2004-2005 is our 50th Season!
This is the
Story of the Symphony, 1954-2005.
Read down through the whole history or jump to the
50th Anniversary Celebration.
Copyright © 1995-2005 Henry Strobel for the Salem Youth Symphony Association
|50 years represents a lot of inspiring teachers and thousands of young, talented, exuberant - and serious - musicians. As I turned the pages of the Symphony's archives and scrapbooks, and recalled my own fifteen years as a board member, the good influence on our youth and community become evident. Countless people participated and contributed. Only a small fraction of that history and their names are presented here. If you have additional information or suggestions, mail the Salem Youth Symphony Association, P.O. Box 21023, Keizer, Oregon 97307 or email me.|
1954- Bill Swettman made it happen. Here's the historic document:
SALEM PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Next Tuesday, November 9, 1954, will be the first scheduled meeting of the newly planned Salem All School High School Orchestra. This orchestra will meet regularly on Tuesday evenings thereafter and the rehearsals will be from 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. These rehearsals will be held in the instrumental music rehearsal room of South Salem High School. Dr. William Swettman, Director of Music Education of Salem Schools, will be the conductor.
This orchestra will include selected students from the two senior high schools and the two junior high schools. Members of the instrumental programs of the four schools will be selected according to interest and degree of playing proficiency . . .
Cathy Schnelker, Sylvia Thelen, Deanna (Schendel) Dyksterhuis, Janie Roberts, Dr. Swettman
First a Short Summary
Bill Swettman founded the Salem Youth Symphony as an "all city" orchestra in 1954 and directed it until he retired from the Salem, Oregon school district in 1972. (This was all before my time; it was his interest in violin making that later led to our friendship.)Other conductors followed Bill, practically a "who's who" of our top music teachers, supported by other dedicated managers, board members, coaches, parents, teachers, students, volunteers, contributors, so many that I could not begin to name them all here.
Originally called the Salem Junior Symphony, it had a "self-perpetuating board of directors performing the management functions," ordinarily composed of the conductors and several parents. Dr. William Swettman, head of music in the Salem schools, was its conductor and mentor through 1971. He was followed by Dan Smith, Madison Vick, and Bruce McIntosh (current director of the Salem Chamber Orchestra). The organization was inactive from 1976 to 1979, when it was revived by Stephen Nelson as the Salem Youth Symphony. At the same time a second symphony for the younger students was formed with Mike Dunlap as conductor. It took over the Junior Symphony name (until 1989 when it became the Preparatory Symphony under Deborah Ward.) For a time they were sponsored by Willamette University.
Karl Raschkes, who needs no introduction in Salem, was the conductor from 1984 through 1987, and the governing/support board was named the Salem Youth and Junior Symphony Association. In the following years the orchestras continued to shine under other dedicated conductors from the Salem-Keizer schools - Dick Bauer, Steve Nelson, Deborah Ward, Bruce Purdy, Jeff Shippy, Steven Benham, Stacy Siess, Jon Harris-Clippinger, and currently the vibrant conductor of the Youth Symphony, Larry Garrett.
In 1990 Betty Charnholm succeeded Karen Kohne as chairman of the symphony board. Other board members included several parents (I had just been appointed), Karl Raschkes, representing Salem-Keizer schools, and George Tuthill, representing the Argonauts, which it joined in 1991. This move fitted the symphony's growing needs for office facilities, rehearsal space, insurance, and more travel and performance opportunities. Its annual budget went from about $10,000 in 1991 to about $30,000 in 1993 with Argonaut subsidies. It grew to include the present three orchestras- Youth Symphony, Philharmonia (renaming the Preparatory Symphony), and Amadeus Players (added to accommodate more young musicians). The overall program was called Argonauts Symphonies for Youth. Betty Charnholm generously and expertly managed the symphonies during this period.
(Argonauts was founded in 1967, and by the mid 90s was serving as many as four thousand Salem area youth in their various programs - marching band, baton corps, boys choir, summer theatre, youth symphony, jazz lab, chamber ensembles, community art, and the summer parks and recreations program.)
