Musician’s Musings: Paul Benson

We love to feature Musings from our Musicians, and are excited to share this month’s submission, written by Paul Benson. Paul joined the BSO in November 2018 and we are so happy to have him in the cello section. We hope you enjoy this Musing as much as we do!



HOW TO BE A CELLIST IN TWENTY EASY STEPS!

Step 1 

Start. Do not stop. — This is the most important step of all of the steps. If you can completely fulfill Step 1, you may skip Steps 2 – x

Step 2

Start learning how to play the French horn. — This is an optional step, but still important to get the best cello experience humanly possible. 

Step 3

Get good. — Practice. A lot. Probably more than you should. 

Step 4

Audition for Minnesota All-state orchestra and Minnesota All-state band at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud. Have a really good string audition and a really bad brass audition in the deadest room you have ever been in. — This is imperative to the cello experience. Make sure you have a beautiful audition where you practice the same thing over and over again, making sure to ignore the French horn audition and fully focus on the cello audition. 

Step 5

Get into the Minnesota All-state orchestra. — This will completely change the way you think about music, especially in the string world. Enjoy Prokofiev for the first time. This will get you really interested in classical repertoire! 

Step 6

Start to branch out. — Join local orchestra, the Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra. This is when you start actually thinking of majoring in music in college. 

Step 7

Apply to the University of Minnesota, planning on majoring in Music Education.

Step 8

Get accepted into the University of Minnesota, still planning on majoring in Music Education.

Step 9

Do not get accepted into the School of Music at the University of Minnesota. — This step is crucial. After this, you will want to practice your tail off for your next audition in 4 months. 

Step 10

Make sure you meet with your guidance counselor at the U. — Your counselor will ask if you have a back-up plan for if you don’t get accepted into the School of Music. Make sure you say “no.” 

Step 11

Practice very hard and get into the School of Music! — After a questionable Bach performance, you will be ready to join the SoM. Now you are able to take lessons from the great Tanya Remenikova. 

Step 12

Do not disappoint Tanya Remenikova. — This is another crucial step. You have to work super hard. 

Step 13

Audition to be in the University Symphony Orchestra. — You will probably shake very badly during your audition. That’s okay; you’re still not ready. 

Step 14

Get into one of the orchestras meant for non-music major students. — This makes you feel like you have something to prove. Continue to work very hard. 

Step 15

About 1 year later, audition for the USO again. — This time is the charm. You’ll make it in after working very hard to get to…

Step 16

Sit in the back of the cello section. — Your new goal for professional playing is to move up from, well, not the back. This will bring about an understanding in yourself – there is no shame in sitting in the back of the cello section. Every member of the section is important. But if you want to sit further up you just have to work harder. 

Step 17

Start to work on your senior recital. — Throughout this process, you have good lessons and bad lessons. There are so many times where you doubt yourself. But you’ve come way too far to stop now. You spend more time in the practice room than you ever have before. You need to get your Bach 2 and Saint-Saens Cello Concerto working. There are moments where Tanya offers an easy out – simply only do a few movements from each part. At this, you outright refuse – you do not want to budge, not even a small amount. To do this would be to give up a huge piece of what you believe in, what you’ve been striving for. This is truly the ultimate test. 

Step 18

Start to feel pretty good. Perform your senior recital wonderfully. — You have come such a long way from when you started, but your journey isn’t over yet. You do surprisingly well for your senior recital; you can’t get down on yourself for doing your absolute best. Your brain, which is normally very critical and deprecating, is quiet. You have done it! You memorized every note, you played every phrase. You feel like you’re starting to get the hang of it.  

Step 19

Next steps. — After you’ve graduated from college, there are many paths to take. The one you might end up taking is Focus On Teaching. You got your first job, but you put all of your effort into becoming a better teacher. This means the cello will take a bit of a back seat as you move forward. 

