You've seen him around Lake Oswego. You may recognize him from the promotional posters, the soccer field (he plays three times a week), or the fundraising beat, but you feel like you know him. Lajos Balogh (pronounce Lah-yosh Ball-og), 77, is everywhere.
He conducts some of the Portland areas' most successful group orchestras including the Marylhurst Symphony, the Portland Festival Symphony and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. Plus, he was Principal Violin II for the Oregon Symphony for 27 years from 1970 to 1997.
'I enjoy, so much, working with all types of musicians - community players, professionals and youth,' says Balogh. 'It is wonderful.'
Home in Hungary
Balogh was born into a musical family in l931 in Beled, Hungary. He attended the Liszt Academy of Music until the Hungarian Revolution in l956. As the Soviets invaded Budapest, Balogh was one of 200,000 refugees to safely flee his country, leaving everything behind to start again in West Germany. His family that remained ended up in refugee camps in Hungary during the Soviet occupation.
In l967, he reunited with his family here in Portland, where his brother was working as a mathematics professor at the University of Portland.
Bringing the music to Portland
With the support of a government fellowship, Balogh was hired at Marylhurst University in 1967 to do what he does best - teach and conduct classical music. He now has been a permanent faculty member and the conductor of the Marylhurst Symphony for more than 41 years.
In l974, he saw a need for classical instruction in the younger ages. He started the Metropolitan Youth Symphony with 16 kids from Lake Oswego and West Linn.
The youth symphony now has more than 500 kids participating in three symphony orchestras, three symphonic bands, two string ensembles, a flute choir and two jazz ensembles.
The youth symphony has played around the world including performances in Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, Japan and Balogh's home country, Hungary.
' I see many friends and classmates when I go home,' said Balogh. 'Some of them have come to our performances.'
Members of Balogh's Youth Symphony have gone on to play in such prestigious programs as the Cleveland Institute of Music, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, The Julliard School and Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
'I am very proud of these young people,' said Balogh.
Celebrating his citizenship
To celebrate becoming a U.S. citizen in l981, Balogh put on a concert featuring the great Portland performers he had worked with over the years.
The result was the Portland Festival Symphony that had its first performance in the Rose Garden in Washington Park. It was such a success that The Festival Symphony now has a permanent summer series, 'Classical Summer Concerts in the Parks', with six to seven performances annually in communities throughout the area.. Their next concert will be held at on Sept. 7th at 4 p.m. Lake Oswego's Foothills Park.
Keeping the music playing
Balogh is passionate about classical music, and has a gift for sharing it with those in his community.
However, concerts, musicians, and instruments are expensive. He spends a lot of his time fundraising - applying for grants, sending letters to businesses and individuals, looking for community involvement.
'Each concert costs $12,000 to $14,000. We recently received a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation that was really helpful. My job is to keep finding the money, so we can keep the music playing.'
For more information about the Portland Youth Symphony visit www.metropolitanyouthsymphony.org or the Portland Festival Symphony at www.portlandfestivalsymphony.org .