By November 21, 2022 Read More →



Holiday Pops! with Nikki Renée Daniels – December 2nd & 3rd

Holiday Candlelight Concert – December 20th

MODESTO, CA – The Modesto Symphony Orchestra’s (MSO) holiday concerts offer fun for the entire family. Complete with holiday décor and your favorite carols, the MSO’s holiday concerts have become community favorites. The first of the MSO’s two holiday concerts is Holiday Pops! on Friday, December 2nd at 7:30 pm and Saturday, December 3rd at 2pm at the Gallo Center for the Arts. Conducted by Principal Pops Conductor Ryan Murray, this lively and festive concert features Broadway star Nikki Renée Daniels and the MSO Chorus. The Holiday Candlelight Concert will be held on December 20th at the St. Stanislaus Catholic Church. MSO Chorus Director, Daniel R. Afonso Jr., will conduct this traditional holiday concert and St. Stanislaus Church is the perfect setting for a more intimate concert that will also feature the MSO Chorus.

“I’m really looking forward to this annual MSO tradition. It is so much fun to share our Holiday Pops concert with everyone in our community, and I’m excited about our great soloist Nikki Renée Daniels,” says Ryan Murray, Principal Pops Conductor for the Modesto Symphony Orchestra. “I’m also thrilled that our MSO chorus will be back with us onstage this year! It’s going to be a wonderful and fun concert and I can’t wait to kick off the holiday season with all of you!”

Holiday Pops headliner, Nikki Renée Daniels, has performed with numerous major American orchestras including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Philly Pops, the New York Pops, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony. Nikki recently starred in the Tony Award winning revival of CompanyHamilton (Angelica Schuyler) in Chicago, and The Book of Mormon (Nagulungi) on Broadway. Other Broadway credits include Porgy and BessLes MiserablésLittle Shop of Horrors, and Anything Goes.

“This year’s holiday concerts will be very reminiscent of the past, but with a couple welcomed additions” says Caroline Nickel, President and CEO of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra. “Our Holiday Pops concert will mark the start Ryan Murray’s first Pops Series as our new Principal Pops Conductor. Ryan has led several of our Pops concerts in the past, and we’re excited to see him in this new role. Plus, this year we welcome the MSO Chorus back to the stage for Holiday Pops! Last year they recorded a wonderful video performance, but we missed the energy of having them perform live with the orchestra. All in all, it will feel like the MSO is getting back to normal and with a new energy and outlook for the future.”


Friday, December 2, 2022 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, December 3, 2022 at 2:00pm

Ryan Murray, conductor

Nikki Renée Daniels, vocalist

Modesto Symphony Orchestra

Modesto Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Daniel R. Afonso Jr., director

Gallo Center for the Arts, Mary Stuart Rogers Theater

1000 I Street, Modesto

Pricing: $19 / 29 / 39 / 49 / 69 / 94

Tickets are available online through or through the Gallo Center for the Arts Ticket Office at (209) 338-2100.

Group Prices available: Groups of 10+ receive a 15% discount on tickets. Call (209) 338-5064 for more information.

Gallo Center Ticket Office Hours: Monday through Friday 10:00am-6:00pm / Saturday 12:00pm-6:00pm

CONCERT SPONSORED BY: Beard Land and Investment Co.


Ryan Murray is currently Principal Pops Conductor for the Modesto Symphony, Music Director of the Auburn Symphony, and Artistic Director of the Music in the Mountains Summer Festival. He is also the Director of Symphony Orchestra & Opera at California State University, Sacramento, and the Conductor for the Sacramento Youth Symphony’s premier orchestra. An award-winning opera conductor, Ryan spent his early career working as an assistant conductor and répétiteur and serves as Music Director of Opera Modesto. He has served as an assistant conductor at the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, is the past Music Director of Fresno Grand Opera, and previously worked as a staff conductor for the Bay Area Summer Opera Theater Institute (BASOTI), and The Opera Academy of California in San Francisco. Effortlessly moving between genres, Ryan currently enjoys a wide range of performance genres & platforms, including traditional orchestral and operatic repertoire, pops performances, movies in concert, and a notable emphasis on contemporary American operatic works.

Ryan was the winner of the Vienna Philharmonic’s prestigious Ansbacher Fellowship for Young Conductors, and spent the summer in residence alongside the Vienna Philharmonic at the 2014 Salzburg Festival. Ryan was also awarded second place in the 2019 American Prize for Professional Orchestral Conducting for his work with the Modesto Symphony, and has garnered national recognition for his dynamic, compelling performances of contemporary opera as the winner of the 2017 American Prize in Opera Conducting for his highly lauded production of A Streetcar Named Desire. He was a 2016 semi-finalist for the Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music for his production of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking.

