Sharing Musical Inspiration with Maestro Carlo Ponti and the Los Angeles Virtuosi Orchestra

PUBLISHED
April 13, 2024
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Maestro Carlo Ponti is a renowned conductor known for taking audiences of all ages on musical journeys of unique interpretive depth.

For the past decade, he’s been sharing his passion and experience to help other young talent find their inspiration and experience the power of music as the Music and Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Virtuosi Orchestra, an ensemble that emphasizes music’s education value.

Born into the Arts
Born in Geneva, Switzerland to the late film producer Carlo Ponti Sr. and Italian actress Sophia Loren, Ponti was immersed in an artistic environment from a young age. He considers it a privilege, as his parents were international icons and keen afficionados of classical music.
According to Ponti, one of his most cherished memories was listening to classical masterpieces at home with his parents. Early on, his father suggested Ponti should become a musician or conductor, which not being musically inclined himself, he would’ve been proud to see.
From 1994 to 1996, Ponti worked at the Conductor’s Institute in Connecticut under the direction of Harold Farberman, then Mehli Mehta, Zubin Mehta, and Andry Boreyko in Los Angeles until 1999. He then furthered his musical studies in Austria at the Vienna Musikhochschule under Leopold Hager and Erwin Acel until 2001.

His career has flourished in the years since. He’s led some of the most renowned orchestras in the world, including the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, Orequesta de Valencia, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra, and many more. Many of his performances have been featured on ABC, NBC/Universal, PBS, Spectrum, Symphony Magazine, and the Associated Press.

He has guest conducted internationally and won awards, including Italy’s Premio Galileo award in 2006 for exceptional musical achievement and the Premio Civitas 2014 award in Naples. He was also a co-recipient of the Lupa di Roma prize in Rome in 2011 and among the list of awardees of Italy’s Assoutenti 40th Anniversary Awards in 2022 for his dedication to the development of orchestral music as a cross-cultural tool for the promotion of peace, unity, and communication between nations.
In his work with music education, Ponti won the 2008 Artistic Achievement Award from the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition and the 2009 Spirit of Hope Award from the Childhelp Foundation for his contributions to the development of young musical talent.
The Impact of Music
Reminiscing about the family time listening to music, Ponti illustrates the purpose orchestras have in their community. “In this day and age, with everything becoming so digitalized, it’s [orchestra] one of the only artistic fields that you cannot digitalize.

"You cannot digitalize the impact of a life performance with musicians actually performing their instruments, putting the pair of the ball on the strings, you know that physicality, touching a key, blowing into a reed – it’s such a real and analog activity.

It’s one of the last art forms which is really detached from that electronic cyber reality. It’s a very empowering thing."

It was this sentiment that led him to get involved with educational programs. Education is important to him personally, so it was only natural for him to create an orchestra – The Los Angeles Virtuosi Orchestra – with a mission to support the study of music and young musical talent.
The orchestra is based in Los Angeles and works with a lot of public partner schools to develop their music programs. One of the consistent partner schools is Pacoima Elementary School in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California. When Ponti’s program began, there wasn’t any music program at all.
They wanted to start an instruction program, so Ponti’s orchestra supported them by donating their first violin. The program grew quickly, now supporting 50 or 60 students in the violin instruction program. These efforts help to impact the community in a positive way and integrate young musical talent into the orchestra’s concerts.
However, it’s not a youth orchestra. It’s a professional orchestra with some of the best musicians in Los Angeles. Young talent has the opportunity to perform as soloists or in groups within a professional orchestra and gain real-world experience. The challenge pushes them to their highest level.

Talent Runs in the Family

Ponti’s son, Vittorio Leone Ponti, shares his father’s gift for music. At 16, he and his father decided to do a father-son experiment to see what it would be like to play with his orchestra with his dad conducting.
Naturally, this undertaking was quite a bit of work in addiction to school, but Vittorio says he’s “been inspired” by both parents.” His father is a famous conductor, his mother is a violinist, and Vittorio’s gift is the piano.
Though Vittorio isn’t sure if he’ll follow in his parents’ footsteps as a professional musician, he’s still passionate about the piano. He’s also interested in finance, which is a departure from music, but he hopes to integrate the two.

“If I could find a way to make finance and music kind of go together, that’d be great, but who knows. I haven’t really found anything like that yet. Maybe I’ll create it,” says Vittorio.

He’s in good company. His parents both play professionally, and his sister plays the guitar. But for Vittorio, the most motivating experience was a recital that he would do a few times a year with the Los Angeles Virtuosi Orchestra. In playing alongside professional musicians, Vittorio had a glimpse of what he’d like in the future.

“Even if it’s not music, [the orchestra] has definitely had an impact on my life to experience what it feels like to really strive for an end goal, practice deeply, and do something I feel very privileged to do – continue the legacy of my father’s orchestra and give back to the community.”

Inspiring Young Talent with Music Education

Whatever the future holds for Vittorio, Ponti couldn’t be prouder. “My son Vittorio is extremely talented. I’m extremely proud of him. It’s his first concerto that he’s playing in its entirety.

 

As Vittorio plays Bach D Minor Concerto Number One from memory, Ponti once again highlights the power of music.

“It gives young people focus, a certain direction and diligence, and a sense of achievement. Of course, they will have been exposed to so many qualities that they can apply to whatever path they choose.

“The most important thing is to find what you really love doing. It’s all about the pleasure of having an interest, of having a passion. It doesn’t matter if you become the best or the most famous. What really matters is to find something that you love doing.”

As Ponti and the Los Angeles Virtuosi Orchestra look to celebrate their 10th season – the 2024-25 season – and their “best season ever,” he reflects on the impact.

“We’ve integrated the most young talent that we’ve ever had, changing lives one step at a time, one person at a time, and giving them all the experience of performing with a professional ensemble. Giving them the real-world experience and a chance at exposure through a professional orchestra, which they can use afterwards in their burgeoning career.”

Credits

Director/Producer
DoP
Alexis Mendez
Camera
Matthew Milincu
EDITOR
JOSE RODRIGUEZ

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