Whitman Orchestra tunes up for series of firsts

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Whitman College

Whitman College

— The Whitman Orchestra of Whitman College has embarked on a week of firsts. The student-led ensemble, represented by 34 string players, was slated to perform at Portland State University on Wednesday, with another Portland-area performance Thursday at Rose City Park United Methodist Church.

The traveling marks the first time in recent years that the group has traveled out of the Walla Walla area to perform. But those performances are just preparation for a concert Friday in Yakima at the 2012 Washington Music Educators Association annual conference.

The Whitman Orchestra is the only college orchestra performing at the conference this year, and the invitation also represents the first time the local orchestra has been selected to perform.

"That's really an honor for us," said Jeremy Mims, professor of music at Whitman, and conductor of the Whitman Orchestra. Mims is in his second year leading the group of young musicians, most of whom are students at Whitman but not majoring in music. Although a small school, Whitman College boasts a large number of talented musicians, Mims said.

Mims said part of the highlight this week includes the chance to perform at the conference for an audience of musicians and music educators.

"I think it's important for us to get out in other communities, as well as other music communities," he said.

The orchestra submitted a recording from one of its concerts last year to be considered as a performing group by the WMEA. The recording is of Bela Bartok's Divertimento for String Orchestra.

On Monday, following weeks of rehearsals, the orchestra held a public concert at Chism Recital Hall in preparation for the convention performance. On Friday in Yakima, the musicians will offer a diverse repertoire highlighting the musicians' abilities. The orchestra will be playing a Vivaldi Concerto for Four Violins, a recently discovered piece by Ottorino Respighi, two suites from Stravinski's Apollo ballet, and a skertso by Canadian composer Andre Prevost, Mims said.

"I'm as excited as they are," he said.

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