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Minnesota Orchestra brings classical music to Willmar

Greg Helgeson / Minnesota Orchestra Roderick Cox conducts the Minnesota Orchestra. The orchestra will be performing Monday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.1 / 5
Submitted Principal Trombone player Douglas Wright from the Minnesota Orchestra.2 / 5
Greg Helgeson / Minnesota Orchestra Roderick Cox conducts the Minnesota Orchestra. The orchestra, lead by Cox, will be performing Monday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.3 / 5
Submitted / TribuneMinnesota Orchestra President and CEO Kevin Smith.4 / 5
Greg Helgeson / Minnesota Orchestra Roderick Cox conducts the Minnesota Orchestra. The orchestra, lead by Cox, will be performing Monday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.5 / 5

WILLMAR — The strains of Brahms, Mozart and Tchaikovsky will fill the auditorium at the Willmar Education and Arts Center Monday evening as the Minnesota Orchestra makes a return trip to the city.

"It is part of our mission to serve the region and the state of Minnesota," said Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Kevin Smith.

While the orchestra's home base is Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, the symphony is also known for its many travels across the state, country and world.

"We believe in the value of the art we make. To see and hear a live symphonic performance is an extraordinary thing," Smith said.

A program called Common Cords has brought the orchestra to many cities in greater Minnesota, including Willmar. The program is a week-long residency where musicians teach and play throughout the community. When planning for this year's concerts the orchestra was looking to do something else for those communities that welcomed them in.

"We should visit communities we visited in the first round of Common Cords," Smith said.

Willmar participated in Common Cords in 2012 and this year's visit will be the first time the orchestra has been back. Many of the current musicians were there for the 2012 residency and remember Willmar fondly.

"I remember how supportive Willmar was. I remember how enthusiastic the kids were. I also remember a great breakfast place called Frieda's Cafe," said principal trombone player Douglas Wright.

When putting together the program for the Willmar show, the orchestra decided to showcase some of the greatest composers. The show will open with Johannes Brahms' "Academic Festival Overture," which he composed in 1880 as a thank you to the University of Breslau. Orchestra Associate Conductor Roderick Cox said it is a fun piece, which includes old college drinking songs.

"It is a light hearted piece. A short but celebratory piece to open the program," Cox said.

The second is Mozart's "Symphony No. 39," which was written in 1788, one of the final symphonies Mozart wrote.

The Willmar concert will conclude with Tchaikovsky's "Fourth Symphony" from 1877.

"It is one of the greatest symphonies ever written," Cox said, and has been very well received when the orchestra has performed it.

Tickets for the performance, which begins at 7 p.m. at the WEAC Auditorium, can be purchased at Whitney Music, Cash Wise Foods and Youth for Christ. Tickets are $15. There will be a limited number of tickets available at the door.

"It is a show you wouldn't want to miss. It is a blockbuster," Cox said.

In addition to the concert on Monday, orchestra musicians will also be meeting with high school music students the next day.

"Even though it is a short visit we intend to meet them and perform," Smith said.

The orchestra really enjoys making these trips and looks forward to visiting places outside of the Twin Cities.

"We fill several buses. It is really fun to get out and see other places. Touring is always a blast," Smith said.

Touring and sharing classical music with the entire state is an important part of the orchestra's mission.

"Going outside of the Twin Cities and performing is something the orchestra has been committed too. We get to be an advocate for our art and spread it throughout the state," Cox said.

Especially after the orchestra lockout, which ran from October 2012 to January 2014, the orchestra has wanted to build those relationships with the state.

"There has even been a stronger commitment to do that kind of work," Smith said.

Wright said he enjoys the travels, because it gives him the opportunity to impact people with his music.

"The art form itself is very powerful. Music touches people like nothing else can. It gets people in touch with their emotional inner self," Wright said.

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