2004-2005 is our 50th Season!

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This is the Story of the Symphony, 1954-2005.

Read down through the whole history or jump to the
50th Anniversary Celebration.

Copyright © 1995-2005 Henry Strobel for the Salem Youth Symphony Association

50 years represents a lot of  inspiring teachers and thousands of young, talented, exuberant - and serious - musicians. As I turned the pages of the Symphony's archives and scrapbooks, and recalled my own fifteen years as a board member, the good influence on our youth and community become evident. Countless people participated and contributed. Only a small fraction of that history and their names are presented here. If you have additional information or suggestions, mail the Salem Youth Symphony Association, P.O. Box 21023, Keizer, Oregon 97307 or email me.


1954-  Bill Swettman made it happen. Here's the historic document:

Administrative Office
November 1, 1954

Dear Parent:
Next Tuesday, November 9, 1954, will be the first scheduled meeting of the newly planned Salem All School High School Orchestra. This orchestra will meet regularly on Tuesday evenings thereafter and the rehearsals will be from 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. These rehearsals will be held in the instrumental music rehearsal room of South Salem High School. Dr. William Swettman, Director of Music Education of Salem Schools, will be the conductor.

This orchestra will include selected students from the two senior high schools and the two junior high schools. Members of the instrumental programs of the four schools will be selected according to interest and degree of playing proficiency . . .

Cathy Schnelker, Sylvia Thelen, Deanna (Schendel) Dyksterhuis, Janie Roberts, Dr. Swettman

First a Short Summary

Bill Swettman founded the Salem Youth Symphony as an "all city" orchestra in 1954 and directed it until he retired from the Salem, Oregon school district in 1972. (This was all before my time; it was his interest in violin making that later led to our friendship.)

Other conductors followed Bill, practically a "who's who" of our top music teachers, supported by other dedicated managers, board members, coaches, parents, teachers, students, volunteers, contributors, so many that I could not begin to name them all here.

Originally called the Salem Junior Symphony, it had a "self-perpetuating board of directors performing the management functions," ordinarily composed of the conductors and several parents. Dr. William Swettman, head of music in the Salem schools, was its conductor and mentor through 1971. He was followed by Dan Smith, Madison Vick, and Bruce McIntosh (current director of the Salem Chamber Orchestra). The organization was inactive from 1976 to 1979, when it was revived by Stephen Nelson as the Salem Youth Symphony. At the same time a second symphony for the younger students was formed with Mike Dunlap as conductor. It took over the Junior Symphony name (until 1989 when it became the Preparatory Symphony under Deborah Ward.) For a time they were sponsored by Willamette University.

Karl Raschkes, who needs no introduction in Salem, was the conductor from 1984 through 1987, and the governing/support board was named the Salem Youth and Junior Symphony Association. In the following years the orchestras continued to shine under other dedicated conductors from the Salem-Keizer schools - Dick Bauer, Steve Nelson, Deborah Ward, Bruce Purdy, Jeff Shippy, Steven Benham, Stacy Siess, Jon Harris-Clippinger, and currently the vibrant conductor of the Youth Symphony, Larry Garrett.

In 1990 Betty Charnholm succeeded Karen Kohne as chairman of the symphony board. Other board members included several parents (I had just been appointed), Karl Raschkes, representing Salem-Keizer schools, and George Tuthill, representing the Argonauts, which it joined in 1991. This move fitted the symphony's growing needs for office facilities, rehearsal space, insurance, and more travel and performance opportunities. Its annual budget went from about $10,000 in 1991 to about $30,000 in 1993 with Argonaut subsidies. It grew to include the present three orchestras- Youth Symphony, Philharmonia (renaming the Preparatory Symphony), and Amadeus Players (added to accommodate more young musicians). The overall program was called Argonauts Symphonies for Youth. Betty Charnholm generously and expertly managed the symphonies during this period.

(Argonauts was founded in 1967, and by the mid 90s was serving as many as four thousand Salem area youth in their various programs - marching band, baton corps, boys choir, summer theatre, youth symphony, jazz lab, chamber ensembles, community art, and the summer parks and recreations program.)

The revenue of the Argonauts, chiefly derived from bingo operations, declined along with the opening of competitive new gaming operations and eventually it became necessary to dissolve the organization and transfer control and residual assets to the Youth Symphony and the Boys Choir, who registered as independent non profit organizations. Increased fees and student work scholarships helped fill the gaps.

