September 19, 2007



Portland, Ore. … Musicians from the Oregon Symphony will immerse themselves in the Eastern Oregon communities of La Grande and Cove this season during the first of two years in a recently announced Community Music Partnership (CMP) between the Symphony, the Cove School District, the La Grande School District, the Eastern Oregon Regional Arts Council and the Cove Community Association. Both communities were selected for the partnership with the Symphony through a competitive application process. CMP funding is provided by The Ford Family Foundation and the Oregon Arts Commission. 

The CMP calls for the Symphony’s extensive roster of musicians and staff to work with students, educators, local arts organizations and business leaders to strengthen existing programs while integrating new arts programming into the school curriculum and greater community by offering resources in music education performance and arts advocacy.  

This year’s partnership is particularly unique; it is the first year the Symphony has collaborated with two communities.

Director of Education and Community Engagement Emilia Smith said, “Given the proximity, our hope is that we can serve as the catalyst for not just strengthening the arts in each individual community, but giving them the resources to be stronger together.”

La Grande has a population of 12,500 and is located just 15 miles from Cove, which has a population of 500. Both are located in the Grand Ronde Valley in Eastern Oregon.

ArtsEast, home of the Eastern Oregon Regional Arts Council, will be a leading partner in the CMP. With its headquarters in La Grande, the mission of ArtsEast is to serve, facilitate and promote the arts and arts education and artists living in the ten easternmost counties of Oregon. In addition, the Grande Ronde Symphony, a community orchestra made up of 40 players, will be celebrating its 60th anniversary during the 2007-2008 season. For the first time, Oregon Symphony musicians will have the opportunity to work with a community orchestra, allowing for a true mentoring role to begin.

“We hope this will serve as an example for future relationships with community orchestras across the state,” said Smith.

The city of Cove hosts the Cove Community Collaboration, a partnership between Cove Public School and community organizations that shares their assets to improve life within the community. Events include the Cove Art Festival and Music over the Valley, a summer concert series.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity. It’s almost beyond our comprehension, to work side-by-side with Oregon Symphony musicians. We can’t wait to see the lights shine in the eyes of the kids as they experience the music firsthand,” said Sherry Hartley, president of the Cove Community Association.

Following extensive planning with school leadership teams and a community steering committee, the first year of the CMP is expected to result in more than 350 music education and community events and activities beginning in January 2008 and continuing through May 2008. These will include youth and community concerts by the Oregon Symphony held at Eastern Oregon University’s McKenzie Theatre as well as collaborations among students, teachers, staff, residents and individual Symphony musicians. Year Two of this partnership will focus on sustainability activities, such as teacher workshops and planning for continued community involvement in the music programs at the school and community level.

“We’re looking forward to getting the students excited about working closely with the Oregon Symphony musicians, so they can see that these are people that come from ordinary backgrounds just like they do, and they can also aspire to play at such a high artistic level,” said Jim Howell, La Grande High School Band Director.

Communities east of the Cascades (the CMP alternates its sites east and west of the Cascades each year) with populations of 30,000 or fewer were eligible to apply; last season the Symphony began a two year partnership with Estacada, Ore. Previous partnerships include the cities of Baker City, Klamath Falls, North Bend and Redmond, Ore.

Smith and her department are now working with the La Grande and Cove Steering Committees to identify goals and to plan partnership activities.  Professional training for teachers will begin in the fall.  Symphony musicians are expected to begin monthly visits to the communities in January; the orchestra concerts are scheduled for May of 2008.

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