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OLLI Orchestra (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) re-starts this month after a two year hiatus. The orchestra was founded 42 years ago by local musicians who wanted to play orchestral music in a relaxed, welcoming organization. Before the pandemic break, OLLI’s free concerts were filled to capacity.
OLLI’s exciting new conductor, Wayland Whitney, invites local musicians of any age to consider joining. Many of the members are working or retired professional musicians, some are students and a few have picked up their instrument after not playing for a few decades.
Rehearsals begin Monday, March 21 at 6:30 pm to 8:15 pm. They take place at Sierra College in Grass Valley. Since 2005, OLLI at Sierra College has sponsored the orchestra, paying for rehearsal and performance spaces, as well as paying the conductor stipend. “I won’t be holding auditions. The ethos of community orchestras is that musicians themselves know when they can keep up,” said Whitney.
Sierra College’s OLLI program requires a $20 per year membership fee and $25 for this term’s program. “If musicians want to attend the first two rehearsals, they can decide to continue and then pay the modest fees.”
A professional violist, Whitney performs with Sacramento Philharmonic, Stockton Symphony and others. He resides in Sacramento. He also conducts Music in the Mountains Youth Orchestra (MIMYO).
Whitney hired local musicians to help guide members of MIMYO. It’s from this connection that so many OLLI members know how Whitney works. Cellist Franzi Ryerson said, “Wayland is just great and very knowledgeable.”
Whitney said, “My approach to Orchestra is to achieve high quality of performance and have a relaxed, enjoyable time. I’m afraid an entire generation of players and conductors were brought up on the idea that suffering was necessary for the art.
“It just isn’t so. There’s enough negativity and suffering already. Music should be a refuge.”