Step 20

Get right back into it. — You move back into the metro area, a place rife with opportunity to perform. You were recommended to audition for the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra. This was always in the back of your mind, until you decide to go for it. You work hard to get your audition as best as you can. When the moment comes… You’re in! 

At this moment, you will have to start making decisions on your own. Everyone’s journey to be a better musician comes in many different shapes and colors. I always tell my students that pursuing music is like climbing to the top of a mountain whose peak you will never get to see. What you end up seeing is a vast musical landscape that spreads out before you the higher you climb. You may never reach the summit of the mountain, but what you get to see is where you’ve come from and where you’re going. My hope for them – and myself – is that we all keep looking upwards. 

“I feel that I am making daily progress.” – Pablo Casals

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Introducing Catherine Carson, Violin

Catherine Carson, Violin

Catherine Carson (Cate) is from Northfield, MN, and is a violin student of Sally O’Reilly. She is in 11th grade and is in the Pre-Conservatory program at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School. She has been playing the violin since she was four years old. Cate is a prize winner in many competitions, including the Thursday Musical Competition, the Schubert Club Competition, the YPSCA Competition, the Rochester Music Guild Competition, the Mary West Solo Competition, and the 2018 Senior Level MTNA Competition, West Center Division. 

Cate has performed in the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Brunswick, Maine, California Summer Music in Sonoma County, and the Bravo Festival in Minnesota. She has worked with Almita Vamos, John Gilbert, Robin Scott, Renée Jolles, and Susan Crawford, and has participated in masterclasses with Jennifer Koh, Gwen Thompson, and Nicola Benedetti. Her orchestral experiences include both the Minnesota Youth Symphonies and Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, serving as concertmaster twice. Her favorite academic subjects are English and history, but when not practicing or studying, Cate enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and her cat.

Join Cate for her performance of the final movement of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3 with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, February 24. The BSO is grateful to the Minnesota String and Orchestra Teachers Association and the coordinators of the Mary West Solo Competition in identifying this fine soloist!

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Support the BSO today!

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra has had a wildly successful year, selling out concerts at the Masonic Heritage Center and the Schneider Theater, welcoming over 200 students to our concerts, and by taking on increasing musical challenges through the performance of masterworks by Debussy, Bernstein, and Tchaikovsky.

The BSO is working hard to enrich the lives of our audiences and musicians with outstanding performances of challenging, educational, and thoughtfully selected orchestral repertoire through our concerts and weekly rehearsals. To continue this work, we need your help!

Your support helps us provide this music at a low ticket price for audiences, and admit students for free, in fine venues close to home. It also helps support our appearance at the Bloomington Orchestra Festival, where hundreds of Bloomington Public Schools string students get to hear the BSO play in their school, and perform side-by-side with high school musicians.

If you are able, we would love for you to contribute to help us achieve our mission of enriching lives through orchestral music. You can give in three tax-deductible ways:

  • Send a check made out to “BSO” to our office at 1800 West Old Shakopee Rd., Bloomington, MN 55431
  • Online via our PayPal link
  • Online via GiveMN
All gifts are tax-deductible to the extent of the law and donors will be recognized in our concert programs. To discuss recognition opportunities at the $500 level and above, contact Sara Tan, General Manager via email. Thank you in advance for your support of the Bloomington Symphony and for helping us keep this beautiful art form vibrant, here in the Twin Cities!

PS — Our Board of Directors is continuing to match donations up to $5,450. We are 65% of the way there, and every gift at any amount will help us meet this match!

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BSO Board Announces Matching Challenge

The Board of Directors of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra is thrilled to announce a match of $5,450 for donations made between now and the end of November. Your donations help us to be able to perform in fine venues in the City of Bloomington, to offer free concert tickets to any student who comes with an ID, to introduce new gems, like the Charlie Harmon “Suite from Candide,” and to be able to do all of this at a high level of quality under the baton of Manny Laureano.

