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The Jewish Community Orchestra

Today’s Jewish Community Orchestra traces its origins back to a small orchestra, created in 1974, for a production of Fiddler on the Roof, at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center (MJCC) in Portland, Oregon. The musicians formed a strong bond as a group, and when the production ended, they wanted to continue to play and perform together.

Originally known as the MJCC Orchestra, today's JCO has grown far from these humble beginnings. The orchestra has continued to thrive these many years, primarily out of the desire of its members to perform together.  Over time, the orchestra has enjoyed dramatic growth, both in terms of the number of musicians and the level of performance and musical sophistication.

In 2003, for example, the orchestra performed the West Coast Premiere of a new work by the Pulitzer Prize nominated composer David Itkin, a former Portland resident and current conductor and Music Director for the Arkansas symphony. Under the leadership of our popular and talented conductor, Cindy Petty, the orchestra has tackled challenging and diverse works from a full range of musical styles and arrangements.

The Orchestra’s Young Artist Showcase is an exciting annual event that provides a venue for promising local talent. Each year, a large number of young artists compete for the chance to perform a solo concerto or other solo work with a full symphony orchestra. The resulting concert of winners and runners up in several instrument and vocal categories is one of the most popular events of our concert season.

Another distinguishing element of the JCO is the opportunity to interpret the music of Jewish composers. The orchestra has performed the works of such prominent artists as Felix Mendelssohn, Gustav Mahler, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and Aaron Copeland; all of whom share a Jewish heritage. At the same time, the JCO is primarily a secular group whose members hail from diverse backgrounds. Music is the common bond that is shared by all.

We work hard to produce interesting, relevant and enjoyable classical music concerts several times a year. Our weekly rehearsals are open to anyone who may be interested, and have proven a popular opportunity for community members to gain an understanding and appreciation for the creative energies required to produce a high-quality orchestral performance.

JCO remains an orchestra of amateurs, however, in the purest sense of the word. "Amateur" is derived from the Latin word for love. We are a group of musicians who play for the love of playing and performing. The vast majority of the JCO's operating expenses have long been paid for by the members themselves, in the form of dues or other contributions to the orchestra.

In 2004, there began a series of events that created new challenges and opportunities. Budgetary and management issues at the MJCC prompted members to act to ensure the orchestra’s continued and uninterrupted operation. We became a corporation, the Jewish Community Orchestra, Inc., in January of 2005, and filed for non-profit status with the IRS, which was granted in August of 2005.

As a 501 (C) (3) non-profit corporation, the JCO now operates independently of the MJCC. Our primary mission and goals have not changed. We continue to work closely with the MJCC and other community organizations. At the same time, as an independent entity, we maintain an on-going fundraising campaign to ensure our continued growth and success. Anyone with questions about our operations will find additional information on our website, or may contact our director for fundraising, David Boe at: 503-227-5713.