Never Losing Sight: The Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia

Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia hasn’t lost its focus—the students—since it began 18 years ago.

SOGO Executive Director Krina Allison recalls the beginning: “Two young teens, Ted and Jeff, came knocking on our door and wanted to talk to my husband and me about starting a youth orchestra organization where the young musicians had input. Then it was six weeks later that we had the name SOGO, budget, conductors, coaches, rehearsal venue, 90 young musicians, and we had our first downbeat!”

Everyone involved in the first year volunteered their time without pay. All tuition went to the maestro John Walsh. About two years ago he announced his retirement, and since then SOGO has been on the hunt for its next maestro.

“We would like to grow in membership and continue to explore more musical opportunities for young musicians,” says Allison. “We are in the process of reexamining our vision for the future, so this is a very exciting time for the organization.” She says there is a committee that has put together the next music director’s job description and they are now in the process of getting the word out.

Allison explains that SOGO “lives outside the box” by discerning what students want to learn and going from there. To keep the focus student-centered, she says, there is a student board that learns leadership and how nonprofit organizations work.

“We have tried different ideas,” she says, and then rattles off some of them: touring to schools, the Sample of SOGO, Media on the Mezz, Chamber Ensembles, Summer Music, Music in the Park, Instrument Petting Zoo, HO HO Brass Choir Holiday Show, and POGO (Play On Greater Olympia), an after-school program for disadvantaged children.

SOGO isn’t afraid to try different and new ways to educate its students. Partnering with other organizations in the area, SOGO encourages and makes possible the students’ desire to learn. For more information about SOGO and the search for its next maestro, visit studentorchestras.org.

JORDAN MARIE MARTINEZ