Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Some more ideas for the Oregon Symphony

I'm late in getting to the table regarding the discussion about Oregon Symphony that was ignited by the article in Crosscut. I would've commented earlier, but I've been ultra-busy lately. I have a regular job (technical writing in the software industry) and a number of other obligations that get in the way of my blogging.

One of the good ides that has bubbled up involves getting the orchestra members out into the neighborhoods. Chamber music ensembles from the Symphony could perform concerts at churches and other venues. One of my friends recently received a season brochure from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, announcing that the BSO musicians are doing just that. I know that some of the OSO musicians have discussed this topic, so it's time to act. These kinds of concerts would give a people a chance to talk with orchestra members after the concert and a chance for the musicians to personally invite people to attend concerts at the Schnitz. I know that not all musicians are the meet and greet types, but you only need a couple in the group to make it a smooth effort.

I wrote profiles of four OSO musicians for a local newspaper last February. It would've been better if I could've mentioned an upcoming concert at neighborhood church where the foursome would be playing, but that wasn't the case.

To shake down some big bucks, the OSO could approach people like Phil Knight with the idea of creating and performing a new theme song for Nike. That is, the orchestra would hire a composer to write some kind of light fanfare music for the company and perform it. This theme music could then be used by the company at their events, marketing stuff, etc. It could also be reduced down to a simple phrase to be used as a ringtone (for cell phones). Company issued cell phones and employees who want the company ring tone on their phones could then use the company theme. This could also be done for universities like the U of O, OSU, or PSU. I don't know how much a company would pay for this, but maybe the orchestra could get $200,000 for each theme song. Universities might want to cut a deal in which they would offer one of their faculty to compose the piece...

Under James DePreist the orchestra got to do the theme song for the Bill Cosby show and that caused a big splash locally. So a company or university theme song (let's say for commencement) might work well.

Regarding Carlos Kalmar and how much time he spends here. If you go back to the period of 1925 to 1938, the Portland Symphony Orchestra (as the Oregon Symphony was known then) was led by Willem van Hoogstraten, a Dutch violinist and conductor with an international reputation who really elevated the orchestra. In fact, the orchestra was featured on several national broadcasts during his tenure here.

According to Glenn Reeves, a retired principal violist of the OSO, Hoogstraten never bought a home in Portland. When Hoogstraten was in town, he rented rooms at the Congress Hotel (the Congress Center office tower now occupies that site). Reeves, as an 18 year old, auditioned at Hoogstraten's residence in the Congress Hotel (and won the job). Portland audiences in the days of yore were very happy with its globe-trotting conductor, because he added prestige. And like Kalmar in Chicago, Hoogstraten conducted the New York Symphony-Philharmonic during its summer series at Lewisohn Stadium on the campus of the City College of New York.

When DePreist arrived on the scene he kept his gig at the Quebec Symphony for a short while, but he did make his home base in Portland. It didn't take long for DePreist to develop an international reputation, and each time he conducted a European orchestra or a major league American orchestra, that fact was celebrated locally. He was counted as own of Portland's own. It's not too late to make the same happen for Kalmar. Kalmar is a thoughtful and engaging personality, and he can resonate with Portlanders. I interviewed him (for this blog) at the beginning of this season, and I hope to interview him after the new year.

PS: I interviewed Reeves (at his home in Tacoma) several years ago about his time with the Oregon Symphony. He is the only person to have played for all of the conductors of the orchestra up to and including DePreist. Reeves didn't play for Denton when Denton conducted the Portland Symphony. He played for Denton because Denton taught orchestra in the Portland Public School system.


Corie said...

Glenn is my grandfather. He is now 93 and still playing music as best he can. His shoulder bothers him, so him mostly plays guitar (which he taught himself). I am going to show this post to him as I'm sure he will get a kick out of it. He is an amazing man and an inspiration. Thank you!

Corie B Ingram

James Bash said...

Hi Corie,

I really enjoyed meeting your grandfather and interviewing him. I have the interview on tape if you'd like to hear it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the late reply, but I would love to hear it! My email is

Thank you!