrast," Cherie said. "We missed the Hispanic ambiance, so we came to Oxnard in search of the Hispanic environment. We also felt with young daughters it was a much healthier place to raise them."

The daughters attended public school school in Oxnard through their junior high years and participated in community orchestras.

Giovanna then left to study music at the Idyllwild School of the Arts near Palm Springs and Paola went to study music at Crossroads School in Santa Monica.

Giovanna returned to the county, was named a New West Symphony Discovery Artist and received an El Concilio Award for cultural arts in 2001.

She currently is a doctoral candidate studying performance at UCLA.

Paola is now majoring in business economics and music at Ventura College.

When not performing in the New West Symphony, Jorge plays with the Hollywood Bowl orchestra and his contributions can be heard in movies such as 2002's "Daredevil" and "Solaris," in the upcoming animated movie "Finding Nemo," and in the music featured on "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill."

Family members' musical credits also include performing with *NSYNC and on such albums as Boyz II Men's "Full Circle," Toni Braxton's "More Than a Woman" and Lee Ann Womack's "The Season for Romance."

While Cherie is still a free-lance musician, her primary duties are directing the Oxnard Elementary School District Literacy Program through the children's bookmobile. In 2001, she received the Baha'i Human Rights Award for education because of her efforts to promote literacy.

During a recent bookmobile stop, Cherie and Jorge performed a concert for students at Curren Elementary School, said Lynn Decker-Mahin, education director for the symphony.

"They played a little piece that was meant for a trio but they did it as a duet and they charmed the kids with it," she said. "They all very much enjoy performing. For them, it's not a vocation, it's an avocation."

During Sunday's concert, the Moraga Family Quartet will perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Oboe Quartet, Fritz Kreisler's "Liebesfreud," Joaquin Turina's "La Oracion del Torero," Claude Debussy's "Golliwog's Cakewalk," three Rumanian folk dances and "Fascinating Rhythm" by Ira and George Gershwin.

The Moraga Family Quartet will also present the world premiere of Michael Kibbe's "Hymn to Spring," opus 143.

Kibbe said he first met the Moraga family in 1982 while he was on a musical tour of Mexico with the North Wind Quintet.

"One dreams of being able to perform with your family for the public but, with everyone having different activities, it's hard to get us together," Jorge said.

"This is the second time we will play as a quartet for people in Ventura County. It's a special experience to do it."

Diversity writer Frank Moraga is not directly related to the Moraga family.

©Copyright 2003, Ventura County Star (CA, USA)

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