PSU talent takes the stage

he Extended Studies Building on the west side of the Park Blocks may seem simple and unassuming, but the talent that waits inside the doors is anything but average.

The Extended Studies Building on the west side of the Park Blocks may seem simple and unassuming, but the talent that waits inside the doors is anything but average. As students and faculty wait for Lincoln Hall renovations to be completed, the Department of Music and those who participate in it, continue to learn and round out their musicianship in many different environments to keep up the successful momentum the school has already created. The Portland State Symphony Orchestra is no exception to this fact as they prepare for their performance at Reed College this weekend.

Led by conductor Ken Selden, who came here three years ago from New York City, N.Y., the orchestra has filled their 2009–10 music season with opportunities to learn—not only on campus, but also in the community. These learning opportunities will continue onstage as infamous guitarist Manuel Barrueco, a well-respected classical guitarist in the international scene, joins them.

“The PSU orchestra and I worked together to bring in one famous guest artist and so for this concert, we were able to get this legendary Cuban guitarist,” Selden said. “The overall theme is based on the piece he is going to play with us and we chose the other pieces so that it would fit together in the idea of soundscapes or musical landscape.”

Barrueco will not only perform with the orchestra, he will also teach his craft to the students and rehearse with them leading up to this Sunday’s concert—an opportunity not given to many young musicians.

The piece Barrueco will play with the ensemble is a concerto by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. The orchestra will also play pieces by composers such as Gandolfi and Schwantner.

Sunday’s performance will bring much of the same quality that has been heard from the orchestra before as they continue to carry the longstanding musical tradition of the Northwest.

“The current tradition for me is that…we want to prepare performances that are not just being heard in the Music Department,” Selden said. “We want to put together concerts that are performances of important music that need to be heard in Portland.”

As the renovation of Lincoln Hall moves along, Selden is excited for the performance opportunities it allows the ensemble. Changes include a larger pit in the performance auditorium and improvements to both acoustics and aesthetics.

Though the changes will be widely accepted by Portland State musicians, Selden says there were positives to being forced to perform off campus.

“The advantage of not being in Lincoln Hall these two years have been that we’ve been able to perform off campus in a lot of different places, pick up a lot of new fans for the orchestra, for the program who are going to come back and join us,” Selden said.

An example of these off-campus performances include collaborating with the Portland Ballet Academy this winter. At Newmark Theatre, the show brought four sold-out performances, and helped vary the experiences of the university performers. These learning experiences, combined with guest performers like Barrueco, will bring more opportunity, experience and talent to the program—and specifically the symphony orchestra—for years to come.

Selden was a professional violinist before being offered jobs in the world of conducting. He taught at the Juilliard School of Music, Columbia University and Brooklyn College, holding smaller roles before accepting his current position at Portland State.

Portland State Symphony Orchestra
Kaul Auditorium at Reed College
3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Sun, 3 p.m.
Free to PSU or Reed students
$10 other students, $12 seniors, $17 general