Playing For Keeps


Playing for Keeps is a music education project initiated in 2001 by the Oregon East Symphony Board of Directors. It provides group and private music instruction, and performance opportunities for rural youth from 4th grade through high school with a heavy focus on classical strings.
The goals of Playing for Keeps are:
  • To help rural young people gain access to new cultural opportunities,
  • To forge alliances between OES and local school districts,
  • To give young people who cannot afford musical instruction and/or instruments a chance to participate in music lessons, rehearsal, and performance, and
  • To develop an awareness concerning the role of a orchestra and chorale in the cultural wealth of the region.

Symphony Strings

An afterschool beginner level strings instruction program produced in collaboration with the Pendleton School District. Pendleton area 4th and 5th grade aged students participate in semi-weekly group instruction in violin, viola, or cello. After the successful completion of Symphony Strings a student will possess rudimentary playing ability on their instrument of choice, elementary music reading ability, and understand the dynamics of performing in a group musical ensemble. This activity is augmented by high school aged teaching assistants, many of whom are Symphony String alumni recruited from the Pendleton High School orchestra, who provide support to the adult lead instructors and are offered exposure to a career in music education.

Preludes Orchestra

This orchestra is for beginner level string players who are new to playing in a large ensemble. Students should consider registering for this ensemble if you have 0-2 years of orchestral experience, and if you are in elementary and middle school. This ensemble is conducted by Viet Block, and rehearsals take place every Thursday at the Pendleton First Presbyterian Church.
Preludes Orchestra 2021-2022 Registration
Preludes Orchestra 2021-2022 Schedule

OES Youth Orchestra

This orchestra is for intermediate to advanced string musicians in middle or high school who have at least 2-3 years of orchestral experience. All students should be familiar with 2-octave scales and a working knowledge of positions outside of the 1st position. Private lessons are strongly recommended for this ensemble. OESYO is conducted by Zach Banks, and rehearsals take place every Thursday at the Pendleton First Presbyterian Church.
OES Youth Orchestra 2021-2022 Registration
OES Youth Orchestra 2021-2022 Schedule

Youth Chamber Collective

This program is an opportunity for OESYO students to create their own chamber music groups (string duo, trio or quartet) and receive coaching from one of our local professionals! Each group will use performance as a way to engage with their community beyond the concert hall. Examples of performances include holiday services, farmers markets, or retirement homes. Rehearsal/coaching sessions are to be scheduled by each group on an individual basis.
Youth Chamber Collective 2021-2022 Registration

Raising the Bar

This is OES's mentoring program that pairs advanced string students with professionals in the symphony. These students will get to perform in up to 4 concerts in the upcoming season! Participants rehearse once per week with a professional coach starting one month in advance of each concert. This is an audition-based program, so please contact Education Director Zach Bank, if you are interested in signing up for an audition.

Summer Strings

An annual week-long summer day camp for string musicians. Camp attendees participate in instrument workshops, chamber and orchestral ensembles, music theory and composing workshops, music history and appreciation courses, and bluegrass and fiddling workshop. The camp culminates with a free public performance by all camp ensembles. Participants’ skill levels range from beginner to advanced, but the ability to read music is requisite for participation.

Nixyaawii Strings

Our latest educational activity is a collaborative project with Nixyaawii Community School on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. OES was approached by NCS board members who were interested in providing strings/orchestra as an arts elective activity for their students. NCS serves tribal students in 9th through 12th grade. Most of their student body has previously attended elementary and middle school within the Pendleton School District. Within the District there is beginning strings education for elementary students (through Symphony Strings) and orchestra as an elective for middle and high school students. Unfortunately for Native youth that wish to attend NCS when they reach high school there is a lack of options for arts electives. Participant's skill levels range from absolute beginners to prior middle school orchestra students who now have the opportunity to continue playing.

Additional Activities

Young People’s ConcertA bi-annual concert programmed by OES Conductor and Artistic Director Dr. Beau Benson that takes place at the Vert Auditorium the week of our season opening concert. The concert is designed to introduce students to the fundamental elements of music (melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre), instruments within the symphony, proper concert etiquette, and music history. In 2019 the Young People’s Concert began to include STEM learning components, focusing on the physics of sound waves. We hope to resume the Young People's Concert in Fall 2022.
Private Lesson Financial AssistanceOES offers financial assistance for string students who wish to further their studies with an approved private instructor but lack the financial means to afford private lessons. OES also provides studio space for lessons to take place in. Participation in the Private Lesson Financial Assistance program will require participation in either the Preludes or OES Youth Orchestra.
Instrument Lending LibraryOES maintains an instrument lending library fractional size violins, violas, cellos, and basses to be used by students participating in PFK activities who are unable to afford renting or purchasing an instrument.
Student Concert TicketsDuring the week leading up to our symphonic concert productions, OES Conductor and Artistic Director Dr. Beau Benson visits with multiple music classes within the area to talk with students about the upcoming program and distribute complimentary student and family tickets.