Orchestra still sharing joy of music, 15 years later

By Sara Bruestle | Feb 20, 2013
Courtesy of: Terry Preshaw The Mukilteo Community Orchestra will perform the concert “Heroes and Myths” on Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Rosehill Community Center. Above, is Jessie Jensen on cello.

A lot has changed for the Mukilteo Community Orchestra in 15 years, but what hasn’t changed is that for all of the musicians, playing music as a group fulfills their lives.

Over the years, the orchestra has improved from playing Christmas Carols to playing the same caliber of music as other local orchestras, such as Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

The group now performs three free concerts per season at the Rosehill Community Center, its “concert home.”

Its second concert of this season is “Heroes and Myths” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Rosehill Community Center, 304 Lincoln Ave., Mukilteo.

“The group has changed a lot in the last five years, remarkably so,” said Trevor Lutzenhiser, conductor since 2007. “It’s amazing to see the growth of the organization in terms of its strength and community here.”

Many of the orchestra’s 60-plus members credit Lutzenhiser’s artistic direction to their success. He challenges them musically with his concert selections, and has helped to attract many highly skilled musicians.

All agree they’ve come a long way, but that at least one thing has stayed the same: All of the musicians are volunteers who play for the joy of making music. They like the fact that the group is realizing its potential – and sharing music in the process.

“To me, it’s about community music,” Lutzenhiser said. “It’s about celebrating what we do, and sharing it with each other and sharing it with our audience.”

The MCO was founded in 1997 by Terry Preshaw. With no community orchestra nearby in which to play her French horn, Preshaw rallied to form one in Mukilteo.

“I was very disappointed when I could not find a place to play,” she said. “My heart just ached to be musical some way, some how.”

Although early rehearsals had a mere seven members, within a year the group had enough musicians for a chamber orchestra.

Most of the group’s 23 musicians were returning to their instruments after years of not playing. Others saw the orchestra as an opportunity to learn a second instrument.

“It started out very small, but we were excited because we could see the potential,” Preshaw said. “It was so much fun to get together with other musicians and make music again.

“Every opportunity, we had to reach out and pull in more musicians, and that’s what we did.”

Early on, the group performed at Gene Nastri School talent shows, for the Lighthouse Festival, at local retirement homes, in the Mukilteo Library and on the ferry – anywhere they could get an audience. Some performances went well, others didn’t.

Preshaw remembers a time the audience broke into laughter because they kept messing up: “It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, they think we’re a comedy routine!’

“That may have been our low point,” she said. “But it shows how far we’ve come.”

Over the years, the orchestra has grown in both size and talent. The potential the foundering members saw in their group is being realized.

Today its 63 members form a full-sized orchestra. The group is in its third regular concert season and performs for other community events.

A non-profit organization, the orchestra partners with local arts organizations to feature other artistic or musical performances.

“We’re fulfilling our mission to provide performance and educational opportunities for local musicians,” said President Louise Stanton-Masten, who plays the cello. “Everything we do supports arts and music in the community.”

The orchestra’s audience has grown, too. Where once its members were happy to get an audience of 50, now MCO concerts are standing room only in the Point Elliott Room at Rosehill.

“The community is supportive of what we’re doing here, because they can hear what we’re doing,” Lutzenhiser said. “They can hear the translation of notes on a page into the joy of music.”

Want to join? The orchestra welcomes new musicians. It is looking to recruit bass, bassoon and viola players. Go to www.mukilteoorchestra.org for more information.

Heroes and Myths

The Feb. 24 concert will feature stories of heroes and myths, as told through the compositions of 19th century music.

The program includes “Ruslan and Ludmila Overture,” by Mikhail Glinka, Antonin Dvorak’s “The Water Goblin, Op. 107,” and the four movements of “Symphony No. 2 in B minor,” by Alexander Borodin.

The three composers featured in the concert are among history’s most renowned for storytelling through music. All of them are from an era known for poetry and mythical and heroic stories.

“Our hope is that the music transports our audience into the stories of maidens and water goblins, mythical witches, castles, magic swords and enchanted gardens,” Lutzenhiser said.

“These are wonderful pieces that have become favorites of the orchestra.”

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