Something special is happening in Woodbury that brings the arts into people's lives while simultaneously bringing hope and help to those in need. The Woodbury Chorus and Orchestra is composed entirely of volunteers who perform simply because they have a love for music and feel the drive to give back to the community. When they perform, every cent raised at their concerts goes directly to local food shelves.
The organization was founded in 1985 and continues to create music and help others 34 years later. The groups perform around 12 concerts each year in Minnesota and Wisconsin, in nearby communities like Oakdale, St. Paul, Wabasha, Forest Lake, Lino Lakes and Somerset, Wis. Neither the chorus nor the orchestra requires an audition to join, but most members have had experience performing in other settings like churches or schools.
“We come from all walks of life, and all ages. We perform classical, hymns, gospel, spiritual, patriotic, sacred and secular music,” says member Christine Hermanson.
None of the volunteer performers or directors receives any payment for their performances, except for the joy of knowing they are able to help others. Concerts are free of charge (to make them fully accessible to anyone) and they accept donations for the food shelves and the small cost it takes to put on the concerts.
“We exist to help feed those in need and to feed our love of music,” Hermanson says.
Hermanson is a retired dentist and has been a part of the orchestra for the past 15 years. She says she can’t get enough. “It had gotten under my skin, and here I am with one of the kindest and most generous group of friends that I could imagine,” Hermanson says.
Musical director Cindy Martinson has been a part of the organization for less than a year, but she has brought her years of experience, passion for music and desire to give back with her.
Martinson’s role is to lead the rehearsals and concerts, choose music for the ensembles to perform and to help each member grow as a musician. Since she can remember, her entire life has revolved around her love for both instrumental and vocal performance. She began playing piano at the age of 5 and graduated from the University of Northwestern with a degree in music education with a piano performance major. Since then, she’s been teaching in Woodbury at New Life Academy for the last 31 years, directs middle school choirs and oversees the New Life Academy School of Fine Arts. Martinson decided to add one more thing to her long list of successful endeavors by becoming the Woodbury Chorus and Orchestra director.
“My passion is working with people, getting their voices and instruments to create wonderful music,” she says. “As a director, standing in front of them at concerts is an incredible experience. Creating music and putting it all together is such a satisfying experience. I could go on and on about my passion for music.”
Find a full concert schedule, and learn how to become part of the chorus or orchestra at w-c-o.org.