March 2023

Featured Women of the Month

Join us in a harmonious celebration of Women’s History Month as we recognize the powerful symphony of women in the Spokane Symphony and Chorale.

Jeannette Wee-Yang

Viola, Assistant Principal

After living in Milwaukee, WI, I wanted to move my young family of 3 children within driving distance to my home city of Vancouver, BC, Canada. My husband and I had left Vancouver for graduate studies in the US. I received a Masters in Music from Indiana University, and Daniel Yang attained his MD from the Medical College of Wisconsin, and needed to practice in the USA. In 2003, I won the assistant principal viola opening and I have been playing in the Symphony since then – 20 years! 

Outside of the symphony, I also play 5 concerts a year with the Spokane String Quartet over the last 19 years. In the winter, I ski Mt Spokane three times a week, go boating in the summers at Deer Lake, and travel the world three times a year! I am often 7 hours on the highway to/from Vancouver, BC visiting my daughters, mom, sisters and extended family.  

I am glad for the women composers that are adding to the thin stack of beautiful sounding viola solo repertoire. Currently, I’m learning Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata and Jennifer Higdon’s Viola Concerto.  

If there is anything else you would be interested in pursuing besides music, do it! If not, it is our calling and we will be fulfilled for a lifetime.  

Colleen McElroy

Second Flute, Piccolo

I grew up in Darrington, Washington, and started playing violin and piano at a very young age since my mom is a pianist and music teacher. I fell in love with the flute in the 4th grade and went on to get my BM and MM in Flute Performance, then started auditioning for orchestras. I was lucky to win the Spokane Symphony audition for Piccolo/Flute 2 shortly after I finished school and have been a member since 2018. 

In addition to my work with the symphony, I also have a full private studio of young flute students, teach at Gonzaga University, and play with the Boise Philharmonic in Idaho, where I am the Second Flute. Outside of work, I love to cook, read, knit, practice yoga, and get outdoors skiing, hiking, biking, and running! During the ski season, I coach the youngest skiers for the Schweitzer Alpine Racing School on the weekends when we don’t have symphony performances. 

Many of my flute idols are women, particularly Lorna McGhee, Elizabeth Rowe, and Marianne Gedigian, and my incredible teachers, Donna Shin, Linda Toote, and Zart Dombourian-Eby. I have also been inspired by flutist Doriot Dwyer, who was the first female principal player in the Boston Symphony back in the 60s (one of only two women in the orchestra when she joined), and helped pave the way for women to be professional musicians. There was a time not so long ago when it was unheard of for women to work in orchestras. This is a big reason that our rigorous blind audition process began (musicians play behind a screen when auditioning for orchestras), so that female candidates weren’t discriminated against on account of their gender! 

Find supportive mentors who believe in you and challenge you to grow, and be ready to learn from everyone around you. And of course, practice! 

Lynne Feller-Marshall

Principal Bassoon

I was born and raised in a small-town suburb of Rochester, NY. My family was not “musical” but appreciated music, and I was allowed to study bassoon with grad students at the Eastman School of Music while in high school. I heard about the Spokane Symphony via a friend, while living and freelancing in Manhattan. I had to look on a map to find Spokane! I won the third bassoon chair by sending a recording, and resigned after two years because I missed way too much work back in New York City. Five months later I won the recently-vacated principal bassoon chair.  Behind-a-screen blind auditions are wonderful for women: your audition committee has no idea of your gender, age, nationality, anything. It is an excellent “equalizer.” American orchestras are just about 50/50 women/men these days, up from about 95% male about 75 years ago. I played third bassoon here for two years, and this is my 29th season as principal. So I’ve been in Spokane for over half my life now! 

I was offered my dream teaching job, but turned it down because I met and married my dream husband, principal cellist John Marshall. In 25 years, he and I have raised two children, recorded three duo albums, make a few videos, and are revitalizing a 1980 geodesic double-dome home on six acres. Projects on the property and micro-farming keep me very busy, and supporting my husband’s and my kids’ careers keeps me even busier. Other interests include trips to hot springs (in nine states) and leading a women’s’ Bible study group through Life Center Church. 

I wrote a paper on women jazz musicians many years ago, and have been influenced by Ella Fitzgerald’s phrasing and Rosemary Clooney’s vocal quality ever since. The Andrew’s Sisters are my go-to whenever I want to hear a really ‘tight’ vocal ensemble, and I’m a diehard fan of big band music anyway! 

Advice for aspiring musicians? Hmmm. If you’re hoping for a professional career in music, from what I observe in 2023: take full advantage of the astounding technology and resources that are immediately available to you in the 21st century (YouTube and various streaming platforms, instant access to history and theory questions via the internet, almost-instant communication with professors and teachers) and please! take the time to get AWAY from your devices and buckle down and practice your instrument or voice. There is simply no replacement for your own versatility and technical prowess in your performance medium.  My mentor teacher used to say, “For every hour that you are not practicing your instrument, someone else IS.” (Sounds harsh, but it turns out he is 100% correct!) 

