Fanfare: Spring 2007
Author: Kathryn Kirkland
Posted: May 24, 2007

From a new direction

Ray Elliott '00RAY ELLIOTT ’00 may be the nation’s first and only gay, African American man to lead a lesbian choir. This fall, Elliott brought his energetic directing style to the Portland Lesbian Choir at its members’ request. The 20-year-old choir had struggled without a conductor during the past year.

“At the first rehearsal, some singers were a little unsure about working with a man,” says Elliot, “but midway into rehearsal everybody relaxed and it went really well.”

Eliott, the founder and director of Confluence, a gay and lesbian chorus based in Salem, directs a Unitarian church choir in Corvallis and has conducted choirs at Chemeketa Community College. His PSU degree is in music education.

“We have singers from all levels,” says Elliott. “For some, it’s their first time in a choir, and they learn everything by ear. Others can sight read very well. The choir members need to memorize the music and that’s challenging for some.”

The 22-member ensemble, which is open to all women, will present a 20th Anniversary Concert on June 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bridgeport United Church of Christ, 621 NE 76th Ave. For more about the Portland Lesbian Choir, visit

On campus

A measure of complexity

Ken Selden, the new music director of the PSU Symphony Orchestra, has set the bar high for its members. They perform a concert of technically demanding music every month. Maybe that’s why this audition-based ensemble has only one member who’s not a music major.

“I want this orchestra to have the best qualities of a youth orchestra—enthusiasm, energy and youthful intensity,” says Selden, “and have the maturity of a professional orchestra.”

With a doctorate from the Peabody Conservatory and experience over the past five years conducting ensembles such as the Brooklyn Philharmonic and the Eos Orchestra, Selden knows and appreciates challenging music. In its final concert of the season, the orchestra will perform works by Silvestre Revueltas, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Felix Mendelssohn. PSU concerto competition winner Eric Allen will play Shostakovich’s virtuosic Cello Concerto.

The PSU Symphony Orchestra plays its final concert on June 8 at 8 p.m. in Lincoln Performance Hall, room 175. Tickets, priced $6 to $10, are available at the door.

Teacup to success

Tedde McMillen '95WHEN TEDDE MCMILLEN ’95 launched Oregon Chai, she was close to finishing her studies at Portland State. At 48 years old and the mother of two, McMillen was a master at meeting the demands of family, coursework, and customers. This ability undoubtedly helped her make Oregon Chai an incredibly successful business, a business that she and her partners sold in 2004 for $75 million.

“I was busy, but I loved it,” says McMillen. “I would go to class in the morning, then make chai afterwards, deliver it to customers, and study in the evening. I even made the dean’s list!”

In her new book, Nirvana in a Cup, McMillen tells about her adventures and misadventures creating Oregon Chai. It all started after her daughter, Heather, discovered the delicious drink while hiking in the Himalayas and then persuaded her mother to help her make it a commercial product.

McMillen immediately drew on PSU as a resource.

“I took as many business classes as I could without becoming a business major,” explains McMillen. “I did a whole business plan and brought samples of Oregon Chai to class for taste testing. I learned about putting together employee task descriptions and procedures. It was great!”

Of course, McMillen and the company experienced several missteps, such as choosing a low-grade honey that ruined 200 gallons of chai.

“The chai had gone from a beautiful mahogany brown to a greenish black,” recalls McMillen. “It tasted awful. But we didn’t know that until we had bottled it all up.”

Recently McMillen has written an e-book, “How to Take Your Food Product to Market,” that provides easy-to-follow instructions for anyone who wants to explore the possibility of following in her footsteps. See for more information.


Married to My Garden
By Barbara Ashmun ’74
William, James & Company, 2007

God Laughs & Plays
By David James Duncan ’73
Triad Books (paperback), 2007

By Michael Hollister
(English emeritus faculty)
AuthorHouse, 2006

Cloth in West African History
By Colleen E. Kriger ’73
AltaMira Press, 2006

Wolf's Remedy
By Doc Macomber ’84
Floating Word Press, 2007

Fighting for Paradise: A Military History of the Pacific Northwest
By Kurt R. Nelson ’77
Westholme Publishing, 2007

Touches of Sweet Harmony: Britt Festivals, 1963-1987
By John Trudeau
(Fine and Performing Arts dean emeritus)
Britt Festivals, 2006

Day Shift Werewolf
By Jan Underwood MA ’98
Arsenal Pulp Press, 2006

About this page

We want to hear about your books and recordings and future exhibits, performances, and directing ventures. Contact the magazine by e-mailing, sending a fax to 503-725-4465, or mailing to Portland State Magazine, Office of University Communications, PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97207-0751.