The Salem Pops Orchestra was founded in 1962 under the leadership of Del Milne and is now under the baton of Dr. James Isaac (Ike) Nail. The orchestra performs four concerts each season at the Historic Grand Theatre, striving for a balance of musical styles from classical, jazz, Broadway and the movies. Performances usually feature special guest artists: vocalists, instrumental soloists, ensembles and even a bagpiper and a musical saw. All 55 orchestra members are volunteers and range in age from high school through senior citizen. Former conductors include Russ Wittmer (1976 – 1978), Michael Hawkins (1978-1979), Mr. John Radosta from ’79 to ‘89 and again from ’92 to 2002 and Madison Vick from ’89 to ‘92. Mr. Larry Harrington took over the podium in 2002, retiring in May of 2012.
The Salem Pops is registered as a nonprofit corporation with the State of Oregon and is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Thus your donations are tax deductible and, when matched by a contribution to the Oregon Cultural Trust, may be eligible for an Oregon tax credit.
The Pops’ current performance venue, the Historic Grand Theatre, is just one of many the orchestra has used in the past. They have performed annually at Capitol Manor, for several years on the stage at Willamette University, the auditoriums at both North Salem and South Salem High Schools, the old Marion Hotel, the Salem Armory, the Elks Lodge, the Salem Arts Fair stage, the Mission Mill Museum and the Historic Elsinore Theatre.
Until May of 2005, all of the Pops’ performances had been sponsored by local charitable or service organizations. Since then, the orchestra has produced all of its own concerts, sometimes with a partner but usually on its own. It is still operating as a nonprofit organization, but is striving for an increased presence in the community by raising its level of musical performance, including higher profile guest artists, thus drawing larger audiences and increasing its revenues, specifically to enhance its scholarship program.
Beginning with the 2005 – 2006 concert season, the Pops established scholarship program for Salem area high school musicians. Now called the “Del Milne Memorial Scholarship Program” to honor its founder, the project has awarded $11,000 in cash to graduating seniors and almost 10,000 in tuition assistance to 42 young musicians attending Summer Music Camps.
Imagine! A full half century of bringing delightful musical experiences to our audiences and members. Thank you for being part of it. Now, on with the next 50 years!