MOTM May 2019 - Ms. Megan Wilkes

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Hello again, friends of the Fort Collins Wind Symphony! We’re back with our final edition of the Musician of the Month, and to celebrate our great 2018-2019 season, we are featuring our very own President of the Board, Ms. Megan Wilkes!

Megan as been with our organization for a few years and has dutifully served as president for a year. Unlike our other featured musicians, Megan is not a full time musician, but maintains performing as a critical aspect of her life. We are excited to have such a dedicated musician at the helm of this organization

We sat down with Megan to talk about her career and what she values in classical music

FCWS: In your words, please tell us who you are and the role you play in the FCWS, and then please tell us a little about your experience as a musician.

Megan: I play horn with FCWS and a few other local ensembles -- I’m not a professional musician, but a serious hobbyist. I am currently serving as president of the FCWS board. I joined the board last year as librarian to be more involved and give something back to an ensemble that gives so much to me.

FCWS: What is your career?

Megan: I have a background in statistics and worked in healthcare forecasting for over 10 years before choosing to pursue a career change into occupational therapy [OT]. I am currently 2 weeks away from finishing my OT coursework at CSU, which I am pretty excited about. I’ve met so many OTs who absolutely love their jobs and have truly enjoyed my fieldwork experiences as a budding OT. I’m looking forward to being able to work as a therapist in the near future.

FCWS: Why do you pursue music as a serious hobby?

Megan: I honestly just love making music with other people. I didn’t realize how important playing with an ensemble was to me until I quit playing when I went off to a college with no music program. After a few years of missing music, I decided to buy a horn and take up playing again. It was awful!! I knew what I should sound like and be able to do but came nowhere near that level of playing for quite a while. Thanks to a wonderful lesson teacher in Austin who specialized in “adult rehab cases” I was able to push through the awkward phase. I eventually found my way into a wonderful community group, the Austin Civic Orchestra [ACO], playing beside that same lesson teacher.  I remember working on Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries in my first rehearsal with ACO. I was absolutely elated to feel like I was finally playing well alongside other musicians. I continued with ACO for 10 years before moving to Fort Collins. One of the first things I did when we were looking at moving to Colorado was to scope out local community ensembles!

FCWS: For those in the audience who were unaware, this has been your first year as president of the FCWS. What did you learn about this organization that you didn’t know before you stepped in as the president?

Megan: I am so fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful board. FCWS is a long-standing and well-run organization, and the other board members make my job as president relatively easy. Before being in this role, I wasn’t fully aware of the amount of work that goes into many of our tasks for each concert cycle: for example, creating, editing, proofing and printing our concert programs. Although the programs look similar from concert to concert, there are changes every time. Program notes must be written and proof read; the ads, donor names, and personnel lists must be updated; our printing vendor must be sent the new proofs by a certain date, etc… I’ve enjoyed gaining an appreciation for the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to support an organization like this.

FCWS: As the president of FCWS, what sort of directions do you want to take the FCWS in the next few years?

Megan: I want to keep our audience and our musicians happy and engaged. We are honored by how much our patrons support us through excellent concert attendance and generous donations. I also love to hear from an audience member who has never been to a concert before. It’s a great sign that our audience enjoys us well enough to spread the word about FCWS. Our director, Dr. Mayne, does a wonderful job of keeping audience interest in mind while he’s putting together concert repertoire that will also challenge and excite our musicians. 

FCWS: I’m sure most musicians and fans of the symphony have heard that “classical music is dying”. Do you believe this is true? How do you engage new people to come to the FCWS?

Megan: I don’t think this is true, although people have certainly been saying it for years.  One of the many wonderful things about our Fort Collins/Loveland/Greeley community is their appreciation for the arts. I think our fantastic audience attendance at each concert is one indicator that classical music is indeed thriving at the local level. And I’ve recently started enjoying listening to Northern Colorado’s new classical music station at 88.3 FM. On a larger level, you still hear fantastic orchestral music on TV and in huge blockbuster films like those horn riffs in the Avengers movies! I feel like this continued inclusion of classical music in pop culture is a strong sign that it’s here to stay.   

FCWS: What value does a community music organization, like the FCWS, provide to its community?

Megan: In addition to providing high-quality live concerts to the community, we give local musicians an outlet for their creativity. As a member of FCWS, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to participate is such high-quality ensemble in the same town I call home. Making music with other people is a unique experience and having an outlet for that for professional and non-professional musicians alike is huge. It’s wonderful to interface with local high school students through open rehearsals – it provides a chance to show students there are options to continue playing music as an adult even if they have non-musical career interests. We showcase the talents of other local artists by choosing to feature guest artists and collaborate with composers who call the Front Range home. Lastly, we strive to remain accessible to all by not charging admission to our concerts so that cost is not a deterrent.  

FCWS: When you are not performing with the FCWS, what other avenues of music creativity do you pursue?

Megan: I enjoy playing with the Health and Wellness Community Orchestra and the Rocky Mountain Horn Ensemble. Recently I’ve also been fortunate to play with the Loveland Choral Society’s Christmas show. I played piano when I was younger and would love to get back to that someday if I can find the time.

FCWS: What is an important skill that modern musicians should have?

Megan: Social media can be a great networking tool for musicians starting out in a new location. I’ve made several connections online after playing with another musician once or twice that then turn into a playing opportunity years later. Musicians can be a pretty mobile group, so having a way to maintain those connections is helpful. 

FCWS: What does the future of classical music look like?

Megan: I think classical music will continue to make an impact on people’s lives. As long as we continue to support music programs in schools and give students opportunities to engage in choir, orchestra and band, future generations will carry forward a love of classical music. I know I’m not alone when I say I’m still grateful to the fantastic music educators I had in school.