Zach Banks - Education Director; Conductor, OES Youth Orchestra; Coach, Raising the Bar; Coach, OES Youth Chamber Collective; Teacher, Symphony Strings
Residing in the Pacific Northwest, cellist and conductor Zach Banks carries a desire to explore music in its many forms both on stage as a performer, and as an educator.
As a classically trained cellist, he has performed with the Oregon East Symphony, the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra, the Portland Choir & Orchestra, the United States Youth Ensemble European Tour, and in numerous regional chamber music festivals. Outside of the concert hall, he has performed in bluegrass-inspired folk bands, with ARCO PDX, recorded at NPR Music, performed at notable music festivals like Northwest String Summit and MusicFest NW, and he has performed and recorded with numerous independent artists like Father John Misty, Cody Chesnutt, Nick Jaina, and Stelth Ulvang (of The Lumineers).
Since 2018, Banks has been the music director and conductor for the Grande Ronde Symphony Orchestra where he programs classical, educational, and pops programs. Banks is deeply committed to music education, and since 2018 he has served as the conductor for the Oregon East Symphony Youth Orchestra. His first experiences in conducting took place at Portland State University as the assistant conductor under the direction of Dr. Ken Selden.
Outside of performance, Banks maintains a private studio of cello students, and he serves as the director of the Oregon East Symphony’s “Playing For Keeps” education programming initiative. This initiative engages K-12 students in rural Eastern Oregon through multi-faceted programming including large ensembles, chamber ensembles, and other mentorship programs.
Banks received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in cello performance at Portland State University under the tutelage of Hamilton Cheifetz.
Emily Muller-Cary - Lead Instructor, Symphony Strings
Emily Muller-Cary grew up in the Pendleton schools, studying violin first with Shirlene McMichael, later with Lee Friese, Dr. Lisa Robertson, and Dr. Phillip Baldwin. She began accompanying the Pendleton High School and Blue Mountain Community College choirs while in high school, and went on to study voice as well. Muller-Cary graduated from Pendleton High School and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Music from Eastern Oregon University, a Master of Arts in Music Performance with emphases in voice, piano, and violin/viola from Eastern Washington University, and a Masters of Education in curriculum development and Instruction from Montana State University. Muller-Cary returned to the Pendleton area in 2007 to teach orchestra and strings in the schools, and now teaches high school choir as well. She also continues as the principal Viola in the Oregon East Symphony, in which she has played since age 11.
Viet Block - Conductor, Preludes; Teacher, Symphony Strings; Coach, Raising the Bar; Coach, OES Youth Orchestra
Violinist Viet Block enjoys sharing the gift of music with people from all walks of life, especially those who cannot easily get to the concert hall. She has performed for senior communities throughout Oregon and volunteered over 100 hours at the Portland V.A. Hospital. Viet serves as the assistant concertmaster of the Oregon East Symphony, and regularly substitutes with the Boise Philharmonic and Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Recent honors include first place in the Grande Ronde Symphony Association’s 2019 Concerto-Aria Competition, and orchestral performances with notable soloists such as Anne Akiko Myers, Alexander Markov, Orli Shaham, and others. Block has also played for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Newport Symphony Orchestra, McCall SummerFest Orchestra, Astoria Festival Orchestra, Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Portland Choir and Orchestra, Portland Civic Orchestra, and Stumptown Stages production of A Christmas Carol: The Musical.
Beyond the standard repertoire, Block can be heard on numerous albums and recording projects, such as such as Jacob Miller’s (NBC’s “The Voice” 2020) singles “Cut My Teeth” & “St. Mary’s Gospel Choir” from his album This New Home, Stelth Ulvang’s (The Lumineers) solo album And as Always; The Infinite Cosmos, Joe Kye’s album Migrants, and Cody ChesnuTT’s live studio session of his song “Chips Down (In No Landfill)” for NPR Music. An advocate of new music, she has performed works for Cascadia Composers (a chapter of the National Association of Composers, USA) and premiered Horse Notations, a chamber work by Raven Chacon.
Viet also finds fulfillment in teaching, and is delighted to engage with students through the Oregon East Symphony’s string education programs and her private studio. Block’s own studies began at the age of six, as a pupil of Ruth Petrasso. Other commendable teachers include Carol Sindell, protégé to the great violinists of the 20th century (Jascha Heifetz, Josef Gingold, Ivan Galamian); Dr. Tomas Cotik, critically acclaimed soloist and Naxos recording artist; Adam LaMotte; and cellist Hamilton Cheifetz, mentor and chamber music coach. Viet earned a Master’s degree in performance from Portland State University’s College of the Arts, School of Music in 2018, as a recipient of the David E. Wedge Music Scholarship.
Emma Norquist - Teacher, Symphony Strings; Coach, Preludes
Emma Norquist, formerly Emma Anderton, has a deep love of Pendleton’s local musical programs. Emma learned how to play the violin in the local elementary strings program when she was in fourth grade and continued playing all through her school years at Pendleton. Growing up, especially in fourth and fifth grade, her family could not afford private instruction in any instrument, so being able to learn to play the violin in the elementary strings program was a huge blessing to her and her family because Emma always loved music and wanted to learn an instrument. Kind teachers and generous family friends helped Emma to continue her music education by letting her borrow school instruments and by even giving her a violin. In high school, Emma had the opportunity to teach her own group of fourth grade violinists in the elementary strings program. It was in doing this that she realized that she enjoys teaching. She saved her own money so that she could pay for private lessons in high school under the tutelage of Dr. Lisa Robertson. She also got to play with the Oregon East Symphony in high school in the first and second violin sections.
Emma moved away for a time after high school and returned in 2015. She was able to join the Oregon East Symphony again and to join the educational staff from 2016-2018. She attended Walla Walla University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music in 2020. While at Walla Walla University, she played in the Scholarship String Quartet (an audition-only ensemble sponsored by scholarship) and in the Symphony Orchestra as a violist and violinist. She also participated in the University Singers choir. Emma had the privilege of playing with the Walla Walla University Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in the summer of 2019.
Since she graduated from Walla Walla University, she has rejoined the Oregon East Symphony and the educational staff as a violin and viola instructor. She is also an elementary music teacher at the Pendleton Early Learning Center and McKay Creek Elementary. Emma has taught private violin and viola lessons for many years and loves being able to give back to the community that gave her the opportunity to grow and develop her talent for music and for teaching. She wants to help underprivileged children in Pendleton continue to have access to a quality music education and encourage them to follow their musical dreams.
Heidi Haug - Teacher, Symphony Strings
Heidi Haug started her musical studies with her mother at the age of three on the violin, and at the age of four she started learning the piano at a small music studio. In elementary school she joined the elementary strings program that inspired her to join the school orchestra in middle school. She was then introduced to the Sun Valley Symphony School of Music where she started studying at their piano and violin institute. Within the program she participated in IMEA festivals and adjudications. In high school she auditioned into the advanced chamber orchestra, and started studying voice with RL Rowsey at the Sun Valley Symphony School of Music. Haug was accepted into the Sun Valley Summer Symphony Institute in 2017 and 2018, she went to Idaho Allstate in 2018, and made it to Idaho's state competition in 2018. Haug worked at a local music studio alongside her mother throughout high school where she taught both violin and piano.