CORVALLIS - Two anonymous donors have given $1.5 million to the Oregon State University Foundation to create an endowed chair in the OSU Music Department to support the orchestral program. The gift will have "a dramatic effect" on the musical programs for university students and the Corvallis community, said Marlan Carlson, chair of the OSU Music Department. Carlson will hold the first term of the endowed chair for five years.
"For both amateurs and professionals, music is a compelling exercise of the heart and the intellect," Carlson said. "People who truly love music are always striving to reach the highest possible artistic level. This endowment raises the level of possibilities. It's an incredible enrichment of the musical environment at OSU."
In addition to a significant improvement in orchestral activities, the endowment assumes the ability of the Music Department to support several orchestras, including the OSU-Corvallis Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra and the Opera Theater Corvallis orchestra.
Roy Arnold, OSU provost and executive vice president, said that endowed chairs have a tremendous impact on academic programs.
"This sort of gesture from generous donors sends a very positive message to students, faculty, and staff about the importance of higher education and their programs," he said.
The donors are a Corvallis couple who regularly attend OSU-Corvallis Symphony Orchestra events, which they greatly enjoy. One person is a lifelong amateur musician who graduated from OSU and played in the symphony orchestra.
"Music helps you appreciate life," said one of the donors. "It's very soothing and comforting and inspirational."
The donors chose to give their gift to the OSU Music Department because they've watched its program struggle financially during the 1990s as state funding for higher education declined.
"It's obvious that they needed it," one of the donors said.
Kay Schaffer, dean of the College of Liberal Arts which houses the Music Department, praised the donors' generosity and noted that endowed chairs are rare and special occurrences.
The college has three other endowed chairs: the Thomas Hart and Mary Jones Horning Chair in Humanities, jointly held by Robert and Mary Jo Nye, who have appointments in history and science; the Hundere Chair of Religion and Culture, held by Marcus J. Borg, philosophy; and the Center for the Study of the First Americans Chair, held by Robson Bonnichsen, anthropology.
"They were obviously very touched by the good work of the Department of Music, and they want to make sure it continues," Schaffer said. "They've seen firsthand the wonderful events and teaching that happen there."
Carlson, who also serves as the music director of the OSU-Corvallis Symphony Orchestra, said the endowment's most important feature will be providing many benefits to students. More money for scholarships will be available, he pointed out, which should boost recruiting efforts.
Additionally, the endowment will enable all OSU students to attend orchestral concerts free of charge. Previously, students had to purchase tickets, which range between $6 and $10. Music students will have the opportunity to make music at a very high level along with their instructors in many cases. Earnings from the endowment will provide money to support teaching and performing ensembles such as the Arrieu Wind Quintet, currently in-residence at OSU. Members of the quintet will perform as principals in the orchestra and serve as instructors of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn.
As artists-in-residence at OSU, the quintet members will perform as representatives of the university, play as principals in the OSU-Corvallis Symphony Orchestra, and help recruit high school students. The addition of Arrieu to the symphony orchestra is just one of many spinoff benefits that the endowment will offer to Corvallis and surrounding Mid-Willamette Valley communities.
Traditionally, the symphony orchestra has performed three major concerts a year, in addition to a holiday concert and a children's concert. The endowment will enable the orchestra program to expand its work by presenting a chamber orchestra concert, and opera and a student concerto program during 2000-2001.
"This endowment will enable us in Corvallis and at Oregon State University to step up to the next level in making the symphony orchestra the cultural flagship that it rightly should be for a university and community of this caliber," Carlson said.