The revenue of the Argonauts, chiefly derived from bingo operations, declined along with the opening of competitive new gaming operations and eventually it became necessary to dissolve the organization and transfer control and residual assets to the Youth Symphony and the Boys Choir, who registered as independent non profit organizations. Increased fees and student work scholarships helped fill the gaps.
In the years since, the Salem Youth Symphony Association has grown and flourished under managers Sharon Bartsch, Rob Rainey, Joyce Epp and now (2004) Shelly Raszka, and with the continuing collaboration of parents and board members. We are fortunate that Sharon of the energetic musical Bartsch family remains president. And yes, it is in the black, thanks to your support!
Now Back to Our Story!1955- The first concert was held April 19,1955 at Leslie Junior High School auditorium, admission $.50. In the Spring of 1955 the name Salem Junior Symphony was adopted. In the Fall a board of directors organized the Salem Junior Symphony Association.
The Salem Junior Symphony became a self-supporting activity allied with the city of Salem Recreation Program. It had a nine member board and appointed Dr. Swettman as permanent conductor. There were 34 sponsors, 20 guarantors, 58 sustaining and 68 associate members!
Same youthful spirit - different styles. (While in LA, the orchestra even appeared on the nationally televised Lawrence Welk show!)
1960- Francis Gaskins, concertmaster (right) shows Sylvia Thelen, first cello, and Keith Weathers, first trumpet, a machete he got in Puerto Rico, where he attended the International String Congress at the American University.
|(A personal note: When I came to this area in
1985, I was fortunately not too late to become close friends with
some of the artist teachers who, in these early years, led the
youth symphonies as well as teaching in the Salem schools and
performing in the Oregon Symphony, etc. They were retired then, but
enjoyed visiting in my violin shop. Among these were, left to
right, Bill Swettman (holding a violin he made),
Victor Palmason, and Peter Frajola
Sr.. I was too late for Winston Petty - although I did get
to know his cello professionally, as well as the others'
instruments. Peter's son, a Youth Symphony alumnus, is now a
concertmaster in the Oregon Symphony.)
The Willamette Sojourn1982- The Salem School District dropped sponsorship and support of the symphony, but Willamette University assumed sponsorship, giving it free use of Smith Auditorium and adjacent music rooms.
The Salem Youth and Junior Symphonies became the Pre-College Division/Music of Willamette University for the 1982-83 and 1983-84 academic seasons. Its faculty included the conductors, Steve Nelson and Mike Dunlap, plus Amy Barlowe 82-83, Bruce McIntosh 83-84, and much of the University music department staff.
1984- Willamette University withdrew its financial support. A parent support group formed the non-profit Salem Youth and Junior Symphony Association, Inc., and became the primary sponsors. The symphonies became a separate entity, no longer a part of the Office of External Education at Willamette University, but continued to rehearse and hold concerts there through 1987.
Stephen NelsonRichard Bauer
1991 Steve Nelson with the Salem Youth Symphony. Click to ENLARGE
1991 Deborah Ward with the Junior Symphony. Click to ENLARGE
1991 Bruce Purdy with the Preparatory Symphony. Click to ENLARGE
Adventures with the Argonauts1991- In March the Argonauts became the new sponsor of the Argonauts Symphonies for Youth. The Youth Symphony board became an advisory board to the Argonauts. Betty Charnholm was hired as manager of the Symphonies. There were then three groups - the Youth, Junior, and Preparatory Symphonies, meeting respectively the needs of advanced high school, advanced junior high, and advanced elementary levels of musicianship. Steve Nelson continued as conductor of the Youth Symphony while Bruce Purdy conducted the Junior Symphony. Deborah Ward continued with the Preparatory Orchestra. As always, members had to also participate in their school orchestra, if available. As before, members were not limited to the Salem-Keizer area, and home-schooled students were very welcome. (I moved from the Symphony Board to the Argonauts Board.)
A new annual tradition began with the first "Winter Enchantment." Here's what the poster said:
1992- Bruce Purdy left the Preparatory Orchestra and was replaced by Stephen Benham, the recently hired orchestra director of North Salem High.
A two week Summer Program concluded with performances at the 1992 Cascade Music Festival in Bend, Oregon.
Argonauts hosted violinist Karen Iglitzin's master classes and concert.
