Building a family in the Philharmonic

April 22, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Musicians include current students, prospective students, faculty and alumni

Culture | Cherie Suonviere

A love for music has always been evident within the Bethel community, and the recent reinstatement of the music education major is a testament of such. Music brings people together, and it was out of this love for the art and for community that the Bethel Philharmonic Orchestra was born.

Now in its second year, the Philharmonic is an ensemble made up of not only current students, but faculty, alumni and prospective students as well. “The Philharmonic is about engaging the larger music community at Bethel,” orchestra conductor Dr. Lynda Vacco said.

Vacco took her position at Bethel in 1995, and as the years passed, she discovered that there were an increasing number of people who wanted to participate in the chamber orchestra, but were unable to make the commitment to four evening rehearsals per week. Players were also performing at a variety of levels, so it was becoming a challenge to meet the desires and needs of each individual.

The formation of the Philharmonic, however, enabled the music department to accommodate a broader spectrum of musicians.

The Philharmonic rehearses for three hours on Monday nights, simplifying some of the schedule conflicts, but it is by no means a “baby orchestra,” according to Vacco. The group is able to work on large symphonic repertoire, differing from the chamber orchestra.

In addition to the convenient schedule and accommodating nature of the Philharmonic, it also facilitates a space in which musicians can stay connected.

“When you work in a music ensemble, you become a tight knit family. You’re with the same students every day,” Vacco said, adding that this togetherness is what brings some alumni back. “You build a family, and it’s really nice.”

The Philharmonic Orchestra is looking forward to their spring performance at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 29 in Benson Great Hall. In the meantime, get to know a couple of the faculty members that make up the ensemble.


Alyssa Hamre


Instrument of choice: flute and piccolo

Where you know her from: physics department, adjunct instructor

Years in the Philharmonic: one

Background: “I've been playing flute since elementary school, and I've been involved in various bands, orchestras and other ensembles over the years. One of the experiences that I enjoyed most was playing with the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies while growing up; I had the opportunity to play some very fun music and to perform in Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis.”

Why the Philharmonic: “I really enjoy playing with other musicians, and this orchestra seemed like a great opportunity to be involved in a music group and to connect with the Bethel community. One of my favorite things about playing in an ensemble like this is seeing the transformation of a group made up of individual musicians into a community as we work together toward a common goal.”

Closing words: “Philharmonic is a great experience for people who don't have a ton of time but still want the opportunity to tackle fairly difficult orchestra repertoire in a low-stress ensemble.”


Peggy McCormick


Instrument of choice: cello

Where you know her from: special education department, adjunct instructor

Background: “I played the cello through my senior year of high school and because I never owned my own instrument, did not play a cello again until June of 2011—36 years later. I was about to buy a guitar so that my daughter and I could do street ministry together, and I saw a used cello at the music store. I asked to play the cello on the other side of the room. I remembered how to tune it and pulled the bow across the strings a few times. My heart was captured. I bought the cello and put the guitar back on the hook… I practiced on my own with YouTube lessons. I also joined the Twin Cities House of Prayer so that I could play with a worship team and gain strength as a returning musician. That was three years ago and I'm beginning to dream of getting a new cello already.”

Why the Philharmonic: “My initial motivation was to engage with the Bethel Community on a more personal level. Because I am an adjunct instructor, my opportunities to spend time with students and other staff was limited. I wanted to find a place to belong and contribute  on a more personal level.

Closing words:  “Dr. Vacco makes the 'Phil' a place for everyone to bring what they have to offer.  There are no closed doors to committed musicians who are willing to show up and do their best.  She serves sacrificially because she believes in what the Philharmonic is about—the preservation of classic repertoire, performed as an act of worship, by a diverse blend of musicians who represent Bethel and the community at large. She makes us eat dinner together too. This is an Acts chapter two orchestra.”


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