BSO’s Youthful Celebration – 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 of the “Musings” for the “BSO”s Youthful Celebration” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 19, 2017. Check back later this week for the final concert preview!

Grant Luhmann, Composer

It may come as no surprise, then, to learn that our featured premiere is by two alumni from the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, as well as Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. I first came to know composer Grant Luhmann (born 1994) as a talented oboist and English hornist while Karen Baumgartner developed into a flutist of great sensitivity, capable of delivering complex music with requisite pyrotechnical technique. Luhmann’s concerto begins with a short cadenza that invites the various sections of the orchestra to shadow the flute with an ethereal background. As the orchestra adds color and momentum, the flute twitters birdlike as the orchestra becomes less of an observer and more of a competitor. The pulsing in the orchestra makes it appear to breathe against the rhythmic fire in the solo flute until it’s gentle ending.

Karen Baumgartner, Flute

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “BSO’s Youthful Celebration” featuring flutist Karen Baumgartner, performing the world premiere of Grant Luhmann‘s Flute Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 19, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Kennedy High School Auditorium (9701 Nicollet Avenue, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.


BSO’s Youthful Celebration – Concert Preview No. 1

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the first of the “Musings” for the “BSO”s Youthful Celebration” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 19, 2017.

Celebrating Youth in Music

It is my intent to one day program a concert for the BSO that celebrates the gentle beauty of maturity but for this concert I decided to take a look at the earlier attempts of composers in the primary and developing parts of their careers. So, for the seasoned members of our audience, fear not, as your day will come!

Aaron Copland, Composer

An Outdoor Overture (1935) of Aaron Copland (1900-1990) covers a few areas of today’s musical subject. Since Copland had the good taste to be born in 1900, we know that he was 35 when he received the request from the principal of the brand new High School of Music & Art in New York City to write a piece of music for its orchestra. As the principal, Alexander Richter, listened to Copland’s rendering of the piano version. It seemed clear that the harmonies and melodic contours gave it an expansive feeling of, well, the outdoors, its themes are simply stated and without regret. From the opening trumpet solo to the skittering woodwinds and strings that follow to the final triumphant and optimistic march it was clear that it was a perfect fit for the fledgling school which celebrated the artistic talents of American youth in the 1930s. It was a perfect match that would see a premiere by the students three years later, in 1938. Coincidentally, both my wife, Claudette and I, who are co-directors of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, are proud alumni of that wonderful school, class of ’73.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “BSO’s Youthful Celebration” featuring flutist Karen Baumgartner, performing the world premiere of Grant Luhmann‘s Flute Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 19, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Kennedy High School Auditorium (9701 Nicollet Avenue, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.


Musician’s Musing – February 2017

Karen Nordstrom, former BSO cellist and current concert sponsor

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by former BSO cellist and current concert sponsor, Karen Nordstrom. Karen and her husband Dr. Leonard (Bud) Nordstrom, have been longtime chair sponsors. They recently decided to sponsor a concert and their first recognition as concert sponsors will come in April 2017. We asked Karen to share a few words of experience and this is what she wrote. 

From the time I was a very young girl growing up in Milwaukee, music was a big part of my life. My mother played the piano. Mom and Dad sang with the Arians, a great Milwaukee choir. I sang with the Junior Arians. Mom began encouraging me to play piano at a young age and taught me where middle C was on our piano. When our church organist, Elfrieda Winninger, asked me at church one Sunday where middle C was, I said it was at home. Well, they decided to wait a bit with piano lessons. Mrs. Winninger would one day be my piano teacher for 7 years.

Mom and I attended Milwaukee Symphony concerts, sitting very close to the front in my warm blanket coat and sometimes nodding off, but still listening. I had two much older sisters, Gloria and Joyce, who as young girls played cello and violin, respectively. However, before I reached the age of having memory, those girls were off to college and I never did hear them play their instruments. One day I decided to try the violin. It was a more manageable size. That wasn’t for me. So at age 11, I chose Gloria’s cello, taking lessons, and loving it—my mellow cello. It was an easier instrument to play, by far, than the violin.

