Jun Iwasaki


When Jun Iwasaki arrived to audition for the concertmaster position at Oregon Symphony in 2007, he already had plenty of cred. He’d won the sole spot in the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music’s Concertmaster Academy and served two seasons as concertmaster for the Canton Symphony Orchestra, in Ohio. But all that mattered at the tryout was how well he performed as the conductor’s right-hand musician.

"When you audition for concertmaster, it’s do or die," he says. "You either get the top position, or no position."

Iwasaki nailed it, becoming, at age 25, the symphony’s youngest concertmaster ever. Now 28, and having just weathered a year in which he and his fellow musicians had to shrink their schedules by three weeks (the equivalent of a 7.3 percent pay cut) and the symphony as a whole used more than a third of its $19 million endowment to pay off long-term debt, Iwasaki sees the symphony facing its own longer-term thumbs-up-or-down vote—from the audience. "We’re branching out," he says of a new season in which novel offerings like a live accompaniment to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho will reverberate through the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. "Maybe if they see we are really good at playing Psycho," Iwasaki says, "they’ll come listen to a different type of concert."

Mainly, Iwasaki hopes the baton and bows can pierce through what he calls "the audience/performer barrier."

"Besides the tuxes, we’re pretty normal people," says Iwasaki of his musician colleagues. "I’m totally open to people walking up to me during an intermission saying what they enjoyed or what they’d like to see, or just, you know, saying ‘hello.’ I think a lot of people are afraid to do that. That’s unfortunate. The hardest part is to convince a younger generation that we’re not untouchable." —AA


Sept 25 at 7:30 Mozart’s Grand Mass The symphony welcomes guest conductor Steven Zopfi and the Portland Symphonic Choir to the stage for Mozart’s most brilliant choral work. Less celebrated than the composer’s Requiem Mass, the towering dramatic scope of the piece is enhanced by the mystery surrounding its creation. Classical scholars continue to debate what Mozart hastily added or perhaps omitted from this unfinished masterpiece. $23–88. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway. 503-228-1353.

Sept 10–12 Chopiniade In celebration of the 200th anniversary of pianist Frédéric François Chopin’s birth, the PCO will team up with the Portland Festival Ballet for a program of graceful romanticism in music and movement. Joining the orchestra is Mei-Ting Sun, a past winner of the National Chopin Piano Competition. $25. Fri at 7:30 at Venetian Theatre, 253 E Main St, Hillsboro. Sat at 7:30 and a benefit recital Sun at 3 in Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd. 503-771-3250.

Sept 24, 26, 30 & Oct 2 Pagliacci & Carmina Burana Greasepaint fantasy masks genuine heartbreak in Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, an Italian tearjerker from the 1890s about a jealous clown who discovers that his wife is leaving him for another man—both in the play they’re performing and in real life. In the second feature, pounding rhythms and lyric beauty tango through Carl Orff’s thunderous Carmina Burana, a celebration of life, love, and lust. The finale includes a cameo from the BodyVox dance company. Fri, Thu & Sat at 7:30; Sun at 2. Tickets start at $20. Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St. 503-241-1802. —JC