Today, we’ll take a look back at a selection of the activities we used to do in the past. We’ll also share some of our stories about how experiences like this in our own childhoods shaped our paths in becoming professional musicians.

“We believe orchestral music nurtures the human spirit, enhances the quality of life and is integral to the preservation and development of culture. The Spokane Symphony is dedicated to providing high quality, professional orchestral performances and education to the Inland Northwest for the purpose of enriching and transforming lives through music.”

—Mission Statement of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra

In recent years, our organization has become more focused on traditional concert experiences at the Fox Theater, relying on our audiences to come to us. While an essential part of our performance experience, this misses the opportunity to connect with diverse audiences throughout our region by visiting their communities.

We have the potential to meet the goals of our mission statement. We’ve done it before. Here are examples of community outreach we miss.

SSO Musicians on tour Clockwise from left: Helen Byrne, John Bennett, Chuck Lund, Claire Keeble, and Larry Jess on tour.


“We tend to put the emphasis on the larger symphony concerts at the FOX instead of introducing instruments to kids up close and personal. We could be doing both!”

—Larry Jess, Principal Trumpet

Not everyone has the means to come and visit the Fox Theater. There was a time when our orchestra toured throughout the Inland Northwest, taking great music to rural doorsteps.

Over the course of 5 - 10 days, we would pile on buses with a reduced, chamber music orchestra, and do run outs to Wenatchee, Prosser, Ristzville, Moses Lake, Pullman, the Yakima area; Sheridan, Wyoming; Wallace, Idaho; Glendive, Montana; the Kalispel Reservation, and Helena. We stayed in hotels and motels with our colleagues and conductors. We performed evening concerts and back-to-back daytime concerts in these communities, as many as four per day.

Because of this contact, members of these communities sometimes made the trip to Spokane to see us again, attending concerts, staying in our hotels, shopping at our stores, eating at our restaurants. Often, these concerts were the first time kids (and their parents!) experienced a live professional orchestra.


In addition to touring, we performed regularly in communities closer to home: Wellpinit, Wallace Idaho, Sandpoint, Spokane Valley, Coeur d’Alene, and Chewelah. These events were often well attended.

“Our performances at the Chewelah Peak Learning Center were standing room only. They gave us a chance to connect with our larger community.”

—Roberta Bottelli, Cello, Chair 3

We performed classical music, as a representation of what we do in our Masterworks series. We programmed swing, jazz, and movie music, to give communities a sampling of what to expect from our Pops series.

We used to do run outs to churches throughout the area, performing in the evenings for local neighborhoods. We performed for the Church of the Nazarene in Spokane Valley. Small ensembles went to Post Falls, Cheney, and Fairfield.

We used to perform in parks across the city, like Audubon, Shadle, and Mission Parks, in addition to our Comstock and Liberty Lake series.

We used to perform multiple concerts every summer in Sandpoint, Idaho.

SSO Musicians at Comstock Julia Pyke, Keith Thomas, Sheila McNally-Armstrong, and Luke Bakken after one of our Comstock performances this fall.


Visiting communities and schools has a huge impact on students, their families, and musicians. One of the things we miss doing are side-by-side concerts with Spokane high school students. We performed and rehearsed embedded within the ranks of local high school orchestras, featuring repertoire they had been preparing throughout the year. This is an amazing experience for both students and musicians.

“Living in an isolated community in Northern New Mexico, my exposure to music performance was very limited. I remember my high school orchestra performing with musicians of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. I shared a stand with the concertmaster of the NMSO and experienced a level of music performance I had never had before. This collaboration inspired me and gave me a broader understanding of what I might be able to do someday as a musician.”

—Margaret Bowers, Violin 1, Chair 4

We used to do side-by-side concerts like this with our high schools and the Spokane Youth Symphony.

We used to have a SEED program that sent brass quintets, woodwind ensembles, and percussion groups to local schools.

We used to perform for 4th graders in Coeur d’Alene.

We used to do daytime run outs to high schools and colleges.

SSO Elementary school audience Elementary students excited for a string ensemble performance. Photo from SSO Bassist Greg Youmans.

Reaching for the Future

Imagine for a moment that you never heard live orchestral music. Growing up in a small rural town in Ohio, our Principal Horn Clinton Webb didn’t hear an orchestra until college:

“The closest orchestra was about an hour and a half from me and they didn’t do any outreach in small towns like mine.The first live orchestra concert I heard was my college orchestra playing Tchaikovsky 6 when I was a freshman [and brought an outpouring of emotions]…certainly a not insignificant part of it was the feeling of frustration or sadness that no one had really told me this kind of thing exists.”

—Clinton Webb, Principal Horn

How many people in eastern Washington, or in Spokane, have never experienced the magic of a live orchestara?

We believe in our mission statement, that we need to reach more people outside of the concert hall and across our region. We are the only professional orchestra in northeastern Washington, with a duty to “preserve and develop culture” and create rich cultural experiences for our community. Part of the purpose of having a symphony in our community is to help make our region a vibrant place to live. Performing for children and communities is how we build our audience. Our investment in these efforts directly influences whether or not we thrive. We believe we can look to our past to develop new programs for our future.

Join us in calling on our Board and Management to prioritize community involvement going forward.