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Student strings start 2017-18 season with fall concert, 7 p.m. Monday

WORTHINGTON - Musical compositions of Smetana, Grieg and Holst are among the featured program selections for the upcoming fall concert of the Worthington High School (WHS) and Worthington Middle School (WMS) orchestras.

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Orchestra teacher Zac Paulsen leads a practice of the 6th grade orchestra as they ready for Monday's concert. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON – Musical compositions of Smetana, Grieg and Holst are among the featured program selections for the upcoming fall concert of the Worthington High School (WHS) and Worthington Middle School (WMS) orchestras.

Set for 7 p.m. Monday in the WHS gymnasium, the sixth- through 12th-grade string students will also share the spotlight with the 66-member Concordia Orchestra of Concordia College, Moorhead.
“We are delighted to host the Concordia College Orchestra,” said Melanie Loy, director of the 74-member WHS group.
“Their conductor, Dr. Kevin Sütterlin, is dynamic and will surely connect well with our young students.”
The college ensemble is due to arrive in Worthington on Sunday evening and will spend the bulk of Monday rehearsing with the local students.
“Plans are in place for the WMS sixth- through eighth-grade orchestras to practice with them on Monday morning, and the WHS orchestra will play with the college students and receive coaching from the Concordia conductor that afternoon,” Loy continued.
All three ensembles will perform their own repertoire at Monday’s concert. Zac Paulsen, director of the WMS orchestra, will lead his 108 string students through an arrangement of Gustav Holst’s “Themes from the Planets,” plus “Three Scenes from a Green Valley” by William G. Harbinson.
Combining his sixth-grade instrumentalists with his seventh and eighth graders created a small programming challenge for Paulsen.
“It’s harder music than what I’d normally choose for the sixth graders, but I needed something advanced enough to keep the eighth graders interested,” he explained.
“The happy surprise is that my sixth graders really went after it. They’ve been practicing and working hard daily, learning new notes and asking great questions,” Paulsen added. “They’re so excited to play with the seventh and eighth graders, not to mention the college musicians.”
“To cap off the concert, we’ll unite all levels of string students on a patriotic piece called ‘Freedom Finale,’ arranged by Michael Story,” said Loy.
Noted Paulsen, “That’s a phenomenal opportunity because each of my students will have a college musician within a few feet of them while they’re playing that number.
“It’s going to be a great experience for them to hear the next level, and the expectations there, but also it should be an encouragement that they can keep playing beyond high school - and that they don’t have to major in music to do so,” he noted.

Loy’s high schoolers will open the concert with the National Anthem. Their other concert pieces are a Robert S. Frost arrangement of “Themes from the Moldau” by Bedřich Smetana and the prelude movement from Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite.”
“I’m excited, too, for my students to work with the college conductor, and to have the chance to play alongside these accomplished college string musicians,” said Loy.
Worthington’s directors may be forgiven for their enthusiasm leading up to Monday’s concert, considering their connection to the special guests who are expected; Loy and Paulsen are both Concordia College alumni, as is WHS math teacher Kurt Haag (coordinator of the overnight stays for the collegians).
Two more current ISD 518 music staff members - four in all - also lay claim to being Concordia Cobbers, and an additional two local music faculty trained at other Fargo/Moorhead educational institutions.
“They’re doing an amazing job of producing music teachers, and six out of 10 of us here trained up there, so they must be doing something right,” laughed Paulsen, a 2016 Concordia graduate now in his second year of teaching in ISD 518.
Because Paulsen is such a relatively recent Concordia graduate, he personally knows some of the Concordia Orchestra musicians.
“I’m proud to share with my fellow Cobbers the orchestral program we have here, and it will be fun to show them what I’ve been doing,” said Paulsen.
Loy has spearheaded the ISD 518 orchestra program since 2006, following in the footsteps of Beth Habicht, who led it for the preceding 38 years. Knowing that students grow from each musical stepping stone, Loy is grateful for the community’s support of the Concordia Orchestra’s presence in Worthington.
“We’d like to extend our special thanks to the Worthington families who will be housing and hosting these 66 young people,” said Loy, noting that monetary donations from friends and family of the Concordia Orchestra are allowing for a pre-concert meal for them at American Lutheran Church.
For his part, Paulsen anticipates his students will be edified and inspired by their contact with the collegiate musicians on Monday.
“It will be a great experience for them to have others so skilled at their instruments giving them pointers,” said Paulsen. “There’s so much to be gained from just a few short hours; it will be wonderful that way.”
The WHS and WMS sixth- through 12 th grade orchestras are in concert at 7 p.m. Monday, along with the Concordia College Orchestra, at the WHS gymnasium, 1211 Clary St., Worthington. The concert is free and open to the public; a freewill offering will be accepted.

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