Deena T. Grossman

Portland Youth Philharmonic: Creative Response

Pandemic inspires youth orchestra to create a new music festival and commissioning program featuring new music by diverse voices

Pandemic inspires youth orchestra to create a new music festival and commissioning program featuring new music by diverse voices

Art is all about creativity, so when the pandemic struck, Portland Youth Philharmonic, facing cancellation of in-person classes and concerts, got creative. The organization created a commissioning program that resulted in the creation of more than a dozen brand new compositions — and also created a multi-orchestra commissioning initiative to help fund them, and a brand new virtual festival to showcase them. 

David Hattner leads Portland Youth Philharmonic. Photo: Bev Standish. 

This Saturday and Sunday, PYP’s two-day New Music Festival features world premieres of 14 brand new works composed primarily by women and musicians of color, and commissioned especially for the orchestra’s 97th concert season as part of its recently launched Youth Orchestra Commissioning Initiative (YOCI).

What better way to show diverse young Oregon musicians and composers that great music isn’t written only by the long-dead white European males whose works have so long dominated orchestra programs? It can also be made by diverse people who live and create here and now. And though arising out of an emergency, these forward-looking changes in approach and even philosophy will persist, permanently enriching PYP’s performances and educational work.

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MusicWatch Weekly: What (else) is going on?

ARCO turns up, Geter turns on, “Kevin” takes the night off

Last week we talked all about how everyone should be making albums right now, and hopefully you all nodded your heads and muttered, “hell yeah!” Okay, good, we’re happy to have you on board. You know what you can do to make that happen? You can support the artists who will make it happen–by supporting what they’re doing right now.

And what are they doing right now? Well, the big news on our desk today is ARCO-PDX performing Beethoven in Pioneer Square at 6:30 this Saturday evening (tomorrow!), playing for–ahem—whoever happens to be downtown just then, all while keeping distant in local artist Bill Will’s Polka Dot Courthouse Square installation.

ARCO says:

Thanks to technological advances, passersby will be able to enjoy the music either from their seats on the semicircular steps, or by weaving their way through the players for a one-of-a-kind immersive experience!

This is clearly the exact right ensemble for Polka Dot Square: among other things, the “amplified” part helps a ton when you’re not only outside but six feet away from the other players, and the “repertory” part helps when the point of the concert is not about building the repertoire but putting it to use.

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