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Friends of the Columbia Gorge & Metropolitan Youth Symphony Community Partnership

Friends of the Columbia Gorge & Metropolitan Youth Symphony Community Partnership
Members of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. (photo: Sheepscot Creative)
February 22, 2022
Categorie(s): Latest News


Contacts: Allison King, communications director, Metropolitan Youth Symphony | 503.239.4566 | (email) 

Burt Edwards, communications director, Friends of the Columbia Gorge | 971.634.0595 (Office) | 703.861.8237 (Cell) | (email)

PORTLAND, OR – Symphony Orchestra musicians bring relevant issues to the Newmark Theatre stage March 6 with the world premiere of award-winning Portland composer Andrea Reinkemeyer’s commissioned piece for orchestra, Smoulder.

Written in years following the devastating Eagle Creek fire, Smoulder "evokes the devastation of forest fires and other ominous signs of climate change," says Reinkemeyer, and underscores how fragile treasured Pacific Northwest natural places can be in an age of increased wildfire danger and growing climate change impacts.

It’s a conversation Friends of the Columbia Gorge are perfectly poised to weigh in on. The longstanding advocacy and conservation group is teaming up with Metropolitan Youth Symphony on a joint public education effort to elevate youth voices concerned about the impact of climate change and threat of wildfires to the Columbia Gorge.

Over the decades, Friends of the Columbia Gorge has collaborated with a wide array of community partners—from the Portland Timbers to the Maryhill Museum of Art—on special projects designed to engage the public and explore pressing Gorge conservation challenges. Now they join forces with MYS.

Metropolitan Youth Symphony has progressively pivoted its programming to better reflect relevant topics and issues that matter to its students.

“MYS students know that playing music together is fun and exciting, but they also understand it is a powerful way of raising your voice for important issues. … I've learned that their generation deeply cares about racial equity and climate activism as keys to a better future,” says Dr. Gómez-Rojas, whose vision for music education and outreach has aligned with Metropolitan Youth Symphony’s mission since taking over the baton for the nearly 50-year-old local nonprofit six years ago.

“Smoulder is a powerful reminder of the devastating effects of the wildfires that continue to cause great destruction across the Western United States, exacerbated by climate change,” says Dr. Gómez-Rojas, who adds he’s excited students want to use their musical platform to challenge listeners to action over issues meaningful to them.

Friends of the Columbia Gorge will be onsite the night of the concert, offering opportunities to volunteer, understand stewardship, and learn more about our Northwest resources.

“We're excited to build on these efforts with a new partnership with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony,” says Friends Executive Director Kevin Gorman. “Friends will be working with [MYS] to underscore how people of all ages have a role to play as active, everyday stewards of the Columbia Gorge, to reduce the risks of wildfires and meet the challenges of climate change.”

Friends and MYS are also looking forward to a continued partnership beyond the concert, including taking student musicians out for an on-the-ground educational opportunity in the Gorge.

"At MYS, we always use music as a tool to educate … It is so important for our students to share what matters most to them. Finding a partner to voice these concerns is thrilling; our students love their community, they love the Gorge, they love that they can use music to inspire audiences to action," Dr. Gómez-Rojas added.

About the Metropolitan Youth Symphony

With a foundational commitment to music education and access, Metropolitan Youth Symphony educates, develops, and promotes over 500 young musicians of all ages, levels, and backgrounds in a typical year. MYS is one of the nation’s largest youth orchestra programs with students from 10 counties participating in 13 orchestral, string, band, percussion, and jazz ensembles.

By providing theory classes, coaching, and collaboration opportunities with performers across myriad artistic disciplines, MYS seeks to develop the whole musician. With rehearsal sites in Portland and Hillsboro, MYS fulfills its commitment to make music accessible to all students through a tuition-free beginning strings program, scholarships, tuition assistance, an instrument lending library, in-school concerts at Title 1 schools, and thriving community partnerships. MYS ensembles reflect a broad diversity of cultures and life experiences while fostering a tight-knit community through music, collaboration, peer support, and self-expression. The MYS Symphony Orchestra tours internationally every three years. Over the past decade, students have learned and performed in Poland, the Czech Republic, China, Italy, and Austria. Learn more at:

About Friends of the Columbia Gorge

Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a conservation organization with over 6,000 members dedicated to protecting, preserving, and stewarding the Columbia Gorge for future generations.

We are the only conservation organization entirely dedicated to protecting and enhancing the scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Columbia Gorge. For over four decades, we have successfully advocated to protect the Gorge from irresponsible development, purchased scenic and sensitive lands for long-term preservation, and worked with community partners to foster a larger culture of Gorge stewardship by connecting thousands of students and volunteers to the Gorge’s wonders. Learn more at or follow us: @gorgefriends.