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Winsted student plays in honor band festival
Nov. 18, 2013

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – “I like to call myself the band nerd,” laughed Holy Trinity High School junior Polly Christensen, who recently participated in two college honor band festivals.

Polly’s band teacher, Thomas Bierer, just calls her “very, very talented.”

“She’s a dedicated musician,” Bierer said. “The ensemble work she’s done has been really outstanding.”

Polly, the daughter of Paul and Renee Christensen of Lester Prairie, played clarinet in an honor band festival at University of St. Thomas Oct. 22, and at Gustavus Adolphus Nov. 4.

“I also auditioned for one at the U of M; we’ll see if I get into that one,” she said, adding that the festival will take place the end of January.

During the festivals, about 100 top-performing high school students spend several hours rehearsing together. Then, they share their work in a public concert. Sheet music is provided about two weeks before the festival, so performers can learn the pieces on their own.

“We’re all there for the same reason – to learn to play better, and to get more experience,” Polly said.

The University of St. Thomas festival was led by guest conductor Keith Allen of London, founder of the Birmingham Symphonic Winds. Allen has worked with a number of distinguished soloists, and has conducted many premiere performances by European and American composers.

At Gustavus Adolphus, Polly and the other participants rehearsed under Douglas Nimmo, conductor of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra.

“For one piece at Gustavus [called ‘Sine Nomine’], we were paired with the Gustavus Wind Orchestra, and their choir was singing in the background,” Polly recalled. “There were about 350 people all playing together.”

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Gustavus Honor Band Festival. A few of the other selections students performed included “Procession of Nobles,” “Elegy for a Young American,” and “Rejouissance.”

For Polly, musical ability comes naturally, and she enjoys playing songs by ear.

“Music helps me to express myself,” she said. “It’s a good release.”

She started taking piano lessons in first grade, and picked up clarinet in fifth grade.

She uses her talent as a piano accompanist for school Mass on Fridays at Holy Trinity Church in Winsted, and performs solos during select Sunday church services.

She also provided musical entertainment at the fall festival at Holasek Flower Power Garden Center in Lester Prairie recently, where she works part time.

Polly finds time for other activities at Holy Trinity as well, such as volleyball, Knowledge Bowl, drama club (including the fall play, the one-act play, and the spring play), yearbook, National Honor Society, Holy Trinity Student Council secretary, and Mid-Minnesota Concert Band.

As for her future plans, Polly said she’d like to go to college at St. Mary’s University in Winona, where her sister, Allison, currently attends. (Allison, a 2012 Holy Trinity High School graduate, received a college scholarship for trumpet.)

Polly plans to major in elementary education, and continue pursuing music at the college level.

Another one of her goals is to give piano lessons to younger children.

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