The symphony orchestra at the University of South Dakota is a way to earn credits and be part of an extra curricular, but not everyone who participates is a student.

The orchestra is open to community members and Kim Evander, from Yankton, and Mary Ann Wortman, from Crofton, take advantage of the opportunity to continue a hobby they enjoy while being part of the ensemble.

“Playing in an orchestra is just so much fun,” Evander said. “It’s the biggest thrill to have all of that music all around you. I can’t describe it.”

The pair has been playing in the orchestra at USD on and off for years, Evander began as a graduate student at USD in the 1970’s and rejoined in 2006, and Wortmann started in the late 1980’s.

Though both have found their way to the orchestra, they each took very different paths.

Wortmann began playing the violin in her 40’s, while Evander began as a young girl with lessons in school.

Wortmann, a retired Home Health and Hospice Coordinator at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton, starting taking lessons while working full time.

“When I first picked up the violin in my 40’s I was working full time and my director allowed me to go in the afternoon first,” she said. “I never even picked up the instrument until then.”

Her instructor thought she needed help with her timing, so Wortmann was recommended to Dr. Rick Rongstad, a longtime music professor at USD, so she started making the trek to Vermillion.

“I wish I would have taken lessons when I was just a tiny girl or a young girl. I took piano lessons which helped me a lot,” Wortmann said. “It’s a lot harder when you are an adult. You are just not as quick with all of that and it’s hard to play.“

Wortmann took a hiatus for four years to earn her master’s degree in health care administration at USD and returned to playing in 2002. While working full time and caring for her family, she played when time allowed and began playing regularly after retiring in 2006.

“We had a large family, so it was hit and miss all the time,” Wortmann said. “Since I’ve been retired now I’ve started taking private lessons again, so I come as much as I can.”

Evander had been playing the violin for a majority of her life and began with school lessons. She played in the orchestra while attending graduate school at USD.

After school, Evander worked as a music teacher in the Yankton School District and taught all grades, including being the conductor of the high school orchestra. While teaching, she would sporadically play at USD for Dr. Rongstad when an open spot needed to be filled.

She even taught herself to play the viola and has spent time in the viola section, where she plays now. She says the instruments are played the same and only differ by one cleft.

“I played in the first violin section, I’ve played in the second violin second, I’ve played in the viola section just depending on what Dr. Rongstad needed, but I was teaching full time and I didn’t feel like I could devote two nights per week down here,” Evander said.

She is in her first year of retirement, so can now commit to the two nights per week of rehearsal and comes to Vermillion regularly.

The two play in the string section towards the front of the orchestra where they sit amongst a group of college students.

“I think they put the broader instruments towards the back because they can come forward a little more. The other instruments are towards the front because they are not quite as loud,” Wortmann speculated. “When you sit in front of a brass player you should probably wear ear plugs because it is loud.”

The violin and viola are played similar, but the sound is a little different with the violin producing a higher tone and violas are a middle tone.

“First violins play really high sometimes and they mainly have the melody,” Evander said. “Second violins kind of have the harmony under the first violins’ melody. Violas sometimes play with the violin and sometimes they play with the cellos.”

When playing the musicians have to pay attention to a number of elements around them, including the conductor, music and seat mates.

“You have to watch the people in front of you, but it’s easy because the bows, so you can kind of see, but we follow along with the music and we look at the conductor,” Evander said.

As a teacher, Evander has been in front of the orchestra as the conductor and says it’s a lot less pressure to be playing in the seats. As a player, she just has to follow the conductor instead of tell the entire orchestra how to play.

“You are really in charge when you are the conductor so you make all the decisions, you know, how fast we go and how loud it is and the kind of articulation,” she said. “When you are in the section there is like a pecking order. The people up in the front, they are the leaders. They follow the conductor.”

As a section player, both Wortmann and Evander follow the section leaders. It can be a lot to think about while playing, but it is rewarding to play in front of an audience at the end of the semester.

In the last 10 years and earlier, both women have seen many students come through the orchestra, so just about every four years the entire orchestra is all new members.

“I’ve had many chair partners and I can see growth in the chair partners as they play,” Wortmann said. “I see growth in myself as we play together and I’ve made lots of friends amongst the students.”

Both agree that all the students are welcoming to the community members.

Evander also pointed out that if it wasn’t for the orchestra, the two would never have met and become friends.

On her way from Crofton, Wortmann picks up Evander and the two carpool over to Vermillion for rehearsals.

With the long drive, 45 minutes each way from Crofton, they admitted they don’t always make to every rehearsal especially if there is inclement weather, but the time missed is made up with practices at home.

“I don’t always get here because I have a really active other life besides orchestra,” Wortmann said. “I try to get to at least half or a little more than half if at all possible.”

The USD orchestra has four concerts throughout the year including March 2 in Aalfs Auditorium in Slagle Hall.

“When you come to the conclusionand do the concerts it just seems like it’s you are one big family,” Wortmann said. “You’ve worked so hard to get to that point.”