You can give to the BSO in three ways:

Preferred: Send a check written to “BSO” to our office at 1800 West Old Shakopee Rd, Bloomington, MN 55431. All funds from these donations go directly to the BSO, and allow us to use every penny of your generous donation.

Online: You may give via our PayPal donation link. This method has a nominal processing fee, but is convenient for many users. A PayPal account is not required — you may check out as a guest — and helps us get about 97% of your donation.

You may also give on our GiveMN.org page. This is the link to use if you plan to make other Give to the Max Day donations on Thursday, November 15. We appreciate that Give to the Max Day makes us eligible for $500 Golden Tickets which are given out at random during the day of giving on November, but this option comes with 7-8% processing fees. You may choose to cover that fee for us, but we know you work hard and want your money to go a long way, too!

Thank you for supporting the BSO’s efforts to enrich the lives of our audiences and musicians with outstanding performances of challenging, educational, and thoughtfully selected orchestral repertoire.

All donations are tax-deductible to the extend of the law.

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“Musical Milestones” Concert Preview No. 2

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the second edition of the “Musings” for the “Musical Milestones” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 7, 2018.

Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (aged 61) in a portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann.

You’re a composer and you love what you do. Furthermore, you want listeners to love what you do, because life is easier when you get a paycheck for doing what you love. Johann Sebastian (1685-1750) saw all of his musical output as a glory to God and he wrote music as a form of payback, whether secular or sacred in subject. So it stands to reason that helping people remember your themes through a clever technique called ritornello. The Italian ritornello means “little return” quite literally.

In other words, this technique which was used by Antonio Vivaldi, the Italian Baroque master, consisted of presenting a theme and bringing it back over and over but always with a hint of development to tease the ear and keep things interesting and compelling. Bach’s style in this first concerto for violin is almost aggressive in the way he pushes his themes at the listener as the intense conversation fairly rages between soloist and accompanying forces. The sweetness of the slow movement that follows in C major gives way to a lively dance in 9/8 time back in A minor.

Michael Sutton, Violin

Michael Sutton, Violin & Conductor
photo by Joel Larson


Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Musical Milestones featuring Michael Sutton as soloist and conductor for Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 7, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 800.514.ETIX.

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Announcing the 2018-19 Concert Season

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra is thrilled to announce the 2018-19 concert season, it’s sixth under Music Director and Conductor Manny  Laureano.

October 7, 2018 :: Musical Milestones || BUY TICKETS

November 18, 2018 :: Romantically Yours || BUY TICKETS

February 24, 2019 :: From Boisterous to Pastoral || BUY FLEX TICKETS

May 5, 2019 :: Music in 3D: #6 || BUY FLEX TICKETS

We are excited to perform works ranging from Bach to Bernstein. We hope you will join us for any or all of the season concerts. To learn more, click on the title of the concert and purchase tickets with the link to the right.

You can also click on the images below to download our 2018-19 Season Brochure.

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String Audition Date Announced – September 16

For more information, visit our Auditions page or email auditions@bloomingtonsymphony.org


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“Music in 3D: #5” Concert Preview No. 5

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the final edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #5” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

La valse
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

It is a delicious irony of a musical life that Maurice Ravel, an Impressionist composer of colors and atmosphere, was so fastidious in the way he did things. This talented, artistic, bachelor “neat freak” might have easily played the role of Felix Ungar had Neil Simon been around at the time.

If one were to open a score to his atmospheric 2nd Suite to Daphnis and Chloe, the eyes would be immediately met by an array of notes so seemingly complex that one would have to wonder how musicians were able to play the thing at all! So it is with his tribute to (and destruction of) the Viennese waltz of the day, La Valse (1920).

