About Pontiac Bay

 Advisory Council
Director / Founder
Guest Conductors
Story Behind the Name



Featuring music from Film, Theater, and Television, Pontiac Bay Symphony Orchestra is a blend of professional musicians, members of other orchestras, and music teachers, performing together with accomplished and aspiring youth musicians, as young as age 13 up through college.


Pontiac Bay also provides a unique opportunity for youth and adult musicians to experience and perform a diverse and challenging range of orchestral music, including music from classic and contemporary film and television, classic jazz standards, and musical theater. 


In addition, the orchestra provides unique performance experiences such as accompanying professional vocalists in concert, performing live to classic silent films, and performing in old-time radio show productions with guest actors and vocalists.


Pontiac Bay also performs at special events outside of its regular concert season. The orchestra performed at a national, old-time radio convention in June 2007, was the opening performance group at the Magnuson Park 2008 Summer Concert series, and performed at the Pacific Science Center in November 2008 for the Animaticus Foundation's Annual Animation Festival.


Those who come to a Pontiac Bay event are consistently amazed and impressed with what they hear, and are thoroughly entertained. Take a moment to read a few comments:


The arrival of a new orchestra on the Northwest scene is always an occasion. And the newest kid on the block, Pontiac Bay Symphony Orchestra, is drawing an unusual amount of interest, at least partly because its founder has created a niche all her own. Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times Music Critic (2003)


I'm really excited about conducting this orchestra. It's a great idea . . . I believe film music is the contemporary orchestral music that people are attached to. These kids are doing a pretty spectacular job. Hummie Mann, Hollywood Film and TV Composer, Two-Time Emmy Award Winner, and Guest Conductor (2004)


When I was asked to work with Pontiac Bay, I had no idea what to expect regarding the quality of the orchestra's musicianship. I was more than pleasantly surprised when I was challenged to bring my work up to their level. Larry Albert, Veteran Actor, Actor/Executive Director/Writer with Jim French Productions Imagination Theatre, and Pontiac Bay Guest Artist (March and December, 2007)


The Pontiac Bay Symphony Orchestra does more than just provide learning and mentoring opportunities for youth musicians. They build community and create magical moments through the music of stage, film, and television that we all know and love. Michael Dudley, Baritone, Member of the Seattle Opera Chorus, and Pontiac Bay Guest Artist (June 2007)




Pontiac Bay  Symphony Orchestra was founded to:

The orchestra generally presents three concerts a season (December, March, June), and all performances feature established guest conductors. Participation in the orchestra is free to the youth and adult musicians, but does require an audition and interview. Also, placement in the orchestra is for the full concert season. During the season, the youth participants rehearse with the adult musicians who assist them in preparing for the concert performances.


Auditions are held during the Summer and Fall each year for an upcoming concert season, and can also be arranged throughout the year. Pontiac Bay often uses Adult Subs as well for individual concerts.


The youth participants are strong intermediate and advanced players, and the adult musicians include members of other orchestras, music teachers, and professional and semi-professional players.


Pontiac Bay Symphony Orchestra is a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 nonprofit, incorporated in the State of Washington.



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Director and Founder


Sheila Espinoza, an award-winning composer, has composed and orchestrated music for PBS programming, educational  video, short dramatic film, documentary, musical theater, television, and concert performance, including several large works for symphony orchestra.


She founded Pontiac Bay to provide motivated youth musicians with an orchestra performance and mentoring opportunity, provide an opportunity for them to experience and perform concert music other than traditional orchestra repertoire, and provide ongoing concert performances of music from film and television.


Ms. Espinoza's concert music has been performed by several NW groups, and she has received numerous awards for her music, including an Artist Trust award, a Meet The Composer award (funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Virgil Thomson Foundation, and ASCAP), an ITVA (International Television Association) Silver Award of Merit, and annual ASCAP Plus Awards from 2001 through 2010.


She also received King County Municipal League's "Citizen of the Year" civic award in 2003 for founding Pontiac Bay Symphony Orchestra. In 2004, she was commissioned by Bellevue Youth Symphony to compose an orchestral work commemorating their 40th anniversary. The new work, titled The Stowaway, was performed in March 2005. In March 2009, Pontiac Bay performed one of the movements from her orchestral work, Way Out West.


As Director of Pontiac Bay, she interacts with the Board of Directors and the members of the Advisory Council to carry out the management and operations of the organization and advance the organization's goals.



