Michael Merriman needed a new creative outlet. After 10 years of his cello gathering dust in the corner of his office, his wife told him to either start playing it again or find it a new home. Mike chose the former and joined the East Metro Symphony Orchestra in January of 2019. He hasn’t looked back since!
Mike is a biologist and works as a regulator of the state seed program for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. His interest in music goes all the way back to his childhood and watching Sesame Street. “I started playing cello at the age of 5 after seeing Yo-Yo Ma on Sesame Street. Cello is my favorite way to musically express myself. It is an instrument with such a huge range of expressiveness from beautiful melodic highs to growling intense lows. I also play piano and guitar. I stared playing piano around 10 years old, but that has fallen off over the last few years since I don’t have a piano of my own anymore. I love playing piano because it utilizes so many different notes at the same time and is so loud and powerful – it’s like you are a one-man band! I started playing guitar towards the end of high school and still play it frequently. I love how many different styles there are for playing guitar.”
Joining EMSO has truly filled Mike’s need to express himself musically again, brought new life to his long-ignored cello, and offered so many challenges and joys along the way. “My personal highlight from my first two seasons with EMSO has been the feeling of accomplishment after completing performances where the cello had a difficult part. These included Symphony No. 9, Op. 95 in E Minor from The New World by Dvorak (10 Years and Still Celebrating!, 2019); Symphony in D Minor by Franck (French Passions, 2019); Duet for Cello and Double Bass in D Major by Rossini with [EMSO bassist] Travis Burns; and most recently the fourth movement of the String Quintet in C Major by Schubert with fellow EMSO string musicians Nahree Ki, William Chiu, Kelly Fischer, and Jamie Wheeler (Symphony for Seniors concert at Stonecrest Senior Living Community, 2020). All these pieces were beasts! Getting from the first blind sight reading, through many hours of practice, and finally to performance mode was extremely difficult.”
With so much uncertainty these days, and the remainder of EMSO’s 2019-2020 season cancelled, it is essential to look to the future and focus on what upcoming seasons will bring. For Mike, he hopes to see EMSO feature more ensemble performance. “Playing in ensembles has been especially rewarding because it allows everyone to shine musically and bring out their own leadership qualities. Ensembles are an excellent way for individuals to exhibit their talents, hard work, and introduce their own creative content. And they are especially great for newer members to develop lasting relationships with other orchestra members. Although this season is cancelled, I hope to continue to collaborate with members of the orchestra during the off season and hope that other members will also collaborate and work on music from their own homes as they practice social distancing. EMSO has been an important outlet for me to express myself, and has also been valuable for developing friendships, and providing other personal growth opportunities.”