BREA — Quite literally, theirs is a harmonious relationship: his and her instruments, his and her practice rooms, his and her daytime teaching gigs.
What's more, for professional musicians Tony and Cindy Ellis, they're on the same sheet of the musical score while playing in the same orchestra.
The married couple and Brea residents are longtime members of the Pacific Symphony. Tony, the second trumpet, has been with the Costa Mesa-based orchestra since 1981. Cindy, the solo piccolo and a flute substitute, joined in 1979.
Both are Southern California natives: Tony, 53, grew up in Anaheim near Disneyland; Cindy (whose age is "younger than Tony") grew up around SoCal before eventually graduating high school in San Clemente. Both received their bachelor's and master's from Cal State Fullerton. It was there they met and became friends.
It wasn't until Tony needed Cindy's help with an English term paper that a relationship bloomed. That's because Tony's request for support included dinner.
"I didn't mean it to be a romantic date or anything, but it turned out to be," Tony said.
Some years later, Tony proposed to Cindy — at that same restaurant.
They've been married 27 years.
"As a musician, I think it's great to share your life like this," Cindy said. "We understand what's going on. We get it, and to share that at this level is pretty special."
Even their normal schedules are similar: teaching music in the morning, afternoon practice time, then occasional night performances.
Tony teaches at Santa Fe Middle School in Monrovia. His 25-year tenure there is starting to show true seniority.
"I'm now starting to teach students of students," he said with a laugh. "That's an eye-opener."
Cindy is a Cal State Fullerton music department adjunct faculty member who's taught a wide variety of subjects there. Among her many accomplishments is also serving as principal flutist for touring ballet companies on their O.C. stops, and for the Opera Pacific before it disbanded in 2008.
The Ellis home in Brea is retrofitted to meet their practice regimen — usually a few hours daily — with soundproofing measures like double-pane windows.
Their two individual practice rooms face different directions of the house that's strategically located on a corner to have only one next-door neighbor and nobody behind the backyard. All this helps so their high-pitched instruments don't bother neighbors when they practice at home, which had been a problem in their other homes.
Both have done recording in the studios. Cindy's favorite was playing for '90s cartoons like "Pinky and the Brain" and "Animaniacs."
"They're fun and they're fast," Cindy said. "Sometimes the movie calls can run pretty slowly in the scope of all things ... but with cartoons you just get in there and it's really fast music. The day just flies by."
Tony has done less studio work but likes to tell of his hurried adventure getting to the recording session for the 1991 Steven Spielberg film "Hook," with music by John Williams, the composer behind "Star Wars."
"Hook" was his first "real big movie call." He left at 6:30 a.m. for the 10 a.m. session but got stuck in traffic after a jackknifed glass truck closed the freeway. Eventually he made it to the studio. It was 9:50 a.m.
He precariously parked, put his trumpet on the fence and hopped over just before a security guard noticed. Tony ignored the guard's calls to stop and followed a violinist who was equally in a hurry to get the stage on time.