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World-renowned artists take Chemeketa’s stage

The group Huun-Huur-Tu performing at Chemeketa. 
Photo by Kevin Smith

The second year of Chemeketa’s Acclaimed Artist Series brings even more world-renowned musicians to the college, creating an opportunity for the community to hear global music locally.

“It’s been a goal of mine to have a concert series for the students and for the community,” Kerry Burtis, the director of Chemeketa’s Music Program, said. “I’m pleased that it’s happening.”

Burtis wanted to provide Chemeketa and its community with music from all over the world. The latest artists to perform at the college were Huun-Huur-Tu, a throat-singing group from Tuva, a federal republic of Russia on the Mongolia-Russia border, the British vocal group VOCES8 and the South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

“To me [the series] was the next step in the development of the overall Music program here at Chemeketa,” Burtis said. “One, I wanted to provide guest artists for our students and our college community, to bring those to our campus, because most colleges do that. They bring guest artists in, and so this was our way to do that. And number two was to bring the community on campus.”

The Acclaimed Artist Series is sponsored by members and businesses of the Salem community, such as Dick and Gayle Withnell, the Gatti Law firm, La Margarita Restaurant, Uptown Music and Willamette Valley Vineyards, among others. These sponsors ensure Burtis can book these worldly bands, provide amenities and contribute to a support fund for student music lessons, all while keeping concert prices affordable for students and community members. 

“My plan in the first year was I wanted to represent all three facets of the program here, which is band, choir, orchestra,” said Burtis. The Boston Brass was a representative of band, Escher Quartet represented the orchestra and Chanticleer represented choir.

Each group has specific requirements for their performances, which must be provided for by the staff of the Chemeketa Auditorium, managed by Terry Rohse. For the VOCES8 concert, Rohse and his crew put in 24 hours of work to get the lighting just right. 

“It’s a lot of work for me and my staff,” Rohse said. “Because they come in with high expectations. These guys have traveled…They’re in everything from high school gyms to great, big, huge concert halls, and we try to do our very, very best to make their experience good.”

The work Burtis, Rohse and their teams have put into these concerts has paid off: the concerts have been successful, and attendance has been going up with every show.

“People have been coming. Our audiences have been building slowly,” said Burtis. “Everybody absolutely loves it. They’re really impressed. Students, staff, community members rave about it. And the proof is in the fact that they’re coming and keep coming and bringing their friends.”

Chemeketa will host Mariachi Ciudad de Guadalajara and Ballet Folklorico México en la Piel on May 7. Tickets are $10 for Chemeketa students, $20 for seniors and $25 for general attendance.

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