Bits 'n' Pieces: Dedication pays off with big performance for teen violist

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Fifteen-year-old violist Lauren Siess practices three to four hours a day, seven days a week. Her dedication was rewarded when she recently placed first in Portland Youth Philharmonic’s annual concerto competition. Because of that first-place standing, Lauren will achieve the highest pinnacle in her musical career so far when she performs a solo at PYP’s Winter Concert at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland on March 10.

She described the piece she will play, Walton’s “Viola Concerto,” as “almost a full symphony with a viola solo over it.” Lauren has performed a solo once before, but that was at summer camp. “This is my first big full concerto performance,” she said.

Music is in Lauren’s blood. Her father, Tim Siess, teaches orchestra and band at Union High School; her mother, Stacy Edgar, teaches orchestra at Shahala Middle School; and her brother, Michael, is concertmaster of PYP. Lauren began playing violin at 5, switched to viola at age 11 and was accepted into PYP when she was only nine.

A freshman at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, Lauren already performs in the Vitamente Sinfonietta, the highest level orchestra at VSAA. Immediately after school on Mondays, she is off to Portland for PYP practice. Lauren is dreaming of continuing her musical studies at a top music conservatory, where she plans to major in viola performance on her way to a career with a symphony or chamber orchestra.

Tickets to PYP’s March 10 Winter Concert are $11 for students/seniors and $17 for adults and can be purchased online at www.portlandyouthphil.org/.Susan Parrish

Music keeps on coming from the Cleland family

Walt Cleland’s musical genes just keep on pouring forth music.

Cleland, a retired music teacher, announced a citywide meeting of musicians in 1978, and a whopping five people showed up: three violinists, a violoist and a cellist. Thus was founded the Vancouver Strings;. Within a few years, woodwinds, brass and percussion transformed the group into the Vancouver Symphonette. In 1986, with membership topping 50 musicians, the name changed again to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Cleland stepped down in 1990 and his baton was ultimately handed to Salvador Brotons. Cleland died in 1994 at age 84.

The musical story is far from over, though. Cleland’s son also spent his professional life teaching and leading musicians. “I followed in my dad’s footsteps,” said Dale Cleland, 75, of West Linn, Ore. Cleland served as band director at numerous area high schools and eventually an assistant principal, too and since his retirement he has led the Lake Oswego Millennium Concert Band and performed with the Millennium Clarinet Quartet and the Millennium Wind Quintet.

His wife is a musician too, he said, and his daughter-in-law is a lifelong singer who performed with the Norman Leyden Singers during their heyday in Portland.

And in recent weeks, the latest musical Cleland took a turn at belting it out on national television.

Walt Cleland’s great granddaughter, Aubrey Cleland, 18, auditioned her way onto “American Idol” both last year and this year. Most recently, she made it into the top 40 but was eliminated from the final round.

“Wow, I can’t believe this is happening again. I am so lucky,” she said before the competition, in a video interview posted by “American Idol.”

Aubrey, now a freshman at Chapman College in Orange, Calif., had already sung with the Oregon Pops, the Norman Leyden Singers and the Indianapolis Symphony. “She’s just totally grown up with music and singing,” her grandfather said, “and she’s carrying it on.”

“I’ve always loved singing and this is what I want to do with my life,” Aubrey said. “I am really excited and feel really blessed.”Scott Hewitt

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email bits@columbian.com.