Symphonic sounds floated through the auditorium and hallways of Fridley High School April 30. Violins, violas, cellos and basses added to the repertoire of trumpets and percussion – delighting the senses of listeners and taking them on a musical journey of profound beauty.


Guest conductor Maestro Juanjo Mena (left) answers student questions during the Minnesota Orchestra Q&A session on April 30 at Fridley High School. Minnesota Orchestra violinist Sam Bergman (right) narrated the performance and hosted the Q&A session.

The Minnesota Orchestra made a rare school appearance to give music students at the high school a taste of what is possible as musicians, as well as a feel for how music can affect the soul.

Maestro Juanjo Mena conducted over 60 musicians who performed on the high school’s stage through Tchaikovsky’s four-movement Symphony No. 6.  In between each portion, violist Sam Bergman narrated the context of the composition from historical perspectives to the emotional, personal and artistry of the music. He also recounted Tchaikovsky was as a person and artist and how real-life situations affected his music composition.


Guest conductor Maestro Juanjo Mena conducted over 60 Minnesota Orchestra musicians who performed on the stage at Fridley High School through Tchaikovsky’s four-movement Symphony No. 6.

After the concert was over, the orchestra received two standing ovations from the students and staff who attended.

During a Q&A session, students asked an array of questions, from how long the orchestra had been rehearsing the specific piece to who has been in the orchestra the longest. Students learned that the orchestra had been rehearsing the music selection it performed since the day before their performance at the high school, and that the most senior member is Robert Anderson, who joined the orchestra in 1974.

Senior Lucy Kuempel plays in both the Fridley High School varsity band and jazz bands. She was impressed with the precision and emotion the orchestra members played with.

“They played with dynamics that you could only get from knowing the history of the composer,” Kuempel said.  “Their body language was very expressive and gave another dimension as to how they were playing.”

The event took nearly a year to plan, as Fridley High School choir director Nikki Zeleny communicated back and forth with Jessica Leibfried, former director of education and community engagement with the Orchestra and daughter of former Fridley Middle School principal Margaret Leibfried.


Fridley High School music students received the rare opportunity to watch and listen to the Minnesota Orchestra in the school’s auditorium on April 30.

“The purpose of this opportunity was to expose our students to high caliber musicians and see that all kinds of talent can perform on stage,” said Zeleny. “Students have been sharing that they enjoyed watching the orchestra demonstrate expression through movement while playing. This was a fantastic opportunity for our students.”

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