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Forte: Five decades of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra

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Laura Schactler, Yakima Symphony Orchestra violinist

How does one summarize 50 years? Memories of rehearsals and demanding conductors, all coming together in triumphant performances. So many friends, spectacular soloists who graced the stage and our enthusiastic audience members who supported and cheered year after year.

In 1971, I was in ninth grade. My parents, Dick and Carolyn Schactler, played in the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Jessica Camp, my violin teacher, urged me to join so I started my orchestra career sitting beside my mother at the front of the second violins. Our concerts were at Yakima Valley College. “Patrons of Music” was a new organization and had just reorganized into the YSO. In those days we often featured fine local musicians as soloists, including clarinetists Gay and Doug Dawley and my father soloing brilliantly on Haydn’s trumpet concerto.

We made the move to The Capitol Theatre in 1973. This was a big deal and we were quite excited to perform in that beautiful hall. From 1974 to 1977 we collaborated with the Spokane Symphony for “Orchestra Week” on a variety of events around town and in the schools, culminating in a concert.

In August 1975, a fire burned The Capitol Theatre, leaving mostly a shell and a community wondering what to do. The Perry Tech Auditorium became our temporary home for the next three years. I recall warming up before concerts in the machine room among various presses and lathes.

The Capitol Theatre was rebuilt to its previous 1920s splendor and rededicated in November 1978. The opening celebration brought in Bob Hope, who performed along with a small orchestra of Yakima musicians. That season also highlighted a famous opera tenor, Jan Peerce, and pianist Béla Síki. Over the years, Music Director Brooke Creswell brought in many well-known artists, among them Maria Larionoff, Marni Nixon, Thomas Hampson and renowned violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. I remember that when she wasn’t performing, she would sit in with the violins to play with us.

In later decades we showcased Lou Rawls, Empire Brass and Mark O’Connor. Yakima natives returning home were baritone Erich Parce, singer Oleta Adams and actor Kyle MacLachlan.

Playing with the Yakima Symphony for the past five decades has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I consider myself to be quite blessed to have been born into the musical Schactler family and surrounded by incredible music my whole life. What a thrill to have experienced this fine group grow in skill and size to the stellar orchestra it is today. I look back with fond memories and anticipate many more seasons with excitement.

• Laura Schactler is a Yakima Symphony Orchestra violinist. She and other symphony members write this column for SCENE, which runs every four weeks. Learn more about the symphony at