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Behind the Scenes

More Than What’s on Stage: The Orchestra Puts Down Roots in Austin

An image of a group of high-school aged violinists. Sitting in their chairs and performing. An adult violinist sits next to a teenage violinist, looking at them and smiling.

Early last month, the Minnesota Orchestra paid a weeklong visit to Austin, Minnesota, for a warmly received residency with special importance: it marked the resumption of the ensemble’s long touring history that was put on pause in spring 2020. Part of the Orchestra’s long-running Common Chords program, the residency was planned alongside Austin community leaders.

“What a magical week we had!” Austin Committee Chair Bonnie Reitz exclaimed to sum up a week that included more than 25 concerts around the southeastern Minnesota city. “Music restores our souls and we certainly experienced that.” Orchestra musicians connected with audiences at, among other community spaces, the local brewery, area schools, the nature center, the basketball court and—naturally—the hallowed SPAM Museum.

“It was incredible hearing that sound come out of the doors of our gymnasium,” said 5th and 6th grade band teacher Ethan Wightkin after a performance at the IJ Holton Intermediate School. “It was really cool how seamlessly the Orchestra merged into the community,” Wightkin continued.

[It's] the Minnesota Orchestra, not just Minneapolis or Twin Cities Orchestra. It’s important for the community of Austin, but it’s interesting to hear how important it is to the Orchestra as well—making those connections with all of Minnesota.”

Ethan Wightkin, 5th and 6th grade band teacher

In the video above, we invite you to hear more about how the Orchestra’s recent stay in Austin impacted both the city and the ensemble’s musicians.