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From Our Community

Some of Our Favorite Collaborations Yet

Music educators, including Reid Wixson of Minneapolis Public Schools (center), take the stage with Minnesota Orchestra musicians.

As many of our musicians would tell you, becoming a professional member of an orchestra doesn’t happen overnight—rather, it often starts with motivation from a caring and dedicated music teacher. This April, we tried to return the favor, with the Minnesota Orchestra’s first-ever side-by-side experience with music educators.

They came to Orchestra Hall from Hibbing to Moorhead, and Marshall to just down the road in St. Paul. 54 music educators in all took the stage for rehearsals of the Jupiter movement from Gustav Holst’s The Planets—an appropriately stirring and grand work for the occasion. Following two rehearsals, the educators performed alongside their Minnesota Orchestra counterparts in two public concerts conducted by Music Director Thomas Søndergård. As you might imagine, standing ovations followed each performance.

In an interview with WCCO Radio Nora Tycast, the director of bands at Hopkins High School, noted her excitement to bring lessons learned through the side-by-side experience back to her classroom. Participating in the project was personally gratifying to Tycast as a trumpet player, too. “I know that it will be really powerful just to be on that stage,” she said, “and to be able to sit next to people that I hold in such a high esteem….and to be under Maestro Søndergård—how powerful, how beautiful. I’m so excited to see what that looks like and feels like from that perspective.”

A teacher surrounded by more than a dozen of her students in the lobby of Orchestra Hall.
Nora Tycast, surprised by her students from Hopkins High School at the side-by-side concert on April 27.

The respect between educators and the Orchestra’s musicians was certainly mutual. Speaking on an in-studio appearance with KARE 11, Second Violin Michael Sutton expressed: “Usually we do side-by-sides with students…and this time we invited their teachers to come give them some appreciation and show them the love.” Sutton continued, “We have to recognize [music educators] because we need them more than they need us.”

They’re just out there in the trenches every day doing this really, really important work—sitting next to these lovely people reminds me of that.”

Violinist Michael Sutton on music educators

The impetus for the side-by-side came from conversations with educators and Søndergård himself—a champion of music education who has been vocal about the influence of his own music teachers during his upbringing in Denmark and, in Minnesota, has pledged to be a “music director for all generations.”

While the project marked the first side-by-side for educators, side-by-sides with students have been a regular part of the Orchestra’s education programming for decades. Søndergård brought back this time-honored tradition last month, too, leading rehearsals with students from Minnesota Youth Symphonies (MYS) and Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS).

Alongside MYS, Søndergård and the Orchestra rehearsed selections from Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty; with GTCYS, they practiced a suite from Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird. At one point, looking out from his podium, Søndergård stood astounded with the sheer number of students who filled the stage with their professional stand partners. One can only hope that the students were as excited as Søndergård that everyone played together so brilliantly.

Side-by-sides are just the start. We invite you to learn more about all of the education and community programs that we offer.

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