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Northern Valley Youth Orchestras staff inspires musicians to stretch their performance skills

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From left, violin coach Claire Folson practices with Sarah Hong, Megan Schill, Rachel Blawat and Elias-David Schill during a small-group coaching session at the Dal Segno music camp, a weeklong summer program of the Northern Valley Youth Orchestras. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 4
Gabby Halliday, center, works with Lucy Welsh, left, on French horn, and Claudia Prom-Schmidt, on trumpet, at the Dal Segno music camp this week at Wesley United Methodist Church. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)3 / 4
Naomi Welsh, executive director of the Northern Valley Youth Orchestras, conducts a rehearsal of the full orchestra during the orchestra's Dal Segno music camp at Wesley United Methodist Church. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)4 / 4

"Make music. Make friends. Make serious fun."

That's the motto of Dal Segno, the Northern Valley Youth Orchestras' summer chamber music program housed at Wesley United Methodist Church in Grand Forks.

Open to children in grades 5 through 10, the music camp is one of several NVYO programs to help young musicians stretch their musical skills and talents, "and learn how to perform orchestrally," said Naomi Welsh, executive director of the orchestras.

Dal Segno is a musical term meaning "the sign" and tells the musician to return to an earlier place in the music.

"For some students, this is the only orchestral program they're involved in," said Welsh, who founded NVYO in 2011.

Her own background fueled her interest in music education.

"I was in the Seattle Youth Orchestra as a kid," she said. "It was a huge, formative piece of my music education."

Some students in NVYO "don't major in music in college or go into music as a career, but they keep their instrument and keep playing," Welsh said. NVYO is meant to give them a more rounded existence.

"Former students say it made a big difference in what friends they had and what opportunities they had," she said.

Summer music camp

During the weeklong day camp, students attend either morning or afternoon sessions.

The camp ends with a noon concert at Wesley United Methodist Church. The concert will feature about 40 students and several music coaches from the Grand Cities and other communities, including Northwood and McVille, N.D., and Crookston, Thief River Falls and Fertile, Minn.

The students play string, brass, woodwind and percussion instruments, Welsh said. They also gave two concerts Thursday at St. Anne's Guest Home.

"They are from 18 different schools, so they meet kids from a lot of places," Welsh said. "They make music, and they make it well. At the end of the day, our goal is to erase differences and find the common ground.

"There's a strong community component to our program," Welsh said. "It's an opportunity for students to gain skills and talents to make the world better. They're not just playing in a vacuum."

The Dal Segno camp is "a very fast push through the week," she said.

"(Students) learn an incredible amount in a short amount of time," she said. "It gets them pumped up to go back to their own schools."

For students who attend the camp, feedback gathered in surveys show that "there's almost a 100 percent chance they'll continue playing their instrument throughout the school year," Welsh said.

"Parents have told us that their children haven't put their instrument down since camp," said Robin Riveland, a staff member for the camp.

Comments like that "give you goosebumps," Riveland said.

"The whole idea is to get kids to play their instruments—so you think, 'Yaay. Success.,'"

Dal Segno coaches include music teachers from local public schools and those who give private lessons.

"So it's layer on layer of mentoring we to build into the programming," Welsh said.

This year, three coaches are Dal Segno graduates: Claire and Jessica Folson, sisters who attend St. Olaf College, and Riveland's daughter, Cera, a student at Pepperdine University.

"We wanted to come back and help," said Claire Folson, who is majoring in music education; her sister is majoring in violin performance.

"It's a very good building block for what we're doing now," she said.

Cera Riveland, who's attending college on a music scholarship, has been involved with NVYO since it began, her mother Robin Riveland.

"If not for the calibre of music that's played in the NVYO, she would not be at Pepperdine," Robin Riveland said.

"It's made such a difference as far as music goes; it's an amazing program," Robin Riveland said. "It really helped her to push forward and compete for the scholarship."

Draws area students

During the upcoming school year, NVYO operates two orchestras and a chamber music program for string, woodwind, brass and percussion students, ages 12 to 21.

Each year, about 120 students within a 75-mile radius of Grand Forks are usually involved in NVYO programs, which are "designed to complement and support music programs in the schools and keep students excited (about playing an instrument) and help them to become leaders," Welsh said.

"It's an enhancement program," she said.

Students are also encouraged to take lessons with private teachers, she said.

The NVYO staff members, conductors and coaches have years of experience working with youth music programs, said Welsh, who has taught cello as a private teacher and was a public school orchestra teacher in Jamestown and Grand Forks.

Kevin Suetterlin is the artistic director and conductor of the flagship NVYO Symphony Orchestra. Kara Hartten conducts the Philharmonic Orchestra for advancing players, Welsh said.

In addition to their own concerts, the NVYO ensembles participate in other events such as fundraisers and collaborative performances.

For its first performance of the 2018-19 season, NVYO musicians plan to present a rock concert with Post-Traumatic Funk Syndrome, based in Fargo, on Sept. 15 during the second annual Greenway Takeover Festival in downtown Grand Forks.

The performance "will be an unusual one for us," Welsh said.

"We are really excited about this opportunity to give our students a glimpse of another type of orchestral collaboration," she said.

If you go

What: Concert by Dal Segno summer music camp students

Who: Sponsored by the Northern Valley Youth Orchestras

When: Noon, Friday, Aug. 10

Where: On the lawn at Wesley United Methodist Church, 1600 Fourth Ave. N.

Admission: Free. Bring a blanket or lawn chair.

More info: NVYO auditions will be conducted in September. For more information, call (701) 757-3009, email, or visit or the group's Facebook page. Scholarships are available.