Henning Ottsen has guided CHICO from its earliest days to its present status as preeminent orchestra of Ventura County. His focus has been to support the orchestra in its excellence of music making for present audiences and in its outreach to future audiences. This focus reflects the mission of the orchestra as well as his commitment to supporting music in our community. Henning is happily nested in a musical family in Ventura with his wife, Linda, his children, Hans and Mollie, and grandchildren, Zoë, Shea and Faith.
CHICO was founded in 2003 by Henning Ottsen and Les Vielbig. Below is a message from Henning about his friend of 42 years.
Dear Friends of the Channel Islands Chamber Orchestra,
This week we lost one of our own and very best, – Les Vielbig died on Saturday morning while getting ready for the day. Les was a founding board member of our orchestra, our first concert master and principal violinist, a generous sponsor every year since the beginning, and a tireless visionary and proponent for all phases of the orchestra’s endeavors. Even up to our last concert, it was his joy to greet the concert goers at the welcome table and visit with them. Les will continue to be an inspiration for our work with and enjoyment of the orchestra.
Les was a renaissance man, throughout his life, always accomplished and immersing himself into his many passions. He was a mechanical engineer by education and vocation, graduating from Syracuse University where he also was a track star and an All-American in the 4 by 440 relay. That alone makes your head spin, doesn’t it? Moreover, he and his fellow relay team members hold the American record for that event that stands to this day. There’s a story there too.
He and his wife Judy, who preceded him in death a few years ago, met out here on the West Coast, were married and raised a delightful family. An early anecdote tells us that when he picked up Judy for their first date, he had confused her with of one of her apartment mates. But unflappable Les went on the date with Judy anyway even though he was expecting to go out with one of the others – and lucky for them and all of us that he did.
Les and Judy left a huge imprint on this community and on so many of us. Linda and I were church shopping upon arriving in Ventura when we walked into the courtyard of First United Methodist Church. We were met by Les and Judy who grabbed us by the arm and we immediately found ourselves in the choir. We’re still singing in that choir now over four decades letter and became intricately involved in the life of the church. For me, personally, Les was a role model, a mentor, and my best friend as we navigated church business and book studies, did our weekly bike rides up the coast, and – for the last couple of years – religiously tended to our Monday night pizzas.
On behalf of the entire board I can say that we are stunned that he no longer is here. He certainly will have us all redoubling our efforts to live up to his example. We will remember him and we will miss him.
In 2018, our board member, Nancy Sieh, interviewed Les about his life with his wife, Judy.
Les Vielbig is not only a longtime season sponsor, he is one of the Founders of CHICO. In 2002, Les and his close friend Henning Ottsen discovered a rising musical star. The star was a young artist and conductor who recently finished college and was off to start her classical career. Well, thought Henning and Les, let’s give her a reason to stay in Ventura. They contacted their musician friends and CHICO was born. That star, conductor KuanFen Liu, continues to rise and has crafted CHICO into the preeminent local orchestra of Ventura.
In the early years, Les himself played in the violin section, while Henning served as President of the Board and managed the organization.
Les and his wife Judy were married in 1960 and they shared a rich and active life. Judy was a teacher and church organizer. Until her death in 2015, she was a pillar in the United Methodist Church. She and Les both sang in the choir.
Judy, along with another teacher, began the church’s Tutoring Center, providing scholastic assistance to local grade school children. Compassionate to the point of doing without herself, she gave generously to everyone in need.
Les and Judy experienced the worst tragedy that parents can suffer. They lost their young son Joe at age 9, to leukemia. Judy’s response to this grief was to begin Compassionate Friends, a group for families suffering from the loss of a child. All those who knew Judy miss her greatly and describe her as equal measures of kindheartedness and fun.
The Vielbigs travelled extensively. The photo of them that you see was taken in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Their grandchildren have inherited their musical interests. Grandson Joe was featured in CHICO’s early Young Artist Series as the soloist in a Mozart Piano Concerto. Granddaughter Emma is an outstanding Soprano, currently majoring at Syracuse in Musical Theater Arts. She also performed with CHICO singing “Adele’s Laughing Song” from Die Fledermaus, in the Series.
Les’ vision for the future of CHICO is to provide excellent concerts, while growing the repertoire to include a wider offering of composers and styles of music. He is also a strong voice for bringing young people and their parents into the world of great music. He believes fine music is compelling for all and young people only need the opportunity to discover it. He wants CHICO to play an important role in that discovery.