Salem cellist returns to ‘The Nutcracker’ shows after 2020 hiatus

Andrea Chandler moved to Salem with her family in 2009, but kept her job with the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra in Seattle. While it’s an unusual ride, Chandler said it’s worth it to keep playing with friends she’s had for decades.

Andrea Chandler in the orchestra pit of the Pacific Northwest Ballet during a performance of The Nutcracker in 2015. (Courtesy / Andrea Chandler)

Andrea Chandler has played The Nutcracker hundreds of times, but this year the Salem cellist said the sheet music was fresh again.

The annual Christmas tradition, which Chandler, 61, performs as a member of the Pacific Northwest Ballet orchestra, is back on stage in Seattle after a hiatus due to Covid last year. The ballet and orchestra put on around 40 shows during the month of December, spinning the conductors to keep the music fresh.

“Some of us are kind of laughing – we were complaining about the Nutcracker and now it’s okay,” Chandler said. “We are happy to go back to work, we are happy to be at the opera with the audience. “

Chandler has been a member of the Seattle-based orchestra since the early 1990s, keeping his post even after her family moved to Salem in 2009, when her husband accepted a job in the city’s public works.

For over a decade, she traveled the 220 miles of Interstate 5 several times a month during ballet season, spending 10 to 12 days in Seattle, then returning home to be with her family.

Chandler admitted it was an unusual ride, although she was not the only member of the orchestra traveling from out of state. Her youngest child was in high school when she began traveling regularly between Salem and Seattle, which gave her more flexibility.

She was born and raised on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle and now stays with friends when she returns to her hometown.

For classical musicians, landing a job in orchestra can be the key to a stable career, providing predictable income for much of the year and health insurance.

Chandler said she didn’t want to give up on this when her family moved in or said goodbye to friends she had played with for years.

Salem has several music ensembles, but no full orchestra she could have sought employment with. The Portland-based Oregon Symphony has become increasingly competitive, she said, as have other orchestras since she landed her audition in Seattle.

“You have to win this job with people all over the country,” she said of the Oregon Symphony. Most string musicians now start lessons at the age of 4 or 5, “the entry level to go to conservatory or music school… is like the people of my time who go to school. college. “

Chandler started playing the cello in fourth grade. It was in the sixties, and girls back then weren’t playing the horn. (His daughter is now a professional horn player.)

“Like all little girls, I wanted to play the flute,” she says. “The teacher or the orchestra teacher or whoever said I had the wrong type of lips for the flute, which I now know to be a complete make.” More likely, she suspects that they were trying to avoid having a dozen flautists in her elementary class.

Her father suggested the cello instead. In high school, she practiced two to three hours a day and decided to study music at the University of Washington.

In Salem, she teaches, notably for students at McKay High School through the Music Lessons Project, a non-profit organization that seeks to make music education accessible to students who cannot afford it. . These classes continued virtually last year as schools moved online.

“They really worked so hard on their instruments because they had nothing else to do,” she said of her students.

Chandler said the Christmas season is so busy for orchestra members with performances from The Nutcracker that many choose to simply celebrate with their families after the show closes.

Over the years, she and her family have balanced the schedule in a number of ways. Some years, she returns home on Christmas Eve, missing the last performances. Sometimes his family would come to Seattle.

Some years, “we just decided that Christmas Eve would be December 29,” she said.

This year, she said her husband will join her in Seattle on December 29, and they will return to Salem together to celebrate with her mother.

In the meantime, she can’t wait to play.

“We’re back and there’s dancers on stage and we’re in the pit and the audience is in the hall and as long as it goes on it’s like, ‘We’re good,'” she said. .

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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