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News & Notes: Hail & Farewell – The Musical (Version)

Change in the air: Comings, goings, honors, and landmarks on Oregon's music scene.

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Farewell

Third Angle New Music Executive Director Lisa Volle resigned at the end of 2021. In a dozen years under her leadership, the Portland organization has toured in Beijing, Thailand, and extensively within the United States, performed at New York’s Bang on a Can Marathon, and dramatically enriched the Oregon music scene in several dozen artistically adventurous Portland concerts. She also managed a 25th anniversary celebration, a difficult parting of the ways with longtime artistic director Ron Blessinger, the effects of a global pandemic, and last year’s ambitious Sanctuaries, the largest project in the history of the organization.

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble is bidding farewell to Executive Director Douglas Detrick, who announced his impending departure after eight years, pending selection of a successor. Under his leadership, the organization became one of the leading lights of Oregon’s revitalized jazz scene, with an active record label, abundant performances, partnerships and educational endeavors, the fabulous From Maxville to Vanport program. It’s an Oregon wellspring for new, original, locally cultivated 21st century music in the jazz tradition. Stay tuned for more on Detrick (who’s also an excellent composer, trumpeter, and multimedia artist) and PJCE in coming weeks. 

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus announced the departure of its Artistic Director, John Atorino. Associate Conductor Mary McCarty will serve as Interim Artistic Director for the remainder of PGMC’s 42nd season.

Portland Columbia Symphony announced the departure of executive director Rebekah Phillips. “While leading PCSO through the pandemic,” the press release stated, “she championed the creative talents and versatility of the region’s freelance professional musicians, bringing to fruition PCSO’s enormously successful Meet the Instruments program, instating an equitable pay scale, and increasing the number of paid performance opportunities in a season.” Before her three year tenure at PCSO, she also worked for Chamber Music Northwest and the Oregon Symphony.

Teddy Abrams leading the Britt Festival Orchestra in 2018. Photo: Josh Morell.

• The Britt Festival Orchestra named Renia Shterenberg its new general manager. She comes from San Antonio, where she directed the chamber music group Almost Ensemble and has performed in the festival as a violinist. The festival also announced the creation of a new $500,000 fund to support the orchestra’s development, and a schedule change, moving its concerts from late August (where they’ve been plagued and even canceled by wildfire smoke in recent years) to June 17-July 3. 

• Speaking of the Britt Festival, its President and CEO, Donna Briggs, retired at the end of December after a decade. Former board chair Mike Burrill credited her with creating a new business model for the Southern Oregon institution, hiring music director Teddy Abrams (who just won Musical America’s 2022 Composer of the Year Award), and guiding the festival’s response to the Covid pandemic. There was also the challenge of wildfire smoke-induced cancellations and more. “Simply put, Donna has ensured Britt’s survival,” said current board chair Dominic Campanella. 

• The Sunriver Music Festival chose Seattle native Brett Mitchell as its new artistic director. The Denver-based former Colorado Symphony music director beat out the other finalist, Oregon Mozart Players music director Kelly Kuo.

Christine Meadows retired artistic director of PSU Opera, retired in 2021.

• Portland State University bade farewell to a trio of retiring longtime music faculty members: nationally recognized music education specialist Debra Glaze, digital media guru Brad Hansen, and opera and vocal studies director Christine Meadows, who helped build PSU’s opera program into an award winning professional training program whose annual productions were always a highlight of Portland’s classical music season. 

• The seemingly refined classical music world is embroiled in yet another controversy, this one centered in the Pacific Northwest, where Seattle Symphony music director Thomas Dausgaard abruptly terminated his brief tenure via an emailed resignation— “in the middle of a season, effective immediately, and barely a month before he was about to embark on the first installment of a two-year Sibelius cycle, his passion project,” wrote longtime Seattle arts maven Douglas McLennan. His so-far definitive account of the “debacle” details a bitter brew of poor communication, board conniptions, Covid-caused travel troubles, and many other ingredients. The New York Times also weighed in. Insecure orchestras could avoid at least the travel troubles by actually hiring one of the many qualified Americans as music directors, instead of perpetuating the (thankfully declining) century long trend of trying to buy old world high-cultural cred by pursuing European maestros. 

Chamber Music Northwest artistic directors Soovin Kim and Gloria Chien. Photo: Pilvax Studio

Hail!

Chamber Music Northwest artistic directors Gloria Chien and Soovin Kim won the 2021 CMS Award for Extraordinary Service to Chamber Music, presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Their predecessor, David Shifrin, won the previous award in 2019. 

American Choral Directors Association named erstwhile Portlander Duncan Tuomi’s “The Rose That Bare Jesu” the first place winner in the 2021 Raymond W. Brock Memorial Student Composition Competition. Now a student in the choral studies Master’s degree program at the University of Southern California, Tuomi has helped lead Pacific Youth Choir’s Tsunami Chorus and performed with Corvallis Repertory Singers and Eugene Opera, and served as a soloist with Portland’s Bach Cantata Choir, among other credits. His original music has been performed by Pacific University Chamber Singers and University of Portland Chamber Singers.

• Young Lake Oswego composer/violinist/trombonist Elaina Rae Stuppler (age 13) was named one of six honorable mention awardees in the prestigious Luna Composition Lab Fellowship program, which provides mentoring by esteemed composers to teen-age female, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming composers. Stuppler is in the Oregon Symphony’s Young Composers Project, which debuted her Rae of Light last year. The Metropolitan Youth Symphony will play the world premiere of her Subwoofer Lullaby. Oregon’s Katie Palka, now also studying at USC, was a Luna Fellow in 2017-18.

Portland pianist and educator Maria Garcia

• Speaking of young Oregon musicians, the increasingly ambitious All Classical Portland radio is now accepting applications (through Feb. 28) for its Young Artist in Residence program, which offers “opportunities to expand and deepen engagement with audiences as well as with other musicians and composers through All Classical Portland’s expansive network.” The station’s Recording Inclusivity Initiative was named the winner of Current’s 2021 Local that Works contest, which recognizes excellence in media content, community engagement, and revenue initiatives. The initiative, which also welcomed new partners,  PARMA Recordings and The Sorel Organization, aims to diversify classical radio’s programming with worthy music by composers from underrepresented groups, and includes commissions of new works by contemporary composers. Finally, the station announced María García as its 2022 Artist in Residence. The Portland pianist and music educator is a member of Digitus XX Piano Duo and champion of classical music by women and composers of color.

• In a final hail and farewell, check out Eugene jazz guitarist Don Latarski’s video tribute to Springfield’s Art Maddox, one of Oregon’s leading composers, who passed in 2020.

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Chamber Music Northwest Lincoln Recital Hall Portland State University Portland Oregon

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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