Meet the Instruments

Concert Activities


Get to know the families and instruments of the orchestra in this Young People’s Concert Experience recommended for grades 1-6. Enjoy videos featuring performances by Minnesota Orchestra musicians and commentary from host Sarah Hicks, instrument demonstrations, information about the featured music and composers, and multisensory activities from Twin Cities partner organizations exploring the “Meet the Instruments” theme.

Meet the Instruments

  • Introduction

    Sarah Hicks, principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, gives you some tips on how to use all of the tools in this Young People’s Concert Experience.

  • The String Family

    Learn about the members of the string family and listen to part of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.

  • The Woodwind Family

    Learn about the woodwind family and listen to part of Mozart's Serenade No. 12 in C minor for Wind Quintet.

  • The Brass Family

    Learn about the members of the brass family and listen to selections from Sundström’s Four Portraits.

  • The Percussion Family

    Learn about some of the members of the percussion family and listen to part of Hynes’ Perfectly Voiceless.


  • Find That Instrument

    Get to know how different instruments sound and how they can make you feel in this game from Toneworks Music Therapy Services.

    Play Game
  • Design a Costume and Create Your Own Performance

    Explore the relationship between sound and movement with this activity from the Walker Art Center.

    Design Costume
  • Make an Abstract Drawing

    Create your own abstract works of art inspired by the sounds of Meet the Instruments with this activity from the Walker Art Center.

    Create Abstract Art
  • What is Sound?

    Find out how sound works in a series of activities from the Bakken Museum. Discover different ways that vibrations are generated and more.

    Learn About Sound
  • Become a Swan

    Learn to make elegant 'swan arms' with Ballet Co.Laboratory, and then create your own instrument-inspired dance variation.

    Discover your swan arms
  • Make Your Own Instruments at Home

    A step-by-step guide to making your own instruments at home using common household objects.

    Make instruments


Sarah Hicks, host

Conductor Sarah Hicks, the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, has led a broad range of programs since joining the Orchestra as assistant conductor in 2006. Her notable projects with the Orchestra have included co-creating the Inside the Classics and Sam & Sarah series with Orchestra violist Sam Bergman; conducting a live-in-concert recording with singer-rapper Dessa released in 2019 on the Doomtree Records label; leading numerous original Orchestra programs including Home for the Holidays, A Musical Feast and A Scandinavian Christmas; and conducting many of the Orchestra's Movies & Music concerts. Away from Orchestra Hall, she recently conducted performances of Disney Pixar’s Coco at the Hollywood Bowl as well as the orchestra in ABC’s live televised production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid

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Osmo Vänskä, conductor

Since becoming the Orchestra’s music director in 2003, Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä has led the ensemble on several major international tours, including historic tours to Cuba and South Africa and six visits to Europe. His recording projects with the Orchestra have met with great success, including a disc of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony issued in summer 2020. In January 2020 Vänskä began a new tenure as music director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also the honorary conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Vänskä, who began his music career as a clarinetist, has recorded Bernhard Henrik Crusell’s three Clarinet Quartets and Kalevi Aho’s Clarinet Quintet for the BIS label and is in the process of recording several duos for clarinet and violin which he has commissioned with his wife, violinist Erin Keefe.

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Minnesota Orchestra

The Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra, founded in 1903 and led since its centennial by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, is recognized for distinguished performances around the world, award-winning recordings, radio broadcasts, educational engagement programs, and commitment to building the orchestral repertoire of the future. The Orchestra tours regularly throughout Minnesota and nationally, and has also toured abroad in Australia, Canada, East Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and South Africa. It performs a wide variety of music at nearly 175 concerts in a typical year, primarily at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. It is beginning its 2020-21 concert season with a series of Friday night concerts in Orchestra Hall featuring smaller ensembles of Minnesota Orchestra musicians performing for TV, radio and online audiences.

Learn More


  • Serenade in C major for Strings, Opus 48

    Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    • Born
      May 7, 1840, Votkinsk
    • Died
      November 6, 1893
      St. Petersburg, Russia


    Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky grew up playing the piano and became a lawyer. His love for music caused him to go back to school to become a composer. His skill impressed his teachers so much that they offered him a job at the Moscow Conservatory as soon as he graduated. Tchaikovsky wrote hundreds of works but his most famous works are his three ballets.

    Tchaikovsky wrote this Serenade in 1880 and it was one of his favorite pieces which he composed. The first movement, which you will hear a part of, was meant to be an homage to one of his favorite composers: Mozart. The portion you will hear opens with a flowing melodic section for full string orchestra, followed by a contrasting section with fast notes and accents (notes played with an added emphasis), and finally, a beautiful slow section that was used to introduce the full movement.

  • Serenade No. 12 in C minor

    Wolfgang Amadè Mozart

    • Born
      January 7, 1756, Salzburg
    • Died
      December 4, 1791
      Vienna, Austria


    Wolfgang Amadè Mozart was part of a very musical family; his father was a musician who taught Wolfgang and his sister—Maria Anna—how to play the piano and the violin. By the age of five Mozart was writing music and he wrote his first symphony at the age of eight.

    In Mozart’s time, a serenade was typically a light-spirited piece of music used in court festivities or other public occasions; in short, party music. However, Mozart wrote this serenade in a minor key, giving it a serious mood, which must have shocked the attendees that night. You will hear part of the first movement. The piece is divided into two sections, each with its own main melody. In each section the music alternates between soft, sweeping sounds, and loud, dissonant sounds – leading up to an exciting finale.

  • Four Portraits

    Kari Sundström

    • Born
      Sahalahti, Finland


    Kari Sundström has been a member of the Minnesota Orchestra since 1996. In recent months, with the full Minnesota Orchestra not performing together due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sundström has turned to composing as a creative outlet—picking up an interest that extends back to his Julliard years. In composing this work, he found inspiration from the art world as well as the music world. “I soon realized that music really speaks to me visually. The Four Portraits are not referring to any specific paintings; I will leave that to your imagination.”

    Sundström left many elements of the work open to the interpretation of the performers—intentionally leaving out markings of dynamics, articulations and tempos. “Music speaks so differently to each one of us. I am looking for that collaborative interaction between the musicians.”

  • Perfectly Voiceless
    Devonté Hynes headshot

    Devonté Hynes

    • Born
      December 23, 1985
      London, England


    Devonté Hynes has found success in multiple musical genres, including R&B, electronic, indie rock, funk and classical. In September 2018 he collaborated with Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion ensemble and the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to create an evening of percussion music and dance that included Perfectly Voiceless.

    Perfectly Voiceless includes pitched—such as the marimba, vibraphone and glockenspiel—and non-pitched instruments like the Chinese jing cymbal, tamborim and wood block. Hynes uses all of these instruments and short repeated patterns to focus your attention on the sounds themselves instead of a melody that you can sing.