|This photo illustration shows UC's James Kellaris playing his mandolin, with an image of the Golden Gate Bridge behind him.|
This new UC connection to the Golden Gate Bridge and noteworthy UC role in the bridge's 75th anniversary celebration is most fitting since it was UC engineering alum Joseph Strauss who served as the Golden Gate's designer and builder. The landmark structure, considered an "engineering impossibility," even incorporates a brick from UC's old McMicken Hall, deliberately placed there by Strauss to mark his life's crowning achievement.
When it opened on May 27, 1937, it's estimated that 200,000 pedestrians crossed the Golden Gate to mark the occasion. And appropriately, it's expected that an audience of equal size will hear Kellaris' work, titled "Chrysopylae Reflections." In Greek, the term chrysopylae means "golden gate."
The term (chrysopylae) was used in 1846 by U.S. military officer and explorer John C. Fremont, referring to the narrow strait separating the San Francisco peninsula from the Marin headlands, the site of the Golden Gate Bridge.
“I’m told they are expecting 200,000 plus in the audience along the shore,” Kellaris says.
Kellaris says he drew his creative inspiration for the eight-minute classical score composed for the plucked string orchestra from a favorite childhood memory.
“I recall crossing the bridge as a child in the back seat of my parents’ car with sunlight flickering on my face from the shadows of the bridge’s cables, like an 8-mm movie projector,” Kellaris says. “The rhythmic pulses of the music reflect that flickering light.”
Music has been a common denominator throughout Kellaris’ life. He was five when he picked up his grandfather’s mandolin, nine when he began formal study on classical guitar and later earned a scholarship to study music at Georgia State University. He later returned to graduate school, playing music to pay his way for master's and doctoral degrees in marketing.
“Music allowed me to pay for school — to earn three degrees and graduate without accruing any debt,” Kellaris says.
His graduate thesis focused on music, specifically the influences of music on consumers.
As a professor, his research earned national and international press coverage when he explored the phenomenon of “earworms,” the result when a catchy tune gets stuck in your head.
The weekend musician,who can play any fretted string instrument and occasionally moonlights with the Dayton Mandolin Orchestra and various other musical groups, says he plans to attend the last two performances of the SFMO on June 2 and 3 in Berkley and San Francisco. Kellaris will give pre-concert lectures to audiences on the creative process he used in writing the music.
Kellaris is pleased that his musical composition was chosen by an expert panel of professional musicians as “memorable, enjoyable for the average audience, but with sufficient depth and musical sophistication to have lasting value,” according to competition criteria.
To Kellaris, the award confers “lifelong bragging rights.”