SOU students vote to silence One World concert series

Along with a good 5-cent cigar and a functioning library system, Southern Oregon will have to get along without One World. A student committee at Southern Oregon University has pulled the plug on the award-winning music series.

SOU's educational activities advisory committee recommended no longer supporting the series, which brought musicians from around the world to perform in Southern Oregon, and the recommendation was accepted by SOU's Associated Students governing body.

"Students decide how to spend the incidental fee they charge themselves," said Deb Myers, SOU Director of Student Activities and Leadership. "In these times of short budgets and new priorities they made a decision not to subsidize it. They look at about 45 different programs, and they wanted to do some new things."

The series presented such performers as Habib Koite of Mali, Youssou N'Dour of Senegal, The Drummers of Burrundi and The Throat Singers of Tuva. In the last couple of years, Maria Kelly, who booked the entertainers as an independent contractor, booked more American acts such as Mickey Hart's Planet Drum, composer Philip Glass, mandolinist David Grisman, the Taj Mahal Trio, singer Steve Earl and guitarist Leo Kottke, who performed March 4, and others.

"The bottom line is that there was never big support for world music from the students," said Kelly, who took over the reigns of the series from founder Tom Olbrich six years ago.

The series was started out of the ashes of an earlier program in 1994 by Olbrich, who is now executive director of the Ashland Independent Film Festival, under the aegis of SOU's program board, with the participation of SOU-owned Jefferson Public Radio. Early shows brought performers to SOU's Music Recital Hall.

In 1997 the series expanded to the refurbished Craterian Ginger Rogers in Medford as well, and in 2001 Kelly came aboard.

Myers said it was hard for many SOU students to get to Medford to see shows.

Kelly said the program was doomed by the combination of a lack of interest in world music, a tough economy, lack of corporate sponsors or underwriters and a climate of budget cuts at SOU.

"Over the years they cut the student prices in half," Kelly said of SOU students.

For the 2006-07 season, student tickets were $10.

Students voted to cut the program once before, but a strong campaign by Olbrich saved it.

"It pulls on my heartstrings to not be able to bring this music to my own hometown," Kelly said. "I'm doing some soul-searching."

Kelly also books concerts for JPR's Cascade Theatre in Redding, Calif., as many as 18 or 20 a year. She booked Paul DeLay into the old Ashland Armory in July on behalf of JPR, and she presents concerts in Bend.

She said several dozen people have expressed support for the series and disappointment at its cancellation.

"It might come back in one form or another," she said.

She said that would likely require some combination of underwriting, corporate sponsorship, grants or other support.

Myers said, "We'd be willing to explore how to make it continue" — but only if a presenter were interested in reviving the series without any student money.

JPR's Paul Westhell said the station might be interested.

"We'd continue to look for opportunities to present concerts consistent with One World's mission and quality," he said.

The One World Web site has been shut down, but Kelly says she can be reached by those wishing to comment at

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or

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