In the years since, the Salem Youth Symphony Association has grown and flourished under managers Sharon Bartsch, Rob Rainey, Joyce Epp and now (2004) Shelly Raszka, and with the continuing collaboration of parents and board members. We are fortunate that Sharon of the energetic musical Bartsch family remains president. And yes, it is in the black, thanks to your support!

Now Back to Our Story!

1955-  The first concert was held April 19,1955 at Leslie Junior High School auditorium, admission $.50. In the Spring of 1955 the name Salem Junior Symphony was adopted. In the Fall a board of directors organized the Salem Junior Symphony Association.
1956-  The first major public concert was held Feb. 1, 1956 at Leslie Junior High. with 68 members. Here's a rehearsal -


The Salem Junior Symphony became a self-supporting activity allied with the city of Salem Recreation Program. It had a nine member board and appointed Dr. Swettman as permanent conductor. There were 34 sponsors, 20 guarantors, 58 sustaining and 68 associate members!
1958- They (89 members) performed to acclaim at the general session of the Music Educators National Conference in Los Angeles. Note Bill's biography in the program below.

SYS Menc '58

Same youthful spirit - different styles. (While in LA, the orchestra even appeared on the nationally televised Lawrence Welk show!)

SYS Return '58


1960-  Francis Gaskins, concertmaster (right) shows Sylvia Thelen, first cello, and Keith Weathers, first trumpet, a machete he got in Puerto Rico, where he attended the International String Congress at the American University.
1961-  Greenery is the title of "A Short Overture for Orchestra" composed by Lawrence Widdoes of NYC. He worked with the Junior Symphony for a year on a Ford Foundation Grant. Salem was one of eleven cities chosen for this honor because of the excellence of its music program. This and the premier of his Divertimento for Strings was performed at the April concert of the 1961-62 season, a benefit concert to raise funds for the Junior Symphony's performance in May at the Seattle World's Fair. The benefit concert opened with Schubert's Rosamunde Overture and closed with Mussorksky's Night on Bald Mountain.
1962-  Seventy-seven members of the Salem Junior Symphony presented a concert in the Opera House of the Seattle World's Fair on May 4, All-American Youth Day.
1964- The seventy member symphony celebrated its tenth anniversary. Peter Frajola assisted in directing it. To accommodate younger musicians the Cadet Symphony, also with seventy members was formed, conducted initially by Robert Culver, and later by Peter Frajola through 1966 and 1967.
1965-  The Salem Junior Symphony performed for its second time for a MENC Conference, this time for the Northwest Division the Portland coliseum. (The other performing group there was the University of Oregon band.)

(A personal note: When I came to this area in 1985, I was fortunately not too late to become close friends with some of the artist teachers who, in these early years, led the youth symphonies as well as teaching in the Salem schools and performing in the Oregon Symphony, etc. They were retired then, but enjoyed visiting in my violin shop. Among these were, left to right, Bill Swettman (holding a violin he made), Victor Palmason, and Peter Frajola Sr.. I was too late for Winston Petty - although I did get to know his cello professionally, as well as the others' instruments. Peter's son, a Youth Symphony alumnus, is now a concertmaster in the Oregon Symphony.)


1972-  Bill Swettman retired. He was succeeded in turn by Dan Smith, Madison Vick, and Bruce McIntosh. Despite declining enrollment and support, the symphony fostered such young musicians as Peter Frajola Jr.
1976-  Dr. Klement Hambourg, responsible for the string program at OCE (Oregon College of Education, now Western Oregon State University) formed the Salem Junior Strings, which rehearsed at Willamette University and gave performances in the area. In 1977 winds were added and it became the Salem Youth Orchestra with the support of a small parents committee. Dr. Hambourg retired as conductor in the fall of 1979. (He had also been concertmaster of the Salem Symphony 1970-71.)

Dr. Klement Hambourg

1979-  Stephen Nelson, then orchestra director at North High, revived and directed the symphony, renaming it the Salem Youth Symphony.
1981-  A second, younger age symphony of middle school students was added and took up the Salem Junior Symphony name. Mike Dunlap, McNary High orchestra director, became its conductor, and Steve Nelson continued as conductor of the Youth Symphony.

The Willamette Sojourn

1982- The Salem School District dropped sponsorship and support of the symphony, but Willamette University assumed sponsorship, giving it free use of Smith Auditorium and adjacent music rooms.

The Salem Youth and Junior Symphonies became the Pre-College Division/Music of Willamette University for the 1982-83 and 1983-84 academic seasons. Its faculty included the conductors, Steve Nelson and Mike Dunlap, plus Amy Barlowe 82-83, Bruce McIntosh 83-84, and much of the University music department staff.

