“Music is the universal language of mankind.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
What does Bonners Ferry have to offer to the members of our community as well as draw residents of neighboring towns? What could compel people to drive once a week from an hour away in all directions and appeal to an age range of 12 years old up to mid-80s?
It is the Bonners Ferry Community Orchestra—an organization that has been in existence for the past 45 years. And since the group is filling a demand that surrounding communities aren't, it is expanding in several ways. In the almost three years that Glenda Novinger has been the director, it has grown from 17 to 36 members. What is the draw? Why not just stay home and play your cello by yourself?
For one thing, music has the power to connect us with others in a way that nothing else quite can. Even those of us introverts who aren’t compelled to seek out constant social interaction still have a need for relationships. Tuba player Marcus Wermelinger, member of the group for the past year, describes it in a way that can be interpreted both literally and metaphorically: “Playing in a group is way more fun than by myself. I can only play one note at a time, so there is no harmony if I’m playing by myself.”
One of the benefits of the orchestra is its multi-generational diversity. It is a place where a retired high school band director might be sitting next to a beginner, or someone who is picking the instrument up after a lengthy hiatus is next to a professional musician. Those with more experience give tips for phrasing, transposing, fingering and instrument positioning. Orchestra members come from at least five neighboring towns, which brings more diversity to the group; even those from within Boundary County have significant differences in their backgrounds. Students come from backgrounds in public, charter and home school.
Even though Glenda is relatively new to this group, she is no stranger to teaching music. She took on her first piano students at the age of just 14, and she has been teaching ever since. However, the position as orchestra director is her first experience with teaching adults. She says, “Although I have accompanied thousands of adults as a professional pianist in a wide variety of venues, this is my first experience conducting adults in an orchestra. So, I am being stretched as a musician. I appreciate the opportunity to grow in my conducting skills while coming alongside this group of musicians and helping them to work together as a team ... creating beautiful music for our community to enjoy.”
In the past, the Bonners Ferry Community Orchestra has had only two concerts each year, but in 2019 they added a third. On July 4, prior to the fireworks display, the orchestra presented an outdoor patriotic performance at the Boundary County Fairgrounds. The community responded with a warm welcome, and the orchestra has been invited back to perform again next year for the festivities.
Every opportunity to share music with others is important to Glenda. She is not only passionate about the development of individual musicians and the growth of a healthy group dynamic, but she also believes that music is created to be shared and has spent her life doing this in various ways.
“My mother taught me to sing, to play the piano and to love music. She taught how to accompany others as well. She taught me that music was not just for me to enjoy, but it was to share with others. She taught me to cultivate my gifts by studying, practicing, performing and teaching others to do what I could do.”
Glenda does all four of these things continually as she develops her own personal piano skills that she uses outside the orchestra. In addition to the many hours she dedicates (as a volunteer) to the orchestra, Glenda owns and runs Novinger Music Center, where she instructs more than 65 students. She primarily teaches piano (beginner to advanced), but she also teaches private lessons to beginning band students in flute, clarinet, alto sax, trumpet, trombone and percussion.
The current schedule for rehearsals and concerts is broken up into three seasons: Fall (September through December), Spring (February through May) and Summer (mid-June through July 4). Orchestra members are not required to commit for an entire year—participation is open on a season-by-season basis. But it is not just the director, orchestra members and support of community members that is needed for the orchestra to function. An audience is also key! Please mark your calendar and be sure to come enjoy the gift of music with this group.
Rehearsals are currently underway for the next performance (Winter Delight), which will be held at Bonners Ferry High School Becker Auditorium on December 8. This show will be free to the public. However, the group relies on donations for all costs, and the money collected via donation at the door for the Winter Delight concert will provide the resources needed to purchase new music for the Spring 2020 Season. Without the ongoing support of the community, the orchestra could not exist. Even the space to rehearse and perform has graciously been provided by the Boundary School District, as rehearsals are held in the middle school band room (6:45 to 8:15pm Thursdays), and the winter/spring concerts are held at the BFHS Becker Auditorium.
If you are interested in supporting or participating in the Bonners Ferry Community Orchestra, please contact Glenda Novinger at 208.597.1118.