Field Hall is proud to honor James “Jim” Van Horn. We join his daughter, Sharon Reuter, in challenging our community to recognize his incredible impact.
Field Arts & Events Hall is honored to accept a $100,000 gift and matching challenge in tribute to James Van Horn, the first professional Conductor of the Port Angeles Symphony.
With the support of his daughter, Sharon Reuter, we invite you to dedicate your gift in honor of James “Jim” Van Horn. Your gift will support a permanent naming right honoring James Van Horn, affixed to the conductor’s rostrum in Field Hall.
WATCH: Sharon Reuter introduces a naming right challenge on behalf of her father, James Van Horn, at the August 8th “Pillars of the Community” event.
In the fall of 1958 a small group of local musicians offered my father, James Van Horn, the position of Conductor for the fledgling Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra was originally formed in the living room of Dr. Will Taylor with 8 to 10 musicians in 1932. Dr. Taylor, Biz Gehrke, and Benjamin Phillips were the major forces in getting the group off the ground. A series of volunteer conductors led the group until 1958.
My grandmother in Carnation, WA read the obituary of the last director and passed that information to my dad. He was teaching music at Concordia College in Morehead, MN at the time, but had always dreamed of conducting an orchestra. He contacted the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and was connected with Biz Gehrke who invited him to interview. The interview took place in Don Smock’s music store with Smock, Helen Tradewell, Dorothy Hargrave, and Biz Gehrke. The salary was small and rumor has it, paid for by Biz Gehrke. My dad was determined to make a go of it and augmented his salary with teaching piano, conducting the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church choir, playing at McDonald’s funeral home, and on occasion selling trailers and mobile homes for Verne Burton.
Some have said that my dad’s arrival was a pivotal point in the cultural history of PA. He turned a “scratchy little orchestra” in the words of Dave Hargrave, into a respectable performing symphony orchestra. Through his tenure he created a board of community members, brought numerous professional soloists in from Seattle and beyond, performed works by living composers who attended in person, welcomed high school musicians, and fostered the love of music in both musicians and community members.
We are now at new pivotal point in the cultural history of our city: the completion of the Field Arts & Events Hall. I thought that helping to finish this beautiful space would be a fitting tribute to my dad and the role he played here in Port Angeles. I know that there are still hundreds of people he touched, piano students, audience members, and musicians, living in our community.
I have announced a challenge gift of $100,000 towards completing the interior of this performing arts venue. I’m hoping that my money can be compounded by others that were touched by him. I know I’ll never make the kind of mark in this community that my father did, but I hope that this gift honors and memorializes his place in the performing arts in Port Angeles.
If you or a family member were impacted in some way by my dad, Jim Van Horn, please consider joining me in making a contribution to bring the Field Arts & Events Hall to fruition.