Salem grad, violist visits local schools


Salem grad, violist visits local schools

3:50 p.m. PDT September 30, 2016

There’s nothing like tips from a pro to improve your performance.

Music students at several Salem-Keizer schools had a chance to learn that first-hand this week, as a professional musician — and former South Salem High School student — visited their classrooms.

Among the tips offered by violist Caitlin Lynch were methods for using the bow. She told students with string instruments that, by focusing on the weight, placement and speed of the bow, musicians can make the tone rich and strong.

As Lynch spoke to 32 sixth, seventh and eighth grade orchestra students Thursday at Houck Middle School, she used her hands and wore a big smile.

Lynch, 31, grew up in Salem, where she attended McKinley Elementary, Leslie Middle and South Salem High schools. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School and works as a professional musician in New York City.

She and two other Julliard graduates, Michelle Ross and Jia Kim, launched a chamber music series this week in Salem called Project Chamber Music: Willamette Valley. Part of the project involves the trio visiting a handful of orchestra programs in the district.

She and her string trio have been going to orchestra programs at Houck, Leslie, and Claggett Creek middle schools, and South Salem, West Salem, and North Salem high schools this week, performing for them, listening to what they are working on and leading workshops to improve their skills.

The project will culminate with a public performance Saturday at the Historic Elsinore Theatre. They will perform alongside high school students to present a movement of Bach’s third Brandenburg Concerto.

“I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without Salem-Keizer’s fantastic music program,” Lynch said. “I want to give back to the program and community that raised me.”

She said every school is working on something different, such as a focus on vibrato, or dealing with performance anxiety. Some orchestras may want to perform for and listen to the trio, and others may want to work on a particular piece they are learning.

Lynch said the project was able to cater to the specific needs of each school.

As Lynch, Ross and Kim worked with the students at Houck Middle School, they sat near students who played their same instruments, peeking over their shoulders to sight-read the music.

She said the goal is to inspire and motivate the students, but also bring attention to the district and “how special and unique it is.”

“With a community that embraces the arts, plus the wonderful students — it doesn’t get any better,” she said.

Lynch said she wants to reach as many students as possible and make the project an annual thing.

Playing with the students — in workshops and at the concert at the Elsinore — is important to Lynch.

She said it’s one thing to work with them, but “it’s different to actually interact with them.”

“It’s a whole other level,” she said.

Lynch began playing the violin when she was 4 years old, but switched to the viola in middle school. Growing up, she said, she didn’t realize how wonderful the Salem-Keizer music program was and still is.

“It’s really special,” she said. “I didn’t realize it was so unique. I consider it a really rare treasure to come back.”

Contact Natalie Pate at, 503-399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate, on Facebook at or on the Web at


Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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