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Forte: Fourth-grade cellist, Santa live their dreams conducting the Yakima Symphony Orchestra

YAKIMA, Wash. -- On Dec. 2, Santa Claus’ wish came true on the stage of The Capitol Theatre. After attending to the wishes of children generation upon generation, he was asked what he — Santa Claus — wanted for Christmas.

After a brief huddled conversation with Maestro Lawrence Golan, Santa Claus stepped onto the podium and conducted the Yakima Symphony Orchestra as members performed Leroy Anderson’s beloved “Sleigh Ride.” He got all of the special cues just right, weaving the percussion section’s sounds of the whip, sleigh bells and horse hooves in and out of the music with flair.

The opportunity to conduct the YSO is highly coveted. One must typically be: 1) named Santa Claus, or 2) the winner of “Conduct the YSO” at YSO’s annual fundraiser, Raise the Baton, or 3) the recipient of “Conduct the YSO” from someone who won it at Raise the Baton.

Over the past several seasons, many “Conduct the YSO” winners have given this opportunity to members of the Yakima Youth Symphony Orchestra and/or Yakima Music en Acción (YAMA). This season, “Conduct the YSO” was gifted to YAMA.

On Dec. 1, fourth-grader and cellist Nia Lopez, selected through conducting auditions at YAMA, stepped onto the podium and conducted the YSO as members performed “Sleigh Ride.”

That was the culmination of a beautiful gift that included enjoying, with her family, a special pre-concert reception with Golan. Twelve family members, along with 75 YAMA friends and family and a full theater, watched and applauded her that evening.

’Tis the season for making wishes come true.

• This column was written by YSO staff. Learn more about the Yakima Symphony Orchestra at

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