Portland, May 15th, 2015. Young Musicians & Artists (YMA) celebrated 50 years of outstanding arts education programming with a Gala and auction event where members of the Wong family were excited about their silent auction winnings.. YMA Alumni and friends gathered at the World Trade Center in downtown Portland to celebrate the past and support YMA’s future. The evening raised $26,000 with a silent auction, raffle and musical performances by High Tone Jazz Guitar Duo and Carly Lewis & Mac Potts. Board member Nancy Kurkinen organized the event. (photo credit, David Kinder)
In 1965, Sister Ann Miriam, a music teacher at Portland’s Madeline School, established the Young Musicians, Inc. summer program known as YMI. The purpose of the camp was to bring young music students together in a cultural atmosphere that was highly positive. She wanted the students to be motivated enough to continue practicing their instruments throughout the summer. Sister Ann Miriam wanted “to give children an opportunity to study, live and relax in a cultural atmosphere, thus making it possible for the cultural arts to become a reality of their every day lives.”
The 1965 YMI camp lasted one-week and was located at Gearhart on the Oregon Coast. There were 54 string students, 10 counselors and 16 instructors. The classes were: Orchestra, Physical Fitness, Foreign Language and Orientation. For the next six years YMI (later YMA) operated at Menucha, Mt. Angel, Troutdale, and George Fox University and each year courses were added to the program: flute, piano and clarinet (1966), brass and percussion (1967), art (1968), prompting the organization to change it’s name to “Young Musicians & Artists, Inc.”, drama (1969) and dance (1971). A second, two-week session of camp was added in 1970. In 1974, YMA moved to the campus of Willamette University, where is has been housed ever since.
In 1985, Sister Ann Miriam retired and YMA Theatre Director, Brian M. Biggs was named Executive Director. The Young Musicians & Artists program expanded over the next five years. Choir was added to Session 1. Photography, piano, technical theatre, musical theatre, and creative writing were added to Session 2. African Dance was added to the dance curriculum. Mr. Biggs retired in 2007 and Quinland Porter, an alumna of the YMA program, was named Executive Director.
Close to 10,000 youth have attended YMA since 1965. Many have gone on to distinguished careers in the arts or used their experiences at YMA as a springboard for an appreciation of all the arts. Peter Frajola, associate concert master of the Oregon Symphony; David Ewart, a studio musician in Hollywood; Zachariah Spellman, a tuba player for the San Francisco Opera; Adrienne Flagg an actor in Portland; Emily Harris, a correspondent with NPR; Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists; Nicholas Crosa of Pink Martini and Rick Schafer, professional photographer in Portland have all attended YMA.
Today, there are fifty-eight artist/instructors, six non-artist instructors or administrators, as many as fifteen guest artists, and fifty-one student-counselors who work with approximately three hundred youth during each two-week session.