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Tacoma Symphony Orchestra enjoys close ties to PLU, community

By Steve Hansen

It wasn’t long ago that residents of South Puget Sound might have been surprised to hear that Tacoma is home to a professional symphony, some 80 musicians strong.
Lutes in the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra:

Sheri Bolding ’05, program and administrative coordinator

Andrea Bryant ’78, second violin

Cindy Iverson ’86, second violin

Kevin Stirret Jones ’01, assistant-principal horn

Svend Ronning ’89, concertmaster (also PLU faculty)

Begin (Judd) Scarseth ’04, second violin

Janis Upshall ’92, principal second violin

Amy Wigstrom ’96, executive director

PLU faculty and lecturers:

Saul Cline, artistic administrator

Maurice Clubb, principal bass

Paul Evans, principal tuba

Craig Rine, principal clarinet

Judson Scott, assistant-principal trumpet

Keith Winkle, second trombone

What may still surprise some is that the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra is not only doing quite well – it is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary.

When the orchestra opens its season this Saturday, October 14, at the Pantages Theater in downtown Tacoma, it will be the beginning of a celebratory season during which both the city and orchestra can fete a long, healthy alliance – and one that seems to be growing stronger every year. During this important anniversary season, no less than 10 people who either teach at PLU or have developed their musical chops here will be a part of the performances onstage or behind the scenes.

That might be surprising, too, given that the orchestra started as a “Town and Gown” orchestra for the University of Puget Sound, according to PLU alum, faculty member and Tacoma Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Svend Ronning ’89. But times have changed – and so have the orchestra and the city of Tacoma.

“We feel that we are one of Tacoma’s points of pride,” said the orchestra’s executive director, Amy Wigstrom ’96. “We have served – and will continue to serve – as a cultural leader.”

There is no mistaking that the resurgence of Tacoma has coincided with the recent success of the orchestra. No doubt, the two go hand in hand. A strong arts base – evidenced by the museums that line Pacific Avenue or the vibrant and diverse performances that take place at the Broadway Center for Performing Arts, for example – signals the city is thriving. And, of course, the opposite is also true.

“The TSO has been on the front end of the revitalization of Tacoma,” Ronning said. “The city continues to gain more and more momentum. We are no longer the hyphen after Seattle.”

While the strong correlation between the orchestra’s longevity and success and the resurgence of Tacoma’s urban center is gratifying, there is a more tangible benefit for those who love classical music: “People from around here don’t have to look to Seattle for their concert music,” Ronning said.

The orchestra’s season generally includes nine to 10 performances that take place from October through May. The performances include a variety of styles, including classical, pops and a choral concert series. A holiday offering is also part of the season.

Another sign of success is how the orchestra contributes to the community. Simply Symphonic is an 11-year educational outreach program of the orchestra designed to teach South Puget Sound fifth graders the joys of learning through music.

This past school year, more than 6,000 students took part in the program, wherein the orchestra provides teachers with months of lesson plans, concert recordings and an orchestra musician to engage the classroom with up-close performances. The program has become so comprehensive that the lesson plans meet Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) requirements in math, science, reading and communication.

According to Wigstrom, one of the most enjoyable parts of the Simply Symphonic program is the few days in May when participating students from around the region come to hear the full symphony perform live. “It’s a real battery-charger,” Wigstrom said of the feeling she gets when students see the musicians who played in their classroom on the big stage.

“We don’t water down the music at all for the children,” added Wigstrom. “And they just love it.”

For more information on the orchestra and Simply Symphonic, visit:


Price named Snohomish County’s artist of the year

By Shannon Schrecengost ’09

It wasn’t long ago that residents of South Puget Sound might have been surprised to hear that Tacoma is home to a professional symphony, some 80 musicians strong.

Stan Price ’73 arrived at PLU as an art-lover, a passion that only intensified over time. Within one semester, he formally declared as an art major.

“I had a great time at PLU,” Price recalled. “The art education is superb. I got a great education and had a wonderful time in the process.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Price pursued a graduate degree in art at Central Washington University, then returned to PLU, where he taught glass blowing for two years.

