Brittany Ridley

People often view music as entertainment, talent or even a distraction, but Peggy Peterson saw music as an opportunity to change individual lives. Whether she provided a children with their first violin or an elderly woman a concert for her 102nd birthday, Peterson, chairwoman of the Autumn Apex, changed the lives of the old, the young and the young at heart in San Luis Obispo County.

On Sunday, the San Luis Obispo Symphony Guild will continue Peterson’s 18-year tradition with its Autumn Apex concert, a fund raising event dedicated to supporting organizations such as San Luis Obispo Symphony, San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony, Central Coast Children’s Choir and numerous afterschool music education programs.

“There is no music education in schools anymore, so we are here to fill the gap, and Autumn Apex helps out in that way,” said Patty Thayer, marketing and public relations director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony. “Its major purpose is to raise funds and showcase talent from around the world.”

The San Luis Obispo Symphony Guild has strived to present world-class musicians such as previous guest Edgar Meyer, a world famous double-bassist and composer, and other up and coming musicians from across the nation.

This year the concert will showcase well-known artists James Welch and Russell Hancock, an organ and piano duo, and Edward Kusell Zigelman, a University of Southern California trumpet student and San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony alumni. The performance will take place Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Christopher Cohan Center. 

“We get a lot of rising stars and world-class talent, but it is always juxtaposed with local talent,” Thayer said.

Autumn Apex, however, has been more than a stomping ground for local and nationally known musicians, Thayer said. The concert’s sole purpose has been to support musical youth groups, local schools lacking funds for music education and other fine arts organizations.

The guild funds afterschool music education, private lessons, music scholarships and instrument rentals throughout the county, Thayer said, in addition to co-hosting the San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony and the Central Coast Children’s Choir.

“In all the states in the United States, California is dead last in how much money per capita is given to the fine arts programs,” Thayer said. “And we are suppose to be the creative state.”

Along with providing arts education to San Luis Obispo’s youth, Peterson has also brought fine arts to local retirement home Garden Creek at The Villages of San Luis Obispo, scheduling monthly concerts for all residents.

“Kids aren’t the only ones that need music in their lives,” Peterson said.

The guild has also continued their youth and music education theme through hosting such events as the free children’s concert, which will be held at 11 a.m. Monday in the Christopher Cohan Center. Eight hundred children are expected to join the sold out concert.

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