Meet TACO: The terribly fun, low-stress, no-pressure orchestra

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.”

Read the full article at Palo Alto Weekly.

• Launched in January 2011 TACO has grown to a robust group of 50 to 60 regular players.

• Inspired by the Really Terrible Orchestra (RTO) of Scotland.

• Musicians of all skill levels from beginners to local music teachers share an afternoon of music making.

• Our library of music includes a range from the classics to show tunes.

• We don’t rehearse for performances. This is a social orchestra, not a performance orchestra.

• New music provided every month which you can practice if you wish.

• To participate in TACO you must be able to laugh at mistakes.

• We meet on the last Sunday of each month, from September through June excluding holidays, from 2 to 5 pm.

• Gatherings include a brief social time for musicians to share ideas and resources.

• Friends and family are always welcome to attend.

• Musicians bring their instrument, a music stand, their music, an appetizer to share once during the year, and lots of good humor!

Learn how to become a member.

TACO is a program of the Los Altos Community Foundation.

What is TACO

‘TACO’, the Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra, is a group of people of all skill levels who like to play music for the joy of making music together.

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.