(Note: Soon after the Youth Symphony joined the Argonauts a new hazard appeared on the horizon. The Argonauts, founded in 1967, had long served as a national good example of a successful community funding program for the arts but it derived most of its income from a very successful bingo operation. The proposed building of an Indian gaming center would not be subject to the same restrictions that governed non-profit operations. Gov. Barbara Roberts replied May 15,1992: "Dear Mr. Strobel: Thank you for contacting me concerning the Siletz Tribe's plans to acquire land for gambling purposes in Marion County, I do not support the tribe's proposal, nor will I support any effort by any tribe in Oregon to acquire off-reservation land for the purpose of establishing a gambling facility. . ." Despite our letter-writing campaign to state and federal officials it became a factor in eventually shutting down the Argonauts.)
1993- The middle Preparatory Orchestra was renamed the Philharmonia, and the younger group the Amadeus Players.
This year saw also the first of Deborah Ward's traditional annual outdoor retreats with canoeing, games, practice, performance, etc.
The Argonauts Salem Youth Symphonies went on a performance tour of the Seattle SeaFair Festival.
Stephen Nelson resigned as conductor of the Youth Symphony and Stephen Benham moved to this position. Deborah Ward continued with the Amadeus Players. Jeff Shippy, Orchestra Teacher of the Salem-Keizer school District, was hired as conductor of the Philharmonia.
1994- Performance tour to Vancouver, BC Canada. Stephen Nelson replaced Jeff Shippy as conductor of the Philharmonia orchestra. Young violinist Nelly Kovalev, 13, fresh from Latvia was the Concerto Competition winner.
1995- Cellist Carmen Bartsch won the Concerto Competition.
1996- A full year! The Winter Enchantment was cancelled for the first and only time by a fierce ice storm - Jay Chen, trumpet, would have been the guest artist.
The concerto competition winner was North High violist Seth McGill. Summer String camps were held for each of the three groups. The Youth Symphony performed for the first time with the Argonauts Boys Choir.
On October 1 the Argonauts handed back control of the youth groups, including the symphony because of greatly diminished income. Despite valiant efforts, including opening a new bingo operation in Portland, it became necessary to sell the building at 1320 Capitol St. NE, dissolve the organization, and distribute the assets. Once again the symphony was on its own, remimiscent of when Willammete dropped it in 1984. Again it survived. The Salem Youth Symphony Association formed and moved ahead without skipping a beat in its program, while moving toward independent tax-exempt, non-profit status.
(I have the highest regard for both George Tuthill, long time Argonauts manager and Bill Frey, the last president of the board, both now deceased. This was a difficult time for those of us on the Argonauts board as well as for its youth organizations.)
1998- The Salem Youth Symphony Association received non-profit tax-exempt status in December, qualifying for the final Argonauts' disbursement of $15,500.
The Salem Youth Symphony performed at the Crystal Apple Awards for top teachers. (right)
Interlude of random photos: Let's just listen to the memories for now.
Bethany Evans, harp and Steve Benham, conductor
Diane is playing the "da Salo" viola I made for her. Later I made her brother Jim's violin.
The Salem Youth Symphony for 1993-1994, Stephen Benham conductor. Randy Gregory was concertmaster. He now teaches music in the Salem-Keizer schools. It is gratifying how many Youth Symphony Alumni have come back to Salem to teach - most recently Jim Charnholm, Stephanie Nelson, Carmen Saunders, Colleen Bartsch, Rita Horsley, and Deborah Barber.
Jim Charnholm and Stephanie (Nelson) Johnson
Kristin Stor, violin
A happpy quartet: Rita Horsley, Ben Hill, Jennie Webb, Kelly Erb
Concerto Competition winners Mellissa Thayer and Seth McGill, Gordon Ogo in center.
Making Music, Learning for Life in Deborah Ward's Amadeus Players, 2005
(Statesman-Journal article, Sept 26, 2004
The day after in the Statesman-Journal
All this could not have
happened without this year's Salem Youth Symphony Association board
of directors -
50th Photo Album - Members of the Alumni Orchestra reminisce and rehearse.
50th Photo Album - Scenes from the Anniversary Concert
Original Photo Album - Portraits of the Early Members
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View or print the SYS color brochure (large pdf files). page 1 page 2
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