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Guest Conductors



2010  Concert Season




Guest Conductor, Lauren Anderson


Concert I Sunday, March 14, 2010




Guest Conductor, Lauren Anderson


Concert II Sunday, June 6, 2010





The guest conductors for each season are selected based on their professional experience in music education, conducting, working with youth and adult musicians, their knowledge of music from film, television, and theater, and the unique experiences and perspectives they can bring to the orchestra.


The guest conductors lead all the rehearsals and concerts, and lend their expertise overall to the orchestra. In addition, part of their task is to help enrich the performance skills and knowledge of the young musicians and prepare them for the concerts. 


Past guest conductors have included renowned professionals such as film composer Hummie Mann, and conductor, musician, and teacher, Lauren Anderson.



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Advisory Council


The Advisory Council for Pontiac Bay Symphony Orchestra is a volunteer group consisting of music educators, music professionals, members of the arts community, and an accountant and attorney.


The Council functions in an advisory capacity, individually and collectively, to the Board of Directors and the Director of Pontiac Bay Symphony Orchestra. Members are selected based on their support of the organization’s purpose as well as the expertise, knowledge, and experience they can lend.


Council members attend periodic Board meetings and are also asked to attend the concert performances, when possible. They serve solely in an advisory capacity, the positions are non-voting, and the one-year terms are renewable at the end of each season.



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Story Behind the Name


It comes as a surprise to most in Seattle that just north of the prominent peninsula at Sand Point Magnuson Park is a small bay called Pontiac Bay.


Dating back to the mid 1800s, the land by the bay was also home to extensive forests, wetlands, wildlife, marshes, and 15-acre Mud Lake — a popular fishing hole destination for the “city dwellers” in Seattle. 


Early settlers were also drawn to the natural beauty and began to populate the area in the 1860s under the Homestead Act. For the next four decades, the new arrivals lived contentedly alongside the Native Americans who had long resided in the area for the same reasons, and whose Indian name translated into “People of the Lake.”


A new “village” called Pontiac soon sprang up near the shore of Pontiac Bay. Named after Chief Pontiac of the Great Lakes region and leader of the Ottawa tribe, the former village of Pontiac is now part of the area at Sand Point Magnuson Park near the NOAA headquarters.


The main road into the village was also called Pontiac. Today, it's called Sand Point Way and even follows the route of old Pontiac Road. The original road came to an end near the village, but when most of the bay was filled in during the 1920s, the road was extended northward along the western shoreline of Lake Washington.


By the late 1800s, Pontiac was a bustling community with a variety of businesses — the Pontiac Brick and Tile Company, the Martson Chicken Ranch, a greenhouse and nursery, a post office, and a shipyard company.


In 1889, the Seattle, Lake Shore, and Eastern (SLS&E) Railroad established a train station in Pontiac. The new line not only brought more people to the area, but also saw Pontiac citizens become some of the region's first commuters as they took the train to jobs in Pioneer Square. The railroad bed for the SLS&E Railroad line ultimately became the Burke-Gilman trail after the railroad ties were removed.


The Navy acquired Sand Point from King County in 1926, at no cost, after the federal government "condemned" the area to clear the way for construction of a naval station. Sadly, much of the land, including the bay, old forest paths, peat bogs, knolls, wetlands, and the popular Mud Lake fishing hole were filled in or leveled to create runways, roads, hangars, bunkers, and buildings. The chicken coops from the former chicken ranch were turned into temporary barracks, and the mansion of one of the residents was converted into an Administration building as Sand Point transformed into an active military base.


In the 1970s, due to the efforts of Senator Warren G. Magnuson, the site was divided into two parcels after 312 acres of land were returned to the City of Seattle. One parcel was for the construction of NOAA and the other for the development of an extensive, public park — thus restoring and realizing the vision of the early Native Americans and settlers 100 years before.


The story came full circle in the 1990s when the rest of the land appropriated by the Navy decades earlier was returned to the City of Seattle. Development began again to make Sand Point a destination for those seeking the wildlife, water, and the nature of the outdoors.


Sand Point Magnuson Park served as the home to Pontiac Bay Symphony Orchestra's rehearsal sessions from January 2004 to June 2010.



Sheila Espinoza, Director and Founder 
    Pontiac Bay Symphony Orchestra 




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