A new organization allows local musicians to share their talents with the community.
Organized in May 2022, the Tooele County Symphony Orchestra is a group for musicians wanting to find a sense of community while showing off their musical skills.
Violinist Michelle Boekweg is the president and founder of the orchestra.
Boekweg has been playing the violin since she was in the 7th grade when she started attending Grantsville Junior High.
“Betta Nash was my teacher,” she said. “For a long time I’ve considered myself a musical person but I didn’t have the opportunity to play until I came to the states when I was about 12 years old from Mexico. I just always had a love for the violin and the orchestra. I have enjoyed it for so long.”
Once back in Tooele County, Boekweg saw a need for a local orchestra.
“When my husband and I moved back to Tooele, I realized we didn’t have an orchestra that went year round and that’s where the idea came from,” she said. “This came out of opportunity.”
Boekweg voiced the idea of an orchestra to her husband who encouraged her to put together the group. She decided to call the group the “Tooele County Symphony Orchestra,” because she wanted all musicians in Tooele County to feel like they could join and be included.
“I wanted to make sure that everyone in the valley was able to participate,” Boekweg said. “I wanted them to know that this wasn’t just for people in Tooele City. We could have people all the way from Wendover if they wanted to.”
During the organizational process, Boekweg had to fill out a lot of paperwork, some of it needed to obtain the group’s nonprofit status. She also spent time securing funding.
“With thinking about how we would keep our performances free, I knew we had to have other ways of making money,” Boekweg said.
After the details were worked out, Boekweg advertised and spread the word. Musicians from around the county began to join.
“We had a great turnout,” she said. “The turnout has been better than we hoped for.”
No auditions were held for those who wanted to be a part of the orchestra itself.
The orchestra currently has around 30 members.
The orchestra is composed of string instruments — violas, cellos, and violins. Boekweg wants to add bass, piano, organ, percussion, and wind instruments soon.
When the orchestra was put together, auditions were held for the first chair of the string section.
“We have a concert master who is our first violinist,” she said. “Then we have a violin two section leader, a viola section leader, and a cello section leader.”
When the group gets together, they play classical, patriotic, and modern music, as well as movie scores and original compositions by their conductor, Andrew Swan.
Swan is also the orchestra teacher at Grantsville High School.
“It has been really fun and great to perform our conductor’s compositions,” Boekweg said.
By playing Swan’s music, the group avoids fees that are required to play many popular compositions.
Practices take place each Saturday morning at Tooele City Hall.
So far, they have performed in Grantsville City for their Fourth of July celebration, in Ophir and at the Tooele County Art Guild’s Ren Faire earlier this month.
“The opportunity to perform has been very beneficial and I think the community is starting to take notice of us,” Boekweg said. “We have had people ask about our performances. I think it makes our small town feel a little bit bigger.”
Right now, the group is taking a break for the holidays. They will resume at the beginning of next year.
“We will be releasing some performance dates in January,” Boekweg said.
Although the group is taking a break, a quartette from the orchestra will be performing on December 5 at Tooele City’s Christmas program at Tooele High School.
In the future, Boekweg hopes to create a scholarship program for those graduating high school and to give back to the community.
She also hopes to organize a performance every three months or so.
Right now, the orchestra has open admission. Those 16 and older interested in joining the orchestra should contact Michelle at email@example.com.
“Come and check us out,” Boekweg said. “We have a lot of fun.”
To learn more about the orchestra or to keep up with their performances, visit them on Facebook and Instagram @tooelesymphony.
Donations can be sent to @TooeleCountySymphony on Venmo.