OES-S.O.S.– fire destroys symphony office

In all the stages of my professional life, I’ve never known of or been involved with an organization more resilient than the Oregon East Symphony. The orchestra has weathered what we thought was every possible storm over the last six years while steadily growing and improving. It has become the sort of place and organization that musicians come away from remembering why they became musicians in the first place- our last guest conductor said that very thing after his concert in February, and it has been a refrain for many over the last few years. It is a place where music means something. It’s been an orchestra where players cry onstage in Mahler 2, and it’s been an orchestra that makes ordinary concerts feel like festivals even as we struggle to raise every penny and find every player. 

Today, all of that was put at risk when the block of buildings which house the OES offices burned to the ground. 

It is too early to say anything definitive about the cause of the fire, but we know everyone is alive and safe, and we know that our home for the last seven years is completely burned to the ground. Given that our executive director has been bringing her four-month-old to work every day, I cannot tell you how grateful I am that everyone is okay, but our orchestra’s home is gone. 

The orchestra had just had an especially promising run- our annual fundraiser had exceeded goals, and our brilliant new office staff, only in the job since early January, had already been making tremendous headway in reinvigorating our daily operations. Our financial prospects for the season were bright, and our outlook for next year was uncommonly hopeful. 

Now, we have lost our music library, our archives, our records, our computers. We’ve lost the history of the orchestra, our recording equipment, instruments, office equipment and god-knows what else. My own cello and several guitars are now firewood. We have a safe and insurance- is that an orchestra?

We need help, but don’t even begin to know where to turn except to our friends. I’m 5,000 miles away (and looking for flights) and feel utterly powerless to do anything, so I write to the world, to you. 

Help us save this orchestra. 

Help us save the two youth orchestras, the children’s choir, the summer camp, the young people’s concert. Help save Mahler in cowboy country (and all those premieres by Doolittle, McKinnon, Mayer and Thomas, help us save our nearly-finished Beethoven cycle, help us give one more young soloist a shot) . 

If you can help, please contact our executive director, Michelle Kajikawa at 


Please help. The orchestra needs everything right now, and help from the insurance company may be months away. This orchestra does not deserve to die like this

http://www.oregoneastsymphony.org/ You can reach me at-



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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at www.kennethwoods.net

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