Most Oregonians recognize what a strong classical music scene exists here,but to a kid growing up in the upper left corner, the Northwest can seem distant from the centers of classical music: conservatories like Juilliard, Peabody, Curtis, Oberlin; venues such as Carnegie and Disney halls, the Met, Boston’s Symphony Hall.
So it’s always a treat to hear about young Oregon musicians who are finding opportunities to advance their careers by gaining recognition beyond the Cascades and Siskiyous.
Almost 2000 miles from the Willamette Valley, Northern Michigan’s forest holds one of the world’s most prestigious arts training centers. Founded in 1928 as the National High School Orchestra Camp, the Interlochen Center for the Arts brings students from around the world each summer to study music, dance, film, theater, visual arts and more with an international roster of faculty members. Two of the nine Portlanders studying there this summer, violinists Emily Wu and Rachel Graves, were named Emerson Scholars and awarded full scholarships for their tuition. And both so excelled in their work at the institute that they were chosen to share the crucial concertmaster’s role, leading the violin section in the World Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Graves and Wu honed their skills in one of the state’s great educational institutions, Portland Youth Philharmonic. The nation’s oldest youth symphony, PYP regularly performs classical and even contemporary music at a remarkably high level; their concerts can be fully as enjoyable musically as many community and even professional orchestras.
“Through their dedication, they have both become leaders in our first violin section,” says PYP conductor David Hattner, who attended Interlochen himself in the 1980s and returned as guest conductor in 2010. “Along with their outstanding violin playing, each of them exhibits an intensity to music making that inspires their colleagues. I could not be more pleased to hear of their accomplishments at Interlochen Arts Camp. It is a special place that inspired me when I was a student. And I am happy that Interlochen is able to offer full scholarships to deserving musicians from PYP.”
Both students’ parents praised Hattner for preparing the girls so assiduously and introducing them to the opportunity. Their private teacher, Clarisse Atcherson, also studied at the Michigan institution.