On Thursday, February 4th, Target Center hosted The Music of Led Zeppelin and the Premiere of The Music of Queen presented by the Minnesota Orchestra, but the Minnesota Orchestra was not the only orchestra in the house! Inside the arena doors, patrons were treated to a special performance from over 80 members of the Anoka High School Concert Orchestra. Parents, families and concert-goers alike paused to enjoy the pre-show concert from this group of talented young musicians.
Anoka High School’s Concert Orchestra is directed by Mike Halstenson who has been conducting at Anoka since 1996. Halstenson and his 105-member ensemble of 9th-12th grade students, were thrilled with the opportunity to perform at Target Center before attending the live show. On the heels of a North Western Suburban Conference all-day orchestral, band and choir event earlier in the week, the Anoka Concert Orchestra had little time to prepare for their Target Center debut. Thursday morning was the first time the orchestra had ever read or practiced 4 out of 5 of the songs which were performed that night. But they certainly did not let it show! Halstenson noted that this is “a very special group of kids [that] on a moment’s notice can do something like this.” The Anoka Concert Orchestra consistently demonstrates a philanthropic drive and a dedication to local and nearby communities.
Halstenson explained that last year, the Anoka Concert Orchestra raised over $11,500 from their spring concert. The orchestra members, as well as teachers, were aware of a growing number of students in need of basic life necessities. With that awareness, Halstenson and his orchestra decided to create a fund, with the proceeds of their concert ticket sales, that grant teachers with the access to purchase essential items for students in need.
Another memorable local highlight for the orchestra was an event unique to Anoka High School: “An Evening of Symphonic Rock.” The show featured not only the orchestra, but other music groups within the school including the school’s faculty rock band, Staff Infection.
Coming in April 2010 is the annual orchestra trip. Students eagerly participate in this excursion each spring, where Halstenson and the orchestra travel to his small hometown in North Dakota. The students perform for a number of schools, most of which do not have their own orchestra and often have fewer total students than the orchestra. Sharing their music, passion and talent has proven to be a rewarding experience.
In an evening filled with exceptional music featuring top hits from Queen and Led Zeppelin, the very special Anoka High School Concert Orchestra delivered a delightful pre-show performance. From the exhilaration of their performance to the admiration of the live main show, February 4th is an evening that the students will not soon forget. According to Halstenson, “they had the greatest time and are still talking about the experience.”