Walters Family Foundation

A Better Life for a Kid Playing Music

by Cliff Walters President

Trying to Understand Orchestral Music

While growing up and attending a parochial school, I never had much exposure to any musical instruments except the organ.  My father loved theatre organ music because he used to roller skate to this type of music as a kid and young adult.  And of course, he wanted his own son to play the organ.  I was pleased to take organ lessons for many years, and my father seemed happy with my music. 

Later, I got exposed to the band in grade school and especially in high school.  But I couldn’t get a sound out of a trumpet, nor a clarinet, and never out of an oboe.  I admired those who could, and was amazed at how adept they became as time went on.  Also, I tried playing a violin, but really couldn’t get any sound other than a screeching noise as I rubbed the bow across the strings.  Moreover, how does a musician know where to put their fingers on the strings to get a note that is in tune with other players?  Wow, what a challenge!

The Benefits of Orchestral Music

Even as a young kid, I didn’t care for rock music.  To me it was just noise.  But listening to my radio broadcasting the likes of Montovani’s orchestra was relaxing and beautiful.  I also became familiar with John Williams’ work especially on movies that were directed by Steven Spielberg. 

Other names became a staple of orchestral work such as Arthur Fiedler and of course now Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops.  Last year we had a treat to watch the fireworks from a boat parked on the St. Charles River in Boston while listening to the Boston Pop’s beautifully timed orchestrations. 

Orchestral music touches not only the heart, but one’s soul and can often bring one to tears with the magnificent crafting of notes, instruments, volumes loud to soft, and the feeling and emotion of the music.

Finding Alignment

The Oregon Symphony in Portland, Oregon, is no exception in that their performances are beautiful and awesome under the leadership of Norman Huynh, associate conductor, and Carlos Kalmar, music director.  One might think that the musicians are just paid union members, and the show up for rehearsals and concerts.  But the Oregon Symphony is much more.  They have a mission to inspire youth to play and appreciate music through programs in schools, libraries, community centers, and other venues.  They provide Kinderkonzerts for over 10,000 kids of which 65% are from low income families.  They provide classes, lessons, and joint concert collaborations with Oregon Symphony musicians and guests to K-12 students. 

Additionally, the Oregon Symphony members provide live orchestral music in profoundly underserved areas including performing for and meeting the residents of correctional facilities, rehabilitation and senior centers.  This community engagement of the orchestra caught the eye of the Walters Family Foundation.  One can only image the impact on an underserved child who has never held any instrument who now gets to interact with the best musicians who teach them to make a new sound, and who care about them. 

The impact on a young kid’s life can be enormous.  The Walters Family Foundation is interested in improving the lives of at-risk kids, and to see that the Oregon Symphony is more than just concerts, but cares about kids in their community is awesome.  This work is what aligns the Walters Family Foundation and the Oregon Symphony.

Music Making Outsized Impact

I have had the pleasure of attending various fundraising events for our philanthropic “partners.”  It seems the average attendance is about 400 guests.  One recent event to which I was a speaker raised about $105,000.  Another event that was well planned and had a video raised over $500,000! 

The Walters Family Foundation provided a video grant to the Oregon Symphony to produce this video to help tell their story at their 2018 gala event.  They had three components that included two small snippets and one longer video that told the key story of their work with at-risk kids.  Having a speaker combined with the well-produced videos has been the most success as demonstrated by the Oregon Symphony. From their 400+ guests they raised $1,150,000, a 65% increase from the previous year!  This was an incredible record!  

Philanthropy is about giving and making outsized impact.  Though the Oregon Symphony was the recipient of this video grant, their work is more than performing.  It is about their own philanthropic work in giving to the community, touching hearts, and selling change to especially at-risk youth who have been given a new look at what they can do to rise to a new life.  How awesome can that be?  This is music in action!