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Former Ashland High students hold benefit concert to honor longtime choir director battling cancer

The Ashland community came together Saturday afternoon to celebrate the legacy and dedication Mr. Russ Otte had to his students and music. His former students organized a benefit concert as he battles multiple myeloma for the second time.

Posted: Dec 28, 2019 6:31 PM
Updated: Dec 28, 2019 6:32 PM

ASHLAND, Ore. -- The Ashland community came together Saturday afternoon to celebrate the legacy and dedication Mr. Russ Otte had to his students and music. His former students organized a benefit concert as he battles multiple myeloma for the second time.

From directing concerts to now have a concert directed and dedicated to him. Hundreds of people filled the mountain avenue theater at the place Mr. Russ Otte taught to celebrate him and the legacy his former students now pass on.

"I think we are the living proof if his life's work," added former student turned Pianist Ethan Gans-Morse.

For 26 years Mr. Otte encouraged and strengthened the voices of the children in the Ashland School District.

“It's hard to find people that are willing to say ‘I want to do that. I just want to influence these young people,’" said one of his former colleagues and current theater teacher Betsey Bishop.

He students said he was more than a teacher. He was a mentor, offering guidance any time a student needed it

"He meant everything. He was the teacher that we would call Dad on accident,” said former student Ivan Olinghouse said.

Many of his students credit his for the reason they became music teachers themselves and professionals in music and theater as well.

"I go by Mr. O, my last name is Olinghouse, and it's because of him. He was our Mr. O as well. I thought if I ever became a teacher I would need to do the same thing. I wanted to copy him. I wanted to emulate him and what he did for us."

IN 2016, Mr. Otte was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and received successful treatment. Now he is currently battling the bone marrow cancer for the second time. When his former students learned the cancer came back, they decided to hold today's benefit concert in his honor in order to show him how much he means to them and the community.

"We've been rehearsing for a month,” Gans-Morse said. “A lot of people have been in tears this morning."

But in true Mr. Otte fashion, he didn’t want any of the money raised to go him or his cancer treatment. All of the money donated today is going to the Russ and Rose Otte Scholarship and the Russ Otte Young Artist Endowment. They help kids develop and continue their love for music just like he’s been helping to do for decades.

You can donate in the following ways:

  • Making a donation at Ashland High School. Checks should be made to AHAA (Ashland High Arts Advocates) with a note for Russ Otte Fundraiser Concert.
  • At this GoFundMe

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