WHO WAS JAMES K. GUTHRIE
Maestro James K. Guthrie
James Kelley Guthrie, son of James A. Guthrie, publisher of the San Bernardino
Sun, began his musical careet at the age of fifteen. In 1929, he formed an orchestra
of 60 professional, amateur and retired musicians from the San Bernardino
community and the Los Angeles area to form the San Bernardino Community
Orchestra, the forerunner of the Inland Empire Symphony Orchestra. Two years
later, he was its music director. With this energetic start, James K. Guthrie began a
conducting career that spanned more than six decades.
His road toward the conductor’s podium was solidified when he introduced
himself to Dr. Alfred Hertz, conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, and the
founder of the summer concert series at the Hollywood Bowl. Dr. Hertz not only
advised young Guthrie, but took him as a pupil. At seventeen, Guthrie conducted
his first opera, “Don Pasquale” with the Riverside Opera Company.
Maestro Guthrie went on to attend the University of Redlands, and afterward
expanded his training with Maestros Cimini and Berezowski. At twenty-two, he
was engaged as the chief conductor of the Hollywood Grand Opera and conducted
its first performance of Verdi’s “Aida” before an audience of 5,000 at the Los
Angeles Shrine Auditorium. After this performance he gained national attention
in the press and on the pages of “Life” and “Time” magazines as the nations’
youngest “full-fledged” conductor.
Maestro Guthrie’s musical career flowed in tandem with his life as a
newspaperman and publisher. From 1964-1969 he was the owner and publisher
of the San Bernardino Sun. He also was a community leader, serving as a special
deputy with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office from 1931 to 1996. In this
position, he was instrumental in improving the education opportunities and living
conditions for the inmates.
During his career, Guthrie collected musical scores and in 1974 he founded
the Guthrie Music Rental Library. Through the library, he provided scorres and
orchestra music to thousands of schools, colleges, and orchestras (both major
and new struggling orchestras) at affordable prices in order to encourage music
performance. He also acquired the library of his friend, James Dolan, librarian
for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Later, Mrs. Louis Palange donated
her late husband’s library to Guthrie, as did Mrs. Leo Damiani. The result is an
extensive and varied musical library full of important and obscure documents.
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