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Community orchestra making music again

by ROSE SHABABY
Staff Writer | March 31, 2021 11:53 AM

BONNERS FERRY — Established in 1973, the Bonners Ferry Community Orchestra not only offers local adults an outlet for playing music, but also provides a place for graduating high school musicians who want to continue their music education.

It’s a tradition that continues today under the leadership of Glenda Novinger.

Novinger took over the orchestra around 2017 after moving to the area. She started as a flute player and after the orchestra lost their longtime director, members asked her to take over. It was a job perfectly suited to her after years as a music teacher. She grew up in a musical household, learning piano from her mother from the age of five and she even started teaching piano to students at the age of 14 under her mother’s supervision.

The orchestra “promotes connectedness,” Novinger said. Members are all ages, the youngest around 12 and the oldest in their 80s. One member, Bob Saboe, has been a trombone player for the orchestra since the beginning. No matter the age, however, they all come together through a love of music and find common ground because “music is a universal language,” she said.

Novinger encourages anyone who has played an instrument in the past to join the orchestra, even if it has been a while. She’s found that potential members want to have fun when they join the group, and she does everything she can to make it enjoyable. When they join, she said they are “joining a family,” and it becomes more than just an activity. They try to support each other in whatever endeavors they are involved in.

Music does more than just entertain; studies show that students involved in the arts are more successful in school, it helps stimulate the areas of the brain involved in language and learning and there is also a causal link between music and spatial intelligence. Studies also show that the arts encourage creative thinking and problem solving because there is rarely one specific “right” answer in the arts.

Under Novinger’s guidance the orchestra has grown from about 17 members to 36, drawing musicians from not just Boundary County but also Troy and Libby, Montana as well as Creston, British Columbia, in Canada. When the pandemic hit in 2020, not only was the band not able to meet for regular practice in the middle school band room, but the border closure and social distancing requirements all over the country brought those numbers back down again.

Now that they are able to meet for practice again, the orchestra is working toward building its numbers back up as well as the number of performances. In the past, they performed two concerts per year. In 2019, Novinger added a concert during the 4th of July. She’d like to continue to add performances; concerts or ensembles, it doesn’t matter. Part of their goal is to “bless and enrich the community” through their performances, she said.

The orchestra will be putting on its first concert since the pandemic, May 23, at 3 p.m., at the high school’s Becker Auditorium. The concerts are free, but donations are welcome. Novinger makes sure they play different music at each concert, but sheet music is expensive; in 2019 they spent around $1,000 to purchase it for their three performances.

If you have any questions or requests for performances, would like to join the orchestra, or would like to make a donation, please contact Glenda Novinger at 208-597-1118. For more information on the benefits of music you can visit www.childrensmusicworkshop.com/advocacy/12benefits.html.