Meet our musicians


Maestra Sonia Marie De Leon de Vega, conductor of Santa Cecilia OrchestraName: Sonia Marie De Leon de Vega

Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas

Instrument: Orchestra, piano and organ

Age I started studying my instrument:  5 years old

How did you choose your instrument?  I come from a musical family.  My dad was a musician and I wanted to be like him. My brother started music lessons, so I wanted lessons too. He selected the saxophone – I chose the piano.

Education: Life

Favorite composers: Whomever I am studying or conducting at the moment. Amongst my favorite are Beethoven, Brahms and Arturo Marquez.

What’s on my iPod: Everything!   Besides classical music I love all kinds of music and lots of ethnic music.  I listen to a lot of Arabic music, Hawaiian music, romantic Spanish music as well as musica ranchera, Gregorian chant, Chinese Music, Rap and Rock, such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

Your favorite weekend: I love traveling, so my favorite weekend would consist of being somewhere else in the world discovering, exploring and enjoying life.  Perhaps swimming at Ke’e beach on the island of Kauai or having a glass of wine at a bistro in Paris.  At home I like to spend time with my husband and son, gardening, playing board games, building puzzles, watching movies or going out to the movies and always the bookstore! My weekend starts with spending Friday evenings at my sister’s house having “Viernes social” with our families, my mother and our neighbors. Sunday is my favorite day to relax and share a special meal.

My favorite books are: I love to read. Most recently my favorite book is Snow Girl by Eowyn Ivey. I’ve read all books by Lisa See. I love her writing and everything about Chinese History. I love reading books about other cultures.  Sometimes I read on my IPad, but nothing beats the feel of a book and the turn of a page.

My favorite movies are: Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and foreign films, most especially French films. I love discovering movies on Netflix. On TV, my favorite program is Downton Abbey.

My favorite food is: I love to cook, so I try many foods. Brag alert:  I’m a great cook and I could cook anything and recreate any dish I taste. I have a vast collection of cookbooks that I read to get ideas and inspiration. I cook food from all around the world. My favorite days are spent making long elaborate meals or making my own bread, butter and jam. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the time to do this, but I plan all meals a week in advance and always eat a lot of vegetables and fruit and stay away from fast food.

My favorite cartoon character or superhero is (and why): Leela from Futurama by Matt Groening. She shows great leadership, is commanding, very smart, funny, witty, sarcastic and strong minded.

Some little-known, yet interesting, fact about you: I love to write and I write a lot about travel. I blog when I travel and as my hobby I am a travel expert on a very well known travel website.

What is unique about Santa Cecilia Orchestra? (Or 3 words to describe Santa Cecilia Orchestra)  We have Passionate musicians and an incredibly enthusiastic audience. The most unique and amazing thing about Santa Cecilia Orchestra is our audience. We have an audience unlike any other orchestra!  Our audience is made up of families. I love looking out into the audience and seeing children with their moms, dads and grandparents enjoying wonderful concert together.  

Yi-Huan Zhao, violinist of Santa Cecilia OrchestraName: Yihuan Zhao

Birthplace: Shanghai, China

Instrument: Violin

Age I started studying my instrument: 6 years old

How did you choose your instrument? My father is a violin professor so he started me on the violin.

Education: Shanghai Conservatory of Music and USC

Favorite composers: Mozart

What’s on my iPod: Everything from Symphony, Opera, Concertos to Rap, Pop and Jazz.

Your favorite weekend: Spending time with my daughter at the museums

My Favorite books are: Chinese Classic Literature

My Favorite movies are: Alfred Hitchcock movies

My favorite food is: Steak

My favorite cartoon character or superhero is (and why): Batman because he got to drive the Bat-mobile.

Some little-known, yet interesting, fact about you: I like to play card games and interested in all sports.

What is unique about Santa Cecilia Orchestra? (Or 3 words to describe Santa Cecilia Orchestra): The Santa Cecilia Orchestra is the only local orchestra I know to really reach out to local schools and encourage the students to attend all the concerts.

salpy-wName: Salpy Kerkonian

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois

Instrument : Flute

Age I started studying my instrument : 7

How did you choose your instrument: My LA Unified Public School brought all the orchestral instruments to my elementary school. From the first moment, I knew I would choose the flute.

Education: USC School of Music – Masters and Bachelors Degrees in Music.

Favorite Composers: Each has a brilliance of their own.

What’s on my iPod: I don’t own one, but on youtube, I listen to a variety of styles and artists— from Bruno Mars to Rhianna, American standards, and film music.

Favorite weekend: Spending time with cherished friends and family, or traveling.

Favorite books: Poetry and philosophy.

My favorite films: International films, and modern American classics

My favorite food: All the world’s foods are fabulous! Preparing food is an art form much like music- you prepare every aspect of the meal with great care and detail, with the ultimate goal and intention of sharing it and serving it to others.

Favorite Cartoon characters: Tweety and Sylvester and all the Looney Tunes. So often during the SCO in–school Discovering Music concerts many students share that they still enjoy these classic, zany, wacky cartoons.

Some little known fact about me: I’ve always had a passion to be a race car Driver– and the color of my car would have to be RED!

What is unique about SCO: “We are all one”– the passionate orchestra, the incredible audience, the masterful composers. We are each a vital part of the extraordinary SCO experience !!! Together !!! We are all one!!!