The huge “Portland” sign that dominates Southwest Broadway in downtown Portland belongs to the city’s most important theater space, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The concert hall is home base for the Oregon Symphony and several other large performing arts groups. Close to downtown parks and restaurants and part of the city’s Cultural District, the Schnitz (as locals call it) resounds with large-scale music, dance and lecture events.
History of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Designed for vaudeville shows and silent movies and opened in 1928, the 2,776- seat space switched gears in 1930 and became a “talkie” movie palace. Then called the Paramount, it also hosted occasional performances by big stars (Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Bob Dylan, among many others). As the movie business declined, the Paramount shifted gears in the ‘70s, becoming a central rock ’n’ roll tour stop. The era’s rock royalty, from Stevie Wonder and Queen to Frank Zappa and Talking Heads, held court in this hall.
In 1983, the city purchased the Paramount, began a major renovation, and restored the theater to something close to its original splendor, the last of the old vaudeville and movie houses that once dominated Southwest Broadway. It was named for the leading private donor for the renovation, Arlene Schnitzer, a leading local arts philanthropist.
Resident Companies at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Oregon Symphony Orchestra
The Oregon Symphony, the oldest symphony west of the Mississippi River and the sixth oldest in the country, is a prime tenant of the concert hall. Under the baton of music director Carlos Kalmar, the Oregon Symphony offers a busy schedule of classical concerts, an innovative pops program, and multimedia concerts designed for families.
Portland Youth Philharmonic & Metropolitan Youth Symphony
Two youth orchestras also call the concert hall home. The Portland Youth Philharmonic is the oldest orchestra of its kind in the country, established in 1924, and is known for its adventurous programming, which began with legendary conductor Jacob Avshalomov, whose 43-year tenure (1954-1995) was marked by collaborations with many composers, including Leonard Bernstein. The orchestra regularly graduates its student musicians into major music academies and adult orchestras. So does the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, now in its 44th year, which also includes jazz ensembles among its many musician groupings.
The city’s biggest dance presenter, White Bird, began in 1997 with a concert of dances by the late Paul Taylor. The company now brings both large-scale modern dance and big showcases of dance from around the world to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. (White Bird also presents at the Newmark Theatre, across the street from the Schnitz, and Lincoln Hall, five blocks away).
The central producer of lectures by visiting authors is Literary Arts. A key sign of the importance of literary matters to the city is how often it fills the concert hall to overflowing with its readings and lectures. Literary Arts also stages the Portland Book Festival each November, bringing marquee authors to the stage at the Schnitz.
Touring Performances at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Although resident companies occupy much of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall’s calendar, the venue also hosts many other events and touring shows. Lectures (Dan Rather, Madeleine Albright, and Anderson Cooper, for example), concerts (Tony Bennett, Andrew Bird, Thom Yorke), regular showcase events from the Portland Jazz Festival, and many others, pop up through the year.
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. Beethoven’s profound musical statements about freedom, equality and humanity resonate even more powerfully today than they did when the Ninth Symphony premiered almost 200 years ago. Oregon Repertory Singers join the orchestra and four soloists for a full-throated celebration of Beethoven’s final masterpiece.
Ten Grands Celebrates 20 Years of Supporting Music Education Ten Amazing Pianists – One Sensational Stage Featuring local legends and rising stars from the Pacific Northwest, with special guests Hunter Noack (In A Landscape: Classical Music in the Wild) and Thomas Lauderdale (Pink Martini) Performers include: Vocal legends Julianne Johnson-Weiss, Erin Tamblyn, Haley Johnsen, Molly…
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. The Flaming Lips will perform their iconic 1999 masterpiece The Soft Bulletin in its entirety, joined by the Oregon Symphony. The ever-evolving psychedelic pop-rock group led by legendary front man Wayne Coyne will create an unmissable, moving, and magical experience. The band’s career breakthrough album…
Founded by celebrated choreographer Kim MaeJa in 1976, ChangMu Dance Company has transformed Korean dance through innovative choreography combined with poetry and painting. Along with its creativity, ChangMu also displays the troupe’s mastery of traditional Korean dance, including shaman dance, Buddhist dance, folk dance, and court dance. ChangMu’s mixed repertory program will showcase the impressive…
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. The wildly talented star of Broadway, film and TV joins the Oregon Symphony for a spectacular evening featuring songs from her latest album, For The Girls. Celebrated for originating the role of Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway smash hit Wicked, the Emmy and…
Jim Jefferies is one of the most popular and respected comedians of his generation, entertaining audiences across the globe with his provocative, belief-challenging, and thought-provoking comedy. He was recently named one of the top 5 touring comedians in the world. After receiving rave reviews for his 2018 international stand up tour, The Unusual Punishment Tour,…
Everyone’s invited! Join the Oregon Symphony for its annual FREE community concert. The program will include a side-by-side piece with members of the David Douglas High School orchestra, winner of the 2019 Schnitzer Wonder Award. Tickets are free but you must reserve a ticket by calling the Oregon symphony ticket office at 503-228-1353 Tickets: Limit…
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. Award-winning designer Michael Curry – whose 2017 imagining of Stravinsky’s “Persephone” dazzled three sold-out halls – returns to the Oregon Symphony, drawing from ancient Mayan tradition to create a mysterious, supernatural setting for Revueltas’ 1939 film score La Noche de los Mayas.