In 1978, he accepted a caretaker position at the renowned Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Wash., eventually moving into an administrative position there.

Encouraged by his wife, Colleen, Price left Pilchuck in 1979 to start a successful business, Covenant Art Glass in Everett. He spent the next 25 years doing what he calls “parent work,” raising three children.

But recently, Price returned – in a big way – to creating art. In March, he was named Snohomish County Artist of the Year. Many of his commissioned pieces are featured throughout Everett and Seattle.

“Every art major’s goal is to make the art history books,” Price said. “Is that a realistic goal? I don’t know. But hey, we are going to shoot for the stars.”


Good advice propels Carl White into career

By Breanne Coats ’08

Alison Carl White ’94 received the following advice at her PLU first-year orientation: “Take advantage of all that you have and explore who you are.”

Twelve years later, Carl White is executive director of the non-profit organization Seattle Works, and the advice she received as a first-year student still applies and has helped guide her.

“It allowed me to start the evolution of who I am today,” Carl White said. “It was the combination of all the experiences that provided me confidence to step into leadership positions.”

Carl White’s current job at Seattle Works involves connecting young adults between the ages of 20 and 30 with volunteer and social service opportunities.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure the programs are running effectively and are helping us fulfill our vision of an engaged generation,” Carl White said.

The environment is a good fit for Carl White, a PLU business major who has worked exclusively in community service and development since graduation.

Carl White took on another type of leadership role last May when she and her husband, Scott White, became parents to Barrett White.

“It is fantastic,” Carl White said of motherhood. “I love it.”


Kelleher receives prestigious award from President Bush

By Shannon Schrecengost ’09

Neil Kelleher ’92 came to PLU with a mind for science.

“I suppose I was a geek up front,” Kelleher said. “I came out of high school thinking science and chemistry.”

Kelleher’s thinking was right on target. During a recent White House ceremony officiated by President George W. Bush, Kelleher received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists.

A German and chemistry double major while at PLU, Kelleher was encouraged by several instructors, among them his mother, Ann Kelleher, chair of PLU’s Department of Political Science, to pursue graduate studies.

Kelleher took that advice, earning a doctorate in chemistry from Cornell University followed by two years of post-doctoral work at Harvard.

In 1999, he joined the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has since expanded the scope of his work to include biology, with an emphasis in cancer research.

“I hope to have an impact on biology like what I have been able to do in chemistry,” Kelleher said. “I am moving from chemistry into cell biology and disease.”

While he has enjoyed many successes, Kelleher said it all stems from PLU, and especially his mother’s influence.

“I got to give props to my mom,” Kelleher said proudly.


Computer savvy lands Lin on the sidelines of Seattle football history

By Breanne Coats ’08

Growing up in Taiwan, Jane Lin ’92 said she didn’t even know American football existed until the age of 12. She’s learned a lot since then. Lin is now in her eighth season as an administration assistant for the coaching staff of the Seattle Seahawks.

“I know my job matters,” Lin said. “That sense of accomplishment matters to me.”

Lin works directly with the coaching staff. She helps with the playbook, game plans and materials coaches use in practice.

“They are really neat people,” Lin said of the coaching staff. “They can draw on each others’ strengths.”

Before Lin worked for the Seahawks, she worked at high-tech companies. Lin received her current position because she knew how to use certain programs, mainly Microsoft’s Visio program.

“The Seahawks are technologically advanced because it’s a Paul Allen company,” Lin said. “Some of the other teams are more old school.”

Lin received what she calls a “chance of a lifetime” last year when the Hawks earned a spot at the Super Bowl. She traveled with the team to Detroit and was part of the action.

“It was surreal,” Lin said. “Of course people say, ‘Hopefully, we’ll go back.’”

Lin graduated from PLU with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and graphic design.

“PLU was a close-knit community and an extended family,” Lin said, “which is the same as the Seahawks.”

PHOTO: Tacoma Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Amy Wigstrom ’96 is one of many Lutes celebrating the orchestra’s 60 years in Tacoma.


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© Scene 2006  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Fall 2006

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