PAA Violinist Puts Sabbath Above Career

Ellen Cockerham, a Portland Adventist Academy senior, has been selected as the concertmistress of the Portland Youth Philharmonic (PYP) for the 2003-04 season. She was chosen for this prestigious honor through a blind audition by Mei-Ann Chen, orchestra director. She has been a member of this orchestra for six years, starting unusually early at 12 years old.

Cockerham would like to become a professional violinist but realizes that honoring her commitment to Sabbath observance will present problems such as she has experienced in her participation with PYP. The orchestra practices on Wednesday evenings, but the string group practices on Saturday nights. When sundown is early, Cockerham can attend Saturday night practices without compromising her Sabbath observance, but during the rest of the year she either must arrive late or entirely miss the practice.

When she finished first in the audition for concertmistress, she was urged to attend all practices, including the Saturday night practices if she wanted this position. This caused a great deal of turmoil for her. She desired this position, but also wanted to be true to her religious convictions. She was given a deadline to decide whether she would attend the practices or refuse the position as concertmistress. When she arrived at practice to give her decision, she was informed that she could be concertmistress and continue to attend her practices as she had been doing. She was relieved to have this moral quandary resolved in this way.

Cockerham comes by her music artistry quite naturally. Her only brother, a cellist, was also a member of PYP, and her mother has been a music teacher at Tualatin Valley Jr. Academy.

November 01, 2003 / Oregon Conference