1984-  Willamette University withdrew its financial support. A parent support group formed the non-profit Salem Youth and Junior Symphony Association, Inc., and became the primary sponsors. The symphonies became a separate entity, no longer a part of the Office of External Education at Willamette University, but continued to rehearse and hold concerts there through 1987.

Stephen Nelson left to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Michigan. Karl Raschkes, Music Supervisor for the Salem school district, replaced him as conductor of the Youth Symphony, while Mike Dunlap continued to lead the Junior Symphony.
1985-  The May concert in Smith Auditorium featured concert violin soloist Aida Baker of the Oregon Symphony.

Mike Dunlap left to pursue his doctorate at the University of Michigan and was replaced by Dick Bauer, Director of the South Salem High orchestra.
1987-  Karl Raschkes left the Youth Symphony because of his added workload as Salem School District Drama Coordinator in addition to remaining Music Supervisor for the district. He recommended that Stephen Nelson, whom he rehired the previous year for the school district, again conduct the Youth Symphony for the 1987-1988 season. Dick Bauer continued with the Junior Symphony. Rehearsals were held at South High, not Willamette.

Stephen NelsonMr. Nelson, Mr. BauerRichard Bauer

1988-  Symphony board members met with the Argonauts board, requesting additional donations and expressing thanks. (George Tuthill, manager of the Argonauts had been serving on the Youth Symphony board for about a year. A draft proposal was made to consider the Argonauts Music and Motion managing the "Argonauts Salem Youth Symphony" orchestras as they did their Marching Band, Boys Choir, Baton Corps, School of the Arts (Theater), and Summer Community Music Program. The advantages would be substantial financial underwriting, office space and facilities, insurance, section coaches, and a paid manager - but with the programs and conductors remaining autonomous. The Symphony board of directors would be replaced by this manager and a parents advisory group.)
1989-  The age limit separating th Youth and Junior symphonies was removed and the names were accordingly changed to the Salem Youth Symphony and the Preparatory Orchestra.

Steve Nelson was granted a one year leave of absence due to his wife's illness. Dick Bauer became interim conductor of the Youth Symphony. Deborah Ward, Orchestra Teacher with the Salem-Keizer schools, became interim conductor of the Preparatory Orchestra. Salaried section coaches were hired.
1990-  Stephen Nelson resumed as conductor of the Youth Symphony. Dick Bauer resigned as Junior Symphony conductor after six years of service. Bruce Purdy, Orchestra Teacher with the Salem-Keizer school district became conductor of the Preparatory Orchestra. (I was invited onto the Symphony board, responsible for registrations.)

Randy GregoryBruce PurdyMatt Balance

1991 Steve Nelson with the Salem Youth Symphony. Click to ENLARGE

1991 Deborah Ward with the Junior Symphony. Click to ENLARGE

1991 Bruce Purdy with the Preparatory Symphony. Click to ENLARGE

Adventures with the Argonauts

1991-  In March the Argonauts became the new sponsor of the Argonauts Symphonies for Youth. The Youth Symphony board became an advisory board to the Argonauts. Betty Charnholm was hired as manager of the Symphonies. There were then three groups - the Youth, Junior, and Preparatory Symphonies, meeting respectively the needs of advanced high school, advanced junior high, and advanced elementary levels of musicianship. Steve Nelson continued as conductor of the Youth Symphony while Bruce Purdy conducted the Junior Symphony. Deborah Ward continued with the Preparatory Orchestra. As always, members had to also participate in their school orchestra, if available. As before, members were not limited to the Salem-Keizer area, and home-schooled students were very welcome. (I moved from the Symphony Board to the Argonauts Board.)


A new annual tradition began with the first "Winter Enchantment." Here's what the poster said:

A Benefit for the Salem Youth Symphony, Saturday, February 1, 1992


With Great Dessert & Coffee

Reed Opera House Ballroom, 189 Liberty NE, Salem

A sparkling musical with the greatest assembly ever of fine artists performing for an event like this, including:

In Concert, 8:00 to 9:30:

            PETER FRAJOLA, Ass't Concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony
            AIDA BAKER, World Famous Violinist
            BRUCE PURDY, Renowned Bassist
            AND the Argonauts Salem Youth Symphony Quartet

And if you like to dance (or  listen or watch) stay for the

LIVE Dance Music 9:30 to 11:00 by

           George Tuthill's VOLUNTEERS

RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. TICKETS $10 (includes dessert & coffee) available at:
        Argonauts, 1320 Capitol NE, Salem
          Pajoli's City Cafe at the Library, 585 Liberty SE, Salem
          Strobel's Violin Shop, 10878 Mill Creek Road, Aumsville
          Uptown Music Store, 5020 River Road N, Keizer
          Weathers Music Co., 2825 Commercial SE, Salem
For more information, or if you can't get to one of the above, call the Argonauts 399-0153 or Betty Charnholm 378-0356.

