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New Director, Same Passion For 8 Strings

Updated: Oct 4, 2018

The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra is proud to announce that Christian McKee of Northeast Portland has been named the organization’s new music director.

McKee, a longtime figure in the Portland-area music scene, will be taking the conductor’s baton from founding music director Brian Oberlin, who is in the process of moving to Michigan. The hand-off will occur in stages through the end of 2017.

“I am gratified to have been selected,” McKee said. “I am looking forward to the challenge and to continue the good work the orchestra has done.”

McKee formerly played with the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra. But he is best known for fronting The Big North Duo, teaming up with bassist Paul Prato since 2009 to play classic swing, blues and country, along with original material that draws on those traditions. McKee and Prato began playing together in 2004.

McKee has a soulful singing voice and is adept at mandolin, mandola, and mandocello.

Oberlin co-founded the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra with Elizabeth Farrell in 2010 to revive the beauty of the mandolin music tradition of turn of the century. Oberlin also founded the annual River of the West Mandolin Camp, which brings top mandolin instructors to the Columbia River Gorge. River of the West will continue every year under Oberlin’s direction.

Oberlin, who also will launch the Great Lakes Mandolin Camp in Michigan in October, said he regrets leaving the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra.

“The orchestra has been my baby,” Oberlin said. “But I know Christian and the board of directors will take good care of it. The orchestra is in good hands.


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