Friends of Chamber Music, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to presenting the highest quality chamber ensembles in concert, and providing educational outreach to further chamber music in our community. Friends of Chamber Music (FOCM) is honored with the distinction of being the longest non-interrupted chamber music series in Oregon and one of the longest running in the country.
The establishment of Friends of Chamber Music grew from the desire of Reed College Classics Professor Reginald Arragon and his wife, Gertrude, to bring quality chamber music to the Portland area. In 1938 the Arragons developed a list of friends and colleagues who agreed to serve as guarantors should the proposed new series fail to cover its expenses through ticket sales. The Arragons built the series over the years, depending upon the guarantor system exclusively to make up the deficit each year.
Over the years a number of institutions of higher learning became supporting members of the Friends of Chamber Music, and made modest institutional contributions. These included Reed College, Lewis and Clark College, Portland State University and the University of Portland. As the institutions' budgets began to shrink, they were forced to withdraw their monetary support, although faculty members have continued to serve on the board as individual members. In 1971 the board voted to seek incorporation as a non-profit corporation. At about the same time it was felt that the guarantor system was becoming too unwieldy, as the guarantors did not know until the completion of each season what each individual share of the deficit might be. It was decided to ask for individual contributions at the time of the season ticket sale, which also was growing, and the management of the series was becoming more professional.
After the remodeling of the Lincoln Hall Auditorium at Portland State University was completed in 1976, the Board of Directors opted to make that hall the permanent home of the Friends of Chamber Music. The hall seats 476, is comfortable, intimate and conveniently located. The relationship with Portland State University has continued to prosper with Friends of Chamber Music offering educational opportunities for PSU students and Portland State University supporting FOCM with in-kind contributions such as discounted hall rental, free office space, and free technical services. When the University had an opportunity to purchase an excellent Hamburg Steinway grand piano for use in the hall, the Friends of Chamber Music made a significant contribution towards its purchase.
Portland audiences grew to expect the finest quality in chamber music from Friends of Chamber Music, and both membership and attendance figures continued to grow. In 1982 and again in 1983 the subscription series was completely sold out, the number of concerts per season having by then increased from the four or five of early years to six concerts per season. While support from the media was always excellent, the series had virtually reached an impasse as all reviews and publicity ended with the statement that the series was sold out so there was no point in trying to get tickets. The board felt that this cozy, but exclusive arrangement did not fulfill their responsibility to the community at large to develop an increasing interest in and availability to the public of high quality chamber music. Since the fall of 1985 FOCM has offered a repeat performance of each concert on a second night.
To meet the continuing demand for quality chamber music, FOCM inaugurated in the 1999-2000 season a new Not So Classic Series (formerly Presents! Series), offering more world class ensembles, sometimes traditional, and sometimes unusual, but always excellent music. In the 2006-07 season FOCM began its Vocal Arts Series, the first series of its kind in the community that is focused on bringing the finest quality vocalists and small vocal ensembles from around the world to Portland audiences.