Don’t be confused as you glance over the faces of the musicians in front of you as director David De Lyser lifts his baton. You have indeed arrived to see the University of Portland’s symphony orchestra, though the older faces among the younger ones may have made you second guess. These unexpected faces are members of the Portland community who are absolutely committed to our school’s symphony.
“There are only so many bassoon players on campus, so in the sections of the orchestra that are unable to be filled by students, we must look elsewhere.” said the orchestra’s director, David De Lyser.
Community members make up about a fourth of this 60 member full symphony orchestra according to De Lyser. The members from outside the student body come from a wide array of backgrounds. Among the sizable group of community players, there are educators, a cabinet maker, business people and engineers. These working professionals are seasoned symphony members who have taken different paths that led them to this orchestra.
“I stopped playing when I graduated from U of O because I was unaware that there were ensembles around the Portland area that welcomed people who just liked to play for fun and weren’t professional musicians.” said symphony violinist and local business bookkeeper Stefanie Rutigliano.
In 1995, Rutigliano discovered an ad in the Oregonian that sought after musicians for the University of Portland orchestra.
“I pulled out my violin and some old music and practiced and then called and made an appointment to audition.” Rutiliano said.
Symphony tubist Bill Baker has been playing music professionally all his life, starting at the age of 11 on Vaudville. Baker is a published author in the field of information technology, a music educator, and past member of several North American symphonies. Now at the age of 72, he is intentional about investing time into the lives of younger musicians.
Wendy Cornaby like Rutigliano had played the violin until she finished schooling and was even encouraged by her violin teacher to seriously consider advanced study of the instrument because of her trajectory as a violinist. She had chosen instead to pursue a career in accounting. Cornaby likewise responded to an ad in the Oregonian and has been playing with our symphony for quite a while.
“I’ve played with UP for 14 years. My stand partner was in preschool when I started playing in this orchestra. Crazy! But great.” Cornaby said about her time with the group.
“I’ve kind of inherited most of our community members from Dr. Kleszynski, who was the director of the orchestra before me.” said De Lyser about his appointment as the director of the symphony three years ago.
The symphony director sees value in the presence of older musicians. “If anything else, these members serve as role models. They can teach their younger stand partner a lesson that I could not. Most students put their instrument in the closet after they graduate. They show that music can continue actively in a person’s life after they finish school.”
Community members have found various reasons to remain in this ensemble for such a long time. David Stout, dean of English and International Languages at Portland Community College and cellist in the UP symphony is impressed by the excellence of both the students and conductor.
“The great thing about playing in this group are the inspirational students. I’ve had the good fortune to play with some really talented and dedicated student cellists. I’ve also really enjoyed the conductors. They both do the university proud.” Stout said.
“The group was VERY small when I started, and there were very few students who played in the group at that time. It is wonderful to see how the ensemble has grown over the years…” said Rutigliano.
The symphony will hold a concert on March 3 where they will perform a program around the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. They will perform a Prokofiev piano concerto with UP Concerto Competition winner Ryan Young as soloist and the well-known “Peter and the Wolf” with newly appointed Provost Tom Greene as narrator.
Our relatively small symphony orchestra has a large amount of diversity. The community members of this symphony bring to the group a dynamic and character that only their many years can provide.