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James Fahringer

Longtime Claremont Symphony Orchestra music director

Dr. Earl James “Jim” Fahringer, Claremont Symphony Orchestra music director emeritus, died on December 7, 2013. He was 78.

Dr. Fahringer was born on April 2, 1935 in Los Angeles. He developed into an accomplished multi-instrumentalist who was especially adept at the viola, violin and percussion, and played in symphonies as a young teen. His first music teacher was his father’s sister Marjorie Fahringer.

After graduating from high school he attended Cal State Los Angeles, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education and conducting. He also met his future wife, Delphine, at Cal State LA when they were members of the university’s chamber singing ensemble. Both musically inclined, the couple was ideally suited to one another.

Dr. Fahringer went on to earn a Doctor of Musical Arts in vocal performance from the University of Southern California in 1976. Delphine, a gifted opera singer, earned a bachelor’s in primary education from Cal State LA and then a master’s in reading and music from the University of La Verne and worked as a private voice coach for many years. They were married on August 9, 1959 in the First United Methodist Church in Glendale.

Dr. Fahringer began his lengthy career right out of college as a teacher in the Duarte Unified School District. Although he was primarily a music teacher, he also taught English and history. He eventually left Duarte for the Pomona Unified School District, where he taught music from 1976 until his retirement in 2002.

Anthony Aronovici was one of Dr. Fahringer’s many students at Emerson Middle School in Pomona as well as a CYSO member from 1990 until 1997. “Dr. Fahringer was the first teacher to continuously insist on my musical endeavors. To hear of his passing was a shock,” Mr. Aronovici shared.

Dr. Fahringer also served as director of choral music at the University of La Verne for several years in the 1970s, where he had a profound impact on Karen Oaks, a ULV student from 1974 to 1976, whom he taught how to accompany choirs.

“I fondly remember him and his positive influence,” she said. “He worked well with college students, always encouraging them in a positive and friendly way. He was a good role model.”

A longtime resident of La Verne, Dr. Fahringer dedicated the bulk of his musical life to the Claremont Symphony Orchestra (CSO). He joined the CSO, established in 1953 as a nonprofit aimed at providing the local community with free classical concerts, during the 1959-1960 season. Before long, Dr. Fahringer was serving as assistant conductor with CSO founder and music director George Denes, along with lending his talent as a string instrumentalist to the orchestra.

When Mr. Denes retired in 1979, Dr. Fahringer replaced him as music director, a role he would continue until his retirement in 2010. During his remarkable years of service, Dr. Fahringer was involved in the establishment of a number of traditions, including creating the annual Messiah Sing-along as well as founding the Claremont Youth Symphony Orchestra in 1984, for which he served as conductor for 20 years. Mrs. Fahringer also contributed greatly to the orchestra, as soprano soloist and manager of the CYSO.

“Jim was the epitome of the dedicated music educator, and the Claremont Symphony was his family,” CSO president Cecilia Cloughly commented. 

Claremonter Michael Fay also praised him, saying, “If there is an orchestral institution in Claremont, it is embodied in Dr. James Fahringer.”

Percussionist Sue Hodson is one of many CSO members to weigh in with fond memories of Dr. Fahringer on the CSO website, www.ClaremontSO.org, which features a tribute page and memorial photo gallery honoring the beloved music director.

“I remember Jim for his love of percussion,” she wrote. “What more could a percussionist ask for than a conductor who always welcomed more volume and who never shushed us! Jim loved all instruments and all musicians, and he never minded wearing his heart on his sleeve.  Jim will long be remembered in the orchestra, and his spirit will infuse all we do for a long time to come.”

Dr. and Mrs. Fahringer—whose vocal mentors included Metropolitan Opera soprano Ruth Miller Chamlee—were also active in many choral and opera groups in various parts of the Los Angeles area and soloed elsewhere in the United States. Dr. Fahringer was music director at several churches for many years and conducted the Men’s Chorus of the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

“He was amazing. The man had four jobs,” Ms. Cloughly marveled. “He would rehearse on Monday night with the Claremont Symphony. On Tuesday night, he would rehearse the Claremont Youth Symphony. On Wednesday night, he would rehearse his church choir and on Thursday, he would drive to Los Angeles and conduct at the LA Athletic Club.”

Dr. and Mrs. Fahringer were perhaps most proud of their “discovery” and mentoring of Spectrum, a Motown group in Las Vegas. After listening to the ensemble perform three nights in a row during a 2003 Vegas excursion, the Fahringers approached the group, asking if they were interested in appearing with CSO. Since the first Motown Pops collaboration with the Claremont Symphony in 2004, Spectrum and its sister group Radiance have presented a combined total of more than 50 Pops performances throughout North America.

“The relationship that ensued between Delphine, Jim and me went far beyond scope of that of a guest pops artist and a director of music of an orchestra,” Spectrum leader Cushney Roberts wrote. “It will be cherished for the personal and professional experiences it spawned for years to come.”

In a 2003 La Verne Magazine article, Dr. Fahringer shared the elements he felt are demanded of a good conductor: a huge amount of time and a love for music and people.

“There is an enormous amount of humility to go with [the job], because any conductor will tell you there is actually no power in conducting,” Dr. Fahringer said. “The only power there is, is in trying to get other musicians, who are in some cases better than you are, to play something together.”

Robert Sage, his successor as music director of the CSO, perhaps best summarized the life and contributions of Dr. Fahringer: “Jim was a consummate musician whose kind nature and considerable musical talent made a positive impact on the lives of thousands through the magic of music.”

Dr. Fahringer is survived by an aunt, Marjorie Fahringer, and her daughter Jan Cangro, both of Redondo Beach. He is also survived by numerous relatives, friends and colleagues in various part of the country.

A crypt-side service was held on December 19 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Members of the CSO provided music and tributes. The officiant was Rev. Richard Garner of the First United Methodist Church of Glendale.

Dr. Fahringer will be honored at two performances of the annual CSO Messiah Sing-along, which he initiated over 30 years ago. They will be held on Sunday, December 22 at 1:30 and 4 p.m. at Bridges Hall of Music, 150 E. 4th St. at Pomona College in Claremont. (Doors open at 1 and 3:30 p.m.) In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the to Claremont Symphony Orchestra at PO Box 698, Claremont, CA 91711. Please designate the James and Delphine Fahringer Fund on your check.

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