Connection to Symphony Spurs Gift for Its Future

three men playing trumpets

Russ Irwin

Russ Irwin has had a lifelong love of music and the San Francisco Symphony. Russ is supporting the Symphony’s future with a gift in his estate.

San Francisco Symphony lover Russ Irwin has lived in the Bay Area his entire life, and his family has been in the region for generations. His great-grandfather on his mother's side was a foreman on the narrow gauge railroad out of Point Reyes Station. His great-grandmother on his father's side was postmaster of the Lorin District in Berkeley.

Russ' history with the Symphony is also extensive. As a child, neighbors took him and other children from Albany to the Symphony's Young People's Concerts. During college, Russ volunteered as an usher at the War Memorial Opera House, the Symphony's erstwhile home.

Russ was steeped in classical standards in his early life, but an encounter with one of the greatest musical innovators of the 20th century solidified his interest in the future of orchestral music. In 1956, at an Oakland Symphony performance, Russ introduced himself to Igor Stravinsky as the composer walked up the aisle. Russ recalls his ecstatic greeting, "Maestro, I'm so happy I didn't have to wait 150 years to like your music!"

Russ' interest in, and commitment to, contemporary classical music continues to this day. As a board member of the Ojai Music Festival, Russ has formed friendships with many of today's leading composers and conductors.

Russ made his initial foray into commissioning music when he became involved in a Meet the Composer Project for emerging female composers, a competition partially funded with the remaining assets of the Women's Philharmonic. Dorothy Chang won the competition, and her composition was performed at the Cabrillo Festival, but Russ still keeps an ear out for all the finalists. He has since commissioned numerous other contemporary works.

Russ has been equally invested in other important facets of the Symphony's future—encouraging young musicians and audience members. For years, Russ has volunteered at the Symphony's Concerts for Kids performances, special weekday concerts for school groups that are presented at Davies Symphony Hall and serve 30,000 students throughout Northern California.

Russ has also chaperoned a tour by the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. He fondly remembers the incredibly warm reception by audiences in Berlin, Munich and Prague. He still enjoys encountering many of his now grown charges at Davies Symphony Hall, although he admits they usually recognize him first.

Russ thoroughly enjoys the personal, enriching connections he has made through his musical involvement and—in keeping with his visionary tastes—has made a significant commitment to the Symphony's future by including a gift to the Symphony's education programs in his estate plan. By doing so, he has helped ensure access to classical music for the Bay Area's current and future generations.

You can follow in Russ' footsteps and extend your support for the Symphony's future with a gift in your estate plan. Contact David Zhang, J.D. at or 415-503-5445 to get started.