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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jun. 5, 200812:00 PM EST

JSO Concertmaster schedules sabbatical

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

Philip Pan, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (JSO) Concertmaster, has decided to take some time off to pursue other musical interests.

In an e-mail sent Sunday evening to Jacksonville Symphony Association board members, Pan began by stating, “I am optimistic that the symphony has a strong and bright future as long as we can all come together in common purpose to keep this vital institution going.”

He also wrote, “After 23 consecutive seasons with the JSO I have decided to take a breather. I will most definitely be pursuing musical activities during this time, just not onstage with the JSO.”

Pan joined the JSO in 1984 and has been Concertmaster, the primary artistic liaison between the conductor and the musicians, since 1986.

He told the board members a “major reason” for the sabbatical is to explore various genres of music including country, jazz, rock and hip-hop but pointed out he will “be available for all violinistic functions from weddings to corporate functions to private parties.”

Pan said Monday he feels it was time for a change and that’s why he decided to take a sabbatical instead of performing the 2008-09 season with the orchestra.

“I’m really looking forward to it. This is the first time I’ve taken time off since I joined the JSO in 1984 and I’ve just gotten so interested in other forms of music,” he said.

The 2007-08 JSO season concludes June 14 with Ravel’s “Bolero.” After that performance, Pan’s sabbatical will begin.

Pan doesn’t expect to be spending much time on Mozart, Beethoven and Elgar while he’s away from the symphony. His more likely repertoire will include Mariah Carey, Count Basie and Elvis along with his original compositions. That’s at least partly due to an affection for the seven-string electric violin Pan calls his “Viper.”

“It’s a fascinating instrument,” he said. “It’s the only electric violin I’ve seen or heard that I liked. It’s like having an entire string quartet under my chin.”

Pan added he’s looking forward to playing the “Viper” with the JSO at the last Regions Bank Plugged-in Series concert Saturday.

“I have always loved rock music. We’re playing the music of the Eagles and I’ll play the violin solo for ‘Hotel California’ on the electric violin,” said Pan.

He’s been logging some hours in the recording studio as well, laying down violin tracks for JJ Grey & Mofro’s new CD on Alligator Records. “I’m trying to convince them they need a full-time fiddle player,” said Pan, who admitted the idea of touring with a band appeals to him. “I’ve had some offers but not ones that pay enough for me to hit the road.”

Pan has also been performing in venues totally removed from the atmosphere of the Jacoby Concert Hall at the T-U Center. He is the only person who has ever played a violin inside Twisted Martini, for example.

“I’ve been working with DJs in clubs around town. The best DJs are really jazz musicians with a turntable,” said Pan.

As for the future, Pan is keeping his options open. He wouldn’t rule out a return to the JSO after his sabbatical but said of his upcoming exploration of other forms of music and performance, “If it really takes off, I’ll follow it.”

According to Paul Witkowski, the symphony’s director of public relations, one of the orchestra’s other violinists will be selected to serve as acting concertmaster.

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