how ‘oregon’ is the oregon symphony?


After reading David Stabler’s story yesterday on the cutting of the Oregon Symphony’s nationally-renowned Community Music Partnership, which provided a year-long musical interaction between OSO musicians and a different rural community each year, I’ve been pondering the following question: should the Oregon Symphony still be called the Oregon Symphony?  We used to be known as the Portland Symphony until the early 80’s, when the name was changed to reflect the organization’s commitment to serving the entire state and not just the metro area.  Now, as the 2009-2010 is due to start in just over six weeks, our only out of town concerts will take place in Salem.

I suspect that the moniker change probably had a lot to do with foundation support and the need to appeal to a larger network of donors and foundations across the region.  Other orchestras have done the same thing,  most notably the Colorado Symphony, formerly the Denver Symphony.  Still, many of the communities that we served through the CMP often had much healthier school music programs (as a result of healthier community attitudes towards the arts) than our own Portland Public Schools.

Barry Johnson, in his Oregonian article today, suggests (as have many of the OSO musicians) that given the dismal state of arts education in Portland, that a similar program could be applied to schools in desperate need right in our own backyard.  It makes a lot of sense.  No need to house the musicians overnight or hire buses.  No tour differential or per diem to pay.  Plus the added bonus of actually appearing to be doing something other than playing concerts – fulfilling a need for our children, giving back to our own community.

So, I come back to the question again: should we still call our self (and do we think of our self as) the Oregon Symphony, or are we really a de facto Portland Symphony?

5 Replies to “how ‘oregon’ is the oregon symphony?”

  1. Interesting questions. One factual correction, though: The orchestra changed its name to “Oregon Symphony” way back in August 1967 (not the early ’80s). And there’s no going back to “Portland Symphony” now, lest the other orchestra by that name, back East in the other Portland, object. The world only spins forward, as they say!

    1. Thanks for the correction! And I’m not really advocating a name change, but more of a gut check on what it means to be the Oregon Symphony and not the Portland Symphony. Forward is good – I hope!

  2. I would hope that another foundation or set of individuals/businesses would be able to step up to the challenge of funding this terrific program.

    I grew up in a rural community in Eastern Washington and heard an orchestra (actually a chamber orchestra from Spokane) for the first time while in high school. They came to Coulee Damn on a tour. It was a life-changing experience for me.

  3. The Ford Family Foundation (as well as the OAC) has been very supportive of the rural community music partnerships, both financially and programatically, over the past 7 years. We, at the Oregon Symphony, plan to uphold the mission to provide quality music education experiences to the students, teachers and parents of Oregon and SW Washington, at least!
    Although we are not planning on a rural partnership for this next year, we ARE in the process of formulating an a “leaner, for less green” urban model to serve any of the metro area schools who might apply & qualify for a partnership.We are currently seeking private and/or public funding to support that model.
    There are two very focused local resource groups which are offering strategic support and hope in this funding endeavor: The Right Brain Initiative and the Creative Advocacy Network. Anyone interested in finding out about how artists and schools are looking for arts support in the schools, might want to check their plans on their websites.
    The Oregon Symphony continues to offer a variety of education and community outreach activities with our musicians and conductors, check them out on our website as well!! Here’s looking forward to better times~which will allow foundations and funders, who have been so supportive over the years, to continue their good works for the arts and the students.
    BTW:We have been successful in securing partial funding thru the Oregon Arts Commission for the 2nd year professional development work in our Tillamook partner schools.

  4. We just started up the Westside Community & Youth Orchestra in Hillsboro a few months ago in partnership with the Hillsboro School District. There currently isn’t a school orchestra program in the Hillsboro School district so we decided to create one. I don’t know how much it would cost to participate in the Oregon Symphony mentorship program, but we would love to find out more about it and see if we can participate. This sounds like a wonderful dream come true if we can participate.

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