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Music Notes: transitions & triumphs


Oregon’s leading classical music public radio station All Classical Portland has launched a brand-new second radio network, for children. The International Children’s Arts Network (ICAN) is a 24-hour radio service and, the station announcement says, is the first of its kind in the US. Designed for young listeners, the network features music, poems, and literature from around the world, locally produced and curated by All Classical Portland. “ICAN provides an audio destination where kids can be inspired to listen, dance, color outside the lines, and create their own adventures,” ICAN Program Manager Sarah Zwinklis said in a press release. “Much of the content on the network will be presented by children – we believe in the power of these young voices.” Listen online at or through an HD Radio.

The station also operates a free arts journalism mentorship program that selects three high school age (ages 15-18) students from Oregon & SW Washington to be Youth Roving Reporters each year. From September – June, they’ll learn how to use recording equipment in the field, attend two arts events, conduct interviews with artistic leaders or performers, and learn to produce their interviews for radio broadcast. As ArtsWatch has previously reported, it also operates JOY: an Artist in Residence program, which includes a young artist residency.

Laurels & Shekels

• Speaking of All Classical Portland, Metropolitan Youth Symphony presented the station its 2019 Musical Hero Award in April. The station’s On Deck with Young Musicians program has featured dozens of MYS musicians in performances and interviews with All Classical Portland host and producer Christa Wessel.

• The Oregon Symphony presented its 2019 Schnitzer Wonder Award to Mariachi Una Voz of the Hillsboro School District. Launched in 2010 and including strings, brass, and singing, the group’s mission is to promote cultural understanding and community unity through music education and performance. Participation is free and open to all Hillsboro middle- and high-school students. It has performed on more than 100 school and community events, performing in venues as diverse as the Portland’5 Centers for the Arts theaters, the Moda Center, major regional cultural festivals, and schools, libraries and hospitals.

“Every child who wishes to learn to play a musical instrument should have the opportunity,” said founder and manager Dan Bosshardt in a press release. “The students that find their way to our group have inspiring personal stories. They have very supportive families that often do not have the financial means to provide transportation, instruments, lessons, or private instruction.”

• ArtsWatch congratulates a pair of Portland choral music leaders who just scored major national awards from Chorus America. Resonance Ensemble artistic director Katherine FitzGibbon won the 2019 Botto Award named after Chanticleer founder Louis Botto. She “has captained a bold organizational shift—from its original mission exploring links between music, art, poetry, and theatre, to a new focus exclusively on presenting concerts that promote meaningful social change.”


Oregon Cultural Trust

Katherine FitzGibbon leading Resonance Ensemble

• The organization’s Hillis Award went to Vancouver BC’s Chor Leoni, led by Portland State University alum and Portland-based choir director Erick Lichte, for “artistic excellence, a strong organizational structure, and a commitment to outreach, education, and/or culturally diverse activities…. The chorus pursues ambitious collaborations with other art forms, holds a robust composer competition, has begun a new composer-in-residence program, and has commissioned and premiered over 50 new works for men’s voices in the past three years alone.”

Portland Symphonic Choir has received a grant from the James F. & Marion L. Miller Foundation to help it make the transition to a new artistic leadership model. PSC will be run by a team of artistic leaders, rather than a single Artistic Director, as had been the case through five directors since the choir’s founding in 1945. The new Artistic Leadership Consortium will work together to program the season, rehearse and perform with the ensemble, and engage the community both in concert and beyond.

• Meanwhile, the Oregon Bach Festival, which had previously announced plans to abandon the traditional single AD model in favor of an annual rotating directorship, abruptly reversed course (after much negative response) and has embarked on a search for an old fashioned, single artistic leader.

• The festival, which opens June 28, also received an $80,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for its Bach in Motion program, which this summer features English conductor Jane Glover, Alito Alessi from Eugene’s DanceAbility International, University of Oregon Dance Professor Shannon Mockli and her students, the Festival Orchestra, the University of Oregon Chamber Choir and several well-known soloists. Stay tuned for our festival preview later this month.

• Oregon Humanities and the Oregon Community Foundation named Portland hip hop artist Mic Crenshaw and Lincoln City musician Crystal Akins as two of four recipients of the inaugural $100,000 Fields Artist Fellowships to support emerging to mid-career Oregon-based artists. The grant is intended to both advance artistic practice and explore the state’s “opportunity gap,” reflected in widening disparities in life outcomes for Oregon children born into poverty and children of color. Akins “will use her fellowship to build the Lincoln City Music Festival, Lincoln City Children’s Choir, and compose an original musical titled The Girl with the Magic Skin. Crenshaw, an artist-in-residence at Benson High School (an alternative program serving students who have been marginalized) “will use the fellowship to sharpen his skills and pay it forward by assisting students in creating projects that will get them paid work.”

