From the moment Pam Bleich got her hands on a violin at Dominguez Elementary School, she knew she had fallen in love with music. At 90, the San Pedro resident is still hitting the strings as the oldest member of the Peninsula Symphony.
Bleich was born in Los Angeles on Oct. 3, 1928, and raised in Dominguez before she eventually moved to San Pedro in 1953, where she still lives today.
She’s traveled the world, worked as a librarian, taught children overseas in military schools, competed in tennis tournaments and earned two master’s degrees; but in 1989, she retired and decided to take up violin lessons again.
“My instrument isn’t what it once was,” Bleich said. “[Concertmaster Rebecca Rutkowski of the Peninsula Symphony] was my violin teacher and she said, ‘Pam, why aren’t you playing in the orchestra?’ And that’s how I got in.”
Bleich credits her lifelong love of music to her two doting parents, who gave her a harmonica when she was little. Her mother often played piano while her father played saxophone and clarinet in several jazz bands at the Pavilion in Culver City.
“My father was a natural born musician,” Bleich said. “There were many good old foot-stomping times.”
The San Pedro resident recalled visiting the Long Beach Auditorium with her parents to watch children’s concerts.
In her time at Banning High School, she played at the Hollywood Bowl with the California All-State High School Orchestra with Leopold Stokowski as the conductor. Stokowski was a renowned conductor whose work appeared in the Disney film “Fantasia.”
Bleich continued to play in orchestras at Compton College, University of Redlands and UCLA, where she got her teaching credential, and eventually played less and less. She spent two years teaching in Mannheim, Germany, during the early 1960s.
“And that opened the doors to travel,” Bleich said. “I have been to 83 foreign countries and 43 states in the contiguous United States, as well as Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico.”
Besides her teaching career, the violinist said she’s been part of many historical societies and other professional organizations. But she added she was glad to return to her musical roots.
“There was a lot of fighting about who knew the real truths, so after 20 years of that, I decided I didn’t want conflict,” Bleich said. “In an orchestra, you have only one tyrant, and that’s the conductor.”
At 90, Bleich goes to the gym almost every day and said she doesn’t have plans of quitting the symphony any time soon.
“I love the camaraderie and being with fellow musicians and working together as a team,” Bleich said. “And there’s no fighting.”
Bleich will play second violin with the Peninsula Symphony at Redondo Union High School at 7 p.m. Oct. 28.