The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra (AMO), the largest and one of the oldest orchestras of its kind in Northern California has performed many concerts over the years to thousands of intrigued listeners throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Gino Pellegrini, a member of the original Aurora Mandolin Orchestra in the 1930s represents the thread of continuity to the present organization which he reorganized in 1970. He became the Director and Concertmaster of this group of musicians and was its heart and soul for 35 years until his death in 2006.
After Gino's passing, his wife Josephine, affectionately known as "Jo," assumed the vacant role of Director/Conductor at the request of and with the full support and encouragement of the members of the group. Her dedication, ingenuity and energy have enhanced performances while successfully preserving Gino's legacy of bringing the vibrancy and passion of the mandolin to more and more people. Jo has expanded the repertoire with diverse genres of music and surprised appreciative audiences by spotlighting talented guest musicians and singers, dancers, and opera singers on the program.
The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra consists of more than 30 members with professional and amateur musicians playing mandolin, mandola, mandocello, guitar, string bass, accordion, flute and percussion, who travel from various parts of the Greater Bay Area for a weekly rehearsal. The uniqueness of this group is its varied repertoire and creative arrangements of folk music, semi-classical Italian, Spanish, Russian songs, popular "oldies", contemporary pieces (some taken from familiar musicals), excerpts from operas, and classical orchestra compositions written specifically for mandolin. They have played innumerable public appearances and are especially proud to have played at the San Francisco Symphony's festive opening night at Davies Hall in 1984, the Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park and Santa Clara University.
In 1939, the original Aurora Mandolin Orchestra played at the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) at Treasure Island. In tribute to that event, the current orchestra performed on February 14, 2014, at the Treasure Island Museum to celebrate the GGIE's 75th Anniversary 1939-2014. Aurora has also been a featured orchestra at the annual "Festival of the Mandolins" in San Francisco since its inception in 2001.
In 2006 the Aurora Mandolin Ensemble (AME), a subset of the orchestra (usually 8 to 12 musicians) was formed allowing the representative group to entertain when a smaller group was desired or a larger group could not be accommodated. Venues for both groups have included concert halls, schools, churches, outdoor festival and fairs, college campuses, public libraries, senior centers and residential facilities, various clubs and organizations, private parties and house concerts.
The smaller ensemble allows the group to perform for venues ranging from the concert hall and outdoor festivals, to restaurants, clubs and private parties.