MUSIC

Play it Forward: restoring music education

This month's Virtual Supper Club event supports pianist Michael Allen Harrison's program to bring music lessons to Oregon students

When Michael Allen Harrison was growing up in 1960s Portland, arts education enriched his life. “All the public schools had band programs, strings programs, choir, theater, painting, sculpture,” he remembers. “There were piano teachers in every neighborhood. We had everything at our fingertips to figure out what we were good at, what inspired us.”

What inspired Harrison was playing piano and composing music. He used the skills and qualities he gained from his arts education to become one of the most successful pianists in so-called New Age music, found his own record label, record more than 60 albums, score musicals, films, ballets, theater productions and orchestral compositions, and much more. He was recently inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.

Michael Allen Harrison

But as his own star rose, Harrison watched with disappointment and then alarm as his home state systematically dismantled the public school arts education system that had so enriched his life and helped him create the music that delighted so many listeners. 

Harrison decided to do something about it. He resolved to help restore access to music education to Oregonians who couldn’t afford it. Two decades ago, he created the Snowman Foundation program to support music education in Oregon and eventually Seattle, then the Ten Grands fundraising concert to bring pianos to students whose families couldn’t afford them. And three years ago, his Play it Forward program embarked on the culminating phase of his original vision. 

But like so many other worthy educational and musical efforts this year, Play it Forward has had to shift gears — though the engine is still running strong and moving forward. And this week, Oregon arts lovers can help.

Defunding the Arts

Harrison became a music educator not long after becoming a music student at age six, when he started taking piano lessons. When he became a young teen, he wanted a car, and his paper route wasn’t going to earn him enough to buy one. So he started giving lessons to Northeast Portland neighborhood kids as a teenager, and he’s been teaching ever since. 

Music lessons helped him achieve more than transportation. “You learn so much about life from learning music,” he says. “You gain confidence when you’re asked to do things you’re uncomfortable with, you learn discipline preparing for recitals. Even when I got into high schools, when I was trying out for musicals and singing in choir, going through auditions, performing on stage, learning how to dance. All these activities in the arts created a confidence in me that I could take to any other discipline.”


THE ART OF LEARNING: An Occasional Series


That’s why it was so important to him that other kids have the same opportunities. But those started to shrink thirty years ago, when voters endorsed a disastrous property tax limitation that failed to provide alternative funding for the social benefits those taxes paid for. “It started with Measure 5,” Harrison says. “It wasn’t the main cause, but it was the starting point for the downward spiral. Educational sources were forced to cut budgets and one of those things was the arts.”

Harrison saw a lot of the damage first hand, as he’s been doing artist residencies in schools over that span. “Arts are the most important thing in education, because they support all the other disciplines,” he says. “Everybody in the educational system knows it. There are so many studies, tests, data, that all show how the arts enhance other disciplines. And yet the action has been to cut the arts. It’s been breaking my heart for 30 years.”

Building the Snowman

Nearly a decade of seeing the catastrophic effects of tax cuts and misplaced priorities on the lives of Oregon students persuaded Harrison to found his Snowman Foundation in 1999, using fundraising concerts like his long-running Ten Grands at Portland5 and Christmas at the Old Church series to finance the purchase of new instruments and endow scholarships. To date, it’s raised about $3.5 million for music education and reached more than 100,000 students.

“Then all of a sudden people started donating their instruments to us,” Harrison recalls. “There’s thousands of wonderful used pianos, even Steinways, sitting in people’s living rooms: ‘This belonged to my Aunt Nellie.’ They become furniture not being used. The idea came from the community: we can stretch our dollars a lot further if we’re getting an instrument for free.” The foundation sends an assessor to figure out whether an instrument was salvageable, then picks up usable instruments and deliver them to students who needed them. And as word spread, “we began getting these nice gently used instruments from people’s living rooms — oboes, violins, drum sets, saxophones, keyboards.”

But a crucial element was still missing. “It was always my dream to give every child who needed one an instrument and a teacher,” Harrison explains. “So as we grew, we were finally able to start an after-school program in which everyone gets a free piano and every child gets a teacher.” The Snowman Foundation paved the way for Play It Forward, an independent program that over the last three years has provided lessons to 150 students, delivered nearly 4,000 hours of music instruction, and gifted 450 instruments to students, community centers, schools and churches, according to its spokesperson. This year, the program employs 10 teachers, including college students and young musicians who’ve just graduated from college and have teaching experience, “so we’re able to support young teachers, kids and families.”

Life Lessons

One of them is Diane Tran, a Portland Community College-Rock Creek student who signed up in 2019 and is teaching students in this summer’s workshops. “Learning music can help you in so many ways,” she says. “There’s always a way to apply everything you learn here in the real world. Reading sheet music trains observation and motor skills. I tend to see problem students who are having trouble keeping focus become more receptive and willing to change themselves. I also see them starting to open up a lot more. They’re more receptive to a bit of growth.”

Diane Tran gives a Zoom lesson with Maria Herrera

Harrison, who’s teaching four students himself this summer, has seen that extra-musical growth throughout his many decades of learning and teaching piano.

“The act of practice and learning how to practice properly is giving you great learning skills,” he explains. Even after their school years, students continue to benefit from music lessons. “If you’re in a board meeting, team meeting, situations where you need to speak up, or you’re going for a job interview,” he says, “the more experience you have of sharing who you are, the more confidence you have and more success you have later in life. It helps you develop as a human. I’ve witnessed it in others and witnessed it in myself.”

Students aren’t the only ones learning from piano lessons. “As a pianist I’ve learned there’s a lot I can learn from my students,” Tran says. “What they often teach me is how they want to have fun. I don’t have memories of having fun when I was taking lessons. I want to give them what I couldn’t get.” 

If they like playing a piece that’s in the standard syllabus, she’ll continue with that, but if not, she’ll find something they do like, often starting reluctant learners out playing the music they want to hear, even something like the Pokemon theme. And she’s sensitive to how they’re feeling about what they’re playing. “If they’re having a negative emotional feeling about what they’re playing, I have to address that,” she says..” ‘How does this negative mood affect you? How can we change that?’ Play it Forward is very open about how we teach.”

Tran’s responsive attitude mirrors Harrison’s approach. He says, “I’m always asking them, ‘How does this feel to you? In your body? What’s happening? What are you feeling in the moment? Are you frustrated?’ I try to help kids to be nice to themselves.”