One of the nation’s leading immigration and Asian American historians, Erika Lee teaches American history at the University of Minnesota, where she is a Regents Professor, the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, and the Director of the Immigration History Research Center. She is the author of four notable books, including most recently, America…
Verselandia! is the annual high school poetry slam presented by Literary Arts. It is the Grand Slam for the winners from individual school slams hosted by public high schools. High school poets compete for five great prizes. Join us on April 30, 2020, for the ninth Verselandia!
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. Join Portland legend China Forbes for a 50th birthday celebration of her favorite songs as she takes the stage for her first solo performance with the Oregon Symphony!
We wrap up our 96th season with not one, but TWO pianists – the second prize winners of the 2019 PYP Piano Competition, presented by Portland Piano International. 16-year-old Zayan Akmal performs Oregon native’s Ernest Bloch’s Scherzo Fantasque for Piano and Orchestra, and 16-year-old Jenna Tu presents César Franck’s Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra….
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. There’s nothing like a Chris Botti concert. He’s the complete package: a dazzling trumpeter, a brilliant bandleader, and a born showman whose joy at being on stage is infectious. Now he returns to dazzle hometown fans with the unparalleled crystalline and poetic sounds that have…
One of today’s most respected folk groups, The Wailin’ Jennys are touring for their most recent release, Fifteen. This long-awaited follow-up to Bright Morning Stars finds the trio bringing their passion and stellar musicianship to a carefully curated collection of some of their favorite songs, including tracks by Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton….
Colson Whitehead is a novelist, essayist, and reviewer whose most recent works include 2019’s The Nickel Boys and 2016’s The Underground Railroad, a New York Times best seller which won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and the National Book Award and was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by theNew York…
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. The consummate violinist returns to perform Dvořák’s gloriously melodic Violin Concerto. Composed during World War II, Shostakovich called his Eighth Symphony “a poem of suffering” and “an attempt to reflect the terrible tragedy of war.”
Yefim Bronfman, “a marvel of digital dexterity, warmly romantic sentiment, and jaw-dropping bravura” (Chicago Tribune), performs Mozart’s dramatic C Minor Piano Concerto. An American in Paris, inspired by George Gershwin’s Parisian escapades during the Roaring Twenties, portrays the cheerful hustle and bustle of the city of love.
Since forming in 1994, alt-pop darlings The Dandy Warhols have emerged as one of the most innovative bands on the international scene. Now the Dandys return to share the stage with their hometown orchestra for the first time ever, in a show featuring new favorites and classics from the band’s 25-year career.
Oregon Symphony and Resonance Ensemble join forces to present the World premiere of An African American Requiem, Portland composer Damien Geter’s bold, thought-provoking musical response to violence against African Americans in the United States. Combining traditional Latin Requiem texts with civil rights declarations, poetry, and the famous last words of Eric Garner, “I can’t breathe,”…
The longest crescendo in the repertoire, Ravel’s magnificent Boléro begins at pianissimo and builds up to such astonishing intensity that it brings audiences to their feet every time.
Handel’s joyful Water Music, Smetana’s beloved Vltava (The Moldau), and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ masterful “Sea Symphony” close the Classical Season in a program that celebrates the beauty, power, and mystery of bodies of water the world over.