Ep. 72: “The orchestra that doesn’t behave:” The story of one community music group, with Marlene Pauley

Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

December 8, 2020

What’s the big deal about community music orchestras, bands, and choirs? Under Marlene Pauley’s direction, The Wayzata Symphony Orchestra’s budget has quadrupled and audience attendance has increased 300%. Marlene explains the demand for community music groups, and what they mean to their members, audience, and communities.

Marlene Pauley


Joining me today is Marlene Pauley, the Music Director of community music group The Wayzata Symphony Orchestra. Marlene performed as clarinetist with the world-class St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for 20 years before leaving to pursue conducting full-time.  She has conducted concerts across the US and has been with The Wayzata Symphony Orchestra (WSO) since 2010. Under her direction, the orchestra’s budget has quadrupled and audience attendance has increased by 300%.


In preparation for this conversation, Marlene asked members of the WSO community to explain how music – especially WSO participation – enhances their lives. Reading these quotes was a highlight for me! Here are some of them; read and be inspired!

  • “As a church choir director, I’m always humbled when I think of studies that show when groups of people sing together their breathing and therefore heartbeats synchronize. In a world of discord and dissonance, making music is one of the few chances where we can find unity.” – Josh Lindgren, WSO musician
  • “Music makes us better human beings and better citizens. Music is vital – it comforts, eases pain and sadness, exhilarates, uplifts and basically just enhances life’s journey.  When we can experience this as a community of players and audience members together – this is truly communal experience at its most magnificent.” – Karin Valdizan, WSO musician
  • “Music and the emotions it represents are felt individually but when it is shared in community, it seems to connect us with others in ways that can’t really be defined. Maybe it is a connection of spirits?” – Charlotte Howell, WSO musician
  • “Music in the community that is accessible for all is vital. Most of us do not have the privilege of earning our living in the music industry, so being able to participate in high-quality, inspiring and engaging music activities is something I’m most grateful for in the Twin Cities.” – Melissa Kalal, WSO musician
  • “Personally, I think music is an involuntary expression not totally unlike laughter or crying. That’s what draws me most.  When we make music together, we breathe, move, weep, and laugh as one body.  It’s like empathetic telepathy.” – Kenneth Schuster, WSO musician
  • “Community Music Groups are like Old Man Hockey Groups! The deep social connections that they both offer truly enhance everyone’s lives. They educate everyone. They nurture friendships new and old. They bring communities together. They get closet clarinets playing again. They keep repair people and music retailers in business.” – Doug Schmitt, audience, board member
  • “It seems to me that your group captured the essence of community music with the wonderful tunes from out of our past. The camaraderie in the audience and the joy that was present on the ‘stage’ was real.  If you could observe the audience (as we have) at a WSO concert, you would see the same joy in listening to and watching musicians who very obviously find joy in making music.” – Ron Frazzini, audience
  • “Being an immigrant, I see music as a tool that can be used to understand other cultures. To bring people together, even if you don’t understand the lyrics you can enjoy the music.  Learning about cultures can be done easily through music.” – Gisele Bouroncle, audience

Connect/Other Resources


Marlene tells the story of the WSO’s FlashMob performance of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy (at the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis in November 2015). By coincidence, the performance was three days after the Paris terrorist attacks.  The YouTube video has had over 8,000,000 views:

Closing Words

That gives me goosebumps to listen to; and it is even more powerful to watch the video! So do yourself a favor and check out the flash mob video in the show notes so you can get the visuals as well!

I’m also including in the show notes a link to the YouTube video Marlene mentioned of the pink balloon performance of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata by Dave Hull — it is very entertaining!

Thank you so much to Marlene AND the extended Wayzata Symphony Orchestra family for giving us a peek behind the curtain of their orchestra, and for their insights into the joys of community music making! I play on our church’s worship team about once a month, and this conversation has definitely given me greater appreciation for the meaning I get out of this experience. I can’t wait until WSO is able to get back to their concerts again and I can attend and experience them in action!

Today is December 8, and we are in full swing of a gift-giving season. If you are looking for some creative ideas to give the gift of music to others – including some ways that are completely free – check out last week’s episode on research-backed ways to gift music, the gift that keeps on giving.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next week, may your life be enhanced with music.