• Several Oregon composers have been selected as semi-finalists in The American Prize national non-profit competitions in the performing arts. In the Professional Division, Newberg’s Brent Weaver’s Hymns from the Sacred Harp (in the chorus category) and Two Intermezzos (instrumental chamber music), Medford’s I’lana S. Cotton’s Cantus (for orchestra) and William Ashworth’s The Air of Other Planets (finalist, instrumental chamber music), and Portland’s Jeff Winslow’s When You Are Old (vocal chamber music). In the Student Division, Salem’s Zach Gulaboff Davis’s Groove was a semifinalist and Opaque Etchings a finalist.

• Music by Fear No Music Young Composers Project participants is reaching listeners beyond Oregon (read our interview with four of those composers here). Matthew Kaminski won first place in Oregon for the senior category of the National Federation of Music Clubs, making it his sixth consecutive time to win first place in this event. The sixteen-year-old Tigard composer’s Letters Home was written and performed at the Walden School Young Musicians Camp in New Hampshire last summer, and experiments with extended percussion techniques like amplified laptop typing to symbolize writing home and coming of age. His Centennial Ballade was premiered last November 10 in Portland as part of the celebrations for Poland’s 100 years of independence.  


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Katie Palka’s orchestral work The Breathing Earth was performed by the Hillsboro Symphony on March 8, and on April 7, her song cycle based on poetry by school students was premiered during the Opera Omaha’s ONE Festival, her string quartet Stolen Flight was performed at the Bodyvox Dance Company program in May, with choreography by the BodyVox JAG dance team, and on May 21, the Metropolitan Youth Symphony premiered her latest orchestral work, Letter to Florence Price at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

On March 3, Lake Oswego high school junior Max Ball conducted MYS in the premiere of his Fugue For Orchestra, in The Authentic Voice series presented by MYS in partnership with Fear No Music, and sponsored by Ronnie Lacroute.

Beaverton fifth grader Isaac Dryfuse won first place in the National Federation of Music Clubs local composition competition for his solo piano piece, Rhapsody in D Major.

• Marion Van Namen and Sing Portland! were chosen to participate in the March 24th Total Vocal – a performance of contemporary a cappella music directed by arranger/producer Deke Sharon (The Sing-Off, Pitch Perfect) – on the Distinguished Concerts Singers International Concert Series in New York City’s Carnegie Hall. The singers spent 9-10 hours in rehearsals over the five-day residency.

Sing Portland!
Sing Portland! in New York.

Portland Piano International announced the winners of its 2019 Youth Piano Concerto Competition, produced in conjunction with the Portland Youth Philharmonic: Audience Award Winner, Jesse Nieman (age 15), Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2; Second Prize, Jenna Tu (age 16), Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and Zayan Akmal (age 16), Scriabin’s Piano Concerto; and First Prize, Joshua Ji (age 14), Gershwin’s Piano Concerto.

Portland Piano International Finalists 2019. Photo by John Rudoff.
Portland Piano International Finalists 2019. Photo by John Rudoff.

• Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America, announced that David Machado will be honored with Americans for the Arts’ national Arts and Business Partnership Award. The awards, which go to ten arts supporters each year (none of the other honorees this  year came from west of the Mississippi) will be presented October 3 at a gala at the Central Park Boathouse in New York City. Nominated by Third Angle New Music, which he serves as board chairman, the Portland restaurateur has also supported Portland Opera, Chamber Music Northwest, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Whitebird, KMHD, Northwest Dance Project, Friends of Chamber Music, BodyVox, Cappella Romana, Oregon Symphony Orchestra, Portland Jazz Fest, Portland Piano International, Portland Youth Philharmonic, Oregon Music Festival, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Portland International Film Festival and others.

• Kerry Politzer, a pianist on the adjunct jazz faculty at Portland State University who specializes in Brazilian jazz, received a Regional Arts & Culture Council grant to research and perform the music of Brazilian composer Durval Ferreira.


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Pianist Kerry Politzer.
Pianist Kerry Politzer.

• The Jazz Journalists Association honored PDX Jazz director Don Lucoff as one of its 2019 Jazz Heroes on May 6, during Kendrick Scott’s performance at Portland club Jack London Revue, recognizing Lucoff’s lifetime of service and commitment to jazz.


• This week, Lucoff announced that he’s departing the organization after a decade, embarking on new national projects, and relocating to Denver, where he’s long operated some of his other jazz business. His other office, the marketing firm DL Media, remains in Philadelphia.

