Journal of the San Juan Islands


Finale: ‘Sinfonia’ conductor bids adieu

April 25, 2014 · Updated 10:18 AM

Conductor Ned Griffin, center, leads a 2012 Sinfonia performance. / Contributed photo

By Cali Bagby

Islands’ Weekly editor

Whether in a school on Kodiak Island or conducting Island Sinfonia, Ned Griffin has a simple philosophy—love what you are doing.

“I would not enjoy rehearsal if I didn’t feel the orchestra was enjoying it and enjoying the music we play,” he said.

Because of that joy, it was difficult to make the decision to retire after this season for personal reasons. He and his wife are avid travelers who love hiking and cycling.

“We want to travel while we still can,” said Griffin, who is nearing 70. “But it will be hard to leave Sinfonia.”

You can see Griffin and the 24-person ensemble, from islands in the San Juan archipelago, that makes up Island Sinfonia on Sunday, April 27, 3 p.m., at Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church. For more info, call 468-4422.

Griffin and his wife retired to Shaw Island in 2007. They had been educators in a two-teacher school on Kodiak Island. He joined Island Sinfonia as a trombonist almost immediately after moving to Shaw.

For four seasons, Griffin happily played with his fellow musicians. When conductor Jack Lynch was ready to move on, Griffin was asked to take on the task. He agreed to take on the job. One of the favorite parts of his new position was choosing the music and exploring “lesser known works by mainstream composers and mainstream works by lesser known composers.”

Griffin describes himself as enjoying classical music much it’s really the only music that comes through his ears — not because he dislikes other genres but because classical is simply his favorite.

Although when he picks music for Sinfonia he does not put his preferences first.

“Number one I think, ‘What would the orchestra like?’ Number two I look at the number of people in our organization and the types of instruments they have,” he said. “I have to be aware of what can we do. I also know they enjoy a challenge.”

As conductor, Griffin also adds a bit of “theater” into each concert. He always plans for the most “amusing,” “rousing” or “barn burner” piece to come at the end of the show.

“People take away from concert the last piece they heard,” he said.

After Griffin retires at the end of the season, Orcas Islander and long-time Sinfonia member Jim Shaffer-Bauck will be the new director. Griffin describes him as “multi-talented.” Shaffer-Bauck also conducts the Orcas Island Community Band. Griffin added that he has total faith in Shaffer-Bauck’s abilities, but will be available for help.

“I want to be there if he needs me,” said Griffin.


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