October 19, 2017

Student performs with Mesabi Symphony Orchestra

University of Wisconsin-Superior student Johnathan Erickson performed with the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra.

University of Wisconsin-Superior student Johnathan Erickson performed with the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra.

Johnathan Erickson performed Paul Creston's “Concertino for Marimba”

For many students, the weekend brings the opportunity for rest and relaxation. That wasn't the case for UW-Superior percussion student Johnathan Erickson – but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Erickson, a junior double majoring in Instrumental Education and Music Performance, recently performed with the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra.

“It has been an absolute honor to be a part of their season,” said Erickson. “I must thank the musicians of the orchestra for their hospitality, [conductor] Ben Nilles and the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra for extending this opportunity to me, Paul Creston for writing such an imaginative work, Dr. Brett Jones [UW-Superior professor of percussion and Music Department Chair] for his support, and to my family, friends and teachers for their support over the years.”

A resident of Superior, Wis., this was the first time Erickson has performed with the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra – an opportunity that came as a bit of a surprise.

“I heard from Dr. Jones and from a friend in the orchestra last winter that they were hosting their second-annual Young Artists Competition,” said Erickson. “I was preparing a concerto at the time, so I went for it and decided to apply and submit the preliminary recorded audition. I was ecstatic when I found out I was chosen as a finalist and went to Virginia, Minn., in April for my live audition.”

Erickson quickly got a phone call informing him he’d won the competition – setting in motion a busy summer and fall.

“Over the past month I have been going up to the Iron Range to rehearse, and have been overwhelmed by the kindness and warmth of the musicians in the orchestra,” said Erickson

Erickson’s involvement with the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra comes as no surprise to those at UW-Superior.

“Johnny is an ideal student,” said Jones. “Not only is he hard working, he is organized, bright and a self-starter. He doesn’t only play what I give him, but has the initiative to bring in music that he has discovered and is meaningful to him. Through this blend of influences, he is not only getting what is essential for his success, but at the same time he is developing a unique voice in the realm of percussion.”

Erickson performed Paul Creston's “Concertino for Marimba.”

“The work is three movements and is rhythmically and harmonically fascinating,” said Erickson. “Just like many other 20th century works, it pushes boundaries in rhythm and tonality, and pushed possibilities for the marimba when it was written in 1940.”

Along with Erickson, the opening performances included Sarah Butler, the high school division winner of the Young Artists Competition. Butler, who studies voice with UW-Superior associate professor of voice and opera workshop Dr. Vicki Figalson Madison, performed arias from Puccini's "La bohème," and "Gianni Schicchi," as well as Mozart's "Così fan tutte."

“I got to listen to her sing in rehearsal and she is phenomenal,” said Erickson.

The orchestra opened its 40th season with performances Saturday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. in the Hibbing High School auditorium in Hibbing, Minn., and Sunday, Oct. 22, at 2:30 p.m. in the Goodman Auditorium at the Virginia High School in Virginia, Minn.

University of Wisconsin-Superior student Johnathan Erickson performed with the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra.

University of Wisconsin-Superior student Johnathan Erickson performed with the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra.

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