Music should bring joy – it is so much about lifting the human experience. For a smile or two, check out the Cello Bassoon Channel on YouTube – there’s lots to choose from. More specifically, on YouTube you can also search “cello bassoon take five” – look for a picture of ‘I dream of Jeannie’ playing the bassoon (that’s me, and it will all make sense as you watch!) and for some distortion, search “cello bassoon purple haze” – that’s right: Jimi Hendrix on bassoon and cello. And please come hear us in-person, live at the Fox Theater in downtown Spokane, with your Spokane Symphony. There’s no replacement for live music in our lives! 

Kim Plewniak

Bass, Assistant Principal

I came late to the bass in 8th grade, having initially started on violin. I moved out west from Grad School in NYC to Billings, MT where I played Principal for the Billings Symphony for about 9 Months. An audition opened up in Spokane, and I relocated here after winning it. I started with the SSO in the 1998-1999 season. 

I teach bass privately and at EWU and GU. I love to travel with my family in our off time. 

My biggest inspiration is my teacher, Orin O’Brien. She was the first woman to join the New York Philharmonic in 1966, and was hired by Leonard Bernstein. She just retired! She’s an incredible pedagogue and a wonderful person.   

Don’t be afraid. Contact that inspirational teacher, go to that summer camp, take that audition. Push yourself and see what sticks. 

Jeanne Bourgeois

Violin I, Assistant Concertmaster

I grew up in a very musical family in the Chicago area and began playing the violin at 4 years old.  I won the Assistant Concertmaster audition for the SSO in 2008 while I was finishing up my doctorate at the Eastman School of Music. I love playing in the SSO and am so grateful to raise my family in the beautiful Inland Northwest!  I have loved playing with the Spokane Symphony for 15 seasons.  That’s well over 780 concerts!

When not playing with the symphony, I am often busy teaching at North Idaho College and maintaining my talented private violin studio here in Spokane. My husband, SSO double bassist, viola da gambist, conductor and writer Stephen Swanson and our daughter Roslyn enjoy playing music together at home, cooking and exploring the region.

My all time favorite concert violinist since I was very young is Anne-Sophie Mutter. My mother, Marilyn Bourgeois, is an amazing pianist in the Chicago area (who practiced with me daily as a child) and we have always really enjoy performing together!  My former teachers, Almita Vamos, Rachel Barton Pine and Virginia Burd were fabulous inspirations as well. My mother-in-law, Eileen Swanson, is a renowned violist in the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra. Some of my favorite composers include Augusta Read Thomas, Cindy McTee, Anna Clyne, Amy Beach, and Clara Schumann.

Practice smarter, not harder.  Believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who inspire you!

Sara Maleki


I initially sang with the Chorale about 15 years ago when they were searching for some additional voices to sing Carmina Burana. At the time, I was in law school, so I did not have the time to really commit to a full year with the chorale, but I loved that experience. Once I was a practicing attorney and had (just a little bit) more time, I joined the chorale as a full member in 2015 (or so). Starting in 2019, I became the Chorale President (where I’ve been for a few years due to COVID), and I joined the Spokane Symphony Board of Trustees in 2020. I currently serve as a VP for the Board of Trustees. 

When I’m not performing with the chorale, I am a shareholder and attorney at an incredible law firm, GLP Attorneys. I can often be found traveling with my husband, eating vegetarian food, or singing very bad karaoke in my living room. 

I was absolutely obsessed with Madonna growing up. There was something about her confidence and love of music that just made me want to grow up and be just like her. Did I grow up and be just like her? No. But she certainly pointed me in the direction of singing as a young person. 

DO IT! When you stand on stage with sometimes as many as 200 other musicians who are singing and playing instruments, making incredible music, there is literally no other feeling like it. I love, love, love when the music stops and the crowd shows their appreciation. It is such a feeling of community and camaraderie. 

Maria Stromberg

Alto Section Leader

My background is in liberal arts and literature, and even though I sang in choir in high school (and in church choirs after that) I never seriously studied singing until I was in my late 20s/early 30s. I had the good fortune to join a community chorus with a fantastic director in upstate New York and I was hooked! When I moved back to Spokane, I missed choral singing and started looking for a choir in the area. I’ve been in the Chorale for seven years, and acting as section leader as well as secretary/librarian for the last four years. 

When I’m not performing, I teach Greek, Latin, and literature to middle and high schoolers. 

My number one vocal inspiration is probably Dame Emma Kirkby. I love the clarity and precision of her tone, and it was very inspiring for me to learn that she started her singing career rather later than most. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the voice teachers I’ve had, Abbigail Coté and my current teacher Melissa Gren, as well as Chorale directors Kristina Ploeger-Hekmatpanah and Meg Stohlmann. I aspire, not just to their musical and vocal expertise, but to their great kindness and clarity when teaching and directing. 

It’s never too late, and you’re never too old to try something new! (I had a 90 year old English professor who once told us she had decided not to study Greek when in her 60s because she was too old. “By now,” she said, “I could have been proficient.”) Learn that instrument, take those lessons, do that audition, and don’t let some concept of being “too late” prevent you from practicing what you love.