Christopher James Roberts


Christopher Roberts BA ’80, inspired by the recent 50th anniversary of the Year of Study in Munich program, writes: “Early in my Lewis & Clark life, the idea of studying abroad really began to resonate. I had grown up with a father who taught high school foreign languages (Latin, French, and Spanish), so I was immersed in the importance of speaking something other than English. I started to seriously plan on using my German class with Dinah Dodds as the springboard to a new world. Being away an entire year didn’t sit well with certain piano performance-oriented professors in the then School of Music, but I instinctively knew that leaving the familiar would open the door to the future and give me the perspective to grow beyond my time at L&C. This journey, this adventure—made so accessible to all Lewis & Clark students, then and now—was the axis on which my career took flight. An actual flight in 2011 brought that home. After attending Elton John’s concert in Eugene, sitting on his private plane across from the man himself, flying over southern Oregon, heading towards Los Angeles, I flashed back to the dreams of a teenage boy in Medford wanting to play piano and do something important with his musical gifts. Not coincidentally, I had heard Elton for the first time during my 1978–79 Year of Study in Munich. The Munich concert, with just him on piano and a percussionist, emboldened me like never before. As others who study abroad well know, the energy and confidence that one gains from surviving in a foreign country and blending in with another culture are like a rocket ship to the future. The Munich program celebrated its 50th anniversary this past September 2023. All of us who were lucky enough to experience this program had our lives changed forever. Thank you to those who had the foresight to create these overseas programs and to the leadership at our college to sustain them over these many years.”


Christopher Roberts BA ’80 reminisced: “As the Class of 1980 was processing our impending graduation and the scary next episode in our lives, Fir Acres Theatre was presenting the first production, post-U.S.-premiere of Sam Shepard’s play Curse of the Starving Class. James Ostelhoff was the theatre’s director/professor and John Maki BS ’80 was the play’s director. His soon-to-be-wife, Kathleen Minifie BA ’80, was costume director. Curse was about a poor California family in the midst of an emotional breakdown and featured a creepy interloper, Ellis, played by yours truly. Those moments, on and off stage, were pure joy for all of us and a perfect way to exit the stage of Lewis & Clark College. But this, of course, was just a sideshow to the main event, ironically best witnessed outside the theatre: Mount St. Helens exploding on our lives. Literally! Talk about a curtain call!”


Chris Roberts BA ’80 recalls one of his fondest L&C memories from spring 1978: “I was playing piano (poorly) in the jazz band ensemble, and my roommate suggested a small version of the group could get paying gigs. The LC Sextet was born—Dan Balmer BA ’80, Jason Heald BS ’80, Michael Brockman, Grant Herreid, Mark Goodenberger, and me. We started playing in various venues, both on and off campus. The money was good, and the camaraderie was wonderful. All of us have gone on to very different, but very successful, careers in music, helped along by innocent experiences like these.”


Christopher James BA ʼ80 is a composer, musician, and producer. In early 2020, Val Gardena, his current musical project, released its latest album, “Across the Divide.” James has released four albums with Val Gardena in the past five years.


Christopher James BA ’80 is a musician, composer, and producer. His third solo album, Grace from Persistence, was released in April 2019. Recorded over several months in Portland and New York City, it features more than 30 musicians. James’ music reflects a mix of genres, from jazz to classical to pop.