As the bell rang at 8:15 am Thursday morning at Bemidji High School, assembled music students were gathered in the auditorium for a master session with Minnesota Orchestra string, woodwind and brass players. Short performances by the pros were followed by a wide-ranging Q&A and then students picked up their own instruments for sectionals with coaching from Minnesota Orchestra players.
For the woodwinds, breath support was the order of the morning. “Were you at your fortissimo best?” encouraged bassoon player Chris Marshall. “When the notes get hard, sometimes your air can disappear but think of it just the opposite. With more notes, give it more breath. Don’t be afraid, play out!”
That combination of encouragement and modeling high standards is important, according to band director Derek Wickum. “We don’t have access to a lot of outside touring groups,” says Wickum. “Bringing these musicians into our school and setting them at stands next to our students is awesome. It’s a great push to motivate students to practice.”