It begins with a quiet grumbling in the basses, divided to trill and then play pizzicati that serve as the heartbeat that gives the waltz it’s first life. You might be tempted to scream out loud “It’s alive!” but hold on, for this is just the beginning. He uses his brilliant understanding of orchestration and mind-numbing detail to create a mist-like veil that is lifted slowly like a sunrise to eventually reveal first light. It’s not really about one waltz but, in the manner of Johann Strauss Jr., it is several waltzes played one after the other, some with smooth transitions and others not.

Originally conceived as a ballet, it has received many, many more performances as a showpiece for orchestras showing off their myriad talents and section sonorities. It is all superbly organized to take both orchestra and listener on what is at first a comfortable ride of sensual swings and loops only to become a demonic exaggeration that ends with a comic punchline in 4/4 rather than three quarter time. Advisedly, I say to be wary of finding any deeper meaning in this music than what it is: taking an emotion to its zenith. That said, when you hear the original theme return… buckle up!

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #5 featuring Katia Tesarczyk, violin, and winner of the Mary West Solo Competition sponsored by MNSOTA. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 22, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 800.514.ETIX.

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“Music in 3D: #5” Concert Preview No. 4

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the fourth edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #5” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

Fêtes from Trois Nocturnes, L. 91
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

It is always interesting to see how the visual arts and music seem to express themselves similarly through the ages. From the complex nature of Baroque paintings which often sought to render emotion without the benefit of great exaggeration to the suggestive Impressionist period, music seemed to be a willing accomplice at nearly the same times.

Great composers through the years have never been short on imagination. The greatest of those were always sure to compose and imply rather than hit you over the head with an idea. Whereas Renoir and Monet were content to let you do some of the work with your eye and your mind’s eye, so was Claude Debussy. He risked much in doing so, as his early works and chord progressions were pronounced “bizarre” by the professors at the French Academy in Rome. It was likely that his exposure to various forms of music, such as that produced on the Indonesian Gamelan, acted as a catalyst to an an already active imagination.

Of the Three Nocturnes (1899) the most popular is Fêtes. It is also the most diversely colorful. Set yourself in Paris as evening descends and find yourself in a flurry of human activity. Take a moment to enjoy a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe as a military band approaches from afar until it is right on top of you. Find yourself near the Seine as the last remnants of music fade into the night.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #5 featuring Katia Tesarczyk, violin, and winner of the Mary West Solo Competition sponsored by MNSOTA. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 22, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 800.514.ETIX.

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“Music in 3D: #5” Concert Preview No. 3

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the third edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #5” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

Danse Macabre, Op. 40
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1922)

Camille Saint-Saëns, composer

Think of Camille Saint-Saëns as a 19th century composer version of actor Tom Hanks. That is to say that he not only had a wonderful talent for composing stirring and compelling works, but he was able to provide his audiences of both then and now with works that tremendously diverse in spirit and personality. The man that gave us a magical and witty Carnival of the Animals, a darkly majestic Organ Symphony, a peaceful and sensual 3rd Violin Concerto in B minor, and standard-setting A Minor Cello Concerto, would reach into his dark side and take us on a midnight trip to a graveyard for his most-played work, the Danse Macabre (1874).

While it is a tone poem, it is not heavy of plot. It is more about atmosphere with just a few clear indications of a tolling midnight bell (played subtly by the harp) and an early-morning cock crowing which is given voice by the solo oboe. He does provide us with some innovations to stir the imagination in the form of a solo violin with playing a strident tri-tone. He accomplishes this by having our concertmaster tune his open E string down to an Eb. This changes the familiar perfect 5th of the open E and A into the tri-tone originally referred to as diabolus in musica and banned by the church many centuries ago. Another new sound was that of the xylophone making its orchestral premiere in this work. Its brittle sound portrays the terpsichorean talents of the skeletons who take advantage of the lonely and deserted cemetery to revel until the morning sun threatens to reveal them.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #5 featuring Katia Tesarczyk, violin, and winner of the Mary West Solo Competition sponsored by MNSOTA. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 22, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 800.514.ETIX.

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