A charismatic pops conductor, Ryan has worked with prominent artists such as Storm Large of Pink Martini, SuperDiamond and the phenomenal symphonic tribute to David Bowie. He was recently engaged to step-in at the last minute as assistant and cover conductor for Andrea Bocelli’s Believe Tour with the Sacramento Philharmonic where he conducted rehearsals to acclaim. He has led some of the top vocalists from Broadway and beyond, including Ben Crawford (Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera), Ashley Brown (Broadway’s Mary Poppins), and Alli Mauzey (Glinda from Wicked), as well as some of today’s top young jazz vocalists including Tony DeSare, and James Tormé. With an enthusiasm for film scores, Ryan enjoys the unique challenges of conducting movies in concert and is a Disney & ICM Approved Conductor. Recent and upcoming performances include Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Pixar Animation Studios’ Pixar in Concert, Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Ryan holds degrees, summa cum laude, in Bassoon Performance and Voice Performance from California State University, Sacramento and also holds a master’s degree, with distinction, in Music Business from the Berklee College of Music where he studied with industry professionals to develop tools for success in the modern music industry, including new technology, policy, law and finance. Driven by a lifelong passion for learning, Ryan has attended conducting masterclasses and seminars around the world. Ryan recently conducted the Romanian Chamber Orchestra in concert and was one of just eight conductors worldwide to be invited to the Musiikin aika Summer Festival Masterclass in Finland led by Musical America’s 2017 Conductor of the Year & Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Susanna Mälkki. He has previously attended the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music’s Conductors Workshop; the contemporary music symposium led by Alan Gilbert featuring the New York Philharmonic; the Aurora Chamber Festival in Sweden, where he studied under Maestro Kurt Masur; the Lucerne Festival Academy’s Conducting Masterclass in Switzerland; and the Eastman School of Music’s Summer Conducting Institute. Widely praised for his tireless work ethic, natural poise, and impassioned, inspired performances, Ryan continues to connect deeply with orchestras and audiences alike and has proven to be a formidable presence on the podium.

Nikki Renée Daniels recently starred in the Tony Award winning revival of Company on Broadway. Other recent credits include Hamilton (Angelica Schuyler) at the CIBC Center in Chicago and The Book of Mormon (Nabulungi) on Broadway. Nikki has also been seen on Broadway as Clara in the 2012 Tony Award winning revival of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Fantine in Les Miserablés and in Nine, Aida, Little Shop of HorrorsThe Look of LovePromisesAnything Goes, and Lestat. She made her New York City Opera debut as Clara in Porgy and Bess.

Nikki played the featured role of Tracy in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the Radio City Music Hall. Other New York credits include playing Martha Jefferson in 1776 at City Center Encores! and Rose Lennox in The Secret Garden at David Geffen Hall.

Regional theater credits include Ray Charles Live! (Della B.) at Pasadena Playhouse; Anything Goes (Hope) at Williamstown Theatre Festival; Beauty and the Beast (Belle) at Sacramento Music Circus, American Musical Theater of San Jose and North Shore Music Theater; Ragtime (Sarah) at North Shore Music Theatre; Aida (Aida) and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Narrator) at ArtPark.

Film/Television: The Other Woman, Chappelle’s Show, Madam Secretary, and The Sound of Music: Live.

Nikki has performed as a soloist with many symphony orchestras across the country and Canada, including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Philly Pops, the New York Pops, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.  She has also performed as a soloist at Carnegie Hall, and holds a BFA from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music. Her debut CD, Home, is available on iTunes.


Tuesday, December 20, 2022 at 8:00 pm

Daniel R. Afonso Jr., conductor

Modesto Symphony Orchestra

Modesto Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Daniel R. Afonso Jr., director

Opus Handbell Ensemble, Richard Colla, director

St. Stanislaus Catholic Church

1200 Maze Boulevard, Modesto


Adult: $38 / 58

Youth: $10 / 20

Tickets are available online through or through the Gallo Center for the Arts Ticket Office at (209) 338-2100.

Group Prices available: Groups of 10+ receive a 15% discount on Standard Adult seating. Call (209) 338-5064 for more information.

Ticket Office Hours: Monday through Friday 10:00am-6:00pm / Saturday 12:00pm-6:00pm


Daniel R. Afonso Jr. has served as conductor of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra Chorus since its foundation in 2001 and has prepared several choral works with the ensemble. He is also Coordinator of Vocal and Choral Studies at California State University, Stanislaus. Afonso received a B.M.E. degree from the Universidade do Rio de Janeiro (UNI -Rio), a M.M. degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a D.M.A. degree in Choral Conducting and Pedagogy from the University of Iowa. Dr. Afonso is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and has studied conducting with Carlos Alberto Figueiredo, Cees Rotteveel, Eph Ehly, and William Hatcher.

Dr. Afonso has performed with choral groups in Brazil, U.S., and Europe, and has previously taught music at the Conservatório Brasileiro de Música, Universidade do Rio de Janeiro (UNI-Rio), and Doane College, Nebraska. In 1988, he won the first prize and the best performance of Villa-Lobos work award at the Concurso Villa-Lobos de Canto Coral, a national choral competition sponsored by the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro. Dr. Afonso is strongly committed to the performance of new music and has commissioned and premiered many new choral works in the last few years, including several of his own works as well as works by young composition students.  He had his New York debut in 2012, conducting Mozart’s Requiem with members of the MSO Chorus and students from CSU Stanislaus at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

He is also a composer, arranger, and editor of choral music and has choral works published by earthsongs, Colla Voce, and Alliance Music Publications. He served as composer-in-residence with the San Francisco Choral Artists during their 2014-2015 season and has also written works for the Los Angeles Children’s Choir, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, and other ensembles in the US and abroad. He has written innumerous arrangements for the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, including a new version of The Star-Spangled Banner for chorus and orchestra, recently premiered at the opening concert for the 2015-16 concert season. Dr. Afonso is widely recognized for his research and performance of Brazilian choral music and continues to frequently present workshops and lectures about the Latin American choral repertoire.


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