As a youth, I participated in our high school orchestra as well as CAP, Children’s Art Program, in greater Milwaukee, an orchestra that met down at the War Memorial building on the shore of Lake Michigan. Those were very enjoyable years and cemented friendships that carry through to this day.

Off to St Olaf College in 1959, and packing my cello, I auditioned for the St Olaf Orchestra and made it! As a nursing student, it perhaps wasn’t a wise thing to do, as with the tough science courses plus all the rest, I should’ve been studying more. When for a brief time I was “on probation” due to grades, it was suggested I perhaps quit the orchestra freshman year, I declined that suggestion, and just buckled down a bit more. WHEW! I made it through.

After graduation in 1963, I took a few years off from even thinking about joining an orchestra. Working 40 hours a week as a pediatric nurse, I was too busy to manage the practicing required I would need to be in a good orchestra. In 1966, I tried out for the Minneapolis Civic and played with that group until 1987 when I joined BSO, playing until ulner neuropathy began in my fingering hand. The numbness, tingling, and reduced strength of that left hand caused me  to leave my beloved BSO several years ago. But I had played for almost 60 years and that was a good thing. Now my husband and I enjoy attending the concerts and seeing this great orchestra blossom and thrive. My cello awaits my 11 year old granddaughter who as a 5th grader here in Bloomington, decided on the cello. She is a third generation cellist, her dad being the second, and I am relishing passing mellow cello on to the next generation.

My husband, Bud, too feels that this is a priority with our giving to our beloved Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, one of the crown jewels, which makes this city great!

Thank you, Karen and Bud, for your faithful donations and concert attendance! To learn more about how you can support the BSO’s efforts – no matter the level – visit the Support page on this website.


Winter/Spring Postcard

If you are not on the BSO’s snail mail list, but would like to see the Winter/Spring 2017 postcard, please click on the images below!


We hope to see you at the BSO’s Youthful Celebration concert on February 19 and the Music in 3D: #4 concert on April 2!


Announcing April Soloist :: Nygel Witherspoon

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Fifteen year old cellist Nygel Witherspoon will perform the first movement of Dvo?ák’s Cello Concerto with the Bloomington Symphony at their Music in 3D: #4 concert on Sunday, April 2. The concert will be held at the Jefferson High School Auditorium in Bloomington at 3 p.m., and will be conducted by Music Director Manny Laureano.

Mr. Witherspoon is the Grand Prize winner of the Minnesota String and Orchestra Teacher’s Association (MNSOTA) Mary West Solo Competition, which was held in November 2016. The Grand Prize is a $250 cash award and the opportunity to solo with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra.

To purchase tickets to the concert, please visit the Bloomington Box Office online or in person. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door (cash or check only).


Musician’s Musing – December 2016

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by BSO Board Member and first violinist, Kristin Brinkmann. 

Kristin Brinkmann, Violin

Kristin Brinkmann, Violin

As a fairly recent addition to the first violin section of the Bloomington Symphony (this is my third season), I have to say that it’s provided the perfect infusion of musical nourishment, which I desperately needed during a difficult time.  And it’s that continuing infusion of musical nourishment that keeps compelling me to get into my car way up in White Bear Lake, and trek all the way down to Bloomington on Sunday evenings for rehearsals.  For many years, I used to get into my car and make a similarly long trek to go and play with a different orchestra most days of the week – the Minnesota Orchestra.  Based on the various versions of my lifetime career model which used to run through my head, my car should still be driving me to Orchestra Hall and not to the Bloomington Symphony, although the BSO does feel quite a lot like the Minnesota Orchestra most of the time.  My fellow Minnesota Orchestra second violinist and frequent stand partner, Michael Sutton, is playing just a few feet away from me, and Manny Laureano is conducting, which he also did from time to time at the Minnesota Orchestra, when they would occasionally let him put down his trumpet for a few days.