Julianne Johnson and Michael Allen Harrison

Play it Forward has developed along with its students and teachers, becoming mentors as well as teachers. In the wake of this summer’s national reckoning with racial injustice, Portland singer and frequent Harrison collaborator Julianne Johnson came to speak to PiF’s teachers and board about her experience and share her family’s history and her insights about white privilege.

Harrison says that since his wife, Marietta, took over management, “it’s grown 400 percent. She’s really turned it into a shining light of a program. We’ve learned so much about some of the kids we’re serving. Some kids are sharing intimate things happening in their family, so we’re training teachers how to handle that and how to refer certain information to the right people.”

That mentorship can happen only when teachers go beyond teaching the notes. “One of the biggest motivational tools on the planet is when you as a teacher can show a student you believe in them and are interested in who they are,” Harrison insists. “That makes the whole difference. Human contact is so important.”

Shifting Gears

Human contact, unfortunately, is exactly what’s severely limited in this pandemic summer. But that’s not stopping Play it Forward. In the spring, the Harrisons immediately began planning how the program could adjust to the new reality. “She’s a tenacious facilitator,” Michael said of Marietta. “She makes it all happen. When Covid hit, we shifted our entire program to being online.”  

This summer, rehearsals and recitals happen over Zoom. For their upcoming performance of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” at PiF’s virtual summer fundraiser, “all the kids are learning their parts, practicing over Zoom on multiple screens,” Harrison says. “Everybody performs for each other, and we also have kids assess each other, what they could work on.”

Play it Forward Zoom recital

Like other organizations and piano teachers forced to adapt, Play it Forward is finding lasting value in what was originally intended as a temporary accommodation to the virus crisis. In previous years, students interacted primarily with their own teachers. “One of the things Zoom is doing is building a closer community” among the students, Harrison explains, “because we’re able to put kids closer together on the Zoom screen. So even when we’re all back to being able to hug each other, we’re going to integrate the online stuff. We plan to keep doing Zoom meetings so the kids can see each other and check in and have everybody play for each other, maybe even offer master classes online.”

Virtual Supper Club

The program might have adeptly adjusted to new circumstances, but teachers still had to be paid, as did its other expenses. Harrison finances most of his educational work through concerts — but the pandemic has squelched those for now. Even the banquet rooms of hotels often used for fundraising functions were off limits. How could Play it Forward bring its music to supporters? 

Marietta Harrison remembered the ‘60s supper clubs that the title character in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel TV series performed her standup act in. They’d considered using the theme for PiF’s fall gala, which, like every other fall performance, was now in doubt. Why not, she suggested, turn this summer’s fundraiser into a virtual supper club?

On July 25, Play it Forward will bring the music and dinner to supporters’ homes. Participants can order a full dinner complete with paired wine prepared by Pearl Catering and Script Cellars for no-contact delivery. Then, they can tune into the main event online: a livestream show featuring local musicians and youth performers, along with an opportunity to bid on a curated offering of auction items. Harrison and Johnson will perform, and Harrison’s friend and fellow songwriter, New Age pianist, radio show host and PBS fave Jim Brickman is recording a special video for the occasion. Harrison hopes that around 30 of the 44 summer workshop students will also prepare videos, including the “Ode to Joy.” 

Rebuilding Trust

Play it Forward’s creative persistence in the face of this year’s unprecedented challenges reaffirms Harrison’s lifelong belief that learning and playing music builds confidence, discipline, and creativity throughout life, and beyond music. Harrison himself has also been adapting to current circumstances, offering a daily video performance of some of his favorite pieces, and creating a series of Wednesday Night Experiences to be enjoyed virtually at home — “an evening for relaxation, meditation, prayer, peace of mind or just whatever you want it to be. An opportunity for an intimate personal experience. An hour and a half of straight music. “It’s different every time” Michael explains “because the day is different, the group of people in the room changes, my personal thoughts and mood changes, it just flows according to the feelings in the room.”

From Harrison’s Anti-Anxiety playlist

 Along with his own substantial contributions through such efforts, Harrison is continuing to advocate restoring the much greater support possible through public investment in arts education. 

 “I grew up with the kind of support I envision,” he remembers. “All those activities create so many great memories — the kids you were with, the trips you went on, everybody comes to the shows, the sports events with music, the spring musical. We all get together.  It’s the arts that lift us up to higher heights. The more you take the arts out, the more you hurt the community.”

Still, he acknowledges that rebuilding arts education is going to require building trust among voters and lawmakers.

“There’s a lack of trust in the people who lead our educational system,” he says. “How do we find a way to trust the leadership and the organizations that are making these decisions when they come to us and say we need more money to fund these important programs? Will that money be spent on what we voted on? How can we help educational organizations deliver a much better message, so people will trust what they’re doing?”

“I think the Play it Forward program is one of those things that leads by example. So I’m hoping that as we grow, maybe this program will expand to every school in the state. Through that example people will see and trust that arts education is something we have to have in our community and in our educational system.”

Harrison wants to play a personal role in rebuilding support for arts education.  

“I’m happy to get on my soapbox. I would love to participate in any group bringing forth legislation, be a pied piper and a voice. Oregon has led the way in so many things that later filter through the rest of the country. We can be that leader again.”

Limited tickets are available now for the Play It Forward Supper Club event at www.pifmusic.org. Individual tickets start at $125, with group packages and children’s meals also available. Guests purchase a ticket, reserve their meal and bottle of wine, and prepare for a fun evening. The event is expected to sell out, so early reservations are encouraged. Deadline to sign up is July 19.

The 20th anniversary Ten Grands concert originally scheduled for April 11 at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is now planned for November 15 at  Keller Auditorium, but of course everything is subject to changing pandemic restrictions.

Want to read more cultural news in Oregon? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!

The Cabin (and the Music) in the Woods

"Aberdeen," Matt Sheehy’s musical memoir of grief and rebirth, is livestreaming this weekend

By the time I was done watching the new, live-streaming performance of Aberdeen, a surreal and soulful album from the Portland indie-rock band Lost Lander, I felt like an expert on its star, Matt Sheehy. I wasn’t, of course—Aberdeen is just one 75-minute fragment of Sheehy’s psyche—but the performance was so intimate that I felt like I was.