About 150 elementary and high school students share a quality symphonic experience in the three levels of the Salem Youth Symphony. Events like this promote the Symphony. For fine music and for the kids, we urge you to come.

1992-  Bruce Purdy left the Preparatory Orchestra and was replaced by Stephen Benham, the recently hired orchestra director of North Salem High.

A two week Summer Program concluded with performances at the 1992 Cascade Music Festival in Bend, Oregon.

Argonauts hosted violinist Karen Iglitzin's master classes and concert.

(Note: Soon after the Youth Symphony joined the Argonauts a new hazard appeared on the horizon. The Argonauts, founded in 1967, had long served as a national good example of a successful community funding program for the arts but it derived most of its income from a very successful bingo operation. The proposed building of an Indian gaming center would not be subject to the same restrictions that governed non-profit operations. Gov. Barbara Roberts replied May 15,1992: "Dear Mr. Strobel: Thank you for contacting me concerning the Siletz Tribe's plans to acquire land for gambling purposes in Marion County, I do not support the tribe's proposal, nor will I support any effort by any tribe in Oregon to acquire off-reservation land for the purpose of establishing a gambling facility. . ." Despite our letter-writing campaign to state and federal officials it became a factor in eventually shutting down the Argonauts.)

1993-  The middle Preparatory Orchestra was renamed the Philharmonia, and the younger group the Amadeus Players.

This year saw also the first of Deborah Ward's traditional annual outdoor retreats with canoeing, games, practice, performance, etc.

Deborah WardAmadeus Retreat

Stephen Nelson

The Argonauts Salem Youth Symphonies went on a performance tour of the Seattle SeaFair Festival.

Stephen Nelson resigned as conductor of the Youth Symphony and Stephen Benham moved to this position. Deborah Ward continued with the Amadeus Players. Jeff Shippy, Orchestra Teacher of the Salem-Keizer school District, was hired as conductor of the Philharmonia.

That's my boy!

1994-  Performance tour to Vancouver, BC Canada. Stephen Nelson replaced Jeff Shippy as conductor of the Philharmonia orchestra. Young violinist Nelly Kovalev, 13, fresh from Latvia was the Concerto Competition winner.

1995- Cellist Carmen Bartsch won the Concerto Competition.

1996- A full year! The Winter Enchantment was cancelled for the first and only time by a fierce ice storm - Jay Chen, trumpet, would have been the guest artist.

The concerto competition winner was North High violist Seth McGill. Summer String camps were held for each of the three groups. The Youth Symphony performed for the first time with the Argonauts Boys Choir.

On October 1 the Argonauts handed back control of the youth groups, including the symphony because of greatly diminished income. Despite valiant efforts, including opening a new bingo operation in Portland, it became necessary to sell the building at 1320 Capitol St. NE, dissolve the organization, and distribute the assets. Once again the symphony was on its own, remimiscent of when Willammete dropped it in 1984. Again it survived. The Salem Youth Symphony Association formed and moved ahead without skipping a beat in its program, while moving toward independent tax-exempt, non-profit status.

(I have the highest regard for both George Tuthill, long time Argonauts manager and Bill Frey, the last president of the board, both now deceased. This was a difficult time for those of us on the Argonauts board as well as for its youth organizations.)

1997- Bill Swettman passed away, peacefully puttering late at night in his workshop, Marie told me. His obituary directed contributions to the Youth Symphony.

Articles of incorporation for the Salem Youth Symphony Association were filed in June by Sharon Bartsch, Karl Raschkes, Lisa Griffith, Mark Miedema, Chris Barber, Betty Charnholm, Joyce Schierling, and Deborah Ward.

Larry Garrett became conductor of the Youth Symphony. Stacy Siess moved to the Amadeus Players.

The Concerto Competition winners were Sprague High violinist Liesel Bauer and North High cellist April Chisholm.

The tradition of an annual November Auction Concert was begun. It was called Salute Salem's Young Musicians. The Youth Symphony performed with the Choirs.

Larry Garrettt with Cellists

1998- The Salem Youth Symphony Association received non-profit tax-exempt status in December, qualifying for the final Argonauts' disbursement of $15,500.

