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Thomas Lauderdale: A Northwest Favorite and a Local Benefit

Post Date:10/12/2018 9:00 am

Thomas Lauderdale. Photo by Autumn-de-WildeThomas M. Lauderdale―pianist, songwriter, founder and bandleader of Portland-based “little orchestra” Pink Martini―comes to Hillsboro on Friday, November 16 and Saturday, November 17. The Walters Cultural Arts Center, a 200-seat theater framed by classic stone architecture and custom woodwork ceiling arches with a grand piano on stage, provides an intimate and dynamic setting for Lauderdale’s solo performances. The first night, November 16, is a benefit concert for Hillsboro Arts & Cultural Endowment, which provides support to arts and culture organizations and artists in Hillsboro and invites us all to look forward, and give back to the arts.  

Lauderdale began playing piano at the age of six in rural Indiana. In 1982, at the age of twelve, his family moved to Portland and at fourteen, Lauderdale made his first of many appearances with the Oregon Symphony and has since appeared as a soloist with numerous orchestras and ensembles, including the Seattle Symphony, Portland Youth Philharmonic, Chamber Music Northwest, and Oregon Ballet Theatre. In 2008, he played Gershwin’s “Piano Concerto in F” with the Oregon Symphony under the direction of Christoph Campestrini and then returned as a soloist in multiple concerts in 2011 and 2015, under the direction of Carlos Kalmar. In 2017, he and his partner Hunter Noack created and performed a dazzling, rhapsodic two-piano arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with choreographer Nicolo Fonte for Oregon Ballet Theatre. 

If you haven’t had a chance to catch him in one of his live performances, you may recognize his music from a television or film soundtrack. In 2016, Lauderdale created the score and three featured songs for the Belgian film Souvenir, starring the legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert. His work has also been featured on many film and television soundtracks that span the genres of dramas, thrillers, comedies, and documentaries.

Lauderdale graduated from Portland’s Ulysses Grant High School, where he was student body president and editorial editor of The Grantonian. He attended Harvard, graduating with honors in history and literature in 1992 and went on to serve under Portland Mayor Bud Clark, Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt and worked under Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury on the City’s civil rights ordinance. 

He spent most of his collegiate years, however, in cocktail dresses, taking on the role of “cruise director,” throwing waltzes with live orchestras and ice sculptures, disco masquerades with gigantic pineapples on wheels, midnight swimming parties, and operating a Tuesday night coffeehouse called Café Mardi. Turning away from political office yet remaining politically involved, in 1994 he founded Portland’s Pink Martini to “provide more beautiful inclusive musical soundtracks for political fundraisers, for causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education, and parks.”

Long-motivated by making music accessible and being politically and socially minded, Lauderdale’s musical performances move freely between genres throughout the centuries and from all over the world. Classical, jazz, and pop fuse and mix freely on the stage, expanding their appeal to an array of audiences. As a listener, Lauderdale invites you in through a known connection and nimbly moves you along to discover something new. It’s a ride worth taking.

A Northwest favorite, Thomas Lauderdale was the top choice for the Hillsboro’s Arts & Culture Endowment’s 2018 benefit concert. The Endowment committee was inspired by his dedication to the arts, his ongoing commitment to helping communities, and his infectious enthusiasm for music and performing. Lauderdale’s own background in the arts provides a splendid example of the importance of arts education, how the arts can help us connect to the diverse world we live in, and how supporting arts and culture can make a difference in in the lives of those around us and in our own as well. 

During the benefit concert, Lauderdale will be joined on the stage by a few special guests. As part of the event, the Arts & Culture Endowment will celebrate five years of growth, awards to artists, arts organizations and this year’s Artist-in-Our-Community grant.  

100 percent of ticket sales on Friday, November 16 will benefit the Hillsboro Arts & Culture Endowment. Premium tickets include a catered pre-show reception with an appearance by Thomas Lauderdale and reserved seating in the first five rows. Funded by the community, for the community and in partnership with the City of Hillsboro, the Arts & Culture Endowment is dedicated to creating on-going funding support for arts and culture in Hillsboro.

For more information about these concerts, including to purchase tickets, visit To learn more about the Hillsboro Arts & Culture Endowment, visit

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