The Central Oregon Symphony has been performing for local music lovers for more than a half century, but many Central Oregonians still don’t know that the symphony exists.
At 7:00 p.m. on a fall Monday night, the Central Oregon Symphony prepares for one of their final rehearsals for an upcoming concert. A hodgepodge mishmash of sounds and squeaks can be heard as dozens of musicians arrive and begin tuning their instruments.
After a few quick words, conductor Michael Gesme me raises his baton and the orchestra launches into its first number.
Gesme’s passion is on full display.
“You don’t have to give up the Beatles to accept Beethoven,” Gesme said, explaining that it was a graduate school professor that told him that line. And he encourages non-classical music lovers to take that attitude and come check out the symphony.
“I knew that I wanted to do music since I was about this tall,” Gesme said, holding his palm about two feet off the ground. “This was my first job. This has been my only job.”
“What I love the most … I love rehearsal. I love saying, ‘OK, that was what happened. Now let’s work on it. How can we make this better?’ I love pulling things apart and putting them back together.
“There will just never be anything of the magic when something is right for the first time in a rehearsal and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s the hole in one.’”
Gesme has been the conductor at Central Oregon Symphony for 28 years. He’s witnessed the orchestra grow right alongside the community.
“It basically has mimicked the growth in Central Oregon,” Gesme said. “The quality of which we are able to perform. The music, I think has has steadily increased year over year.”
But there are many people that call Central Oregon home that still don’t know the symphony exists.
“That’s probably the single most frequent, ‘I didn’t even know we had a symphony in town,’” Gesme said.
He strives to change that and to make the performances accessible, both on the music front and on the wallet front.
“The mission that we’ve had as long as I can remember, which is that our concerts are free.” Gesme said.
“I think it’s something where I want anybody who knows nothing to feel exceptionally comfortable because that’s who it’s for. And then once you know something, you’re going to build on that. You’re going to come back and you’re going to build on that and then hopefully potentially introduce you to a whole new set of music that you may not otherwise have heard or maybe you’ve heard it a dozen times, you didn’t even know what it was.”
And if you’re still not sold, just remember — you don’t have to give up the Beatles to accept Beethoven.
“My hope is that it will be not what they expect,” Gesme said. “Most people expect a symphony concert is going to be a stuffy, ‘I think I need to know everything about this before I go’ kind of event, and that is not how we do business.
The Central Oregon Symphony holds their large fall, winter and spring concert performances at Bend Senior High School, but they also have many additional performances throughout the year at varying venues. For a full schedule of upcoming concerts head to cosymphony.com.