By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The last live performance on stage by the Edina High School orchestra was in February of this year. The high school started the year with hybrid learning, making it challenging to practice with the orchestra broken up, with some at home and some in school.

As COVID cases in Hennepin County skyrocketed in the fall, EHS switched to full distance learning and orchestra director Nicholas Gaudette quickly brainstormed a way to make sure the orchestra didn’t stay silent the rest of the school year.

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“I guess the idea here is that we wanted to maintain that orchestral community experience even being in our own spaces,” said Gaudette.

Each of his 45 student musicians, in their own separate homes, recorded a section of “Lean on Me” by the late Bill Withers on their phones, laptops, or iPads and sent their portion of the song to their director who edited the whole song together.

Some students had fun with it, playing their instruments in non-traditional ways, wearing sunglasses or dancing while they played.

“They could express how they wanted to play their music, it could be funny, it could be serious, you can show your emotions,” said Jerusha Samuel, a senior and one of the violists playing in the video.

Another senior violist, Rory Conway, said he felt a special connection to playing “Lean On Me.”

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“For me, it was the style of music we really need right now,” said Conway.

Senior violinist Catherine Sothy said coming together for a project like this helps them feel less alone.

“It feels more interactive now and I enjoy that,” said Sothy.

A performance like this would never have come together if they didn’t do what this song says….lean on each other.

“This is going to be something that will stay with me forever,” said Samuel.

The Edina Orchestra has already put together a virtual series of holiday inspired numbers like “White Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

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They will post them on the Edina Orchestra YouTube page next week.

Marielle Mohs