The Gene and Eleanor Otwell Chair for University Orchestras

Gene and Eleanor Otwell

In 1999 Eleanor Jenks Otwell '33 gave $1.5 million to create an endowed chair in the Department of Music. Otwell, who passed away in 2005, left another $800,000 in her estate to expand funding for the position. Originally called the Endowed Chair for University Orchestras, the department renamed the position in honor of Eleanor and her husband Gene, who passed away in 1997.

The Gene and Eleanor Otwell Chair for University Orchestras celebrates beauty and excellence in the performing arts and strengthens OSU's commitment to the humanities—a vital part of the university's mission. The OSU community appreciates the richness this gift has brought to the university's orchestra and music programs.

Eleanor and Gene Otwell had regularly attended OSU-Corvallis Symphony Orchestra events, and had a long-standing relationship with the local music community. As an OSU education student, Eleanor Otwell had played trumpet in the symphony orchestra and sang in the Madrigal Club.

The Otwells have were outstanding supporters of music at Oregon State and established the Captain Beard Band Hall Fund and the Captain Harry Beard Scholarship in honor of Eleanor’s uncle, who directed the ROTC Cadet Band for more than 40 years.

The Otwell Chair strengthens OSU's musical offerings in many ways. Some of the funding from the endowment provides scholarships to help OSU recruit talented student musicians. Additionally, the endowment subsidizes admission tickets, enabling all OSU students to attend the concerts free of charge. Earnings also support visiting musicians who perform and teach, and allow the orchestra to give more frequent concerts.


Marlan Carlson

Marlan Carlson was appointed to the Endowed Chair for University Orchestras in 1999. He has vastly enriched the music program and the Corvallis community with his experience on the professional symphony circuit as well as his knowledge of the history of music, bringing the community and musicians together in dynamic concerts.

Carlson studied musical arts at the Eastman School of Music, receiving his doctorate and Artist's Diploma in 1964. Upon graduation, he began a career as a professional musician, serving as principal violist in the London Symphony Orchestra, the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, and the Heidelberg Staedtisches Orchestra; and as violist in several others, including the New Philharmonia Orchestra and the Rochester Philharmonic. Carlson has performed under the baton of nearly all of the eminent late 20th century conductors, including Leonard Bernstein, Daniel Barenboim, Andre Previn, Otto Klemperer, Loren Maazel, Aaron Copland, Benjamin Britten, Pierre Boulez, and Georg Solti. As both a musician and a music director, Carlson has performed hundreds of works in more than 1,000 concerts around the world.

In 1969, after eight years as a professional musician, Carlson brought his love of music to OSU, where he has since taught strings, chamber music, and music appreciation. He founded the OSU Piano Trio, the OSU Chamber Soloists, the OSU Jazz Ensemble, and the OSU Baroque Ensemble.

In 1993 he became chair of the Department of Music. Under his leadership, the department has raised more than $1 million in scholarship endowment funds, and in support of renovation projects in historic Benton Hall, including the Lillian and Paul Petri Choral Room and the Captain Beard Band Hall. The scholarship endowment fund provides more than $60,000 annually in financial aid for student musicians of all majors.

Carlson has served as director of the 100-member OSU-Corvallis Symphony since 1985. He was one of the founders of the Opera Theater Corvallis and has served as its music director since 1990.

Besides strengthening musical culture here in Corvallis, Carlson served as resident director of the Oregon Study Center in Stuttgart, Germany, from 1988-90. Additionally, he served as director of seven different inter-institutional, long-term, study abroad programs in London; Siena, Italy; Cologne, Germany; and Angers, France.


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