Obituary: Maestro Victor Vener Dies at 78

By Francisco Salazar

California Philharmonic founder Maestro Victor Vener died on Dec. 31, 2023 at the age of 78.

Vener was born in Pasadena and had an entrepreneurial approach to music, founding numerous high-profile musical institutions and concert series throughout the region, including the California Philharmonic, Pasadena Pops, Chamber Orchestra of Pasadena, and Burbank Symphony.

He also established music venues in local destinations including Santa Anita Racetrack, The Arboretum, Descanso Gardens, Rose Bowl, Burbank’s Starlight Bowl, Pasadena’s Ritz-Carlton and Hilton Hotels, and the steps of Pasadena City Hall.

In 1996, he founded the California Philharmonic with the vision to create a world-class orchestra. During his time with the orchestra, he would often turn to his audience and tell them anecdotes about certain classical pieces and their composers. He was known for being a very approachable figure and many of the audience of the California Philharmonic’s performances as much to hear the beautiful music as to hear Vener’s comments.

The orchestra was the first non-resident ensemble to program subscription series concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall, beginning in 2003.

Throughout his career, Vener earned many awards including a Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting from USC as well as the Fromm Fellowship to Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony, the Gold Medal of Special Merit from Vienna, commendations by the U.S. Congress, California’s State Senate and Assembly and the County of Los Angeles. He was also awarded the California Arts Council’s Artist in Residence Grant three times and received the Pasadena Arts Council’s coveted Gold Crown Award.