(Photo courtesy of COSA)
“You will play the violin,” said her mother. Thus began the string-focused life of Leslie Knight, violist in Central Oregon Symphony. In all fairness, the violin was convenient as it had belonged to her grandfather who was living with the budding musician. As early as second grade, Leslie was playing that violin in Holy Redeemer Grade School Orchestra. But it was at the Young Musicians and Artists Camp offered through Willamette University she fell in love with Chamber Music. One of her teachers, Boris Sirpo, was the conductor for the Portland Chamber Orchestra and Leslie still remembers his instruction to play the G major scale… 300 times. Each a different rhythm. It’s hard to imagine that this fueled her passion for chamber music.
It was as a freshman at Willamette University, whose chamber orchestra was seriously lacking viola, that Leslie made the switch from violin. She loved chamber music and knew the viola was sorely needed. While working on a degree in viola performance, Leslie played in the Salem Symphony. After graduation she did a short stint at The University of Cincinnati… but with no chamber music program, she abandoned Ohio, came back to Oregon, married and moved to Bend.
In 1979 Leslie joined the young and growing Central Oregon Symphony Orchestra, then under the baton of Jerry Yahna. In 1982, fueling her passion for chamber music, Leslie united with two violins and a cello to form the Dove String Quartet. After 35 years, she is the last member of the original quartet, which is quite alive and offering chamber music performances all over Central Oregon.
While she and her husband were building a home just south of Sunriver, Leslie taught orchestra at her son’s Three Rivers School, played in the Sunriver Music Festival, the Central Oregon Symphony and Chamber Music Orchestra while working for Sunriver Resort. Currently she holds a full -time job as head of human resources for the Sunriver Home Owners Association. With symphony, chamber orchestra, Dove Quartet and Holiday Magic rehearsals, Leslie has logged thousands of miles between Sunriver and Bend over the past 38 years. Her attitude?
When music is at the other end, “Every mile is worth it.”
As for her many years with the Central Oregon Symphony, Leslie said, “Michael Gesme is a huge reason to practice and play. He’s passionate, skilled, knows what he wants. He’s respectful of your time. He’s approachable. He’s just a great conductor.”