The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra launches its 32nd season Sept. 25 and 26, with 14-year-old piano virtuoso George Li performing Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1.

Li, a high school freshman, played the concerto in August to win the inaugural Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition among more than 40 pianists from around the world. His $10,000 prize includes performances with orchestras in Shanghai and Beijing and a full tuition scholarship to Oberlin Conservatory.

Li won his first piano competition at the age of six and has been performing publicly since age nine. He's been featured on NPR's From the Top radio program and his Carnegie Hall debut was televised. He's well traveled – performing in the United States, China, Venezuela, Sweden and Italy.

The SASO opening program is set for Saturday, Sept. 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the Desertview Performing Arts Center in SaddleBrooke, and Sunday, Sept. 26, at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church on Paseo del Norte. Music Director Linus Lerner conducts the orchestra in the Mussorgsky/Ravel "Pictures at an Exhibition" and the premiere of "Celebration" composed by Richard White and dedicated to longtime season sponsor Dorothy Vanek of Oro Valley.

This season, the orchestra is presenting two concerts in a single weekend – the first on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Desert View Performing Arts Center at 39900 S. Clubhouse Drive in SaddleBrooke, the second on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, SW Sanctuary, 7575 N. Paseo Del Norte in Tucson.

There are two special features only for the Sunday concert at St. Andrews:

To give back to the arts community, SASO will donate 75 percent of each ticket purchased to a non-profit arts organization designated by the purchaser when ordering online at Just type in the complete name of the non-profit organization in the Promo Code box when ordering tickets to the St. Andrew's performance. The organizations will receive $15 for every ticket designated.

"This is SASO's own local arts stimulus package," Lerner said. "We want the arts to continue to thrive in our community."

SASO season tickets are $75. For the SaddleBrooke Series, order at http://tickets/ or call 825-5318. Individual tickets for SaddleBrooke are $21 in advance or $23 at the door. For the St. Andrews Series, order online at or call 323-7166. Individual tickets are $20, on sale in advance or at the door.

Students under the age of 17 are admitted at no charge.

For more information about SASO visit or call 323-7166.

Full season has 5 concerts, a special, gala

The full SASO season includes five subscription concerts, one special concert and the fifth annual fundraising gala. The subscription series includes the Sept. 25 and 26 concert with George Li, plus:

• Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 21 at 3 p.m. – Guest conductor Tao Fan and guest cellist Kai Fu are featured in the Dvorak Concerto for Violincello in B minor. The program also includes Ao Chang-Qun's Tibetan Dance and Schumann's Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major.

• Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. – The program includes Ravel's Bolero and Concerto for Piano in G Major with guest artist Jesus Maria Figueroa, plus Granger's Colonial Song and Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber.

• April 2 at 7:30 p.m. and April 3 at 3 p.m. – This concert features the winner of the second annual SASO Youth Concerto Competition, plus Verdi's La Forza del Destino Overture and Puccini's Suor Angelica with soprano Ana Paula Brunkow, mezzo-soprano Kerry Grubel and the Southern Arizona Opera Company.

• May 21 at 7:30 p.m. and May 22 at 3 p.m. – The season finale includes Chabrier's Espana, Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Concerto for Two Guitars with soloists Eduardo Costa and Gabriel Navia and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A Major.

Special SASO events in 2011

Special SASO events, not included in a season subscription, include:

• Jan. 29 at 5 p.m. – SASO's fifth annual Gala, held at SaddleBrooke, features fine dining, musical entertainment, live and silent auctions.

• March 12 at 7:30 p.m. and March 13 at 3 p.m. – A collaborative celebration of the 300th anniversary of Padre Kino's death featuring SASO, the Catalinas Community Chorus and Tucson Masterwork Chorale with soprano Christi Amonson and mezzo-soprano Angela Diel. The program includes Mozart's Coronation Mass, plus choral and orchestral works. The first performance will be at St. Augustine Cathedral downtown. The second location has yet to be determined.

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