Entertainment profile

Jetta Whittaker: musician and symphony administrator

Posted: Thursday, April 20, 2000

Broken cello: As the administrator for the Juneau Symphony, Jetta Whittaker attends to the myriad details necessary to keep the symphony on stage. She takes care of all aspects of concert production and promotion, as well as symphony operations -- everything from bookkeeping to grant writing.

The part-time position has proved to be more demanding than it appeared three years ago when she initially took it on, but it allows her to work from home and be with her two pre-school-age children.

Whittaker plays oboe and began performing with the symphony 13 years ago. She said the cello was her first instrument.

``I started playing cello in fourth grade but it was bigger than me and I broke it on the way to school one day, and that was it for me,'' she said.

Cosmopolitan Southeast: Whittaker, 40, grew up in Ketchikan. She used to visit Juneau with her dad, Dick Whittaker, who worked seasonally in the capital city.

``My dad was a legislator back in the early 1970s and I've always had a love for Juneau. It was cosmopolitan Southeast -- a step up from Ketchikan,'' she said.

She started playing oboe in the seventh grade and played piano and violin through high school and college. She attended Reed College in Portland, Ore., and was torn between majoring in forestry or music. Music won out.

Business side of arts: She returned to Alaska after graduating and moved to Anchorage. Her work there with the Alaska Repertory Theatre gave her an interest in the business side of arts, she said.

She went on to earn a master's in business administration from Boston University before moving to Juneau in the late 1980s. She played oboe with the symphony, served as a board member for the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and Juneau Jazz and Classics, and also volunteered with the costume shop at Perseverance Theatre.

``That's such a good place to get hooked into the arts scene if you're new to town,'' she said.

Squiggly things: She does most of her playing with the symphony, but hopes to play more with smaller ensembles when her kids are a little older.

``The woodwind quintet is my favorite ensemble. I enjoy chamber music, and would like to play more chamber music in the future,'' she said.

A few years ago, vocalist Jimmy Waters enlisted her to play a solo in a jazz piece he wanted to perform. She enjoyed the experience, but said she's not a born improviser. She studied a recording and charted out her musical passage.

``I'm pretty much classical. I need those little black squiggly things on paper. I've tried to improvise, but my brain just doesn't engage that way,'' she said.

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