Hamline News

Versatile Hamline Orchestra Debuts Local Composition

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This Saturday, December 14 the Hamline Orchestra concert will feature gifted student, alumni, faculty, staff, and community musicians, a driven director, and special guests, including 25 middle school students from Moundsview Middle School. This concert will also include the world premiere of a local composition.

“Classically Innovative” are the first words you will see on the Hamline Orchestra’s webpage, and the program and performers slated for their upcoming concert prove the point.

Dr. Yali You developed the orchestra at Hamline in 1996, and is still directing the group after 23 years. The orchestra is constantly on her mind, as she contemplates how to grow the orchestral program, and how to best serve her hardworking students. She has high standards for the ensemble, and it shows in their continued success and outstanding performances.

“Yali is a unique director because she isn’t just the director, she’s part of the team,” said sophomore violist Katie Steiner. “She takes the time to teach the orchestra about content and context of the music; not only in the historical sense of what was happening at the time, but why it matters, and why it matters to us, the orchestra, who live outside of that context.”

You’s approach is to engage the students in choosing their repertoire. She typically picks a few compositions from the Standard Symphonic Orchestra Repertoire List and allows her students to vote on the final works— a collaboration that few directors practice.

This semester she decided to include a contemporary composer's work in addition to the compositions from the Repertoire List. Together, she and the orchestra chose a composition by Jeff Liebsch, making their December concert the first in which the ensemble will play a contemporary, living composer’s work.

Liebsch is a composer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota who although is relatively young in age, has had works played through the United States, as well as internationally. The Hamline Orchestra is premiering his Andante from Symphony Number 2, which is written for a string orchestra.

Choosing a locally-produced score brought exciting opportunities, such as the chance to meet and speak with the composer. Liebsch came to two Hamline Orchestra rehearsals to sit, listen, and give feedback to the performers. The orchestral musicians were able to ask questions about the composition, and understand some of the thoughts that went into his musical decision making.

Another unique aspect of their upcoming concert is that You invited 25 middle school students to play with the Hamline Orchestra this semester. In light of Hamline University’s longstanding relationship with the Moundsview School District, You invited the Moundsview Middle School Orchestra to take part in the Hamline Orchestra concert with the goal to engage students when they’re young so they have a positive experience with Hamline orchestral studies, and Hamline University as a whole. The members of both orchestras will sit side by side, sharing music stands in the concert.

“My promise to students at the beginning of the semester is if they work as I ask them to, at the end of the semester this orchestra will perform repertoire and musical expressions at a higher level as a team than all of their individual abilities allow,” said You. “We deliver this promise every semester.”

“One of the main reasons I chose Hamline as my school was because of how impressed I was with the Orchestra, and it's shaped me to be a much better player over time,” said senior violinist Kayla Howard. “I love the challenge and teamwork that comes with playing in the Hamline Orchestra, and it's amazing how much improvement occurs just over a semester.”

Come see and listen to the diverse and exceptionally talented group at the Hamline University Orchestra Concert on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. in Sundin Music Hall.

Written by:
Autumn Vagle
12/9/19