RELATIONSHIP with STRINGS ATTACHED
About 17 years ago, as a rehearsal for a summer festival in Ohio commenced, a young woman came rushing down an aisle to the symphony stage, late. Trevor Fitzpatrick took notice from his spot among the cellists.
"I remember thinking, 'This girl is hot. This is going to be a great summer,'" Fitzpatrick says.
The woman, Marilyn de Oliveira, already had noticed Fitzpatrick earlier.
"I saw this hot guy with a cello on his back," she says. "And I had the same thought, 'It's going to be a great summer.'"
They ended up being stand partners for the symphony in the festival. But they both had other love interests at the time, so it ended up being like at first read of sheet music.
It took another six years of acquainting themselves with each other and then dating while with New World Symphony in Miami, but they eventually said "I do," promising to stay committed through bad times and good and cello parts with symphonies.
Today, they are cellists with the Oregon Symphony — and, in the spirit of Valentine's Day, a happily married couple with a young child and one of several couples that cohabit in the state's pre-eminent orchestra.
Fitzpatrick joined the Oregon Symphony in 2005, while de Oliveira still worked with the San Antonio Symphony. "We were going to part ways, but we said let's try to make it work (long distance)," he says. "We did that for two years, and then got married in 2007 and Marilyn moved here with no job."
De Oliveira went back to work in San Antonio, and Fitzpatrick went with her. Then, she auditioned and won a job with the Oregon Symphony about nine years ago, and he kindly informed the symphony that "I'll have my job back, please."
"It was the biggest blessing ever. We love Portland," says de Oliveira, who's originally from Brazil. "The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful places in the world."
The spouses are close off stage, but not on stage, literally. De Oliveira is an assistant principal cellist, sitting separately from Fitzpatrick.
It's rare that they sit together, "but when we do, we have a good time," Fitzpatrick says.
Both 37, they profess to dragging their work home with them, with de Oliveira adding, "We're really into the cello nerdy stuff. We're pretty excited about it."
They have a 3-year-old daughter, Isla, who, not surprisingly, already has played cello — at age 9 months, she would sit with a violin between her legs. At age 2, she played a 1/16-size cello. Isla recently put on her first recital.
"She can pizzicato some notes," Fitzpatrick says.
Adds de Oliveira: "She definitely loves (cello). She's had it around her since she was in my belly."
The two are good about keeping work and play separate. They each have their side projects; de Oliveira plays chamber music and Fitzpatrick in a trio. And they both teach.
"Our lives are very intertwined," de Oliveira says, adding, jokingly, "it's amazing we're still together."
Others couples in the symphony are concertmaster Sarah Kwak and Vali Phillips, Sergio Careno and Lisbeth Dreier, Ken and Lynne Finch, and Silu Fei and Ningning Jin.
"As musicians we have weird schedules, it sometimes makes it easier," says Fitzpatrick, a native of Canada.
The Oregon Symphony still has plenty of concerts left, and the cellists look forward to playing Verdi's "Requiem" in early March. But, the symphony also released its 2018-19 schedule, and it really excites de Oliveira and Fitzpatrick.
The new season, themed "Moving Music Forward," features "SoundStories." Award-winning storytellers bring music to life in vividly imagined productions: Stravinsky's "Petrushka"; Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel"; Grieg's "Peer Gynt."
The symphony also welcomes soprano Renee Fleming, pianist Emanuel Ax, guitarist Pablo Villegas, double bassist/composer Edgar Meyer and violinist Karen Gomyo, among the highlights. There'll also be 20 composition premieres among classical music, not to mention the pops and popcorn movie series. For more info on the 2018-19 season: www.orsymphony.org.
Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick and de Oliveira are enjoying working for Music Director Carlos Kalmar before he leaves at the end of his contract in two years.
"He brought this orchestra to a completely different artistic level," Fitzpatrick says. "He really challenges us to be at the top of our game."