The gift of music

Jane Linde Capistran has conducted the F-M Area Youth Symphony since 2003, along with teaching elementary, high school and college students and serving as assistant conductor and principal second violin in the F-M Symphony Orchestra. (Photo/Russ Hanson.)

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Music is the fuel that powers Jane Linde Capistran’s life. Ever since she showed up for her first violin lesson at Thomas Edison Elementary School, the Moorhead native has been swept away by its magic – that sense of wonder that has carried her through a career teaching, performing and conducting others who love it as she does.

Now in her 18th year as conductor of the F-M Area Youth Symphony, Jane is a familiar presence in Fargo-Moorhead musical circles. “My father, Erling Linde, was the band director at North Junior High. He was the principal flute in the F-M Symphony for 32 years. So music was in my blood,” she reflects.

From the time when, as a fourth grader, she walked into the school lunchroom for her first lesson with Eunice Pitmon, her path seemed clear. “It was love, instant love,” she recalls. She had chosen violin as her instrument for the most preteen-girl of reasons: “A boy I liked was going to play, so I wanted to play it, too.” While the young man ended up with a trumpet, Jane became enthralled with the violin her father bought her at Nels Vogel Music.

“I wasn’t a musical prodigy, but I was pretty good,” she says. Inspired and tutored by Ms. Pitmon (“my very favorite teacher”) and seasoned by concerts in the Edison gymnasium, she moved up by eighth grade to lessons with symphony concertmaster Isabelle Thompson. At Moorhead High, she became part of Vincent Pulicicchio’s Apollo Strings. She also played in the community-wide youth symphony.

After graduation, she enrolled in Bemidji State University’s music education program. “My mother was an alum, so I knew about it,” she says, adding, “Besides, I really wanted to get out of town.” There, she worked with conductor Thomas Swanson, “another huge force in my life.” And she met another, too – a  trombonist and math major who would become her husband, Rod Capistran.

She still had the itch to study music. While doing her student teaching in Anoka, Minnesota, she attended the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis, studying under Mary Budd Horozaniecki. Motivated to continue, she went on to earn a Master of Arts in Violin Performance at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

In the meantime, she and Rod had married. While he pursued advanced studies in math, she taught orchestra in the city’s elementary schools. After the couple and their two children, Stuart and Madeline, returned to Fargo in 1989, she auditioned for the F-M Symphony. “It was J. Robert Hanson’s final year before retirement. It was wonderful,” she says. Many of the musicians remembered her father, who was by then retired. “We had so many great connections.” She continues to play with the symphony as principal second violin as well as  conductor.

At the same time, the youth symphony in which she’d played as a teen-ager was being revived by her mentor, Eunice Pitmon, along with Dewey Possehl and Bruce Houglum. “A group of parents came to me and asked whether I would start a second group for younger kids,” she remembers. The result: She founded and conducted the Junior Concert Strings Orchestra. She continued to teach elementary orchestra, too, and spent six years leading the Fargo South High orchestra. When Concordia College approached her in 2002, she says, “it seemed like the next step.” She taught violin and viola at the college until her retirement in 2019.

Jane was named musical director of the F-M Area Youth Symphony – F-MAYS, as they call it – at nearly the same time. One of the greatest thrills, she says, was working with her daughter Madeline as concertmaster.

The last 18 months have been much darker. Her husband Rod, a geometry teacher at Fargo North High, was teaching an online video class to his pandemic-quarantined students in mid-April 2020 when, during his lecture, he succumbed to a severe heart attack. Three days later, the 61-year-old died.

“I was shattered,” Jane says simply. “It was completely unexpected. We couldn’t even have a funeral.” A year of isolation followed. Friends offered support, but the musical rehearsals and performances that had been such a large part of both of their lives were suspended because of the pandemic.

Jane reflects that the revival of in-person practices and concerts – however cautiously – has helped her life return to normal. “We started to come back in August,” she says. “Everyone is vaccinated, and we wear face masks. That’s fine with the string players. Trumpets and trombones, not so much.” 

Last summer’s “Symphony Rocks” at the Bluestem Center for the Arts was the first public concert since the pandemic shut everything down. Jane led it as part of her role as associate conductor, she also directs four other dates this year, including the Family Matinee, Holiday Pops (the first since 2014), Young People’s Concert and a new one this year, “A Night at the Oscars.” scheduled for the Fargo Theatre Feb. 26.

Meanwhile, the F-MAYS is celebrating its golden anniversary this year. They’re marking the occasion with a gala concert Jan. 2 at First Lutheran Church that will feature returning alumni, including three whom Jane herself taught.

Especially dear to her heart are several tributes to her late husband by the F-M Choral Artists, a group with which he had sung for many years. “They dedicated their whole season to his memory this year,” Jane reports. The group also commissioned Rene Clausen to write a piece in his memory. Titled “The Sage,” he based it on a favorite passage from the classic Chinese text Tao te Ching. The music incorporates a trombone descant, an allusion to the instrument Rod played with the symphony brass quartet and other ensembles. The Choral Artists will premier the composition Jan. 15 and 16 at First Lutheran Church.

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