OLLI Orchestra Nevada County's Community Orchestra
United by love of music, a group of diverse musicians gathers Monday evenings in Grass Valley to rehearse classical music. Many are retired professional musicians; some are completely new to orchestra.
OLLI Orchestra provides an opportunity for musicians to “extend and push themselves while having great fun playing with a group,” said violinist Marilyn Yerkes.
After a two year break caused by the threat of Covid, OLLI Orchestra is back with new enthusiasm and vigor...and a new conductor, Wayland Whitney.
Community Orchestras in the U.S.
By Ann Meier Baker, National Endowment for the Arts Director of Music & Opera (Excerpt)
"From the earliest days of the country, musicians have come together to form ensembles for the love of music. Community orchestras—ensembles of musicians who are not paid to play—are an important part of this community music-making ecosystem in the U.S.
"These are small budget organizations with free or low-cost performances, whose members come from different professions, educational backgrounds, ages, and political and religious traditions.
"These ensembles can be an essential community asset for the players in the orchestra, and a valuable way to provide music experiences for community members who attend their performances as well. Each is shaped by the needs and interests of the communities it serves.
"Community orchestras add to the richness of their communities as a whole. The group can be a point of significant local pride—pride on the part of the community, as well as for the musicians.
"Chambers of commerce often promote the fact that their town has a symphony orchestra as an attraction for people to move there. The experience of attending a community orchestra performance can be different from attending a concert by a professional orchestra.
"Typically the setting is more relaxed, parking is free, the audience attire is more casual, and the experience can be more intimate.
"The quality of playing today in many community music groups is quite high, and community orchestras often display a special sense of joy and love for the music, which is recognized by the audience.
"Community orchestras in the U.S. provide a great deal of musical, social, and civic value for their musicians and audiences, and for the broader community as well."
Wayland Whitney is a conductor and violist from northern California. His passion for education led him to co-found the Placer County Youth Orchestra (PCYO) in Roseville. He administered and conducted PCYO in 2009 while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Viola at UC Davis.
From 2016-18, he directed the Music in the Mountains Youth Orchestra (MIMYO). After finishing his master's degree in Conducting at The State University of New York (SUNY) Fredonia, Wayland returned in 2021 to MIM as director of MIMYO and Assistant Conductor of the MIM Orchestra. He also became conductor of the Modesto Youth Symphony Orchestra in Modesto.
As a professional violist, Wayland performs with Sacramento Philharmonic, Stockton Symphony and others. He resides in Sacramento.
Wayland has invited experienced local musicians to help guide members of MIMYO. It’s from this connection that so many OLLI members know how Wayland works.
Wayland said, “My new 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.”
OLLI at Sierra College
Adopted the Orchestra in 2005
Nevada County’s Community Orchestra recently celebrated its 40th Anniversary. The Sierra Community Symphony was formed in 1978 by William Barnhart and Joseph Andre, Jr., members of the Nevada County Concert Band. There was a need for an orchestra whose members would be part of the local community.
Originally called the Sierra Philharmonic, then the Sierra Community Orchestra, and in 1993, it took the name Sierra Community Symphony. Sierra Musical Arts Association was organized at the beginning of the Symphony's founding and Sierra College became a joint sponsor shortly thereafter.
There were some tough years until the group became part of Sierra College. When the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute—OLLI—granted funds to the college, OLLI Orchestra bloomed.
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI)
Sierra College is one of only four community colleges nationally to receive a grant from The Bernard Osher Foundation. There are 120 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLIs) spanning all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
OLLI at Sierra College is a unique learning community for lifelong learners who are eager to explore traditional and new areas of knowledge – without tests or grades. There is no age limit for enrollment. Any adult student is welcome!