Name: Andrew Bales

Occupation: Founder and general director of Symphony Silicon Valley.

How long have you lived/worked in San Jose?

I moved here 29 years ago with my work, first as head of ballet in Cleveland. When we began a co-venture between Cleveland and San Jose, I would go back and forth between sometimes as much as three times a week. American Airlines said I was their number one customer from San Jose to Cleveland and it was meant to be a congratulations, but for me it was like, “What the hell am I doing?”

At what point did you decide to stay in San Jose?

I was here running the ballet in San Jose and Cleveland and then did some consulting for some years—until I went back to running the ballet. Around the same time the Cleveland side closed and we moved everything from Cleveland, making San Jose a standalone ballet city. Shortly thereafter the symphony closed and we started a co-venture with the symphony being under the ballet, until we separated the two and I went with the new venture, Symphony Silicon Valley. I’ve been with the symphony 14 years.

What do you like most about San Jose?

I think San Jose is an incredibly livable city and a comfortable place. It’s a very convivial place to live, grow up, raise a family and make friends. It’s a nice scale for a comfortable lifestyle.

If you could change one thing about San Jose, what would it be?

I would love for the middle class to have a healthier opportunity. I think financially it is difficult. The polarity of the wealth and the hardship makes it hard for people to join San Jose. If you’re here it’s great, but if you’re looking to live here, it’s tough. I have tried to hire people and I can’t because they can’t afford to come here. People getting a start in this valley is really tough.

What San Jose event do you most look forward to every year?

Of course, I would say Summer Pops festival, that we produce, is my favorite. Summer Pops, usually on the university campus, is delightful because the audience is so happy and comfortable. The audience comes from all over the community spanning different ages, races and backgrounds.  It’s fun to see the whole community celebrating together. The people are having such a good time at the event with the different kinds of music, from latin jazz to classics, Star Wars and mariachi. The audience is respectful, keeping the space clean and pristine, ready for the next day’s concert. I’m pretty proud of that; to have an event that people care about and treat well. I might like it a lot less if, at the end of it, it was me out there picking up every can.

How do you like to hang out when you’re not working?

I’m very active in the heart of downtown with the restaurants, theaters and other places. One place I’m excited about is the Rotary Play Garden. I think it says a lot about the wisdom of our community.

Who is the most interesting person you know in San Jose?

Chuck Toeniskoetter’s commitment to our region is great to see. Carl Salas and his wife, Marianne, are very engaged in our community, and Jim Slata—all are builders and engineers rooted in the community and they care about our community.

What has been your favorite show at Symphony Silicon Valley and why?

I loved when we did the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lord of the Rings was remarkable with 250 musicians and 11 hours. We were the only company to do something like that in the country. I don’t know if I realized how big it was going to be before we had done it, if I would’ve pursued it, but I’m glad we did.

What is something you are looking forward to in the remainder of the season?

We’ve begun a series of movies like Lord of the Rings that we are looking to do with live orchestra. We are looking to get the Harry Potter series and I think that will be fun.