Going into its second year, the Sequim Community Orchestra is becoming a group of professional-sounding amateurs.
Made up of everyone from teenagers looking for more opportunities to play to retirees taking up a new hobby, the orchestra plays its first free concert of the season at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at Trinity United Methodist Church.
The 30-plus musicians play an array of music along with a duet of the first movement of the Bach Double Violin Concerto from 13-year-old Kate Powers and her teacher Mary Moon.
Powers said the piece can be complicated but once she got the hang of it, it wasn’t so bad.
Moon finds Powers to be a dream student because of her work ethic and dedication to music.
The Sequim teen recently won the Port Angeles Symphony’s Junior Artist Competition, playing “Praeludium and allegro” by Fritz Kreisler.
Moon said in the comments section of the score sheet, symphony director Adam Stern simply wrote, “Wow!”
While Powers may be ahead of the curve artistically, she’s involved with the Sequim Community Orchestra because she loves to play. She also plays with the Washington Old Time Fiddlers at nursing homes and for an upcoming Sequim Centennial celebration.
Moon, also the orchestra’s strings coach, said for new and veteran musicians, the orchestra presents an opportunity to play with a group.
“This is a training ground,” she said. “For many of them they haven’t played for an orchestra before. One lady told me she hadn’t taken her violin out of her case for 40 years. Maybe they played in orchestra in high school. Or never played with a group.”
While the group consists mostly of Sequim natives, Judith and Ken Schindler make the trek each Tuesday for practice from Forks.
Judith Schindler said she and her husband specifically wanted an orchestra that works with beginners.
“Ken and I weren’t the typical adults who played in high school. We waited until we were in our 60s,” she said.
She plays the French horn and he the viola; they chose the instruments not for the ease in use but for their sounds.
“As adults, we were both pharmacists and figured after retiring we should work on the other side of our brains,” Schindler said.
“Unless you play with a group you don’t really learn the instrument. It really expands your ability to think. For us it’s really worth it.”
Musicians give credit for much of the orchestra’s growing success to conductor Phil Morgan-Ellis.
“Phil does ask (a lot) of us as a conductor but he also realizes people there want to have fun,” Moon said. “I love being a part of this group because they are so anxious to learn.”
The Schindlers agree that the orchestra is a lot of fun.
“Otherwise we wouldn’t go,” Judith Schindler said. “He’s (Phil is) able to get the best from us. He’s very gracious and diplomatic.”
Members have high hopes for the orchestra as they play more.
“I hope that we’ll be a 60-piece orchestra,” Moon said. “I think there are a lot more closet musicians who have played and think they couldn’t join.”
The Schindlers agree.
“As people learn what it is, it will get larger and include more of the high school students and others who don’t have a chance to play stringed instruments and classical music,” Judith Schindler said.
Moon emphasizes that the orchestra is low-key.
“Our attitude is that you are going to make mistakes and we don’t care,” she said. “The whole point of this is how you are going to learn and grow. We’re not looking for perfection, but looking for people to come and have fun.”
The Sequim Community Orchestra rehearses from 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays in the James Center for Performing Arts through the end of June, with membership always open.