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Twin Rivers Community Orchestra is a home-grown music ensemble

The Two Rivers Community Orchestra has been rehearsing in State Street Theater since January. Their first public performance will be Saturday, March 21. Miles Wurster, at right, director of Instrumental Music at Martin Luther College, helped spearhead the orchestra and is currently serving as director.

NEW ULM — A new regional musical ensemble — the Two Rivers Community Orchestra (TRCO) — will soon make its debut in New Ulm.

The vision of the TRCO is to establish an ensemble of area musicians. The group features some of the region’s best musicians from southern Minnesota including Madelia, Mankato, New Ulm, and St. Peter.

Creating a new regional orchestra is a challenge and was 10 months in the making.

Initial efforts were spearheaded by Mark Wamma, area musician and teacher, Carolyn Borgen, an administrative facilitator with State Street Theater and Miles Wurster, director of Instrumental Music at Martin Luther College.

The trio began having a casual conversation last May about the need for a regional orchestra. Soon fellow string players joined the discussion.

Don Jirak, second from left, has directed the New Ulm Municipal Band, but hasn’t had a chance to play in an orchestra for years, he said.

Wurster said there was a passionate desire to play in an ensemble with a strong community orchestra with dedicated area musicians.

An informal survey was sent out to area musicians and it received an enthusiastic response.

“The time and opportunity seemed right to work on establishing an area orchestra,” Wurster said.

On August 15, the board of directors at State Street Theater approved a proposal to serve as a fiscal agent for the ensemble, allowing the group to organize and run as a non-profit.

At a recent meeting, Two Rivers Community Orchestra was chosen as the ensemble name.

Paula Anderson, a teacher at the Suzuki School of Music, serves as the first violin in the Two Rivers Community Orchestra.

Wurster said this name was chosen because this is intended as a regional orchestra and the name reflects the unique location of New Ulm where the Cottonwood and Minnesota River meet.

SSTC board vice president Richard Tostenson said, “Two Rivers Orchestra rounds off the diversity of our great musical tradition here in New Ulm. We have bands representing the sounds and heritage of our community and now we have an orchestra that will add to that unique quality of life that everyone who lives or visits New Ulm has come to understand and expect of us.”

“Having an orchestra at home within our walls will add depth and color to our many productions and presentations,” Tostenson said. “Two Rivers Orchestra adds to the building blocks of State Street Theaters position as a regional art center.”

TRCO began rehearsing in January and has grown to include around 30 musicians. Wurster said it is a non-audition group. They welcome anyone with proficiency and are willing to grow. There is a “have instrument, will play” attitude to the group.

One of the reasons TRCO was formed was to allow adult musicians to practice and flourish with their instruments. Some of the ensemble members have not played in years and the orchestra gives them a chance to dust off their instrument and play.

Carolyn Borgen used to drive two hours to play in a regional orchestra. Now she can rehearse at the State Street Theater three blocks from her home.

Some of the orchestra members are members of multiple groups. Carrie Quast plays with the River Valley Women ensemble too.

Don Jirak, director of the New Ulm Municipal Band, plays trumpet in the brass section of the orchestra. He said this was the first time he has played with an orchestra in years. He appreciates the variety of music available in the community.

Martha Lindberg, a Mankato oboe player, said she enjoyed having a new community music organization to play with and appreciated New Um’s support of the orchestra.

Carolyn Borgen plays bass in the orchestra and had been on hiatus from playing in an ensemble before TRCO formed.

“From a personal standpoint, having this opportunity means the world to me,” she said. Borgen had driven two hours to participate in a community orchestra setting but as her family grew, driving that far became impractical. “I love that this opportunity is now available right in New Ulm and is only three blocks away from my house,” she said.

As the administrative facilitator for SSTC, Borgen said it is a wonderful opportunity to partner with the orchestra, offering a new opportunity for patrons to experience, and offering area musicians an opportunity to play.

“New Ulm has a rich history of music offerings for the community,” Borgen said, “It brings joy knowing that SSTC can be a partner with this unique opportunity for our community and Southern Minnesota.”

Two Rivers Community Orchestra will hold its inaugural concert is 2 p.m., Saturday, March 21 at State Street Theater Co. Tickets are $5 and available at the door the day of the event. Students ages 18 and under are free.

Classic favorites to be featured at the concert are Procession of the Nobles, St. Paul Suite, Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068, and Jupiter.

Two Rivers Community Orchestra is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

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