McKay orchestra to perform Vivaldi’s Double Cello Concerto in Thursday fundraiser

The resonant notes of Marilyn de Oliveira’s cello echoed across the McKay High School orchestra room as the musician traded melody in a call-and-response with her husband, Trevor Fitzpatrick.

Students from the school’s symphony orchestra counted the measures until they joined the rehearsal, backing the sound of the cellos with a full ensemble of strings.

The two Oregon Symphony cellists will take the stage Thursday, March 21, in support of McKay’s student musicians, serving as soloists for the program’s annual benefit concert.

The concert is at 7 p.m. in Willamette University’s Smith Auditorium, 270 Winter St. S.E.

“The kids are really well-prepared and quick on their feet,” de Oliveira said at her first rehearsal with the orchestra last week.

The duo will perform Vivaldi’s “Concerto for Two Cellos in G Minor” with the symphony orchestra. It’s an energetic piece that offers ample opportunity to show off what the cello can do.

The 60-student ensemble will also perform Arturo Marquez’s “Danzon No. 2” and Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony.”

McKay has one of the largest and most active music programs in the district. The student body is lower income than other Salem high schools, and music programs rely largely on fundraising to pay for lessons, instruments, travel and special classes with experienced musicians.

The McKay High School chamber orchestra rehearses for a fundraiser concert on Thursday, March 14, 2024. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

De Oliveira said she and Fitzpatrick were happy to help support the district’s music programs. The couple lives in Portland but comes to Salem frequently for symphony performances and other music activities.

“It’s really amazing all the work teachers do in Salem,” she said. “We wish that they had this kind of music education in public schools in Portland but they don’t.”

Alex Figueroa, the orchestra director, said he hopes to raise $15,000 from the Thursday performance, which will also feature a silent auction. Among the featured items is a signed basketball from the Portland Trailblazers.

“Marilyn and Trevor are incredible cellists who play with great energy and work well with the students. It’s sure to be a captivating performance,” Figueroa said in an email.

Josiah Riberas, a senior and the principal viola, said he’s seen more opportunities for orchestra students since the school began holding a spring fundraiser concert in 2021.

“We’ve been able to get a lot of opportunities that we didn’t get before,” he said.

Recently, Riberas and his fellow musicians had an orchestra rehearsal with David Danzmyer, musical director of the Oregon Symphony, who was in Salem to conduct a concert.

“It was scary at first because he’s the top of the whole thing, but we had a lot of fun. It was really inspiring for a lot of us,” Riberas said.

The senior wants to study music education in college. He plans to attend Chemeketa Community College in the fall and continue taking private lessons with Alex Figueroa, the orchestra director, before transferring to a four-year school.

The students have been working overtime to prepare for the concert. A joking note on the whiteboard in the orchestra room reads, “7 days until benefit concert. 8 days until sleep.”

Riberas is eager to take the stage Thursday.

“The work that we’re putting in – it makes the piece so fun,” he said.Tickets for the performance are $5 for students and $25 general admission. They can be purchased online in advance, or at the door.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.