MnOrch aims to fulfill some musical fantasies

If you have ever dreamed of playing with the Minnesota Orchestra, now may be your chance.

20081106_orchestra_47.jpgThe Orchestra today announced its first ever fantasy camp. In September up to 50 amateur musicians will rehearse side by side with orchestra members, and then play Alexander Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances” in the finale of a season sampler concert.

The Orchestra’s Director of Education Jim Bartsch describes it this way: “Backstage, on-stage, fantasy camp!”

Bartsch says the orchestra tossed around fantasy camp idea for quite a while, particularly since the Baltimore Symphony launched a hugely successful program a couple of years ago.

Fantasy campers will pay $500 for the experience, but as in Baltimore Bartsch says the real value for the Minnesota Orchestra is in community outreach.

He says when they ask regular patrons what they would like to add to their orchestral experience, they almost always say have more contact with musicians.

“For music fans, those folks are the same as Twins players are to Twins fans. They follow them, they see them week after week performing, so to build that connection in a personal way is what we wanted to do.”

hicks_blog.jpgThe Minnesota Orchestra fantasy camp will include rehearsals with whatever section the camper will perform within, full rehearsals under the baton of Pops conductor Sarah Hicks (left), and also classes on the inner workings of the orchestra like how staff build a season.

The program is also aimed specifically at people over the age of 18 as the orchestra already provides so many opportunities for younger players. Bartsch says they program is designed for people who may have studied music in the past, but have had to set it aside for any number of reason.

There are no auditions. but applicants have to fill out a questionnaire about their experience.

“Then there’s an essay question on why would you like to participate, and what would this mean to you?” says Bartsch.

Campers will be selected depending on their answers, and on their instruments.

“Obviously we have more violin chairs than tuba chairs,” Bartsch says.

The Orchestra has already posted the various parts on-line, and Bartsch says that may have an influence on who decides to apply.

“People will look at the music ahead of time and think, ‘I could play this,’ or ‘Maybe I’ll wait till next time,'” he laughs.

The whole fantasy camp idea is a bit of an experiment, but Bartsch says if it’s a success the plan is to build the program in coming years.

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