Family Friday concerts return to SE Portland

Find out why folks are driving from all over town to bring their kids to this music concert series – held at a facility in East Portland dedicated to musical education …

Family Friday Concert Series organizers Carolyn Landsverk and Melinda Newell say they’re enthusiastic about this year’s lineup of programs.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
If their third-season season premiere in October was any indication of what’s to come, it looks as if the free “Family Friday Concert Series” at the Community Music Center (CMC) is off to a very good start.

Before the program on that day got underway, the organizer of the series, and CMC Foundation board member, Melinda Newell, talked with us about these special concerts.

“The idea is to bring good live music to the community,” Newell said. “It’s designed to be family-friendly; it provides a wonderful opportunity for children to experience live music, and perhaps to be inspired to play music as well. Also, it helps expose the Community Center to people who don’t know about all it has to offer to the community.”

Whislin’ Rufus – composed of Ritchie Wernick, John Hubbard, Pat Connell and Greg Paul – get ready to “kick out the jams” with their feel-good old-time string-band music.

Discussing the challenges she faces putting the programs together, CMC volunteer, Carolyn Landsverk, observed, “The musicians we want to book are some of the best in the Pacific Northwest. These musicians are very busy, and sometimes their plans change. We are lucky that we can get good musicians to perform here.”

CMC’s Executive Director, Gregory Dubay, pointed out that the beginning of concert series coincides with the increase in activity that comes with the beginning of the school year. “We’ve registered almost 1,000 participants per week for classes and lessons here.”

But Dubay added that, with the slow economy, applications for music lesson scholarships have risen dramatically. “Last year our scholarships rose $12,000 from the year before. Even though many families are having a difficult time, and we are still able to offer music to anyone who comes; no one is turned away for financial reasons.”

On stage, Whislin’ Rufus’ Greg Paul, Pat Connell, Ritchie Wernick and John Hubbard play and sing lively tunes.

These Friday concerts are free, thanks to a grant from the Southeast Uplift neighborhood coalition and other sponsors. But, because of the increasing scholarship needs, Dubay says that they’re asking those who can afford to, to leave a donation at the door.

With that, it was time to start the program. The group, Whislin’ Rufus, an old time string band with members originally from Louisville, KY – but now living in the area – played and sang lively tunes featuring fiddle, banjo, mandolin, doghouse bass, and guitar.

Jeanne Lynch, president CAC Foundation’s board, serves cups of popcorn at very family-friendly prices.

If you missed their opening show, and their November 12th program, featuring Chinook Winds, a double wind quintet, be sure to plan to attend next month.

December 10 the date for the next program in the Family Friday Concert Series. From 7:15 pm until 8:30 pm, Danny Seidenberg’s Unbande, a unique and original ensemble created to advance the cause of chamber jazz/pop/rock improvisational crossover musical styles, will entertain.

CMC is located at 3350 SE Francis Street. For more information, call (503) 823-3177, or see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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