Each spring, the Fargo Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies hosts auditions for young musicians to join the organization, challenge themselves with sophisticated repertoire and get more involved in the community.
A group of dedicated area music teachers officially formed the nonprofit in 1971 with one symphony, but over time, the Fargo-Moorhead Area Youth Symphony added a second ensemble to form the Junior High Concert Strings for musicians in grades six through eight and Senior High Symphony for those in grades nine through 12.
As the area continues to grow, Executive Director Tiana Grisé and her board have seen an increased number of talented musicians audition for the Senior High Symphony — but because of the limited spots, they recently found themselves turning away more musicians than in the past.
“We saw that when kids graduated eighth grade, some of them wouldn’t make it into the upper-level symphony for a number of reasons and we would lose them. They would only do their public school activities and they’d never audition again,” Grisé says. “We wanted to find a way to keep those kids and remain inclusive.”
That’s when the symphonies added a third ensemble called Attacca Strings to give high school musicians experience in challenging repertoire for their skill level.
Attacca Strings, which is named after a music term that instructs performers to move from one section to the next without pausing, formed in 2017 with 17 students. Now, 40 students are involved, and Grisé anticipates the group will continue to grow.
“We have kids who know they’re not ready for the Senior High Symphony and are planning to audition for the middle group, which is awesome because they’ll have the same community experience,” she says.
Because Attacca Strings is a smaller group, it also gives the musicians more ownership of the pieces they perform, Grisé adds.
“What they do matters more because it’s heard,” she says. “In a big symphony, when there are 80 violins, you can hide easily. You can’t hide here. It takes them a second, then they figure it out and rise to the challenge.”
Fargo Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies has encountered its fair share of challenges by adding a third ensemble, including coordinating logistics of rehearsals and performances for all three groups. But Grisé says the organization is finding solutions.
At the Sunday, April 14, spring concert at Moorhead’s Horizon Middle School, the group will stagger its schedule to accommodate the many parents, relatives and community members in the audience. Junior High Concert Strings and Attacca Strings perform at 6:30 p.m. and the Senior High Symphony will perform at 8 p.m. in the auditorium.
As a professional flutist in the area, Grisé encourages any young musician to consider auditioning for the youth symphonies because being involved exposes students to “whole new bodies of symphonic literature” that isn’t always taught in a public school setting.
For example, one of the pieces the Senior High Symphony performs at the spring concert is “Capriccio Espagnol” by Rimsky-Karsakov in its entirety, which is an “amazing feat for a high school symphony,” Grisé says.
Participating in her hometown youth symphony in Missoula, Mont., is also how Grisé decided to pursue music in college and graduate school, and she says she hopes the Fargo Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies provides the same eye-opening experience for young musicians in Fargo- Moorhead. Several of her students already sub for the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, she says.
“(Fargo Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies) is meant to be a jumping-off point,” Grisé says. “The next step would be their college symphony and other community orchestras, which is what we’re trying to do. We want them to be actively playing and musically involved.”
Auditions are now being hosted for all three youth ensembles. For more information, visit www.fmays.org/auditions.
What: Fargo Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies spring concert
When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 14, for Junior High Concert Strings and Attacca Strings; 8 p.m. Sunday for Senior High Symphony
Where: Horizon Middle School Auditorium, 3601 12th Ave. S., Moorhead
Tickets: $5 to $10; www.fmays.org
This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and originally appeared in print on Monday, April 8, 2019.