A reader has asked a thought-provoking question. It is about a Modesto street that has an uncommon name, a designation that differs from the usual street name. It is called Hintze Avenue, pronounced as "hints."
Just three blocks long, the street adjoins McHenry Avenue at the north end of the former Sundial Lodge, which is now a care facility.
Modesto has other even shorter streets, such as one that is just a few blocks south of Hintze. Called Modesto Avenue, it is the only street named for our city, and yet it encompasses just one block.
But, asks the reader, why is Hintze called Hintze?
The street originally was named for Modesto's first piano teacher, who lived in what is today's area of Hintze Avenue. His name was Hermann Hintze, who reputedly gave music lessons to practically every child in town.
Born in Duisburg, Germany, he immigrated to San Francisco at age 21 and moved to Modesto in 1874. He taught all aspects of piano music, including harmony and composition. Another of his accomplishments was the opening of the valley's first music store, called the San Joaquin Valley Hintze Pioneer Music Store, which he operated until 1915.
He instructed a large class of piano students, becoming what was termed "an acknowledged leader in musical circles."
Perhaps it was fitting that, many years later, one of the founders of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra lived on Hintze Avenue.
He was cellist Malin Langstreth who, with violinist Leonardo Fristrom, helped to found the Modesto Symphony Orchestra in 1930. The conductor was the area's Frank "Proof" Mancini, who in December 1929 sent a letter to the outstanding musicians in the community, including all of the music teachers. It read, in part, "We wish to organize an orchestra known as the Modesto Symphony Orchestra.
Are you willing to do some hard work, benefit yourself and be of cultural service to the community?"
The response was enthusiastically positive, with 80 instrumentalists attending the first rehearsal. The resulting musical venture led to Modesto becoming the only city its size in the nation to have a symphony orchestra. At the time, the city's population was less than 14,000.
The first official concert was given in 1930, and four more were presented during the next season. Mancini continued to conduct the orchestra for 32 successful years, directing more than 130 concerts before he retired in 1962.
It is of interest that MaryLee Langsroth Gregory, who is the daughter of the symphony's co-founder and was raised on Hintze Avenue, studied music at the Julliard School of Music in New York and became a concert pianist.
During its early years, the orchestra was composed of volunteers. Today, it is made up of 46 professional contracted musicians. Six are from Modesto, four from Turlock and most of the others commute from the Bay Area.
Many of the musicians play regularly in more than one orchestra, which is possible because there are a significant number of symphonies in Northern California and the Bay Area.
Often, a particular concert piece requires additional musicians, as for example one with a special talent such as a contrabassoon player. That instrument is similar to the bassoon, but it is larger and is pitched an octave lower.
Or, if a piece requires an additional bass or other player, the conductor can choose one or more from a list of substitutes. These are often referred to as "subs."
Today, the Modesto Symphony's conductor is David Lockington, who was chosen at the beginning of the 2007-08 season after a national search. He is popular with both his players and audiences.
Meanwhile, Hintze Avenue remains a quiet, pretty little street with no visible indications of its musical past. No one would know that it once was the town's interesting avenue of musicians.
Bare is the author of several books about area history and the official historian of the McHenry Mansion. Send comments or questions to email@example.com.