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Orval Etter, associate professor emeritus. B.S., 1937, J.D., 1939, Oregon.

The Alvord Award to Orval Etter, for exemplifying the tradition of service and dedication to the arts and the arts community. Mr. Etter founded both the Emerald Chamber Players and the Eugene Symphony Orchestra, served as impresario for numerous concerts in the Eugene area, created a community library of chamber and symphony music, and nurtured amateur musicians in many ways.

Performing for masses hits his highest note

By Diane Dietz   -   photo by Thomas Boyd
The Register-Guard
Published: Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Re - Peat," Orval Etter chanted in time with the music before threading the quintet back through the lively renaissance dance tune.

The 90-year-old cellist was so obviously pleased with the restoration of weekly Saturday afternoon chamber concerts - his 30-year-old brainchild - in the soaring, cathedral-like foyer of the Atrium Building.

White clouds drifted across the blue sky above the glass ceiling. Etter's cello laid the low notes while the group's three recorders rippled and trilled above.

The ensemble outnumbered the sparse, four-member audience: three people and Sparky, a Chihuahua pup.

No matter, Etter said. "We lost some momentum, and we're getting it back."

The setbacks leading up to Saturday's concert were enough to knock a young man on his back, maybe for good. Etter was struck by a hit-and-run driver and spent months in a rehabilitation center. And he lost his wife of 65 years.

Later, a city bureaucrat decided to close the Atrium Building on weekends, citing security concerns, blocking access to Etter's longtime concert venue.

But it wasn't defeat for Orval Etter, the unsinkable impresario of Eugene's amateur concerts.

Music has been his lifelong pre-occupation. He believes when musicians perform for the masses, they do a social service.

"I'm quite dogmatic about not charging admission," he said.


Few persons in the life of Eugene have made such a sustained contribution to the culture of the city as has Orval Etter. A retired UO professor, his commitment to music is significant, even if it may not include virtuosity at his instrument of choice, the cello.

At 88, he continues to manage a Eugene chamber music group that performs every Saturday afternoon at the Atrium in downtown Eugene. During the summer, he schedules and introduces Sunday evening concerts at Washburn Park. He also is founder and moderator of a weekly discussion group on peace issues, the Pacifica Forum.

Tonight (Feb. 19), the Eugene Symphony will honor Etter and his wife, Mary, for their key role in creating the symphony three decades ago. They and three others made personal financial commitments that enabled a rudimentary symphony to begin performing in varied venues under direction of the late Lawrence Maves.

While the Etters' financial contribution to the building of the Hult Center may have been nominal, they are recognized as godparents, as the existence of the Eugene Symphony was basic to the decision to create the Hult.

George Beres, Eugene

Eugene Weekly

Register-Guard: Wednesday, Mar 18, 2009, page A8

Other sides of Orval Etter

I was sorry to see yet another article (Register-Guard, March 13), on the front page no less, bringing the hammer down on Orval Etter and his involvement with the Pacifica Forum and its divisive activities. I’ve never attended a forum, and I have no interest in hearing “scholars” try to defend theories of Holocaust denial.

However, with respect to a 93-year-old man who was born during World War I, who struggled to support his family in Cottage Grove during the Great Depression, and who vehemently protested every military action since World War II, I’d like to provide a different perspective on Orval Etter, better known to me as Grandfather.

While I could speak in praise of his never-ending support and creative visioning for the musical arts community, I would rather smile at the memory of how he taught me how to throw a football. Or stuffing myself on the raspberries that grew in his back yard, or the sweet, spicy scent of overflowing pots of petunias lining his front steps.

While my grandfather can no longer play his cello, has left the care of his fruit trees, vines and flowers to younger members of his family, and rides a scooter instead of his trusty bicycle, he is still a thinking, feeling person, and I hope that those of us who know him, and maybe some who don’t, can take a moment to appreciate the whole man, and not just the snippet of his life that makes for juicy front-page news.

Keri Etter Lake