Sat June 4 | 7:30 PM


We honor one of Oregon’s greatest champions, Steve Prefontaine, with an original piece written by Oregon composer, David Schiff. Join us to celebrate Pre’s legacy!


June 4, 2022 7:30 PM


Oregon Contemporary Theatre
Linda Prefontaine, Creative Consultant

Bernstein: Overture to Candide

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5

David Schiff: Prefontaine (World Premiere)

As the world track and field championships come to Eugene, we honor one of Oregon’s greatest champions, Steve Prefontaine. Before his untimely death in 1975, he set 14 American records in distance running and legends of his accomplishments still resonate across the world today. Featuring original music by Oregon’s best-known composer, David Schiff, this stirring multi-media project will be enhanced with imagery projected on a screen above the stage and punctuated with spoken accounts of Steve’s life performed by Oregon Contemporary Theatre actors. Join us to celebrate Pre’s legacy!

Learn more about PREFONTAINE by David Schiff

Program notes by Conducting Fellow, Daniel Cho

DAVID SCHIFF (b. 1945)

Eugene Symphony’s musical homage to the life and legacy of legendary Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine is a collaboration between Oregon composer David Schiff, Oregon Contemporary Theatre (OCT), and sports journalist Curtis Anderson. It was conceived to premiere in the lead-up to the World Track and Field Championships originally scheduled to take place in Eugene in August of 2021. Schiff, Anderson, OCT Producing Artistic Director Craig Willis, and Eugene Symphony Music Director & Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong and Executive Director Scott Freck worked closely to bring the project to life, including a trip to Prefontaine’s hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon, where they visited his sister, Linda, who has served as Creative Consultant. She led the creative team on a tour of the city, specifically locations connected to her brother: the house where he grew up, the trails and tracks and where he trained and raced while in high school, an exhibit of memorabilia at a local museum, and the cemetery where he is buried. David Schiff wrote about the visit and the piece that it inspired:

“The visit to Coos Bay filled my mind with musical ideas and images and before long the shape of work began to emerge. The beautiful changing vistas of the drive from Eugene, the specific locales of Steve Prefontaine’s life, and the huge and lasting impression he made on his hometown, his home state, and on runners from all over the world were all sources of inspiration. When I returned home, I read as much as I could find about his life and his ideas. He had a flair for expressing his core values in memorable phrases. One of the most famous is: ‘To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.’ While this phrase sums up the endless dedication and discipline that Steve Prefontaine gave to running, it also applies to the gifts that each of us may have, and the challenge of nurturing them. As I began to compose, this phrase turned into a musical theme, first played on the flugelhorn at the opening of the first movement. This ‘motto’ also led me to think of the work as a concerto for orchestra that would showcase the gifts of all the orchestral musicians, a symphonic tribute is in three movements:

Terrain can be heard as the changing impressions of mountains, woods, streams, dunes, bay and ocean that I encountered on the drive from Eugene to Coos Bay and back. It is written in the form of a passacaglia—variations on a repeated ostinato—but I inverted the usual texture of this form, placing the ostinato in the upper register rather than the bass. The listener can think of the repeated treble figure as an image of the Cascade Mountains, the defining spinal column of the Oregon landscape. I wanted the music to evoke and celebrate the environment that shaped Steve Prefontaine’s entire life. Just as the musical texture turns the usual pattern of a passacaglia upside down, the music reverses chronology, moving from death to life. The musical journey begins at the site in Eugene known as Pre’s Rock where so many people have left memorial tributes ever since Prefontaine’s tragic death in a car accident on May 30, 1975, then traces the way to the Oregon coast, where he was born and grew up. Near the end of the movement nature gives way to human activity with the sounds of the port and the timber mills of Coos Bay.

School Days sprang from our visit to Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, where Steve Prefontaine found his calling as a runner, and where his skill and his charisma already made him a legend among his classmates. Here I drew also on my own distant memories of playing tuba in the New Rochelle High School marching band for half-time shows and parades.

5k is named for the race most closely identified with Steve Prefontaine. It is organized as a sequence of twelve compact fugues that represent 12 laps in a 5k race, each one approximating Steve Prefontaine’s actual best timings, and each scored for a different group of players, beginning with small ensembles and gradually building to include the entire orchestra. Each lap has its own theme and character, ranging from exhilaration to exhaustion to final victory.”

In addition to Schiff ’s music, the piece includes projected still imagery, quotations from and about Steve Prefontaine, and words of tribute submitted by his fans across the country.

SCORED: For two flutes, piccolo, two oboes, English horn, three clarinets including E-flat clarinet, also saxophone, three bassoons including contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones including bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion, and strings.

HISTORY: This is the world premiere performance.

DURATION: Approximately 45 minutes.

Health & Safety

The health and safety of Eugene Symphony audience members, musicians, and staff members has been and will always be our top priority. We strongly welcome and encourage patrons who wish to continue wearing masks while attending performances to do so. We want all of our attendees to feel comfortable and accepted in your choice. You take care of you, we'll take care of the music and ensuring that your experience attending a Eugene Symphony concert remains exceptional.

For the most up to date health and safety protocols for our concerts, visit our Eugene Symphony Safety page.

LOCATION: Hult Center for the Performing Arts

University of Oregon


Nestled in the lush Willamette Valley, with an easy drive to both the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains, the University of Oregon is renowned for its research prowess and commitment to teaching.