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NVYO partners with Jazz on Tap, Ashmore for symphonic rock concert

Christina Chen-Beyers conducts the Northern Valley Youth Orchestra rehearsing this week for Saturday's performance with Jazz on Tap and Christopher Ashmore in "Symphonic Rock... and All That Jazz.". photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 5
Kris Eylands and Mike Blake of "Jazz on Tap" share a laugh during a rehearsal this week.. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 5
Katie Svendson plays trumpet on the Journey song "Don't Stop Believin'." photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 5
With Bob Cary on bass, vocalist Christopher Ashmore belts out a tune during a rehearsal this week for the Northern Valley Youth Orchestra's concert this weekend with guest performances by Ashmore and "Jazz on Tap.". photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald4 / 5
Rebekah Noyes plays violin in the symphony. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald5 / 5

The members of the Northern Valley Youth Orchestras symphony orchestra are getting a taste of something new this season.

Joining forces with Grand Forks’ well-known jazz trio, Jazz on Tap, and singer Chris Ashmore, of Fargo’s Post-Traumatic Funk Syndrome, they’ll present a musical collaboration across genres and musical styles.

Their concert “Symphonic Rock…And All That Jazz,” at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Empire Arts Center, is a fusion of classic rock, jazz and classical symphony music.

“This concert is sort of outside the box for a lot of the kids,” said NVYO director Naomi Welsh. “It’s another style of playing... it’s going to be really fun.”

A change of pace

The orchestra will be center stage as usual, but this time they’ll be playing backup to the rock band.

Welsh said during early rehearsals, the students were wondering why they were holding so many long notes. But, they finally saw it all come together when they added the rock band for the first time during their Monday night rehearsal.

“The biggest challenge is that we had to rehearse without the vocalist and without the band, so it wasn’t very exciting to play their parts at first,” said conductor Christina Chen-Beyers. “Once they hear the rock band, everything makes sense.”

While playing backup might sound like it’d be easier than taking the lead, that’s not necessarily the case. Claire Folson, a junior at Red River High School who’s been playing in an orchestra since sixth grade, said it can be challenging because it’s a different style.

“We’re used to doing standard repertoire for orchestra,” she said. “And this is more backup orchestra… it’s different rhythms than we’re used to.”

But, for Folson, who plays the violin, the change of pace is welcomed.

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” she said. “I think it’s really fun. When (the band) first started playing, it was really exciting.”

On the other hand, for trumpet player Katie Svendson, a senior at East Grand Forks Senior High School, the style is nothing new.

“This concert is more what I’m used to,” she said. Svendson joined the orchestra about three years ago, but she also plays trumpet for her high school band and jazz band.

She said she enjoys the orchestra because playing the classical music is different than what she plays at school.

“In school, we do a lot of pop songs, jazz songs, especially in jazz band,” she said. “I like doing the classical music because it’s different.”

Welsh said that the NVYO typically focuses on classical music and symphonic training, but as a bigger picture, the independent nonprofit youth program is just trying to give students glimpses into what they might be doing if they pursue music as a career.

“There are a lot of different options out there,” she said.

And, playing backup for a rock band is one of them.

“As a musician myself, I’ve played with visiting bands, and it’s a completely different setting,” Welsh said. “You can’t hear yourself very well, and you have all the sound around you, and it’s exciting.”

The set list

They’ll start the show with “Proud Mary,” which was first recorded by John Fogerty and his band Clearwater Creedance Revival in 1969. But, before Ashmore starts singing about rollin’ on the river, he’ll give the audience a little hint of what’s to come.

Then, they’ll take it away for a fun, energetic performance. When drummer Mike Blake ends the song with a cymbal clash, they’ll slow it down for the jazz and blues mix “Georgia on My Mind,” made famous by Ray Charles in 1960.

Welsh said a younger audience may think they don’t know classic rock tunes, but many will recognize the songs because they are found on many movie soundtracks.

After “Georgia,” they’ll play two more familiar tunes: James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.’”

During their first full rehearsal Monday, they worked to attain the perfect balance and blend of sounds that would support Ashmore on the high notes, let Kristian Eylands shine during the guitar solo in “Don’t Stop Believin’” and still show off the talent of the students in the orchestra.

Folson said her favorite tune of the four is probably “Don’t Stop Believin’” because she knows it best, while Svendson said her favorite is “I Feel Good.”

Collaborating with professionals

Along with the collaboration, the NVYO will perform a big band medley and Jazz on Tap will perform a few songs on its own.

Folson said she’s excited for the string piece they’re performing.

“It’s a big band piece that we’re doing,” she said. “It’s a combination of a bunch of old classic tunes.”

Welsh said it has some pop songs and classic rock. “Those are not the styles that your average violinist or oboe player is comfortable in,” she said.

To help the students learn the new styles, Welsh said they brought in several professionals from around the area, which is common practice for the NVYO.

“What we’re trying to provide is an education and just to stretch the kids a little further than they think they can be stretched,” she said. “We (bring) in mentors and specialists on instruments to train the students on specific playing styles.”

Saturday’s concert is a good example of how NVYO collaborates with talented artists from around the area.

“The whole point was to just get more people into the door that wouldn’t normally come to an orchestra concert,” Chen-Beyers said.

Folson said she thinks it’ll attract a younger audience than their typical concerts.

“And, I think they’ll really enjoy it,” she added.

Where in the world is NVYO?

The concert is just one of three concerts the symphony orchestra will perform this year. The NYVO also has a show March 30 at The Empire, which will feature all three of the orchestras: symphony, philharmonic and allegro. The March show will include music from around the world, which fits in with the seasons theme “Where in the World is NVYO?”

Welsh said part of the theme is to introduce the students to music from other countries and part of it is just making people aware of the NVYO.

The goal is to mention NVYO to someone and not have to explain what it is, she said. She hopes Saturday’s collaborative show helps them get closer to reaching that goal.

Guest performers include:

  •  Jazz on Tap: A Grand Forks trio known for performing jazz, funk and vintage rock. The band includes: Kristian Eylands on guitar, Mike Blake on percussion and Bob Cary on bass.
  •  Chris Ashmore: Vocalist for Fargo’s classic rock, horn band Post-Traumatic Funk Syndrome.

If you go:

  •  What: The Northern Valley Youth Orchestras presents “Symphonic Rock…And All That Jazz.”
  •  When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
  •  Where: The Empire Arts Center.
  •  Cost: $5 for adults; $3 for educators and military; free for children 12 and younger.
  •  Info:
Jasmine Maki
Jasmine Maki is a features reporter for Accent. Her main beats are arts and entertainment and life and style. She also occasionally covers health, family and TV.
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