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Erika Borslien, 17, of West Fargo, is pictured by her piano and with her oboe, one of the musical instruments she plays. Carrie Snyder / West Fargo Pioneer

Borslien taking musical talents to Thanksgiving Day Parade

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To say Erika Borslien is multi-talented when it comes to musical skills is an understatement.

The West Fargo High School senior has amassed a long list of credits with the most recent a role in the Great American Marching Band during the highly touted 86th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City's Herald Square on Thursday, November 22. The parade route will be lined by millions of spectators and also broadcast live to 50 million viewers on the NBC network.

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The performance marks the first time a West Fargo student will be involved since the band's inception in 2006, quite a distinction in itself with only a few students from each state chosen yearly out of 14,000 schools.

West Fargo High School Principal Gary Clark praised Erika for her accomplishment saying she will be a wonderful school representative.

"We are very excited about Erika's opportunity to participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade! As far as we know Erika is making history by being the first West Fargo High School student to have that honor. We are proud of her and wish her the best!"

Erika, who will be playing first clarinet, was selected for the band based on her musical ability and past achievements -- among them being a member of the National Honor Society throughout her high school years, all the while maintaining a 3.9 grade point average, and serving on the District Youth Committee for the Lutheran Missouri Synod Church of North Dakota.

Erika recalls when she first got the letter to apply, she had doubts. "I didn't think there was any possible way I would be accepted so I wasn't going to apply but my parents found the letter and said I had to go for it."

Consequently, when she received her acceptance notice Erika said "I honestly didn't believe it. It seemed way too good to be true and too extravagant for someone from West Fargo to be accepted into. Everybody has heard of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and everybody has watched it. You can only dream of being in it, so it really is an honor. Of course, the first thing my parents said was "'see, I told you so,'" she added with a laugh.

To those who know and have worked with Erika it comes as no surprise. Her love for music goes all the way back to fifth grade when she began playing clarinet in her elementary school in Maine where her dad, Tony was stationed in the military with her mother Rose, and Erika's youngest sister, Felicia, now a sophomore at West Fargo High. Erika also has two older sisters, Christine lives in Fargo and Laurie lives in Fort Pierce, Fla.

Her dad retired after 23 years and with family in Crookston, Minn. they decided they wanted to settle in the area, ultimately ending up in West Fargo where Erika first attended Cheney Middle School before moving onto West Fargo High.

"I really started liking music at an early age," she said. "When we moved to West Fargo in sixth grade, I continued to be involved and began seeing it as a possible career and now as a high school student I feel that way even more so. I have a lot of fun with my music and I always participate as much as I can because I enjoy it so much."

In fact so much so that most of her weeks are pretty much consumed by the art. Erika's day begins with a 7:30 a.m. jazz class. She typically stays at school until 4 p.m. Two hours each day are also devoted to practicing clarinet, with piano lessons strategically tucked in wherever possible.

When asked if she ever tires of it, her response is quick and unhesitating, "Not really, music is just something that I love so much I can't get enough of it."

That's why she so enjoys attending International Music Camp at the Peace Gardens during the summer months. "It's a weeklong camp and I just love it, because it is pretty much music 24/7."

Her dedication leans more to the instrumental side with the clarinet continuing to be her instrument of choice. She also enjoys playing piano and oboe, but is quick to point out that she "doesn't just do instruments." Erika is also vocally talented, singing in school and church choirs.

In addition, she teaches Sunday School at St. Andrew Lutheran Church where she is a member of the Board Christian Outreach, plays for services or when kids have programs, and is also piano player for Pre-K through second grade choir which she describes "as a lot of fun."

Other areas of musical involvement include: playing keyboard in the WFHS pit orchestra for musicals, for the jazz band and jazz ensemble and clarinet for the pep band; conducting the underclassmen band; teaching clarinet at the high school; and earning well-deserved personal recognition with star rating for solos and ensembles at state music competitions.

Erika also has three years of participation in the James D. Ployhar Honor Band at Valley City State University, conducted by Dr. James Adams; and has taken private clarinet lessons from Dr.Douglas Monroe at NDSU. Erika also take piano lessons from Monica Wolff's piano studio.

Erika said the passion she now holds for her wide scope of musical endeavors can be attributed in part to the versatility and inspiration of her encouraging musical mentors, in particular Susan Jordahl, her freshman, junior and now senior band teacher; and Mark Berntson, band instructor her sophomore year. "I have had several wonderful mentors. Karen Morrison is in charge of the pit orchestra and Mrs. Jordahl has been with me so long. She is such a nice lady. Susan Jahnke at our church also encouraged me to continue with what I wanted to do."

Jordahl said the mentoring comes easy when you have such have a willing resourceful talent to work with. "Erika is a terrific young woman. She is always involved in the music department and her help getting band uniforms out in the Fall is essential. She also helps with whatever needs to be done. Her attitude is phenomenal, and she is always willing to go above and beyond."

Jordahl added that Erika also has a way of making underclassmen feel more comfortable in the building. "She has an extremely positive attitude and works hard to pass that on to other students. She also has a wonderful work ethic and is tirelessly devoted to the music department. She plays piano in both Jazz Band and Jazz Ensemble which meet before the school day begins and she stays after school for lessons and to help with projects we are working on. We are very proud to have her representing West Fargo and North Dakota in the Macy's Great American Marching Band."

Toward that end, Erika will be departing West Fargo Nov. 17 for New York, traveling by herself. "I am scared out of my mind but all in a good way," she stated. "I have been to New York a few times but not without my parents."

Besides performing in the parade, she will also have a little free time on her hands to experience the sights and sounds of New York City, including visiting Times Square and taking in its plethora of activity as well as attending the Broadway musical "Mama Mia" and seeing the visitors center for the World Trade Center.

In preparation, Erika is busy rehearsing the two songs that will be part of the marching repertoire -- one will be played during the parade march, and the other for the actual show in front of Macy's store. "I will get them memorized before I leave and learn the choreography once I get there," Erika stated. "West Fargo doesn't have a regular marching band program so this is very new for me to learn but it is a lot of fun. I definitely am really excited and proud of myself that I was actually accepted."

Erika's parents are equally as proud "We are just going to stay home and be watching on TV and try to record on every channel we can," her mother Rose with a grin. "We are very excited for her to go."

Given her expertise and commitment it comes as no surprise that Erika plans on majoring in music education and minoring in parish music after she graduates in the spring, in a four-year program at Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska.

"Church is very important to me and they have a really good parish music program not something that is offered in a public school setting. I'd love to be a band or music teacher and be involved with church music as well. The school has a program where they could place me in a Lutheran school and I could teach band or music."

But that is then and this is now and Erika's focus right now is on one thing and one thing only -- New York and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. "I am really looking forward to meeting all the kids from all over the U.S. and being part of an actual marching band with dancers and guards. I plan on taking lots and lots of picture and writing in a journal every night so I can capture each and every moment of this once-in-a-lifetime experience."

She is also hoping everyone tunes in the day of the parade and is able to actually catch a glimpse of her in action.

On a closing note, Erika said she is most thankful and appreciative to all her family and church members, friends, other individuals and members of the business community; Access Dental, Alerus Financial, Dave's West Fargo Tire, Jewels By Park Lane, Derek Christopherson State Farm Agency, and WF Maxwell's who have contributed in any way to help make this trip possible either my helping out with monetary donations or with other displays of support. "So many of you have encouraged and been with me every step of the way. That has meant the world to me and for that I will be forever grateful."

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