At a recent meeting of the Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra (TACO), after musicians found their seating sections, chit-chatted and tuned up, the group launched into its first piece. The melody was recognizable — Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” — albeit at a slower pace than the brisk tempo with which listeners may be more familiar.
“Let’s do it a little faster?” conductor Cathy Humphers Smith asked the group, which reacted with hesitation and some nervous laughter. “Let’s do it again, for fun, at the same tempo?” she countered. After another, somewhat smoother time playing through, Humphers Smith beamed at her ensemble. “Give yourself a hand, that was beautiful.”
Founded and directed by Los Altos resident Cathy Humphers-Smith, a former director of Music for Minors in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, TACO began as a weekly gathering of musical friends in her living room. When the group grew to over 20 musicians, it became a non-profit under the umbrella of the Los Altos Community Foundation and moved to rented classroom space at Hillview Center.
As TACO continued to flourish it became an official class offered by the Los Altos Park and Recreation Department, which enabling them to meet at the larger Los Altos Youth Center.
Now one Sunday each month, 75 musicians ranging in age from teens to 80s converge to make music.
Creating this monthly sight-reading orchestra gave local musicians a place to keep their music alive, without the intense weekly commitment and stressful auditions sometimes required by other orchestras.
As one TACO participant said, “I love the music this month and I’ve been practicing, though some pieces are too fast for me. But I know I will have fun no matter what happens to my ability to hit the notes”.
Ms. Humphers-Smith, a pianist and choral conductor, said she “…always fantasized about an all-inclusive orchestra, one that welcomed people of all levels, where everyone helped each other to improve, without the insistence on perfection and without attitude.”
Los Altos Community Foundation is proud to support TACO through our non-profit fiscal sponsorship program and through our Community Grants program.