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From Our Community

Bringing Music to High Schools

The Minnesota Orchestra onstage at Minneapolis' Southwest High School, with musicians seated and not playing as Sam Bergman stands in front and speaks. In the foreground, students are sitting and listening.
Students at Minneapolis Southwest High School listen as Sam Bergman
speaks at a Symphonic Adventures concert in March 2023.

The Minnesota Orchestra connects with students in many ways each season, most notably through its beloved Young People’s Concerts, which bring tens of thousands of primarily elementary-age students to Orchestra Hall every year. Its Symphonic Adventures program flips that script, sending the Orchestra to high school students’ home turf as the full ensemble visits Twin Cities-area secondary schools for dynamic, specially designed one-hour performances.

Through Symphonic Adventures—an outgrowth of the musicians’ independent educational initiatives during the Orchestra’s lockout—the ensemble has visited more than a dozen metro-area high schools and another handful on state tours, reaching thousands of students and teachers. Hosted by Orchestra violist Sam Bergman, the series further deepens the engagement through an interactive question-and-answer

For Bergman, the program’s aim is to create lasting impacts through the one-day experiences. “Every musician can tell you stories about a teacher or concert that opened up their world and made them want to start playing, singing or conducting,” he explains. “As a professional musician, you never really know when you might be part of one of those transformative moments for a rising star of the next generation, and Symphonic Adventures is one of the ways that the Minnesota Orchestra tries to make those moments possible for every kid in our city and our region. By bringing the full Orchestra to high schools all over the metro and engaging with young musicians—not only through performance, but through conversation and genuine engagement with their hopes and dreams—we’re hoping to throw open the doors to the music world and show them a life they may not have realized was possible.”

Minnesota Orchestra Principal Trombone R. Douglas Wright standing and holding his trombone, talking with three standing students.
Following the Symphonic Adventures performance, Southwest High School students interacted with Principal Trombone R. Douglas Wright.

This past March the Orchestra offered its first Symphonic Adventures concert since the start of the pandemic, paying a visit to its home city’s Southwest High School. With conductor Christoph König on the podium, the Orchestra played Robert Schumann’s Third Symphony, while Bergman hosted the performance and facilitated a lively talkback with students. One of them later raved about the performance’s many elements, stating: “I liked how they incorporated explanations of pieces and had different people in the Orchestra answer questions, so that we got all different perspectives. I also really enjoyed hearing the different feelings of each movement, and seeing how in sync everyone in the Orchestra was at all times. Each transition was seamless and powerful.”

Reid Wixson, director of instrumental music at Southwest High School, called the Orchestra’s concert a highlight of the school year. “Having the Minnesota Orchestra perform on our home stage was an unbelievable experience for our students,” he says. “The students were wowed by the sheer talent and musicianship, and the narrative about Robert Schumann brought the symphony alive and gave them an access point to get even more from the performance. Seeing how the pros go about their business was also especially meaningful for our orchestra and band students.” 

In early May, the Orchestra offered another Symphonic Adventures concert, this time on the road, as Sarah Hicks conducted and hosted a performance at Austin High School during the Common Chords residency week in Austin, Minnesota. If your high school is interested in hosting a future Symphonic Adventures concert, contact education@mnorch.org or visit minnesotaorchestra.org/forms/symphonic-adventures.

Students seated on the floor of a gymnasium at Austin High School, facing the Minnesota Orchestra as conductor Sarah Hicks speaks from the conductor's podium in front of the Orchestra.
Sarah Hicks leading a Symphonic Adventures concert at Austin High School during a May 2023 residency week in Austin, Minnesota.