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Mendy Smith

Arts in the Community

February 29, 2008 at 4:56 AM

I was perusing the blogs I read regularly, and ran across this one from Charles Noble, Assistant Principal Violist in the Oregon Symphony:

Think Globally Act Locally

Like Mr. Noble, I think it is wonderful to have a foundation in the state and an Orchestra committed to bring classical music to children who may otherwise never have the opportunity to be exposed to it. It is one of the things that I love most about the Portland Metro Area - the Arts. We have several professional groups as well as amature community groups that bring music to the community. If I recall correctly, at last count there are over 8 community orchestras in the Portland area.

But one statement disturbed me more than any other: ".... The Portland Public Schools have no string program, and very little in the way of full time arts instruction in music."

When I was in school in Pensylvania during the '70's and Tennessee in '80's, music was an integral part of the education system - both "band" and strings. This education system of years past was what turned me on to playing viola (why viola and not violin is a different story), something that I've kept with me over the decades. Though I never majored in music, learning viola helped me learn good study habits (a HUGE benefit in college) and has brought a balance between my professional and personal life. I love going to the OSO concerts, as well as playing in the local community orchestra.

Mr. Noble stated: "...if we have a poor music education system (or a non-existent one), then we will have a much more difficult time cultivating audiences...".

Is it no wonder that there is so much "Classical Music is Dead" discussions and orchestras that are struggling financially lately?

It also explains why there is such a huge recruiting effort in the area for strings in the community orchestras. Looking at the various community orchestra web-sites, brass and wind instruments need to audition or be put on a waiting list, however if you play a stringed instrument you are almost gauranteed a spot in the community orchestra. I was granted a spot in the Hillsoboro Symphony WEEKS before I ever moved into the state.

I hope that someday within my lifetime, I will see music programs in the public schools rich with diversity in instruments and musical styles. Are we condeming our children to a life of limited choices in expression and exploration?

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 29, 2008 at 12:08 PM
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I learned the play the violin in a public school program, and without that program I never would have had the opportunity to play an instrument at all.

And it seems like we're in a similar position with a shortage of strings in community orchestras too. The orchestra I play in, the Arlington Philharmonic, says on its website that new string players are always welcome and we only had 5 first violins for the last concert.

And, on top of that, in the yearly meetings about the town budget, one of the items on the table is cutting the elementary school instrumental music program. I don't know if that's really going to happen: there are always negotiations that go on before a final budget is reached. But it upsets me that this cut is on the table being considered.

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