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?