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HerVoice: Playing cello gives Concordia grad life-changing experience

Tessa Wakefield, 22, of Moorhead, has played the cello for 12 years. Special to The Forum

By Tracy Frank

MOORHEAD – Tessa Wakefield culminated her college experience with a trip that combined her love of playing the cello with her love of history and political science.

The 22-year-old graduated from Concordia College May 4 with degrees in history and political science, and she recently returned from a two-week trip to Israel and Palestine with the Concordia Orchestra.

“It was a really cool, unique experience,” she said. “I’m never going to get a chance to travel with my best friends to a place like that ever again.”

The students spent most of their time in the West Bank, mainly with Palestinians, Wakefield said. They played concerts for and interacted with elementary and high school students. They also played alongside a Palestinian student orchestra and got to spend some time being tourists, she said.

“It was a pretty even mix of cultural interactions and more stereotypical tourist stuff,” she said.

The trip was Wakefield’s first time overseas. The only other country she’d ever visited before was Canada, she said.

“It was a lot to take in,” she said. “It was really eye opening. I had taken a class that talked about the conflict in that area so I had a little bit of background, but once you’re there seeing everything in person, it’s pretty life changing. I think all of us were greatly impacted by what we saw and what we experienced.”

Wakefield said she’ll be more aware of the people in that area.

“I think the way the media and the major news stations cover the conflict between Israel and Palestine, Palestinians are portrayed in a pretty negative light,” she said. “We saw amazingly warm hospitality from the Palestinians. They went out of their way to accommodate us. These people aren’t bad people. They’re beautiful individuals.”

Wakefield said she has never before played for such appreciative audiences.

“These kids were so thrilled and so excited and they wanted to try the instruments and get pictures with all of us,” she said. “They were so happy afterwards and it was so incredible to see. It made us feel like we were really helping make a difference, at least in the short term.”

Wakefield has played cello for 12 years. In that time, she’s made some close friends in orchestra and she hopes to be able to continue playing in some context.

“That’s my favorite part about the orchestra is the people I get to meet and hang out with,” she said.

Wakefield’s parents are both musicians, and music has always been a part of her life, she said.

While she figures out what route she wants to take with her degree, Wakefield said she plans to work part-time at the Concordia archives. She studied and lived in Washington D.C. last year to work at the U.S. Capitol Historical Society. While there, she also took classes and volunteered at a women’s shelter.

The experience, she said, showed her she had more career options than she’d realized.

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at

Tracy Frank

Tracy Frank is a SheSays, Variety, and Farmer's Forum reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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