When Bill McKay sits down at the piano Oct. 29 to play Rhapsody in Blue with the Inland Northwest Orchestra, it will be a sort of reunion.
The orchestra's conductor Lee Friese was director of the Walla Walla Symphony 30 years ago when McKay was 16 years old and won that symphony's Young Artist Competition.
"I hadn't seen Lee since I won that contest, but I ran into him at the Scottish games in Athena, Ore., about four years ago and decided to reintroduce myself," McKay said.
Besides being a savvy piano man, McKay is the dean of arts and humanities at Columbia Basin College.
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Despite the passage of three decades, Friese remembered the young musician and a new bond of friendship formed that day, McKay said.
"Two years ago we started hosting the Inland Orchestra at CBC," McKay said. "He asked if I would be the guest artist at one of the Inland Orchestra's concerts. I remember him 30 years ago as a conductor with high expectations and he genuinely cared deeply for his musicians. And a conductor like that brings out the best playing in musicians."
The Tri-City concert will be at 3 p.m. Oct. 30 in the auditorium at Hanford High School, 450 Hanford Ave., Richland. Another performance will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Hermiston Christian Center, 1825 W. Highland Ave. Admission to the concerts is free, though donations are welcome.
"As an orchestra, (Inland musicians) are some of the most dedicated folks I've been around," McKay said. "They take this orchestra on the road to communities that would otherwise never have access to orchestral music. They load everything they use in a trailer, set it up themselves, play a concert, pack it all up and move on to the next gig. And it's all totally volunteer."
The orchestra was formed in 1999 and includes instrumentalists as well as vocalists who perform a variety of classical music.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org