Part concert, part confessional and part woozy fantasy, this rendition of Aberdeen may seem like old news to people familiar with Sheehy’s nakedly emotional, gently yearning songs. Those who aren’t acquainted with his work are about to discover a brilliant and bizarre plunge into the mind of a singular artist.

Matt Sheehy, in a screen shot from the promo video for “Aberdeen.”

Aberdeen begins with Sheehy standing alone in a forest (the performances are being streamed from Corbett, Oregon). With disarming frankness, he begins telling us about some of the most anguished moments of his life, including the death of his mother. In one of the show’s many flashbacks, his girlfriend Sarah (bandmate Sarah Fennell) asks him, “Did your mom dying make you want to have kids?”

Continues…

Passing the Torch

Cascadia Composers' In Good Hands program expands students' musical horizons and brings Oregon music to the next generations

The typical piano recital goes something like this: assigned standard works by teachers, students dutifully perform some bite-sized Bach, a morsel of Mozart, a sampling of Schumann, maybe a token 20th century work created a century or more before they were born. Parents proudly applaud. Then the students go home and listen to the music they really like, the music of their time, until it’s time to practice Ye Olde Masters again. After a few years, many student recitalists find other outlets for their musical interests.

What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if students could play music from their own time and place? And instead of merely “reciting” standard rep that’s been played zillions of times by as many students — what if they could also engage creatively with the music they’re playing?


THE ART OF LEARNING: An Occasional Series


That was the vision Cascadia Composers founder David Bernstein suggested to Portland Piano International founder Harold Gray in 2009. Before moving to Oregon, Bernstein had been involved in a program in Cleveland, where he was a music professor, that connected area composers to piano students. A concert of music by Northwest composers, performed by Portland-area piano students, would make a splendid addition to a summer festival almost entirely dominated by music from centuries ago and oceans away, Gray and Bernstein thought.

The 2018 In Good Hands performers

This Saturday afternoon, July 11, Cascadia presents its 10th annual In Good Hands recital, featuring student performers from both the Portland and Eugene metro areas will play new music written by eleven Cascadia Composers members. Anyone interested in the future of Oregon music can tune in via Zoom or at the archived video on the Cascadia website. It’s a milestone for a program that not only provides unique educational benefits for its student participants, but also bolsters contemporary Oregon classical music’s future.

Matching Music to Students

Many if not most classic European composers (Ravel, Prokofiev, Schumann, Bartok etc.) enjoyed, and/or paid the bills by teaching and writing music for students. Many Cascadia Composers are piano teachers too, including Dan Brugh, the 2009 Oregon Music Teachers Association Composer of the Year, whom Bernstein and Gray tapped to lead what Gray dubbed In Good Hands. Brugh quickly realized that managing a score call and recital program, and coordinating among Cascadia, OMTA, and PPI, demanded hyper organized help. 

He found it in Cascadia president Jan Mittelstaedt, and the two have traded off the lead role and shared most of the managerial duties ever since. Other members of the organization have helped out in different ways, from getting programs printed to obtaining the roses that participating composers charmingly present to the students who play their pieces at the recital — a symbolic passing on of the legacy of keeping Oregon music flowering through succeeding generations. 

Cascadia supplies a database of compositions suitable for student performers at various skill levels, supplied by member composers in response to an annual call for scores. OMTA publicizes the program to its member teachers, and those interested peruse the available scores (including recordings and program notes) for those they think suitable to their students’ interests and educational needs. Once a student and teacher agree on a piece, they get to meet with the composer to discuss its background, technical issues, adjustments if necessary, and so on. 

Dan Brugh congratulates an In Good Hands performer.

The pieces are as varied in style as the composers and students, with some students occasionally even embracing works written in the 20th century 12-tone modernist style. But in general, composers look to grab students with “catchy, rhythmic pieces that engage them initially and not too difficult technically or notationally,” says Eugene composer Paul Safar, who has several students participating in this year’s program.

Another longtime participant, Portland’s Dianne Davies, recalled a meeting at which participating teacher “Irene Huang said students like ‘melody, melody, melody.’ If it doesn’t have a melody, kids don’t want to play it. They also like consistent and driving rhythm. It has to have one of those two, and it’s best if it has both.”

Veteran teachers like Davies and Mittelstaedt tailor pieces to students’ interests and educational needs. “When I compose for students, I think about what they do well,” Mittelstaedt explains, “for example, if they like fast pieces, if they can do a five finger pattern fast, if they can move around the keyboard. It’s a different kind of composing when you’re writing for students.”

Going Virtual 

The recitals initially took place at the World Forestry Center during PPI’s annual summer festival. They differ from standard recitals because they’d involve a dozen on more students from various teachers instead of just one. Moreover, the programs consisted entirely of contemporary music rather than pedagogical classics, with a much greater variety of styles, ranging from neo-romantic to jazzy and many others.  

But after three years, Gray retired, putting IGH on hold, its future in doubt. After skipping a year, Brugh determined that In Good Hands must survive, solely as a Cascadia Composers initiative. Since then, Mittelstaedt says, the series has occasionally looked beyond the usual single-pianist format to include Tomas Svoboda’s Canon for Unlimited Voices featuring 14 (!) pianists, another Svoboda composition for organ, works for toy pianos (courtesy of Cascadia’s Jennifer Wright), solo flute, voice, and even combos (flute, violin and piano, flute and cello). The annual recitals moved from Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall to The Old Church Concert Hall to Portland Piano Company and for the last two summers, back to PSU.

Portland Piano International’s Harold Gray

Until this year, that is. With the pandemic scuttling so many performances, In Good Hands faced its toughest challenge since separating from PPI: how to continue performances when crowds of the size that thronged previous concerts weren’t permitted?

Once again, Dan Brugh said, “I will not let it die. It’s too important for young people and the composers. I will do anything I have to to make sure it continues. It could have ended [in 2014 after PPI pulled out]. It could have ended this year. I said, ‘we can do video.’” 

So, like many others in this plagued spring and summer, In Good Hands is going online. Students will record their own performances and Cascadia will stream it live and then archive the video. And with physical distance no longer posing a barrier, this year’s virtual performance will also be the first time students from Eugene will be participating. 

“With this pandemic [response], we’re teaching students how to embrace technology and videos,” Brugh says. “It’s important that students realize that they should have a YouTube station. It’s pushing us all into this new level of artistry. I hope we continue this live streaming even if we come back to live performances, maybe some combo of pre-recorded performances and some live, with students doing their own recordings.”

