North Coast Symphony Orchestra celebrates 75th anniversary with special concert

North Coast Symphony Orchestra board members
North Coast Symphony Orchestra board members received a proclamation from the Encinitas City Council earlier this year in commemoration of the orchestra’s 75th anniversary.
(Copyright of Valerie Chereskin)

The North Coast Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with a Nov. 5 concert at San Dieguito Methodist Church.

The performance features William Grant Still’s “Afro American Symphony” and Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” among other composers. The narrator for “Lincoln Portrait” will be Victor Morris, a German-born actor and musician with an extensive resume that dates back 40 years.

“It’s produced a lot of very good concerts over the years,” said Daniel Swem, a Vista resident and conductor of the orchestra since 1982. “It really is one of the best-kept secrets in North County.”

Swem, onetime concertmaster and now principal violist of the La Jolla Symphony Orchestra, has a Master of Music degree in violin and conducting from the University of Redlands.

Decades before he joined, the orchestra’s origins can be traced back to an Encinitas greenhouse. Alfred Williams Jr., who owned the greenhouse, played violin. A 1969 article in The San Dieguito Citizen said that Williams was “tireless” in his early work putting the orchestra together.

According to the orchestra’s website, he teamed up with a few others who also played instruments, and the North Coast Symphony Orchestra took off from there. Its mission has been to make classical music more accessible to the community. The orchestra has also partnered with choral groups.

The orchestra has gone by several different names over the years, including the Encinitas Orchestra and San Dieguito Community Orchestra. Its members, who have performed in venues small and large, have ranged from professional musicians to amateurs.

“It’s a community orchestra, and the orchestra has a real range of talent,” said Swem, who started out playing violin and clarinet as a child in Oceanside. “You’ve got a lot of music teacher types in there, some professional types, some in the string section may be retired and taken up an instrument, and they’re going to try to play it and they finally get good enough to be in the orchestra.”

The North Coast Symphony Orchestra received a proclamation from the Encinitas City Council earlier this year in commemoration of its 75th anniversary.

“This is a really big deal for us as a group,” Swem said.

General admission tickets are $12; tickets for seniors, students and military are $10.

San Dieguito United Methodist Church is located at 170 Calle Magdelena in Encinitas. The concert starts at 2:30 p.m. with a reception after. For more information, visit