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Martinez' Campbell Theater

Jul 02, 2015 05:24PM ● By Elena Hutslar

by Alison Clary

The Campbell name might ring a bell, especially if you live in Martinez. What Patrick Campbell affectionately calls “a lovely little live theater stage right in the downtown” would be the Martinez Campbell Theater, originally home to the Willows Theater Company and now home to the Onstage Repertory Theater. Patrick and Shirley Campbell were its primary funders, and a recent interview reveals the depth of their continued involvement in community arts. This dynamic duo has supported local theater financially for years, and they are actively involved in music organizations as well. Pat says, “The arts provide us with a means of expressing our inner self to others and, perhaps even more importantly, to our own selves.”

The Campbells have lived in Pleasant Hill for 45 years, have four daughters, and have shared many passions throughout their 63 years of marriage. Shirley says she and Patrick met as high school seniors when they encountered each other on a train from Minneapolis to French Lick, Indiana, to attend the same conference. “The resort hotel had a big ballroom and he asked me to dance. We have been dancing and playing music ever since.” 

A native of the Minneapolis area, Shirley plays flute and piccolo and gave private flute lessons early on. Later she joined a Concord band, but jokes she “had enough of being drowned out by loud trumpets and trombones and needed something for me,” so she took formal flute lessons and joined the newly formed Diablo Symphony - now entering its 52nd year as the oldest orchestra of Contra Costa County. Shirley was second flutist for almost her entire tenure at Diablo Symphony, playing her first concert in 1968 and then at locations ranging from Del Valle High School to Concord Pavilion, Lesher Center for the Arts (formerly nicknamed “the nut house”), and Rossmoor Event Center. Although she retired only recently, Shirley vividly remembers when her woodwind group was the first ever to play at the Lesher and they had to sit on a cement floor wearing hard hats to perform as contributors toured the construction site. She fondly recalls playing in the pit orchestra of many Contra Costa Musical Theater and Diablo Theatre Company (formerly Diablo Light Opera Company) productions.

In addition to establishing a business (with Shirley as secretary/treasurer), Patrick was formerly a U.S. Navy Officer and president of the board of directors (1985 – 2013) at Diablo Symphony, a professional quality community orchestra with 65 classically trained musicians. One of his primary goals was to establish collaboration with other community performing arts groups as well as “the establishment of a family type relationship with audiences and supporters.” Now that the orchestra’s primary audience is aging, Pat says a current major focus is to bring classical music to local elementary and middle school arts program and help fill the void left from budget cuts. 

Pat says he will miss the intimate contact of the arts community, but he and Shirley show no sign of letting up in their retirement years. He plays banjo and guitar and is involved with two Dixieland jazz clubs, including his own La Salle Street Jazz Band. He is on the board of the Treasure Island Museum Association and remains active in the Diablo Symphony too, volunteering as historian and organizer of their inventory of “treasured stuff.” Shirley says she will participate in summer chamber music workshops and local music organizations, and she hopes to pursue an interest in jazz improvisation. They will continue to travel too, but Pat emphasizes, “There is no ‘free time’ for an active mind and body.”


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