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Meet Zain Khan of Vicente Chamber Orchestra in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zain Khan.

Zain, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I majored in Music at USC in the late 80’s early 90’s and was a professional violist working in Los Angeles. During that time, I also studied conducting with Mehli Mehta (Zubin Mehta’s father) and performed with him in the American Youth Symphony. In my mid-20’s, I was about to become the Assistant Conductor to Yehudi Menuhin (famed violinist), but this never transpired due to reasons that I never knew. So, at that point, I decided to change my life and career path of music and went into business school. While attending Loyola Marymount’s Graduate School of Business, I created my own company out of a garage. This was back in 1999. I was determined to create new opportunities for myself and, one day, go back into music. This didn’t happen until 2017 when I realized that our time on this planet is truly limited (I had lost a few friends to Cancer who were really young). So, I was determined to start my own orchestra – something that I dreamt about for many years. In 2017, I formed the Vicente Chamber Orchestra. With little money, no Board, I embarked on my journey to create – from nothing – a chamber orchestra. Despite some of my closest friends telling me to not waste my time (“who will come and play,” or “who will come and listen.” or “LA has a lot of great groups – why YOU?”), I went ahead anyway. That year, I formed the Vicente Chamber Orchestra and today, we perform to sold out audiences at the Broad Stage and invite some of the most celebrated classical musicians to perform with our group.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Forming the Vicente Chamber Orchestra has not been smooth at all. We are a small, nonprofit organization that survives off of generous donations from friends and ticket sales. While there are many worthy organizations to support in Los Angeles, small arts groups like Vicente Chamber Orchestra is not considered a priority. So, raising funds is a challenge – as it is for many groups like the Vicente Chamber Orchestra. Yet, what we do for the community is profound; in 2019, the Vicente Chamber Orchestra performed four concerts. Over 1000 people from all over Los Angeles attended our events, which include a free reception at the end of each concert. We strive to be more than just a performing organization; the Vicente Chamber Orchestra is truly a community – a community of musicians and local audiences who come together and enjoy music. The Vicente Chamber Orchestra is a growing entity, and our growth has presented new challenges along the way, such as a lack of rehearsal venues that we can afford, to limited access to amazing spaces like the Broad Stage, etc.

Please tell us about Vicente Chamber Orchestra.
The Vicente Chamber Orchestra is a classical chamber orchestra that is focused on performing works by Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, and so on. What set’s our orchestra apart are the musicians in the orchestra; many of our musicians are non-professional working musicians who do other things to make a living. Like me, many of these musicians were professionally trained on their instruments but chose to make livings doing something other than music. All of our musicians are truly amazing and that’s why the Vicente Chamber Orchestra is so special. Not all amateur groups are amateur.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
All of the musicians in the Vicente Chamber Orchestra deserve credit. Not just me. Together, we have formed a truly remarkable. Many of our musicians volunteer 100 percent of their time. Some of these musicians drive 3 hours each way to rehearsal and back. Without them, there would be no orchestra!

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