Expanding Horizons 

Teaching students about video making and streaming will be only the latest aspect of In Good Hands’s contribution to Oregon musical education. Compared to performing classics of past centuries, playing new music “opens up their ears to new sounds, new techniques, new things to learn,” says Safar. “Every composer’s got a different voice. It’s so important not be boxed into any particular genre, especially antiquated ones. When I was younger, [playing new music] helped me  not be afraid of it, to take it on its own terms. Learning new music can’t help but expand them musically, whether they end up becoming professional musicians or not.”  

Composer, teacher and pianist Paul Safar

Not only does participating in IGH keep students practicing music over the summer when many stop taking regular lessons, the program also provides a unique motivation for study that standard recitals can’t. Portland teacher Irene Huang, who has 13 students participating this year, normally plays through the classics when introducing them to her students and helps them understand various ways they’ve been interpreted. But Huang, whose own musical education was dominated standard classical repertoire, she can’t do that with new, unfamiliar music. 

“I hand the music to the students and tell them, ‘This is fresh out of the oven. I’m not playing it for you because I’ve never played it. You’ll be in charge — take it home bring it back to me and let me know what have you learned,’” Huang explains. “So they get to be the teacher. It’s more a motivation to them to be in charge instead of ‘this is what my teacher assigned me and I need to follow what she said.’ And when I tell them ‘you’ll be premiering this piece, and it’s never been played before in public and you’ll be the first one — that sends them to the moon!”

Because of that sense of ownership, Huang says, performing in In Good Hands especially encourages reticent performers. “Most of my students are Asian,” she laughs, “and some can be shy and timid, so sometimes it’s hard to get them up there to perform. Through In Good Hands, many of my students become not as passive. They’re very happy and excited to show everyone what they’ve learned.”

Finding Their Voices

Students’ personal stake in the music also comes from their personal connection to the composers. Working with composers on their interpretations gives students an opportunity to divine what the composers intended in a way that’s impossible to do with long-dead composers. “If composer and students are working together and the composer explains their motivation and inspiration in writing the piece, or gives suggestions on how want it played, it helps them a lot,” Mittelstaedt says. For example, one of this year’s performers, a student of Safar’s, is playing her “Dusk,” and she was explaining how she imagined the different sections sounded. “This area is like velvet,” she told him. “Imagine you’re touching velvet — that’s how you’d play it.” 

Composer, teacher and pianist Jan Mittelstaedt

In a piece called “Childhood Memories,” a student didn’t understand why the middle section was dark and spooky. “It’s about the things you’re afraid of, like the monster in the closet,” composer Dianne Davies told her. One piece of hers played by one of Huang’s students is based on a story about a jaguar chasing its prey, and Davies allows students to inform their performances of the ending based on whether they think the jaguar caught its victim or not.

“I’m honored to be part of In the Good Hands concert,” wrote Huang’s 11-year-old student Thalia Wong. “When I play piano, I try to imagine what the composers try to express in their music. This time, I get to personally connect with the composers! I love that they can give me feedback for my performance. This helps me to understand the music more, and makes it more special. It’s also exciting to be the first to perform this brand new piece of music.”

Davies, Brugh and Safar also acknowledge how educational it can be for students to bring their own interpretations to a work, even if different from their own original intentions. “It was really touching to hear a student play a piece of mine called “Lonesome Waltz,” Davies recalls. “She didn’t play it exactly how I envisioned it, but it was incredible to hear someone play a piece I’d written with such deep emotional attachment that she made something I’d brought into existence mean something to her, too.”  

Brugh had a similar experience, when a teacher suggested a student play his piece without using the pedal that adds reverberation. Brugh heard it and said “bathe it in pedal! But the teacher said ‘I told her not to do that!’ That’s the beauty of In Good Hands. The teacher, composer and student come together and they learn from each other.”

Ultimately, it’s up to the student to decide how to interpret the music, as long they keep the spirit of the music, Brugh says. “To learn the expression of a new piece, to make it their own benefits the students musically. You’re not just learning it by rote, but you really learn about yourself and what music means to you. You’re teaching a student to find their own voice.”

This year, some composers are even able to give students rehearsal feedback because the students can send them videos of their practices. One student this year even said participating in the process has made him more interested in doing his own composition. “I recently learned the piece entitled “Snowbound” by Jan Mittelstaedt for part of my syllabus Level 6 exam,” wrote student Tyler Raven. “I enjoyed learning and performing it. It was awesome to then be able to meet Jan. I was able to play the piece for her and we talked about what the piece was about, what inspired her to write it, and discussed different parts of it. This program was a great way for me to learn about a composer and has inspired me to continue to write my own music.” 

Enriching Oregon Music

Composers benefit too.  “As a composer you realize the value of writing a piece that’s not hard,” Brugh explains. “We all write these extraordinarily complex pieces with big concepts but this year I wrote a piece called “Martian Camper” and it’s fun and it’s still music. You don’t always have to reinvent the world. In simplifying, sometimes you get closer to your inner voice.” 

Davies has gained valuable perspective from IGH. “It’s made me more aware of different subject matters to write about,” she says. “My first pieces were about me — my childhood memories. The other pieces have been about topics that students would be interested in,” like disappearing wildlife threatened by humans’ encroachment on their habitats. “I’m finishing my second set of Rainforest Animals,” inspired by endangered species like jaguar, Toucan Macaw, three toed sloth, golden poison dart frog. “Kids care more than adults — they’re worried about their world. So in thinking about what students want to play, my perspective has changed. It’s expanded beyond myself.” 

Composer, teacher and pianist Dianne Davies

Even teachers benefit from IGH. “Seeing my students wanting to learn something new out of their teacher’s comfort zone helps me get out of my comfort zone to play more contemporary music,” Huang says. “My tastes and appreciation of contemporary music has changed through these years. I’m starting to enjoy Oregon music more. The different rhythmic and tone colors have been getting into my ear and head more. I feel like I’m getting a little bit younger through exposure to new music.”

As IGH teachers, students, and audience members gain exposure to contemporary Oregon music, they, in turn, provide the next generations of Oregon music performers and listeners. “The hope is that it will carry over” beyond the recital performance,” Mittelstaedt says. “We’re also training future listeners. The more experiences with Oregon music they have like this, the more they’ll understand it.”

