Aquarium partners with Newport Symphony

Newport Symphony Orchestra cellists Adrienne Welsh and Vicki Strauss perform in front of the sea otter window at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

During the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s recent closure, the Newport Symphony Orchestra and the aquarium collaborated to provide a new form of enrichment for the resident otters. Together, a music video in front of the sea otter window was created. The very appropriate music “Variations on Water Music Themes” — Handel arr. Kummer, Allegretto — was performed by cellists Adrienne Welsh and Vicki Strauss.

The partnership between the aquarium and the symphony came about when long-time aquarium volunteer Melody Lavrakas found herself making final plans for a youth concert for the elementary school students — the morning of the concert, everything was canceled. The next day, she was notified that the aquarium was closing due to COVID-19, and she could no longer volunteer.

“When the pandemic started and things were shut down, I realized the symphony was not the only community organization that would be majorly impacted. I thought about the various nonprofit community groups that would be having the same challenges as the symphony,” Lavrakas said.

She thought about how fellow nonprofits could help each other during the closures. As a member of the symphony board, Lavrakas thought about how the symphony could help the aquarium. She approached the symphony board about preparing a video of two of their musicians performing at the aquarium, something both the aquarium and the symphony could use to reach out to their patrons. The board approved funding and taking on the project. Lavrakas contacted the aquarium and made the offer.

“It is evident our coastal cultural organizations are highly valued for community enrichment. This collaboration not only helps sustain both organizations, it is a virtual balm in a time of crisis,” said Molly Dumas, the aquarium’s director of development. “Pairing the soothing quality of classical music with the mesmerizing beauty of the natural world is just the remedy our society needs to ease the anxiety of our times.”

Lavrakas said, “Our sources might have been limited as to what we could do, but we can always reach out and help. My hope is the aquarium can use the music video as a gift to their and our patrons and to keep them aware of these great organizations during this difficult time.”

John Lavrakas, former symphony board president, said, “When Melody shared the idea with me, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is perfect collaboration between two fantastic community institutions, supporting our beautiful sea creatures and beautiful symphonic music.’”

People can view the performance by cellists Adrienne Welsh and Vicki Strauss, in videos of two different lengths, by going online at and

People can help support the Newport Symphony Orchestra and the Oregon Coast Aquarium by visiting or