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This program for the children’s Harney County Sagebrush Symphony Orchestra is most likely from one of two concerts the young musicians performed in September, 1916 at the Eleventh Street Theater in Portland. Thirty children traveled by train across the state for the concerts and also to perform at the Oregon State Fair in Salem.
While the orchestra members were considered to be very talented, a contemporary news account reveals that they were also seen as a novelty act from the rural, frontier west. In a front-page article in the Portland Oregonian, journalist Ben Hur Lampman, later Oregon’s poet laureate, reported that performer Miriam McConnell wore rabbit scalps on her belt. The story also related that one seven-year-old child declared that he would “sooner live in Harney County” than Portland, because “you’re free there, and you’re tied here.”
Music teacher and violinist Mary V. Dodge, who started and directed the Sagebrush Orchestra, later moved to Portland and helped found the Portland Youth Philharmonic Symphony.
Written by Kathy Tucker, © Oregon Historical Society, 2002.