Meet the extraordinary men and women of Northshore Concert Band who have dedicated their lives to making music!
Jennifer Nelson plays the Flute and has been with the Northshore Concert Band since 2001. She is a Private Music Teacher and lives in Chicago, Illinois.
When and why did you start playing? I started my first instrument, piano, the summer after first grade. I started flute in fifth grade. The selection of both instruments was influenced by hearing my sister play them. My sister was in high school when I was born, so she played both very well by the time I was hearing her, and I wanted to do that too.
What do you enjoy most about playing? Music is the universal language. I have traveled and played with people in Europe, China and Argentina. Even when we couldn’t necessarily understand the foreign languages, we could still communicate musically, and the expression comes through no matter what the language. Music can bring diverse groups of people together and form connections that are difficult to achieve otherwise.
Do you have a favorite musical memory? On the trip to Argentina with my church, a group of third graders sang for us. They sang the hymn “How Great Thou Art” in Spanish, and they sang so expressively that even though we could not understand the words, we could tell what part of the hymn they were on just by how they were singing it. It was an amazing experience. And one of my favorite musical memories involving my own playing is from right after I joined the Northshore Band in late 2001, just before the band performed at the Midwest Clinic. I remember the first rehearsal that Mallory did with us was the Elgar Nimrod, and I was totally blown away by what she did expressively with that piece.
What are your musical influences? Music played a big role in my upbringing. My mom was very active in getting me to play and keeping on top of me in the area of practice. In the first few years of piano lessons she would hover over me while I practiced and make sure my rhythm was good by whispering the counting while I was playing, which was highly annoying at the time, but I’m so grateful now that she was such a stickler. Growing up, my parents exposed me to a lot of light classical music; many Boston Pops recordings, Sousa marches, and my dad, a World War 2 Navy veteran, played his LPs of Victory At Sea A LOT. Today I am inspired by the many great works we play in NCB: the Hanson Romantic Symphony, Kalinnikov Symphony No. 1, Ito Gloriosa, and the Bernstein Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, just to name a few.
Who was your most influential music teacher? My 7th grade homeroom teacher, Tim Dommer, was also the choir director for both kids and adult choirs, church organist, and also accompanied my flute solo for Contest. He also later became my piano teacher. He is really the one who made music come alive for me by getting me actively involved with playing flute in church. This was especially important for me because the band program at the school was weak and I was in danger of losing interest at the time, but he lit the musical fire in me. He was so passionate about music and taught me a lot about expressive playing.
My high school flute teacher, Kathy Brasky was also very influential in continuing that passion for flute, and in college Kay Ragsdale really got me prepared for intense rehearsal situations.
Does anyone in your family play music? My husband, Bruce plays euphonium in NCB. My sister played flute and piano, and my two nephews both played piano, and one also played trumpet and the other also played clarinet.
What’s on your iPod? In the classical section there’s a lot of orchestral, band, and instrumental solo works. I also have Broadway/Showtunes, some pop tunes, and there’s a lot of Christmas music on there. When I run I often listen to some of the fast pieces we have played in NCB like the Maslanka Symphony No. 2, and the combination of the speed of the piece and the adrenaline rush I get from remembering the excitement of when we played it really gets me moving!
Do you have any advice for young musicians? Make music a lifetime event!
What makes performing with Northshore Concert Band different than performing with other groups? The biggest difference is the commitment to the Lifetime of Music concept. We not only encourage kids to keep music a part of their lives no matter what career path they choose by doing outreach concerts in schools, but we act on that by devoting an entire concert to welcoming kids to come play with us and interact with us. We also play outreach concerts at schools to further this concept.
List three words to describe the Northshore Concert Band. Powerful, expressive, dynamic
Please add anything else that you would like our readers to know about you. Everyone always asks “what’s that black thing on the floor by your foot?” That black thing on the floor by my foot is my page turner. All my music is on my tablet, and that thing on the floor is connected by bluetooth to the tablet and can turn the pages forward or backward, hands free!
Learn more about the Northshore Concert Band at http://www.northshoreband.org
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