Safar, who’s had music played in almost every IGH recital, has seen the legacy growing as In Good Hands begins its second decade of seeding Oregon music. “Early on, one student played a piece of mine,” he recalls. “His hands were so little he couldn’t even reach the octaves. Maybe four or five years later, he played a piano duet of mine with another student — and he was all grown up, no longer a 10 year old, still playing my music.” 

***

You can Zoom into this year’s virtual In Good Hands performance at 3 pm Saturday, July 11. After the event, see videos of the performances at Cascadia Composers website. Teachers, parents, and students interested in the program should contact Jan Mittelstaedt at janrmitt@gmail.com.

Want to read more music news in Oregon? Support Oregon ArtsWatch

Virtual Festivals

Oregon festivals keep the music spreading online and in other virus-resistant ways

Summer is festival season in Oregon music, and last month, we noted how several major Oregon summer festivals were making the transition from onstage to online. The parade continues in July and August, beginning with what’s always the major musical event of Independence Day weekend. As ArtsWatch’s Bob Hicks explained in Blues Minus the Waterfront, Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival is shifting its annual July 4 show from one large stream — the bank of the Willamette River — to a mostly virtual one. The fest will stream highlights of past festivals on KOIN 6 over the air and online July 4, and on KBOO 90.7 FM and online July 4&5. But happily, the festival has also managed to safely add a live component. Instead of grooving to the blues in big, virus-friendly crowds, Blues Fest Bandwagon brings performances to select driveways, cul-de-sacs, and front porches in the Portland metro area Friday and Saturday.

Amenta Abioto performs at Pavement on July 18.

That’s not the only show to venture out to non traditional outdoor spaces for distanced live performance. On July 18, Risk/Reward Festival and Portland’s Boom Arts theater company present Pavement: pop-up performances in a public parking lot on Portland’s Central Eastside. Where? Excellent question, and to find the answer, and see and hear music by Kenji Bunch and Monica Ohuchi, Portland Opera, and Amenta Abioto, plus some of the city’s top dance and theater artists, you’ll need a ticket. All these free streams we’ve enjoyed are a treat, but artists still need to eat and pay rent.

Though the live event, which also airs on Xray FM, is set up as a drive-in experience, standing room tickets (spaced apart, masks required) are also available for environmentally responsible Portlanders who are trying to protect the planet by avoiding driving and instead using Earth-friendly transportation like feet, bikes, scooters, skateboards and public transportation. 

Kenji Bunch and Monica Ohuchi

From Field and Forest to Screen

Actually, there is an Oregon festival that’s always been free, even when it happened offline. But this year, instead of its scenic location under the St. Johns Bridge, the Jazz Society of Oregon’s 40th Annual Cathedral Park Free Jazz Festival is going virtual, streaming live online Friday through Sunday, July 17-19. Starting at 5 pm, Friday’s blues-tinged show features Louisiana transplants Steve Kerin and the Bayou Boyz, preceded by Tevis Hodge, Jr., then a pair of International Blues Challenge finalists: the Rae Gordon Band, and Johnny Wheels and the Swamp Donkeys.

Cathedral Park Jazz Festival usually happens under Portland’s St. Johns Bridge. Not this year.

Saturday’s sounds commence with another Louisiana immigrant, sterling saxophonist Devin Phillips with his trio, followed by leading jazz violinist Eddie Parente’s quartet summoning the spirits of Joe Venuti, Stuff Smith and Stephane Grappelli. After sets by Outer Orbit and Latin-favorite Picante, the sublime singer Saeeda Wright fronts a nine-piece orchestra for a strong closer.

Sunday’s show starts at 130 pm with with the Minidoka Swing Band, followed by John JB Butler Quartet, the Christopher Brown Quartet, his dad and Oregon jazz legend Mel Brown’s Trio with great guest vocalist Shirley Nanette, and festival closers, the deliciously danceable Ethio-soul Tezeta Band.

Still another longtime Oregon festive institution, the Oregon Country Fair, also goes virtual July 10-12, including an interactive Fair in the Clouds 3D Experience: “a 3D-virtual representation of the OCF, complete with stage acts, booths, and the ability to wander the Fair in the Clouds.” It won’t be the same without the colorful community in person, but there’s nothing stopping you from wearing body paint at home, or nothing at all. And of course there’s always the fair’s own streaming station. Check the festival website for details on musical and other entertainment. Virtual drum circle anyone?

Another pandemic casualty: Oregon Country Fair’s live music up close and personal.

Dry August

While June and July provided a surprising albeit distanced abundance of musical festivities, August so far looks a little sparser, but conditions and plans are changing rapidly, and we’ll try to keep you posted as we learn more. 

• Happily, the relatively new Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival is diving into the streaming scene. But it’s also combining that forward looking move with a decidedly retro strategy: releasing an album. The August 8-22 performances will be streamed live from Oregon wine country as usual — but the difference is, only the musicians (players from FearNoMusic, Oregon Symphony, and more) will be there, not the audience. 

Another thing that won’t change: the festival’s commendable, long-standing inclusion of composers of color. “Virtual Composers-in-Residence” Gabriela Lena Frank (first week, from Newberg’s J. Christopher Wines) and Jessie Montgomery (second week, from Dayton’s Archery Summit Winery) return to the Festival after previous residencies there, and dynamic violinist/composer Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) makes his first festival appearance on the final weekend, from Dayton’s Sokol Blosser Winery. All three have won national acclaim for their inventive, accessible 21st century music, as has another composer whose music appears on this year’s second weekend tasting menu: Portland’s own Kenji Bunch. The program also contains still more contemporary music by Frank protegé Akshaya Tucker, plus old music by rarely heard Baroque composer Isabella Leonarda and immortal classics by an old dead white dude named Ludwig, in celebration of his birth a quarter millennium ago. All the concerts make a nice combo of old and new music, and we’ll tell you more about that as the performances draw nigher. 

Composer Gabriela Lena Frank. Photo: Mariah Tauger

One piece you will hear, Frank’s popular string quartet Leyendas (Legends): An Andean Walkabout, also appears on the festival’s debut album Her Own Wings along with the world premiere  recording of her Milagros. Recorded in the Barrel Room at J. Christopher Wines, the album drops August 7.

