50 Years of Alumni: Emily Gustafson Threinen

College(s)/University attended:
University of Minnesota – BM in Music Performance & Music Education, Class of 1999
Northwestern University – MM in Conducting: Wind Band emphasis, class of 2004
University of Michigan – DMA in Conducting: Wind Band emphasis, class of 2007

What years were you in GTCYS?
1993-1994, graduated in 1994 – Elk River Area Senior High School, Elk River, MN

What skills or lessons did you learn in GTCYS that you still use today?
As a clarinetist, my participation in the Symphony of GTCYS helped me strive for greater excellence and deeper passion in the large ensemble rehearsal process. Also, since orchestra was not available in my secondary schools, participation in GTCYS was my first opportunity to perform in a symphony orchestra. Prior to GTCYS, my clarinet playing opportunities were in short recital pieces with piano, small wind instrument chamber ensembles, concert band, and marching and pep bands. The role of the clarinet as an ensemble performer is very different in a symphony orchestra setting than it is in a chamber or concert band setting. In GTCYS, I learned to be more assertive and to listen to the music and my role within a score in new ways. I will never forget the first time I sat in a full symphony orchestra rehearsal, I had no idea how being in that sound world (most especially the timbre of the string section) would affect my soul!

Additionally, I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet passionate musicians outside of my high school music environment. I met individuals who were very invested in their instrument, their craft, and their performance. It was exciting to see and hear such depth of talent; I was pushed and a bit intimidated, but completely inspired, at every rehearsal.

Why do you think GTCYS is important for students now?
I believe the opportunity to connect with other young people across the region who are interested, passionate, and curious about classical art music through the symphony is absolutely invaluable. Through GTCYS, young musicians from across the Twin Cities, and beyond, can come together for one common goal – to make music together through the symphony orchestra. Socially, these young musicians learn about other perspectives, lifestyles, cultures, and more by meeting others outside of their home and school environment. Musically, these young musicians will learn about history, composers, repertoire, and much more through the sheer beauty and power of performing within a symphony orchestra. Participating and physically making the complex and beautiful sounds with others is truly like nothing else in the world. Realizing a score and having someone’s ideas come alive through a group of musicians is something that words simply can’t describe. Now, perhaps more than ever, young musicians deserve these experiences, and GTCYS provides these opportunities.

How does music still play a part in your life?
Music is both my profession and my muse. I continue to share my own love for art music through my work as a conductor, music educator, and music advocate. My current position is as the Director of Bands at the University of Minnesota-TC and since the start of my undergraduate degree (BM in music Performance and Music Education), I’ve devoted the majority of my time to making music.

What is your favorite composer or piece of music?
This is always impossible to answer. If I had to limit my listening to one composer or one type/piece of music, it would be J.S. Bach’s The Goldberg Variations. And I would listen to Glenn Gould’s recordings.

What’s a fun fact about yourself?
I can recite the 50 US states in alphabetical order in under 20 seconds. I also love to hike, travel, explore and go for long walks.

What do you hope to see from GTCYS in the next 50 years?
Continued legacy of excellence and access to aspiring and curious young instrumentalists. I have always admired the work GTCYS has done and I hope they can continue to be a fantastic resource and opportunity in our state!

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