Reproduced with permission of Portland Youth Philharmonic. 

Portland Youth Philharmonic Alumni Newsletter

WINTER 2024  VOL. 6 NO. 2

Zel Brook  (Portland Junior Symphony 1961-65,


As an orchestra alum, I am writing to answer two questions. First, what did the Portland Junior Symphony (now Portland Youth Philharmonic) do to foster my development in the field of visual art? Secondly, why did the experience of playing in the Portland Junior Symphony remain a pivotal life event?

The sole experience I had as a youth working with a group of musicians to achieve excellence taught me five essential things. 1. The value of taking on difficult tasks and not giving up. 2. Taking risks a.k.a. go big or go home. 3. Solving complex problems. 4. Working hard. 5. Finding a pathway to achieving a goal.

Today, I am scarred by 17 medical surgeries and events. Unable to play music, I have taken the above five things and arrived as a visual artist making sculpture, painting, drawing and photography. Read more at

You can see the progression in my recent retrospective art show at the Benton County Historical Society, in Philomath, OR, with welded forms, drawing, painting, photographs and kinetic sculptures. By the time anyone reads this, a 70 foot outdoor sculpture will be nearing completion. It will remain standing like music and memory, through wind, rain and adversity long after I am gone. It is located near the beat of running, pounding feet moving just like music. My most important lesson from the Portland Junior Symphony was to rely on my ability to get to a form of expression that may not be music but, well…perhaps it is.