You can buy viewing passes to the live stream links beginning July 7, and, though there’s nothing quite like actually hearing chamber music in an intimate wine country setting, the festival is maintaining its oenophilic focus by offering wine pairings for purchase and delivery.

Bend’s Sunriver Music Festival has suspended its August concert series, and moved its annual Festival Faire fundraiser to an online auction August 6-12, including a virtual Beethoven birthday party August 8 that includes a video premiere, online chats and performances by scholarship recipients. It’s still planning to stage its annual Young Artists Scholarship Concert in late August, and to award $35,000 to classical music students for next school  year. The organization has reopened its offices and plans further announcements about upcoming performances soon.

Another August musical highlight, Portland’s 23rd annual William Byrd Festival, has postponed all lectures, concerts, liturgies and music to next year’s festival. The festival hopes to provide some online material from regular festival participants later this summer.

Finally, Jacksonville’s Britt Festival has postponed its 2020 classical season to 2021. Instead, the festival will stream “BrittVids, an online series that showcases musicians, artists, and storytellers sharing their craft,” the festival’s press release explains. “BrittVids include members of the Britt Festival Orchestra, friends of Britt’s Education programs, and popular local musicians,” with new videos posted every Tuesday and Thursday on the festival’s YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram pages.

Caught in Midstream

Oregon’s two major summer festivals, which we previewed last month, continue in July. The Oregon Bach Festival’s Radio Festival, broadcast live on KWAX, offers Mendelssohn’s spirited music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a Schubert Mass on Thursday, July 2. Friday’s stream features a 1995 performance of JS Bach’s St. John Passion, conducted by Helmuth Rilling and featuring the great baritone Thomas Quasthoff, who also stars in a 1998 Romantic song recital on July 8. That segment hat also includes festival fave pianist Jeffrey Kahane leading the OBF orchestra in Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto. 

Helmuth Rilling conducted J.S. Bach’s ‘St. John Passion’ at the University of Oregon’s Beall Hall in 2013. Photo: Turrell Group.

Monday’s concert revives Rilling & Co.’s modern instrument performance of Bach’s ever-popular Brandenburg Concertos. Tuesday’s features the great Scottish composer James Macmillan’s European Requiem and Alleluia, plus Bach’s Magnificat and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. 

Next Thursday’s contemporary-oriented broadcast features selections from American composer Richard Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua (which debuted at the 2018 fest) and from Sven-David Sandström’s modern, moody Messiah update on Handel, along with the expansive Grammy-winning Credo by great 20th century Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. The radio festival closes July 10 with Bach’s mighty b minor Mass.

Chamber Music Northwest’s free Virtual Summer Festival also mostly streams music from past festivals, but couple of new shows recorded at the homes of some of its veteran performers – literally, hausmusik — have conveyed a charming intimacy that’s always been a festival hallmark. Prime recommendation: this Thursday’s new American music concert featuring performances from recent festivals of new music by Joan Tower, David Lang, Kevin Puts, Hannah Lash, and other American composers. Don’t miss the July 6-12 presentation of contemporary Chinese American composer Bright Sheng’s gorgeous chamber opera The Silver River, one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in my decades of attending the festival. You can hear the Miro Quartet play Beethoven’s immortal string quartets Saturday and Sunday, live-streamed from their Austin home base. 

The Mirò Quartet plays Beethoven at Chamber Music Northwest

Stay tuned to ArtsWatch and Chamber Music Northwest’s YouTube channel for previews of the remaining concerts, which run through July 26. And please let us know if you hear — or want to hear — other news about Oregon music festivals in this live music bummer of a summer.

Want to read more music news in Oregon? Support Oregon ArtsWatch

Blues minus the Waterfront

What's the Fourth of July Weekend without the Blues Festival by the river? On new platforms and minus the big crowds, the beat goes on.


PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOE CANTRELL
STORY BY BOB HICKS


IN THIS MOST UPSIDE-DOWN OF YEARS, even the Fourth of July has had to change its tune. For more than three decades in Portland, the Fourth Weekend has meant heading on down to the Waterfront Blues Festival, that grand jam along the Willamette downtown in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, when several stages jostled and blared with nonstop music from around the nation and sometimes the world, and vendors sold everything from elephant ears and cold beer to floppy-brim hats, and thousands of music fans danced and marched and sang and stomped and cheered and crowded together like hundreds of oysters on dozens of po’ boy sandwiches, and at dusk on the Fourth the sky exploded with the brilliant colors of a thousand fireworks.

That’s not happening in this Year of the Corona. The Blues Fest was among the first big gatherings to peer into the future and call off the show, at least in its usual form. Yes, the lockdown’s loosening, cautiously, although maybe not nearly cautiously enough. Covid-19 cases are spiking in Oregon and nationally, people in stores and elsewhere are routinely defying orders to wear masks, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the closest thing to a national leader on pandemic response, is warning of a flareup to 100,000 new infections a day if Americans don’t follow protocols. You can get a haircut now – carefully – or distance-dine at a restaurant. But even as baseball and basketball are gearing up for shortened seasons, you can’t go out to a ballgame: the stands will be empty of fans. And you can’t go back-to-back and belly-to-belly in the sort of big crowd the Blues Fest ordinarily draws. We’re still a long way from that.

So, just say no to the waterfront. But don’t say no to the Waterfront Blues Festival – at least, not entirely. Pushed out of its comfort zone, the festival’s come up with some alternatives so the beat can go on. You can’t touch it. But you can hear it and you can feel it. Here’s what’s happening:

  • Blues Fest Band Wagon. Friday/Saturday, July 3 & 4. A series of socially distanced mini-concerts in driveways, front porches, and cul-de-sacs across the Portland metro area. Think of them as your friendly neighborhood jams.
  • Blues Fest Broadcast. 9-11 p.m. Saturday, July 4. Portland television station KOIN (6) will broadcast a two-hour special celebrating memorable performances from past festivals, and cap it off with a replay of festival fireworks over the river. Also stream online at www.koin.com.
  • Blues Fest on Air. Noon-7 p.m. Saturday/Sunday, July 4 & 5. Community radio KBOO-FM 90.7 will broadcast seven hours each day of favorite sets and behind-the-scenes tales from past festivals. Also stream online at https://kboo.fm/listen-now.

