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40th Anniversary Season begins for the Portland Columbia Symphony


August 31, 2022



Jessie Bodell, Marketing and Development Manager | 503-234-4077

Portland Columbia Symphony Starts its 40th Anniversary Season with a Powerhouse Double Bill Featuring Soloist Miki Sawada

Portland, OR – Acclaimed soloist Miki Sawada makes her debut with the Portland Columbia Symphony in an emotionally thrilling program featuring the well-known Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. As it kicks off its 40th Anniversary celebrations, Portland Columbia Symphony proudly draws attention to its decades-long dedication to our local community of musicians and audiences through an inspiring season of affordable and accessible performances.

PCSO evolved from a community orchestra to a professional sixty-plus member ensemble. It has consistently brought the best in iconic and new classical works together with soloists who share a commitment to bridging the divide between tradition and innovation. Pianist Miki Sawada is an outstanding example of a new generation of artists invigorating our understanding of how music creates community, and therefore a perfect partner to help celebrate one of the Pacific Northwest’s best-kept musical secrets—Portland Columbia Symphony.

Through her signature project Gather Hear Tour, Miki is traveling the country state-by-state with a piano in a van to perform in community gathering spaces, inspired by “the endless possibilities in which we can use classical music to connect with others.” As she prepares for her debut with PCSO in a program full of the romantic spirit of the 19th century, Ms. Sawada speaks of the Tchaikovsky concerto with particular feeling:

“[During my undergraduate studies] I was completely in love with it and worked on it with a kind of youthful obsession and fervor that's unique to a 20-year-old. I played it for the school's concerto competition as a junior and was heartbroken I didn't pass the preliminary round. I tried again senior year, won, and got to perform it with the school orchestra. That was my first time performing with a full orchestra, so it's a piece that's really a part of who I am.”

Excitement in anticipation of the start of PCSO’s anniversary season is building. Steven Byess, Music Director since 2014, had this to say about the orchestra’s upcoming concert:

“The first piano concerto of Tchaikovsky is one of the most exciting and dramatic works in the orchestral repertoire and is always a thrill to perform. The work requires a piano virtuoso of the highest order, which adds to the intense experience for the listener and for the orchestra. Brahms’ music is also intensely emotional, with moods that can be deeply dark or extraordinarily bright and life-affirming. These sublime qualities are most prominent in his Symphony No. 3, which is a genuine tour de force for the entire orchestra and a wonderful way to kick off our [40th] anniversary year.”

Known for its friendly and unpretentious approach, Portland Columbia Symphony uniquely delivers a rich, close-up experience of great music all season long, with concerts and soloists that balance discovery and delight. PCSO’s Tchaikovsky & Brahms program will be performed on September 16 at First United Methodist Church in Goose Hollow and September 18 at Gresham High School. Tickets start at just $30, with discounts for students.


Tickets and info:


About PCSO: Portland Columbia Symphony is a professional orchestra serving the community of the greater Portland area from Gresham to Hillsboro. Since its founding in 1982, Portland Columbia Symphony has become a staple of Multnomah County’s arts scene, bringing 62 paid core musicians together each year to perform a classical subscription series and myriad education and outreach events. What started out as a volunteer orchestra formed by Jerry Leudders soon became an incorporated, non-profit organization when John Trudeau took over as PCSO’s Music Director in 1986. Huw Edwards served in that same role from 2000 to 2012, before Steven Byess took the reins in 2014 after a national search.

Playing a critical role in the artistic landscape of the Portland Metro area, PCSO cultivates and champions a diverse community of musicians and audiences through affordable and accessible performances, intentionally creating space each season to amplify the voices of living, local, female, and underrepresented composers and collaborators. We value excellence, community, personal connection, and accessibility.

About Miki Sawada: Through her signature project Gather Hear Tour, Miki is traveling the country state-by-state with a piano in a van to perform in community gathering spaces instead of concert halls. Miki’s mission is to connect with Americans across socioeconomic and political boundaries through music; Gather Hear attempts to find what unites us as humans in this nation of deep divide. Miki has given more than 80 free concerts in Alaska (2017), West Virginia (2018), Massachusetts (2021), Utah (2021), and Louisiana (2022), very often in rural communities where no live classical music is available. A short film on Gather Hear Utah by Joel Wolpert was premiered at No Man's Land Film Festival, an all-women adventurer film fest. Joel and Miki continue their collaboration to release a film on Gather Hear Louisiana in late 2022.​


When not trucking around with her own piano, Miki enjoys a career of solo and chamber music, with a special affinity for contemporary music. Miki has been featured at venues and occasions such as: Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Helsinki Music Centre, The Arctic Philharmonic (Norway), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater (NYC), Roulette (Brooklyn), MATA Festival (NYC), Toronto Summer Music Festival,  Music on Main (Vancouver), Chicago Symphony Center’s Macy’s Day of Music, the Banff Centre, New Music New Haven, PianoFest in the Hamptons, Art Base (Belgium), and Moulin d'Andé (France). She makes her solo debut in 2022 with the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra this year with conductor Steven Byess. She has been featured for live interviews and performances on WQXR (NYC), WFMT (Chicago), KUAC (Fairbanks), West Virginia Public Broadcasting (Charleston), and All Classical Portland (Oregon). In the summers, she teaches and performs as a faculty member of Heifetz Institute in Virginia.


​As an educator and thinker, Miki finds ways to connect people with the power of classical music off of the stage. Miki was a resident musician and founder of the piano program at Music Haven, an organization that seeks to empower youth by providing mentoring and tuition-free music education to students from underserved communities in New Haven. Miki also founded NewMusic4us, a project through which young and emerging composers write beginner-level chamber music pieces for young students, with the goal of connecting composers and young students so as to re-evaluate our attitudes toward both contemporary music and music education. ​


Miki received her formal training in solo piano performance. She studied at Yale School of Music (Artist Diploma) with Wei-Yi Yang, Eastman School of Music (Master of Music) with Natalya Antonova and Northwestern University (Bachelor of Music) with James Giles.