Inside look at the MSU Concert Orchestra!

By Kristin Pagels

As we look toward welcoming the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra to Wharton Center on November 7, we talked to some local musicians on campus about their process.

There are over 50,000 students on MSU’s campus.  For some, Wednesday nights might mean a quick workout session at IM West, hitting the books at the library, or (if you’re like me) watching Friends on Netflix for the 15th time. 

Just kidding…it doesn’t need to be a Wednesday to watch Netflix.

However, a select few have been accepted to perform with the MSU Concert Orchestra.  Unlike its sister ensemble, the sensational MSU Symphony Orchestra, the MSU Concert Orchestra is an ensemble for all musicians at MSU.  The roster is made up of undergraduates and graduates, music majors and non-music majors; even MSU faculty are invited to audition!

Conductor Evan Harger

Conductor Evan Harger

The Concert Orchestra performs two concerts each semester under the direction of doctoral conducting students Evan Harger and Soo Han, with the occasional visit from Director of Orchestras, Professor Kevin Noe.  Some of their recent programs included works by Dvorak, Sibelius, Mahler, and Tchaikovsky.  Evan Harger—new to MSU this year—says that MSU Concert Orchestra is the best group he’s worked with so far in his career. About the musicians he says, “They want to be there, they want to learn, and they can really get it.” In fact, the work ethic of the group is so strong that he doesn’t even notice who the music majors are and who the non-music majors are; they are all concert orchestra to him.  He’s glad to see so many students continuing music after high school because playing in an ensemble is “too special to give up.”

Violins Kristen Dike

Violinist Kristin Dike

Students in bands and orchestras often have the opportunity to travel with their groups.  Sometimes this may be to a local school to perform, or for a lucky few, they may have the opportunity to travel the world.  Violinist Kristin Dike recalls her favorite musical memory:  “In high school we went to Germany – the Okemos High School Orchestra German trip – that was always fun.  We played “Jupiter,” which is really cool, because I grew up listening to that and so being able to play it was really fun.” Dike is a junior criminal justice major, and is really appreciative of the opportunity to continue playing music in such a great ensemble. “Being able to come here and play great music and just be around creativity and art is really a great thing.”  However, her love of the arts doesn’t stop there: Kristin also works as an usher at Wharton Center and is excited to be an usher for the upcoming Moscow State Symphony Orchestra concert. She’s heard great things about cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan and is looking forward to hearing him perform.

*lynnea cellos

Lynnea Jackson (right) rehearsing with the cello section

Another Wharton Center usher, Lynnea Jackson, has also decided to stay musically active in college.  Jackson is a sophomore geology major, and has played in the Concert Orchestra’s cello section since she was a freshman.  She loves the opportunity to continue playing cello in college, and even has a private cello instructor.  “Even if you’re not exactly interested in classical music, there’s a lot more to orchestral performances than just classical music. There’s contemporary, as well, and it’s really fun! You get to see a group of people making music together, which is a really cool experience.” Jackson says she is excited for the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra concert as well and will be attending the concert either as a concert-goer or as an usher!

*Andrew Hatfield Concertmaster

Concertmaster Andrew Hatfield

Concertmaster Andrew Hatfield spoke on the importance of supporting the performing arts.  Hatfield says, “It’s a really powerful and influential thing, and to go see a group of musicians perform live is sort of that sneak peek behind-the-scenes look of what really goes into it and what musicians are really doing.” Hatfield is a doctoral music student, studying violin performance, who performs regularly with both the Concert Orchestra and the MSU Symphony Orchestra.  Hatfield is fortunate to have been at MSU the last time Moscow State Symphony Orchestra performed at Wharton Center, and he was able to sit in on one of their rehearsals under the baton of world-renowned conductor, Pavel Kogan. “Every member of that orchestra was a more brilliant musician that I’ll ever be, so to see a group of them like that coming to Lansing…do not miss it!” he said enthusiastically.

Allison Allum Clarinet

Clarinetist Allison Allum

Clarinetist Allison Allum studied music performance for her bachelor’s degree and is now in MSU’s veterinary medicine program.  She’s glad that she has the opportunity to continue playing, and Concert Orchestra is the perfect group for her to join. For those who have never played in a band or orchestra before, it shares many qualities with team sports.  Orchestral playing requires dedication, problem- solving, dexterity, teamwork and, above all, passion. Allum says, “You really have to watch the conductor, but also listen. Being a woodwind instrument, we sit way in the back, and so what we’re hearing and what the conductor’s conducting appear different. We have to be able to play right where we should no matter what we’re hearing or seeing.”  When asked about whether she would be attending the upcoming Moscow State Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Wagner, Schumann and Sibelius, she replied, “Yes I am! I’m very much a Sibelius fan!”

Conductor Evan Harger is also looking forward to the upcoming Moscow State Symphony Orchestra concert. “There’s something about hearing Russian music played by a Russian orchestra. There’s this image of Russian orchestras having this really thick, meaty sostenuto kind of sound. I will be there for sure!” For the future of Concert Orchestra, Harger plans on introducing the ensemble to newer music, such as Joan Tower’s Made in America, as well as continuing to play great orchestral standards.

At the end of the day, music—no matter who is performing it—has to be really captivating.  The Concert Orchestra does an excellent job of bringing their hard work, enthusiasm and passion to each rehearsal and performance.  If you’ve been in band or orchestra before and are thinking about picking it back up again, it’s never too late! Consider auditioning for Concert Orchestra in the spring, or look into performing with the Campus Band.  If you prefer to support music from the audience, you can hear the Concert Orchestra’s next concert on December 7 in the Fairchild Theatre.

And don’t miss your chance to hear the incredible musicians of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra at Wharton Center, Tuesday, November 7, with cello wonder Narek Hakhnazaryan! The program will feature Schumann’s Cello Concerto, Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 and Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde.

Click here for tickets, or call 1-800-WHARTON. MSU Student tickets are only $19 with your APID! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter for more updates about upcoming shows and what’s on at Wharton.


Kristin is a new marketing and communications intern at Wharton Center who previously taught band and choir in Macomb County and is currently pursuing her master’s in Arts & Cultural Management at Michigan State University. She enjoys playing her clarinet and bass clarinet with local bands and orchestras and is also involved in Lansing community theatre. A woman of many talents, come see her play percussion on the MSU Concert Orchestra holiday concert December 7!

Posted in Wharton Center News

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