Still longing for the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd? Take a photographic journey with Joe Cantrell to the Ancient Days of 2018 and 2019, when the Blues Festival crowds roamed wild and free along the waterfront, bumping and jostling and hugging and laughing in a happy mass of humanity, and the music wrapped around them like a blanket with a beat, and the good times rolled. As they used to say in Brooklyn, wait ’til next year. Maybe they’ll roll again.


THE MUSICMAKERS


Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, 2019

Continues…

Listening Room: Rubinstein & Friends

On virtual tour with the legendary pianist, composer Villa-Lobos, artist Portinari, and a tantalizing side adventure on the way to Mt. Hood

In the 1920s, pianist Artur Rubinstein left Europe for a concert tour of the United States. One of his two West Coast engagements was to perform with orchestra in Portland. Rubinstein had agreed with the conductor that he would play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #4. Two weeks before the concert, Rubinstein received a telegram which read, “The committee would be grateful if you would agree to play the Rubinstein D minor concerto instead of the Beethoven.”  Artur Rubinstein had no family relationship to the composer of that concerto (Anton Rubinstein). Annoyed, the pianist sent back a telegram that read, “I would rather you called me Artur von Beethoven for the occasion.”

Despite the mild controversy, the concert took place as planned. Rubinstein relates the following anecdote in the second volume of his memoir, My Many Years: After the concert, a local businessman and his wife invited Rubinstein for dinner. Rubinstein invited the woman for lunch the next day, before he would catch an evening train to travel east. The woman accepted, and offered to drive him to their mountain house afterwards, noting the fabulous views. The steep climb followed a road with tall piles of snow on the sides. Oregonians would assume it was the road to Mt. Hood that today is part of U.S. 26.

In time the conversation became evocative, and Rubinstein leaned over and gave the woman a kiss. The distraction led to the car swerving and falling onto its side in a snow bank. They emerged from the car with difficulty to assess their predicament. The woman insisted that Rubinstein run down the hill on the snow-covered road to a gas station with a service garage to get help. (The service station perhaps was in Sandy). It was a three-hour ordeal, but the car was put back on the road, and they drove back into Portland in time for Rubinstein to catch his train, and the woman to make it home with reputation intact.

Rubinstein at the keyboard as a young man, ca. 1906. U.S. Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons

Rubinstein – born in 1887 in Lodz, Poland, when it was part of the Russian Empire, and settled in Paris by 1904 – generally is ranked among the greatest pianists of all time, and Portland was only one of many stops in his globe-trotting years. He noted at the beginning of My Many Years that the upheavals of World War I played a significant role in establishing his career. He was invited to San Sebastian, Spain, for an engagement to replace a French pianist who had enlisted in the war, and was still in Spain when sovereign borders in Europe closed due to the hostilities. That provided him the opportunity of many engagements when other pianists in Europe could not travel across national borders.

Continues…

I feared this installment of our occasional news roundups should really be called Music Rests instead of the usual Music Notes. Like others recently, it’s peppered with postponements and cancellations — but scroll down a bit and you’ll also find some happier tidings, as musicians and music organizations creatively adapt to this year’s somber new reality.

Portland’s Old Church Concert Hall. Photo: Jennie Baker

As you peruse the gloomy news below to the sound of sad trombones, you might wonder: what can I do to help Oregon music survive this crisis? Well, you might tell your lawmakers to support allocation of Coronavirus Relief Funds to help venues survive this extended closure. Portland’s invaluable Old Church Concert Hall, whose existence is threatened along with many others, has a template letter to your State Representatives, who are considering voting on such measures very soon, that explains the importance of independent music venues to the state’s economy. You can find your own rep here. Reps from the Old Church testified before a legislative work group this month, but lawmakers need to hear from all Oregonians who cherish arts in smaller independent venues.

The Bad News

•  To the surprise of no one but the disappointment of many, Portland Opera announced the postponement of the first two operas of its 2020/21 season, necessitated by Oregon’s pandemic-provoked prohibition on large public gatherings through at least September. I suppose we can all live without Tosca for awhile, since she seems to spring back to life every few months in endless resurrections/recyclings, but it really stings to have to wait longer for the Oregon premiere of a chamber opera by an actual living composer, Robert Xavier Rodríguez’s 1991 Frida, about the eventful life of the great Mexican painter. Both powerful women should appear on Portland stages sometime next year, with exact dates to be announced later. Meanwhile, enjoy this video of Portland Opera Resident Artist Camille Sherman singing Rossini’s “Una voce poco fa” from the balcony of the company’s building on the Willamette River.

• Another seasonal opera source, Portland SummerFest, also announced the cancellation of its Opera in the Park, a consequence of Portland Parks & Recreation’s pandemic-induced cancellation of all summer activities in city parks.

• After the cancellation of the Oregon Bach Festival and Chamber Music Northwest’s live performances, another — and much newer — summer classical music institution is on hold. In a Landscape, which happens outside at various scenic Oregon natural venues, would seem a good candidate for the kind of physical distancing needed to safely attend, but “concerns about travel and crowd limitations, along with the risk of exposure for our audience and crew” have induced impresario/pianist Hunter Noack to hold off on this summer’s series, with hopes of possible resumption of a few performances.

•  Another Oregon classical music institution, Musica Maestrale, announced the indefinite suspension of its concert plans, pending some level of certainty about the resumption of live Oregon musical performance. During the meanwhilst, founder/lutenist Hideki Yamaya has, like many other performers, been scouring the Renaissance/Baroque organization’s video archives and posting past performances on YouTube

• The Newport Symphony is taking a similar tack for its annual Independence Day show, replacing live performance with a radio broadcast of an encore performance on KNPT and KYTE at 4 pm July 4, followed by a 7-10 pm posting on the orchestra’s website.

• Given the almost complete cancellation of live music this year, it’s not surprising that American Public Radio has also canceled its weekly live radio show, Live from Here, hosted by Portland mandolinist/ singer/ composer Chris Thile. The ebullient successor to A Prairie Home Companion reached 2.6 million listeners per week over 600 public radio stations, but “while this news fills me with sadness, I understand the decision,” Thile told Billboard, “ as my extraordinary teammates and I conceived of Live From Here as a celebration of live, collaborative audible art, and there’s just no telling when it could be that again.” The silver lining might be more time for Thile to make music, like his just released album with Yo Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan, and with other projects like his Punch Brothers band.

