It’s quite possible to look up and see your doctor performing with the Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra. Learn how this orchestra got its start and find out what they are doing for local kids.
Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra (TCCO) is made up of people who know more than just music. They’re local doctors, business owners, teachers and others who share a passion for making good music and sharing it.
Founded in 2012, TCCO is southern Wisconsin’s only pop, classical and contemporary music group that performs a summer concert series. It’s the brainchild of director Ian Nie, a music teacher at Beloit College.
“I thought about creating an orchestra for a long, long time,” says Nie, who’s been in the music business for 64 years. “I said to a friend of mine six years ago that we should do something on our own. She gathered people at her house and the orchestra sprang to life. The idea is basically mine, but I had an incredible amount of help.”
The 2017 orchestra includes 17 to 25 professional and semi-professional musicians from many walks of life. They range in age from 17 to 70 and live within a 50-mile radius of Beloit. Guest artists include solo violinists, pianists and a classically trained soprano vocalist. The summer concerts are open to the public at no cost, often in relaxing outdoor venues like Harry’s Place at Riverside Pavilion in Beloit, Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford and the Phoenix Band Shell in Delavan, Wis.
Orchestra members enjoy the freedom to play many kinds of music, including pop, Broadway, classical, jazz and pieces by local composers like Matthew Hollingsworth.
“We can play anything we want,” says Nie. “We’ve played music from Adele, Aaron Copeland and local composers who give us an opportunity to showcase their work.”
Members must exhibit a certain level of musicianship to participate. High school and college students audition for Nie.
TCCO has also developed the Nie Young Artist Scholarship Competition, which helps deserving students further their studies. It’s held in March for string and piano students who compete in three categories: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Students perform one solo selection in front of a panel of judges to compete for first-, second- and third-place scholarships in each category.
Winners not only receive scholarships, but also an opportunity to play with TCCO during its concert season.
“When I was a kid, I received a tremendous amount of help,” Nie says. “Now that I’m well established, it’s time to give back. People who win the scholarship sometimes go into music and pursue it as a career.”
TCCO also puts on a weeklong string camp in July, in which area youths work with orchestra members and guest musicians such as international jazz violinist Randy Sabien. Held in Beloit, the camp provides music education to children from diverse backgrounds, including under-privileged families. Children have a chance to work with the performers on an intimate level.
“Forty percent of our string camp students are people of color,” Nie says. “I’ve had teachers who say this is the first and only opportunity for their kids to actually be part of a non-completely white environment.”
In 2016, 66 area students enrolled in the string camp, a new record. The hope is to have 100 students this summer. Children who attend the camp have an opportunity to work closely with orchestra members, professional musicians and guest clinicians. This summer they’ll show off their new music skills before a live audience on July 20 in a concert conducted by Sabien.
Nie hopes the community will take advantage of the free concerts offered by the orchestra this summer.
“We’re not just giving people music that’s classical, we’re also giving them popular compositions,” he says. “We want to attract people so they’re not just sitting in front of the TV. We want them to be engaged and active.”
Visit turtlecreekchamberorchestra.org for a complete list of show times, dates and venues or to sign up for the summer string camp.