Sprague trumpeter Toshihiro Kosaka won the Concerto Competition.
1999-South High violinist Nelly Kovalev won the Concerto Competition for the second time (first in 1994).

Jon Harris-Clippinger became conductor of the Amadeus Players.
2000-Rob Rainey became manager.

South High clarinetist Barry Garrett and South High flautist Jesus Cruz won the Concerto Competition.
2001- Joyce Epp became manager. Audrey Riesland became promotional director. SYSA got its own website, administered by board member Wayne Nutsch.

November 11 - a grand Veteran's Day Concert, a benefit for the American Red Cross, was jointly presented with the Salem Boys Choir, the Willamette Girl Choir, and the City Dance Theatre. Former Argonaut board member Warren Franklin of KBZY was MC.

Jon Harris-Clippinger moved to conduct the Philharmonia and Deborah Ward resumed conducting the Amadeus Players. Concerto Competition finalists were oboist Megan West and violinist Tatiana Miller-Yost.
2002- Norman Leyden was the guest for the annual Winter Enchantment Concert. Pianist Andy Vo won the Concerto Competition.(left)

Winter Enchantment Crystal Apple Awards 2002

The Salem Youth Symphony performed at the Crystal Apple Awards for top teachers. (right)
2003- Harking back to its beginnings, Larry Garrett's Salem Youth Symphony performed at the MENC All Northwest Conference at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland!

SYS Menc '58

Jim Greeninger, classical guitarist, was the guest for the annual Winter Enchantment. Violist Melissa Thayer from North High won the Concerto Competition.

At the board's request I designed a color trifold brochure for the Youth Symphony, using photos courtesy of Fred Molesworth. Links to this are at the bottom of this page.
2004- The University of Oregon String Quartet were guest performers and judges at the annual Winter Enchantment and Concerto Competition. Cellist Travis Nutsch and bassist Trevor Robinson were winners of the Concerto Competition.

Mark Miedema, treasurer/accountant for eight years, left the board amid the regrets and good wishes of all. Michael Gerlicher became the new treasurer. Joyce Epp resigned as manager but remained on the board. Shelly Raszka became the new manager.
2005- Bryce Schmidt, trumpet, won the Concerto Conpetition.

Interlude of random photos: Let's just listen to the memories for now.

Bethany EvansStephen Benham
Bethany Evans, harp and Steve Benham, conductor

Diane Charnholm
Diane is playing the "da Salo" viola I made for her. Later I made her brother Jim's violin.


The Salem Youth Symphony for 1993-1994, Stephen Benham conductor. Randy Gregory was concertmaster. He now teaches music in the Salem-Keizer schools. It is gratifying how many Youth Symphony Alumni have come back to Salem to teach - most recently Jim Charnholm, Stephanie Nelson, Carmen Saunders, Colleen Bartsch, Rita Horsley, and Deborah Barber.

Jim CharnholmStephanie Nelson
Jim Charnholm and Stephanie (Nelson) Johnson

Kristin StorBassists
Kristin Stor, violin

Rita Horsdley, Ben Hill, Jennie Webb, Kelly Erb
A happpy quartet: Rita Horsley, Ben Hill, Jennie Webb, Kelly Erb

MelissaMr. OgoSeth McGill
Concerto Competition winners Mellissa Thayer and Seth McGill, Gordon Ogo in center.

Deborah' Kids
Making Music, Learning for Life in Deborah Ward's Amadeus Players, 2005

Statesman-Journal, Sept.26, 2004

Statesman-Journal, Sept.26, 2004

Statesman-Journal, Sept.26, 2004

(Statesman-Journal article, Sept 26, 2004

Concert Ad

The day after in the Statesman-Journal

The Day After

All this could not have happened without this year's Salem Youth Symphony Association board of directors -

Conductors: Larry Garrett, Jon Harris-Clippinger, Deborah Ward.
President: Sharon Bartsch. Manager: Shelley Raszka. Secretary: Audrey Riesland. Promotions: Elizabeth Hartshorn. Fundraising: Traci Benjamin. Alumni Contacts: Jenny Gates. Treasurer: Michael Gerlicher. Website: Wayne Nutsch. Petra Geiling. Joyce Epp. Rob Rainey. Henry Strobel.

AND the - students, parents, teachers, coaches, supporters, ALUMNI

Alumni Orchestra

50th Photo Album - Members of the Alumni Orchestra reminisce and rehearse.

50th Photo Album - Scenes from the Anniversary Concert

Original Photo Album - Portraits of the Early Members

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View or print the SYS color brochure (large pdf files). page 1   page 2

Back to the Salem Youth Symphony main page.