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Holiday performances keep Ahwatukee couple busy

Eighteen area musicians are among The Phoenix Symphony playing Handel’s “Messiah” at the Mesa Arts Center this Friday.

The 7:30 p.m. performance by the 66-member orchestra is one of several dozen presented throughout the Valley this holiday season, most of which are sellouts.

The remainder of the symphony members are involved in more than 18 performances of “The Nutcracker” at Symphony Hall in Phoenix through Dec. 24.

The split schedule keeps Ahwatukee couple Michael and Dian D’Avanzo busy: Michael, a cellist, performs in “The Messiah” while Dian, a violinist and assistant concertmaster, heads to “The Nutcracker” shows.

“I did a double ‘Nutcracker’ Saturday and Sunday,” said Dian, who has been with the symphony for 20 years since winning her audition at age 24. She met her husband there when he arrived fresh from the Juilliard School. The couple’s daughters, Amelia, 12 and Elena, 9, attend Summit School, and the elder dances in “The Nutcracker.”

“It’s the season!” said Dian of the family’s frantic schedule.

It’s generally not the case for the D’Avanzos, another Ahwatukee couple in the Phoenix Symphony.

“The nice thing is, except for this season, we go to work together. And there’s a lot of understanding knowing what it takes to do the job, and giving each other the time and space for practice,” she said.

Another Ahwatukee-based symphony couple is violinist Anna Kim Kazepides and her husband Michael Kazepides, acting principal bass.

Anna, performing in “The Messiah,” joined the symphony in 1997, arriving from New York City.

“It’s a full schedule: In the morning we go to rehearse, practice in the afternoon and then go back to play a concert,” she said. “Although we’re playing the same music, every time it’s different because we’re playing in different venues. We did one last week at Grand Canyon University’s new arena, which was wonderful.”

“Playing so much, physically, can be pretty tiring but people always seem to enjoy it and are so appreciative. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without The Messiah!”

Mesa resident Emery Harvison, assistant principal trumpet for the Phoenix Symphony who earned a master’s in trumpet performance at Arizona State University, said that as grueling as the schedule is, it remains “a dream come true to play music for a living.”

He said he is especially looking forward to playing at the 1,500-seat Mesa Arts Center, their second annual appearance there performing “The Messiah.”

Other Southeast Valley musicians performing with the Phoenix Symphony are Barbara Bingham, Frederick Chao, Dumitru Larzarescu, Glenn Stallcop and Jing Zeng, all of Ahwatukee; Nancy Dimond, Ben Nguyen and Jan Septon, of Tempe; A. Michael Brown, Steve Koscica, Dana Pasley, Bruce Pulk, and Lan Qui, Chandler.

Tickets are still available for the Mesa Arts Center performance. Call 480-644-6500