Don Lucoff. Photo: Kerry Politzer.

During his tenure, PDX Jazz received major grants from leading arts foundations, doubled its operating budget, transformed its annual festival from a downtown-centric event to a city-wide jazz celebration, embracing international headliners, emerging performers and resident artists. Its year-round programming grew to upwards of 40 shows per year, and the organization embarked on numerous outreach and educational activities and partnerships with various Portland venues and organizations.

• Another longtime Portland music leader, choir director Bob Mensel, is retiring after 26 years as Artistic Director of Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, which he led to unprecedented growth, including last year’s ambitious exchange with a Chinese gay men’s group.

• Another Portland choir, Oregon Repertory Singers, has hired Lauren Bryan as Executive Director, replacing Allison Silverberg, who has led the large choir since 2015. Bryan has worked in marketing and advertising for Portland Opera and Broadway in Portland, and has sung with ORS for six years.

 Portland Columbia Symphony has named Rebekah Phillips as the orchestra’s new Executive Director. Currently Director of Marketing, Communications & Sales at the Oregon Symphony, the classical bassoonist grew up in Oregon and earlier worked at Chamber Music Northwest. She replaces Betsy Hatton, who led PCSO for 24 of its 37 years.


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Eugene Symphony has appointed Jenny Estrin as its concertmaster, replacing Searmi Park, who departed in 2017. Estrin also plays in the Portland Opera and Oregon Ballet Theater orchestras, in chamber ensembles, and in a folk band and a trio that incorporates global influences.

• ESO also received a $15,000 NEA Art Works grant to support its next season’s “Creativity, Connection, Community (C3)” project, which includes three months of concerts and related community activities that “explore the connections and social impact of shared artistic expression.”

• The orchestra also announced a four-year project in partnership with Santa Rosa Symphony, which is also conducted by ESO Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, who conceived the idea. (Last weekend, Lecce-Chong made his San Francisco Symphony debut, conducting Mozart, Verdi and Elgar.) In the First Symphony project, four different American composers will write their first symphony, each to be world-premiered between the two symphony orchestras over the next four years. Additional shorter compositions by each composer (California’s Gabriella Smith, Philadelphia’s Michael Djupstrom, and New Yorkers Matt Browne and Angélica Negrón) will also be included the Eugene Symphony’s repertoire. Each will be Composer-in-Residence during the weeks of their performances, participating in community engagement and music education in and around Eugene.

Although the funding comes from Lecce-Chong, four local patrons of the Eugene Symphony and four from the Santa Rosa Symphony, no Oregon composers were chosen for the funding, putting Eugeneans in the position of funding Brooklyn hipsters. New York composers have a lot more options for funding than Oregon composers, so while it’s exciting to see ESO supporting new American music, it’s a real disappointment that these precious Oregon-grown commissioning funds aren’t being used to nurture the creative community that nurtures the orchestra.

• Same goes for Chamber Music Northwest’s new Commissioning Club, which asks Oregonians to make a three-year pledge to support its admirable series of investments in new music, and to participate in the selection and other activities. CMNW has a long history of commissioning new works, and already has some non-Oregonians lined up for the next two summer festivals: Edgar Meyer and George Meyer, and David Ludwig. Incoming artistic directors Soovin Kim and Gloria Chien will choose the 2021 commission this summer, and I hope Oregon composers get a strong look. In fact, why shouldn’t every CMNW commission go to a composer from the state that has supported it since 1970?

• Speaking of contemporary classical sounds, a major event in that field, the annual New Music Gathering, is coming to Oregon for the first time next summer. You’ll be hearing a lot more about that from us next year.

• Finally, Oregon ArtsWatch announces that Matthew Andrews is taking over this month as Music Editor, bumping his predecessor yours truly up to a senior editor position. We’ll tell you more about that next week.


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Got more news about Oregon music you’d like to tell our readers? Email us at

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Brett Campbell is a frequent contributor to The Oregonian, San Francisco Classical Voice, Oregon Quarterly, and Oregon Humanities. He has been classical music editor at Willamette Week, music columnist for Eugene Weekly, and West Coast performing arts contributing writer for the Wall Street Journal, and has also written for Portland Monthly, West: The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Salon, Musical America and many other publications. He is a former editor of Oregon Quarterly and The Texas Observer, a recipient of arts journalism fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (Columbia University), the Getty/Annenberg Foundation (University of Southern California) and the Eugene O’Neill Center (Connecticut). He is co-author of the biography Lou Harrison: American Musical Maverick (Indiana University Press, 2017) and several plays, and has taught news and feature writing, editing and magazine publishing at the University of Oregon School of Journalism & Communication and Portland State University.


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