Young artists take spotlight at Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra concert this Saturday

After being canceled last year because of COVID-19, the Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra's Young Artist Concert will be performed live on stage Saturday at the Willmar Education & Arts Center. As part of the concert, the two winners of the 2021 Young Artist Competition will perform with the orchestra.

The Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra performs a concert in March 2019 at the Willmar Education and Arts Center. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

After a year without any live performances, the Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra will present its Young Artist Concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at the Willmar Education & Arts Center.

Judges for the annual Young Artist competition selected Rachel Lanning, of Willmar, and Greta Hulterstrum, of Litchfield, as the 2021 winners. The two musicians will each receive a scholarship and perform on stage with the orchestra.

The orchestra will open the program with Mozart’s "The Abduction from the Seraglio: Overture." The opera premiered in Vienna on July 16, 1782, when Mozart was 26 years old. He wrote in a letter to his father, "My opera was given yesterday with big applause for the third time." In this piece Mozart used some unusual instruments for the time, including a piccolo and triangles.

Closing the program the orchestra will play Haydn’s Symphony No. 104, also known as the “London Symphony." The work was composed in London where Hayden had been living, and it premiered on May 4, 1795, with Haydn conducting. It was his final symphony.

In 2020, the Young Artist Concert was canceled because of COVID-19. Safety and social distancing measures will be implemented during the live performance Saturday.


To ensure that the musicians are spaced six feet apart, the size of the orchestra will be smaller and the concert will be played for a limited audience with reserved seating.

Tickets are free, but everyone must have a ticket, which are available at Whitney Music, 913 Highway 71 N.E., Willmar. Those wanting tickets via email should call 320-214-9433 .

Rachel Lanning

As a classically trained singer, Rachel Lanning said she is “elated” to sing with the Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra.

The Willmar High School senior will be performing the aria “Son Pietosa, Son Bonina” by Joseph Haydn.

“It’s icing on the cake to sing with a live orchestra,” said Lanning, who has had a long and successful school career in the arts. She recently played the lead role in the school musical "Anastasia."

“I love performing,” she said.

Lanning, daughter of David and Margaret Lanning, studies vocal music with Cheryl Schmidt and is involved in a number of fine arts activities, including theater, choir, violin and voice lessons, and speech.

After graduating this spring, Lanning said she plans to attend Concordia College in Moorhead and major in choral music education with a minor in theater performance.


Her ideal career would be following in the footsteps of her Willmar Senior High School choir director, Neal Haugen. Her goal is to be a high school or college choir director and be involved with the school’s theater program.

Lanning said being exposed to influential teachers who have a passion for music and theater has fueled her desire to provide that same experience to others.

While grateful for the scholarship, Lanning said the highlight of being named as a Young Artist winner is having the opportunity to sing with orchestra. “I am stoked,” she said.

Greta Hulterstrum

Greta Hulterstrum, a junior at Litchfield High School, has been playing flute since sixth grade. While she “immediately loved the flute,” it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most activities that she became passionate about playing the instrument.

With nothing else to do during the last year, Hulterstrum spent as many as six hours a day playing her flute.

“I’m thankful for the pandemic,” she said, during a recent interview with the West Central Tribune. Having all that uninterrupted time to dedicate to music gave her the opportunity to take her skills to a higher level.

If the pandemic hadn’t happened, Hulterstrum said, she “would not be the same player” and would not be considering a career as a professional musician.

Can she imagine life without flute? “Not at all. It’s all I do when I get home from school,” she said.


Hulterstrum, the daughter of John and Katie Hulterstrum, is currently studying flute with Bethany Gonella, and previously studied with Yvonne Rammel. She was a member of the 2020/2021 Minnesota Music Educators Association All-State Symphonic Band and received Best at Site for solo and ensemble contest in 2019.

Hulterstrum said she was thrilled to be selected as one of the Young Artist competition winners this year and is “very excited for the opportunity” to perform with the Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra.

She will be playing Concertino by Chaminade with the orchestra.

Hulterstrum said she hopes to resume playing with the Prairie Winds Concert Band in Willmar and will audition this summer for a position with the Minnesota Youth Symphony or the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony.

She has not decided where she will go to college after graduating from high school next year, but said she intends to pursue a performance career and teach private lessons.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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