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Playing classical music, ‘just for fun’

By Carol Stender

Borderline Strings usually performs classical music in the Fargo-Moorhead area, but, last summer, members briefly renamed the group the “Borderline Strings Garage Band.”

COVID-19 restrictions resulted in a three-month hiatus for Borderline Strings members starting March 2020, said KayLynn Gibb, an orchestra member. But last June, they found a new COVID safe place to practice. Fellow member Deb Fogel offered her south Moorhead garage to the group.

And the neighborhood loved it. Neighbors brought their lawn chairs, socially distancing, of course, and enjoyed the performances throughout the summer until the weather turned cold.

Fogel and Bill Bye, both violists, were part of the founding group in 1988. It was Dewey Possehl, a Moorhead Public Schools band director, who came up with the idea for a community string orchestra. He spread the word and organized a string group that practiced at Agassiz Jr. High in Fargo with Ted DiSanti as the conductor, Gibb said. That group, called Borderline Orchestra, had roughly 30 members playing violin, viola, cello and bass.

They moved to North Jr. High in Moorhead under the baton of Carole Nelson under the Moorhead Community Education program. The name changed to Community Orchestra.

Eventually a smaller group moved to the Hjemkomst and became Borderline Strings. While the group no longer had a director, it played at the church through 2008 when it moved to Peace Lutheran Church in Fargo.

Then, last summer, it was Deb Fogel’s garage that became their new home for perhaps a short time, depending on COVID restrictions.

It probably doesn’t matter much where the group gathers, just so they have an opportunity to practice together.

Borderline Strings has been a bit of a “garage band” lately due to COVID-19. They practiced in Deb Fogel’s garage. Pictured is one their performances at the mall in Fargo. Contributed photo

“We play ‘seriously, just for fun,’” said Gibb. “Seriously, because we play mostly classical music and just for fun because we laugh a lot.”

Most of the group’s members are the product of public school orchestra departments. Each started playing a string instrument anywhere from third to seventh grade. Most played through high school with a few continuing in college, she said.

Some took private lessons in their youth as well as attending orchestra classes. A few took part in Music Camp at the International Peace Gardens. Some still do play with other music organizations.

In most cases the members quit playing their string instruments as adults, but picked up their instruments again when they found opportunities to play. Some of the members came to the group through the recommendation of string teacher Carole Nelson while others heard of the group from Christian Eggert Violins (a violin shop in Fargo) or other Borderline String members.

Borderline Strings currently has 14 active members. About half are retired and the rest are still working, she said. Over the years, members have come and gone as life allowed. Besides those who were part of the original orchestra, Pam Burkhardt joined with the Moorhead Community Orchestra. The rest have played with the group from a few years to about 15.

They meet at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month wherever they can find a space.

Besides playing for their own enjoyment, they have performed at the Northern Plains Botanical Garden Society, Fargo City Employee Banquet, West Acres at Christmas and occasionally at senior living residences.

Present members hail from Casselton, West Fargo and Fargo in North Dakota and from Moorhead, Ulen and Rustad in Minnesota.

They find joy in picking up the instruments of their youth and playing once again in a group.

“Our mantra is, ‘We play for friends, family and people we can outrun!’” Gibb said.

Hopefully they can gather again soon as COVID restrictions are lifted, whether it be at a formal gathering or Deb Fogel’s garage.

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