Frank Paul Fetta, longtime conductor of the Inland Orchestras and the driving force behind the Redlands Bowl, has passed away.
He will be remembered on Saturday night at the San Bernardino Symphony concert at the California Theater of the Performing Arts.
Fetta’s recent death was announced Thursday on the Redlands Bowl Facebook page, which cited illness as the cause of death. More details were not available at the time of publication.
Fetta’s family wish to remain private and have said there will be no memorial, according to Beverly Noerr, executive director of Redlands Bowl Performing Arts.
The staff at the Redlands Bowl and the music community in Inland are feeling the loss, she said in a phone interview.
She said one of her earliest memories of Fetta dates back to 2002, when he played piano for Cathy Rigby at the Bowl. She was singing songs from Dr. Seuss’ musical “Seussical” and he put on a big “The Cat in the Hat” style hat.
“It was so adorable. I knew I was going to love him because he was ready for anything.
Redlands Bowl Program Director Valerie Peister recalled holding the 46th International Trombone Festival at the University of Redlands in 2017 and Fetta arranged to lead the show “76 Trombones” at the Bowl with over 76 trombone players.
“Frank could pull this off,” she said. “When he had an idea, it was always great, and he could always make it happen.”
Fetta’s association with the Redlands Bowl began in 1976 when a troupe he was a part of called Opera a la Carte in 1976. He returned in 1979 to produce and conduct a performance of the opera “Romeo and Juliet ”. He became conductor and director of the Redlands Bowl Symphony Orchestra in 1985.
He was also conductor of the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra from 2013 to 2016, after the departure of Carlo Ponti.
“He was always there when we needed him,” said Anne L. Viricel, executive director of the San Bernardino Symphony.
Fetta will be remembered on Saturday night at the San Bernardino Symphony concert at the California Theater of the Performing Arts.
This will be the orchestra’s first concert there since the coronavirus pandemic lockdown in March 2020. It will be conducted by Music Director Anthony Parnther and will feature a new composition called “Impermanence” by Chandra Dancy which Viricel says would be performed in homage to the lost. relatives, including Fetta.
Fetta, who was around 70, was born in New Jersey and attended Ithaca College, according to a 2015 Redlands Magazine article. He says his interest in music started with his mother, who taught him the piano from an early age.
Viricel remembered him as a lovely person who was able to connect with young people when he visited schools in the interior.
“The kids just loved him,” she said.
The Redlands Bowl credits Fetta for revitalizing its annual competition for young artists.
The 2002 winner was soprano Angel Blue, who went on to sing the lead roles “La Bohème” and “Porgy and Bess” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
“I met him when I was 19 and had no idea what I was doing when I auditioned. I was just a young student who really loved opera. I was competing against people who were more seasoned than me, ”she told Redlands Daily Facts in 2017.“ I came in and everyone had a chaperone. I only had a stereo player. He said, ‘If you can come in and sing like that with a ghetto blaster, you deserve to win.’ “
“Frank was a passionate advocate for the arts,” said Paul Ideker, President and CEO of the Redlands Symphony. “We’re all better for him.”
Fetta’s last Redlands Bowl appearance was a number with soloist Giada Valenti in the 2021 opening concert.
He was recognized at the last Redlands Bowl performance in 2021 when it was announced ahead of time that he had been selected as the Redlands Bowl Performing Arts 2021-2022 Hero of the Arts. This honor is typically announced at a Redlands Bowl banquet earlier this year and will be formalized at next winter’s banquet, according to Noerr.
A resident of Los Angeles, he has served as Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Marina del Rey Summer Symphony. He has been active throughout Southern California, working with the Sinfonia Mexicana, Los Angeles Opera, Pasadena Symphony, and San Diego Symphony, according to the Redlands Bowl.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct Fetta’s hometown and the year Beverly Noerr remembers Fetta playing piano for Cathy Rigby at the Bowl.