Chris Thile. Photo: Brian Stowell

The Good News

On Sunday, the Oregon Symphony inaugurates a free weekly online series. The seven-part Essential Sounds spotlights “people who are holding our community together during this time of crisis,” the orchestra’s press release explains. “Over the course of this free, seven-part series created by Oregon Symphony Creative Chair Gabriel Kahane and director Holcombe Waller, you will experience dozens of heartfelt musical performances, each accompanied by stirring imagery inspired by the stories of essential workers in a particular sector. You will hear stories like that of an Oregon Symphony percussionist, whose cousin went from frontline healthcare worker to COVID patient – and his musical dedication to her.”

Special guests include Portland songwriters Storm Large and Amenta Abioto, and recurring segments like “Composers in Quarantine Making Dinner” spotlight how prominent contemporary American composers like Nico Muhly, Jessie Montgomery, and Missy Mazzoli are responding artistically to the pandemic.

Gabriel Kahane. Photo: Josh Goleman

• The Oregon Symphony is also premiering Symphony Storytime, an original video series designed for kids seven and under. Each episode presents a children’s story narrated by a master storyteller, with accompaniment by an OSO musician performing the book’s “soundtrack,” as well as a lesson about the instrument featured in the episode. Nine English episodes and four Spanish episodes will be released on June 25, July 2, and July 9.

Eugene Symphony music director Francesco Lecce-Chong has added a Thursday night live show, featuring talks with other musicians, to the orchestra’s educational Musical Mondays stream.

• Portland’s Big Mouth Society is hosting weekly online community salons Tuesdays at 6 pm, featuring music, spoken word content and “heartfelt conversation.”

 • Live jazz is scarce these days, but Driveway Jazz Series, a socially distanced outdoor jazz series, is bringing top musicians like singer Marilyn Keller and pianist Darrell Grant to a driveway in front of a bungalow in Southeast Portland, and streamed out to the universe.

Portland Baroque Orchestra is planning to stream its entire next season, reserving the possibility of returning to live audience productions if virus and authorities permit. And it’s also going to use its spiffy streaming technology to allow other Portland artists to do the same.

•  One more Oregon classical music institution holds out enough hope that the music will resume to extend the contract of its artistic director. Eugene’s Oregon Mozart Players announced that Kelly Kuo will remain as artistic director and conductor through the 2023-2024 season.

Kelly Kuo re-ups with Oregon Mozart Players.

•  Though Sunriver Music Festival has suspended its August concert series, it’s still planning to stage its annual Young Artists Scholarship Concert in late August, and to award $35,000 to classical music students for next school  year. The organization has reopened its offices and plans further announcements about upcoming performances soon.

• Fueled by strong reviews, Portland vocal ensemble Cappella Romana’s new CD , The Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia, topped the Billboard classical charts for three weeks during its 15-week run there. You can watch a documentary about the making of the world’s first vocal album to be recorded entirely in live virtual acoustics, as well as video from the original live concert, at the group’s website.

•  Many ArtsWatch readers have enjoyed performances at Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, including Newmark Theater, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and the rest. They and other visitor venues found themselves with lots of unconsumed food and beverages for canceled events. So Metro, the regional planning organization that runs the venues, donated those perishables to groups that are feeding hungry Oregonians. The donations “have helped in providing 11,549 meals to our houseless guests here at the mission and for our search and rescue program,” said Lori Quinney, Union Gospel Mission food service director.

• Portland pianist Michael Allen Harrison has long staged an annual benefit concert and other programs to boost music accessibility to children of all economic backgrounds. Harrison’s July 25 Play It Forward virtual fundraiser supports no-cost music lessons and instruments for Portland youth by delivering to donors homes a music-filled “supper club” featuring live music, dinner and wine pairings.

• Two Portland-based music organizations, Chamber Music Northwest ($20,000) and My Voice Music ($15,000) were among the 14 Oregon arts recipients of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts this month. And Cappella Romana just scored a a $68,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support the work of Cappella Romana’s music director and founder, Dr. Alexander Lingas, who will lead a team of scholars to produce a volume of medieval Byzantine chants from the Greek monastery of Grottaferrata near Rome. He’ll also conduct research to create “Christmas 1400: A Byzantine Emperor in King Henry’s Court,” a new concert program of Byzantine and Latin music, slated to be performed in 2021.

• George Floyd was many things: family man, religious man, athlete, friend, victim of homicidal racist police state violence, maybe symbol of long overdue change. But he was also a musician. In the wake of his murder and the national protest movement it sparked, even more than usual, we need to hear from artists of color. Eureka Ensemble has compiled a useful guide to African American composers and organizations that offers “ links to either a) music by Black American composers created as a counter to the racism they faced; or b) information about Black-led/Black-founded groups working towards inclusion and equality.” Music from Other Minds offers a more contemporary oriented playlist of Black composers here.

Musicians aren’t the only performers stifled by the virus crisis, but music is no doubt providing solace to them too. Of course, Oregon’s top major professional team boasts a bona fide professional artist, rapper Dame DOLLA, in its starting lineup, and along with being a good dad to his young son and joining a protest against racist police violence across Portland’s Burnside Bridge, he’s been laying down some tracks — including this one speaking directly about the continuing racist outrages perpetrated against African Americans.

Another perennial NBA All Star, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who grew up in Oregon while his dad Mychal patrolled the painted area for those same Portland Trail Blazers, is recuperating from injury and presumably getting through this season’s virus-enforced hiatus with the help of meditation, nature sounds (of course), and classical music. We await a study that would provide arts advocates ammunition by documenting a causal relationship between listening to, say, Chopin, and sinking three point shots at an alarming rate. 

•  Those of us who miss the chance to hear live musical theater like opera and musicals can sympathize with a pair of Oregon Broadway music fans who made a parody video of show tunes they loved (from Frozen to Sweeney Todd to Hamilton and more) – rewritten about life during quarantine. Actor/singer Julia Belanova and writer/director Joel Kwartler ask that if you enjoy their video “please consider a donation to the actors fund.”

Have some more news about Oregon music that ArtsWatch readers should know? Let us know in the comments section below, or email music@orartswatch.org. Meanwhile, enjoy a little serendipitous patriotic musical harmony from Portland State University, whose graduation ceremony fell victim to the virus. But that didn’t stop the music, thanks to a Portland Opera singer and a PSU grad student.

Want to read more music news in Oregon? Support Oregon ArtsWatch