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Whitman College Orchestra

Orchestral activity has taken place on Whitman College’s campus for over a century. As far back as 1898, a string orchestra at Whitman performed the music of Handel and Mendelssohn for audiences of the Walla Walla community.

Today’s Whitman Orchestra offers students an opportunity to perform music from some of the greatest artists of the orchestral tradition. Over the course of each school year, the orchestra performs music that ranges from baroque suites to modern symphonies. It explores famous masterworks as well as neglected treasures with instrumentation that ranges from pieces for string orchestra to those for a full symphonic orchestra.

The orchestra is comprised of both music majors and students majoring in other fields—a reflection of the varied interests among typical Whitman students.  At the annual concerto competition, students vie for the opportunity to perform in concert with the Whitman Orchestra. Having toured throughout the region to cities such as Seattle and Portland, the orchestra maintains an active presence in local community as well as the greater Northwest.  

The ensemble is open to all string, wind, and percussion students through audition. Learn more about Audition materials. Students interested in participating with the Whitman Orchestra should contact Professor Luongo.

Whitman Orchestra Pledge

A healthy orchestral community is one where all voices can flourish. However one engages with the orchestra - in the audience, the musician’s chair, or on the podium - this should be a place that promotes a sense of belonging to all. Unfortunately, the orchestra has long been an institution with barriers that prevent diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

Necessary conversations are taking place across our country that have drawn attention to the deeply painful effects of racism, prejudice, and bias throughout our culture, problems that also have a long history in the orchestral community. Beginning in the Fall of 2020, the Whitman Orchestra began learning more about this history throughout our American orchestral institutions. We are committed to playing our part to change classical music at every level; in the music we play, in how we rehearse, and in the way we engage with our audience. As an orchestra, we have drawn our inspiration from the forward-looking action of the choral community’s Black Voices Matter Pledge, which reminds us that critical self-reflection is a part of the artistic process. To help us better understand our role in this mission to embrace change, we have assembled a student committee to help guide our reflection and growth in these areas. That group meets throughout the year and leads our collective interrogation of these issues. Through these efforts, we want to be a better ensemble each year and to set a better example for our colleagues across the world of classical music.  

Further critical interrogation and action are necessary in order to construct a more just and equitable orchestral community. The Whitman Orchestra is committed to taking those steps, not as the singular vision of one individual but as a community. As an ensemble, we will shoulder these responsibilities collectively and sculpt our values through discussion and mutual exploration. If you would like to read our full pledge, please visit the Whitman Orchestra ensemble page on the Music Department website.

1. When rehearsing new music, we will reserve time to learn about the work and not just how to play it. We will place the work and its composer in historical and cultural context.

2. When learning about underrepresented art and artists, we will strive to better understand barriers to inclusion and reflect on our role as an orchestra in changing that dynamic.

3. As artists, we will embrace the need for critical self reflection. This will include anti-racism learning opportunities and engagement with guest speakers to broaden our perspectives in these areas.

4. We will create an inclusive rehearsal environment that values our own diverse backgrounds and recognizes areas of privilege in our prior musical training and experiences.

1. Before we program oft-performed canonical works that promote white-male centrality in the field of orchestral music, we will reflect on our reasons for that selection and look for underrepresented works that satisfy those same goals.

2. We will engage with scholarship that seeks to promote historically underrepresented art and artists.

3. As an orchestra, we will embrace communal engagement with our repertoire. We will pursue avenues for a more robust dialogue between our audiences, performers, and conductor regarding our programming choices.

4. Much of the orchestra’s repertoire is historical, and engagement with prior values requires careful examination. We will scrutinize our programming decisions regarding repertoire that espouses values that we condemn or comes from individuals who espoused those values. While we may determine that there are prevailing reasons for further engagement with a work, we must undertake this process with care. As an educational institution, we will treat this as an opportunity to interrogate these values with our performers first and then our audience. That process necessitates recognition of the lived experiences of those involved in the conversation and mindfulness of the impact of these ideas.

5. Our repertoire will reflect the work of our local Whitman community, the Walla Walla Valley, and the greater Pacific Northwest.

1. It is our job to communicate the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in orchestral music to our audience. Beyond our role as performers, we will also embrace our opportunity to engage the audience with a deeper understanding of these works.  

2. Some composers and musical traditions have already received deep consideration and exposure; we will use our platform to promote a greater dialogue with the music of historically underrepresented artists.

3. We will pursue sustained and meaningful engagement with the Power and Privilege Symposium.  

4. We will seek out opportunities to leave our traditional venues and introduce ourselves to new audiences, particularly those who have been historically neglected as a part of the orchestral audience community.

5. When engaging guest artists, we will look to represent in performance the diversity of the world around us.  

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