Come one, come all: Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Sierra College presents orchestra concert Friday evening |

Come one, come all: Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Sierra College presents orchestra concert Friday evening

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to Prospector


WHO: OLLI Orchestra (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute)

WHAT: “OLLi oLio” Concert

WHEN: Friday, Nov. 15, 7:30-9 p.m.

WHERE: Multipurpose Room N12, Sierra College, 250 Sierra College Dr., Grass Valley

HOW: Free, tickets not required. Free parking at the college on Friday evenings. Follow signs at entrance

MORE INFO: visit

In 1978, two local musicians came together to form the Sierra Community Symphony. In 1997, when Sierra College opened a Nevada County campus, that symphony became part of the community college curriculum and in 2005, when the college received the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) grant from the San Francisco based Bernard Osher Foundation, the orchestra fell under the grant and took on their current moniker, Olli Orchestra.

Currently the orchestra consists of over three dozen community members from teenagers to retired members of the community, many who picked up their instrument after not playing for many years. Others who had a long desire to play found the time and courage to pursue a lifelong dream of performing. Friend of OLLI Orchestra and self-appointed marketing manager Britta Tigan said there is no audition process to be part of the group “There is no audition. They come and if they can keep up, they can play. There aren’t any beginners. Professional union musicians and people who quit playing when they were younger and picked it back up later have joined.”

It is a love of the instrument that bring many to OLLI. Tigan added, “They love music. They love playing together. It’s like people who play senior baseball, they played baseball or soccer when they were young. And they still want to play when they are in their 40’s to 80’s, whatever.”

Tigan said the group really cares for one another beyond rehearsal and performance time. “If someone gets sick, a card goes around the whole orchestra (to sign). We check up on each other. It’s just really a wonderful organization for that.”

“It’s classical music without the grandeur. People come from all walks of life to see the concert.”— Britta TiganFriend of OLLI Orchestra and self-appointed marketing manager

Tigan said the group offers great benefit to the community. “It’s a free concert and the parking is even free. It’s classical music without the grandeur. People come from all walks of life to see the concert. There are young people there, maybe teenage friends of the teenagers who are in the orchestra. There are people who may not have heard classical music before and want to go an approachable concert.”

Orchestra conductor Steve Miller teaches at Sierra College, has led the group for sixteen years, and is responsible for selecting music for the program. Tigan said he shares a bit about the music with the audience before the group performs. “Maestro Steve Miller always introduces the pieces and tells you a little anecdotal information about them for people that don’t know the music.”

For the upcoming fall performance, “OLLi oLio,” Miller has selected a number of fun and lively pieces including a medley of tunes.

“Olio” means a collection of various artistic works or musical pieces. OLLI Orchestra will play music from “My Fair Lady,” including “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “On the Street Where You Live,” and more, along with Schubert’s “Symphony No. 8 in B minor” and former Boston Pops conductor Leroy Anderson favorites including “Blue Tango,” “Belle of the Ball” and “The Syncopated Clock” and several other pieces of music. The full program is about 90 minutes long.

OLLI at Sierra College goes beyond the orchestra. Each semester, the college offers non-credit classes in a variety of disciplines. Classes are open to lifelong learners who are interested in exploring educational opportunities in film, art, history, literature, health, science, and of course, music. There is no homework, tests or grades. For a membership fee of $20 per year, and 150 approximately classes offered, some 3,000 students enjoy expanded learning opportunities. According to the Sierra College website, “OLLI at Sierra College is a unique learning community designed for lifelong learners, ages 50 years or better, who are eager to explore new areas of knowledge without the stress of tests or grades. Although classes are designed for adults age 50 and over, there is no age limit for enrollment.”

Mr. and Mrs. Osher formed the Bernard Osher Foundation to help improve people’s quality of life by supporting higher education and the arts. (Sierra College is one of only four community colleges nationwide to receive a grant from the Osher Foundation.)

Tigan (who is not a musician) believes Olli classes are a wonderful way to explore and learn, and the orchestra, in particular, is good for all involved. “I personally think the orchestra is wonderful. It’s just one big happy family that plays music together. What they offer the community is a place to come and set up and play or come and listen and I am so happy OLLI affords them the opportunity to do that.”

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at

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