FARGO — To keep up the musical energy amid COVID-19 restrictions and cancellations, including the difficulty of staging a concert right now, students and faculty from the Fargo Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies set out to perform a series of weekly videos on the internet.

“While many elements of our lives have been changed by the pandemic, music for me is something that will always remain,” says violinist Kardelen Hanson.

Finishing up the eighth grade and headed into high school territory, Hanson is budding with talent, a common theme among FMAYS members, which includes musicians from grades six through 12.

Kardelen Hanson is a violinist with Fargo Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies. She just finished eighth grade and is heading into high school after the summer. Heather Hanson / Special to the Forum
Kardelen Hanson is a violinist with Fargo Moorhead Area Youth Symphonies. She just finished eighth grade and is heading into high school after the summer. Heather Hanson / Special to the Forum

For her and countless others, there are many unknowns this summer. But cancellations like the closing of International Music Camp at the International Peace Gardens doesn’t mean a summer without music.

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Since she’s been distanced from her teachers and school, Hanson has stayed in touch by taking lessons on Zoom, playing at church and uploading videos to her YouTube channel to stay motivated. She has also been featured in Formal Fridays, a project started to keep the growing collective of FMAYS students connected.

“Formal Fridays is a tremendous way to share music with our community,” she says. “Clearly it won’t be quite the same this summer, but I believe that with this time of social distancing, musicians have more opportunities to showcase music’s incredible powers of healing and transformation.”

The woman behind the camera is her mom, Heather Hanson, who says, “it has been a great way for Kardelen to continue to challenge herself as a musician, and to perform in a new way.”

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Kicking off the Formal Fridays performances about a month ago, Matthew Winarski took his gleaming French horn outside to play among the pine trees on the North Dakota State University campus. Symbolizing the connection to the university where FMYAS hosts their recitals, the doctor of music student at NDSU put on his tuxedo and maintained social distancing while sharing with the community for the very first video, eventually leading to a weekly tradition.

“We are so lucky to have Mr. Winarski as our Operations Manager for FMAYS,” says Tiana Grisé, executive director for the youth symphonies and a Minnesota State University Moorhead faculty member.

As Grisé shifts to offering lessons online from home, the weekly videos have been a way for the doctor of flute to stay connected with her students, such as Zach Catalan, who has learned how to play three kinds of recorder — soprano, alto and tenor — since February.

“Connecting with students is one of the greatest parts of my job, and Formal Fridays have allowed us to become closer through sharing our music,” Grisé says. “It's so great to see what they're working on, and everyone is so supportive of each other; it really proves what we always say — that FMAYS is a family.”

It might not be the same, but reaching out online can mean a world of difference, and the video series continues the 45-year legacy of the youth symphonies.

“Both of our daughters have been encouraged by the positive feedback they've received,” says Heather Hanson about Kardelen and sibling Sophie. “That motivates them to keep up the momentum as they continue to pursue music.”

The last concert performed by the Fargo Moorhead Youth Symphonies was in February. Pictured here is Sara Smith (from left), Ruth Dramstad and orchestra conductor Jane Capistran, right. FMAYS / Special to the Forum
The last concert performed by the Fargo Moorhead Youth Symphonies was in February. Pictured here is Sara Smith (from left), Ruth Dramstad and orchestra conductor Jane Capistran, right. FMAYS / Special to the Forum

Keep an eye out for more Formal Friday videos through the summer on the FMAYS Facebook page, facebook.com/fmaysrrv.

Spring auditions for the symphonies have been moved to August with a date yet to be announced. All forms, musical excerpts and audition tutorial videos can be found at fmays.org/auditions. For more information, call 701-929-1814 or email fmaysrrv@gmail.com.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.