Why does my car now drive me to the BSO, and not to Orchestra Hall?  First of all, it’s only a 2002 Honda Civic, so it’s technically not capable of taking me anywhere I haven’t decided to go.  It isn’t a cutting edge driverless vehicle whose computer brain got hacked and suddenly began driving me to the wrong orchestra one day.  Rather, it was my brain that got hacked over 15 years ago, and a neurobiological form of malware began running, which caused me to develop young-onset Parkinson’s disease when I was 33.  Parkinson’s is a neurological degenerative movement disorder, with some good treatments, but no cure at this time.  It is almost unthinkable for a violinist to suddenly face losing the voice we’ve spent our lives cultivating to a disease that causes you to lose motor control.  In most cases, we’ve spent our entire lives and countless hours in violin lessons, practicing, at workshops, music camps and music festivals, and have often completed multiple college degrees learning, among other things, how to consistently make unbelievably precise movements so that we have the technical ability to translate our soul, passion, musical ideas and creativity from our minds, through our bodies, and into a wooden box and a stick with some horse hair attached to it.  And Parkinson’s isn’t at all predictable.  The saying in the Parkinson’s community is, “The only thing that’s predictable about Parkinson’s is that it’s unpredictable”.

Kristin playing in nature

Kristin playing in nature

That’s what I was faced with early in my career with the Minnesota Orchestra, and I have to say that in many respects, things have gone much better than I ever imagined they could have 15 years ago.  I might be wrong, but I believe that the fact that I was already a professional violinist when I developed Parkinson’s has helped me stay as healthy as I am for so long.  But crazy things happen with no warning, and I’d be ready to walk out the door to play a concert at Orchestra Hall when my left arm and leg might suddenly go into severe tremors for no reason I could discern, and that could go on for 15 minutes to eight or more hours.  At that point, I often couldn’t really walk, much less open a violin case and pick up my violin without likely smashing it to smithereens.  After about a decade of having Parkinson’s while in the Minnesota Orchestra, the unpredictability and severe fatigue caused by the disease brought me to the point where I had to leave the job and the orchestra I loved so much, and I suddenly found myself without my “musical tribe”, and alone at home with a violin.  For about two years, I couldn’t listen to music.  At least not any of the music that I’d played before, or had hoped to play in the future.  Or music that reminded me of music that I’d played before or had hoped to play in the future.  We’ll call this my “Beatles Period.” And I didn’t practice very much for the some of the same reasons.  Add a few spine surgeries into this mix, and then the fact that there simply wasn’t anything to practice for.  No upcoming rehearsals or concerts!  This was the first time I’d ever had a calendar completely devoid of anything musical since I took my very first violin lesson!

That brings us back to the point where my car began driving me to the Bloomington Symphony for Sunday rehearsals.  I knew that I could still play really well when all things neurological and musculoskeletal aligned perfectly, and I’d had an ample amount of sleep, and when I’d taken my various Parkinson medications on the precise schedule I’d worked out over a decade earlier, and if I was just plain lucky that day.  And while some violinists in a similar situation might relish being alone to play the J.S. Bach Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin for whatever amount of time every few days that everything was working somewhat normally, I really missed playing in an orchestra!  I was already familiar with the BSO because several of my Minnesota Orchestra colleagues had been the concertmaster here over the years.  I went online to see where all of the community orchestras were rehearsing, who was conducting them, what music they were performing, and to familiarize myself with who was doing what where, and did White Bear Lake have an orchestra that I wasn’t aware of?  Once I saw that Manny Laureano was now conducting the BSO, and that Michael Sutton was the concertmaster, I knew that the BSO was where I needed to go!

I didn’t know whether I’d be able to play an entire rehearsal without some weird Parkinson’s movements starting up, and I can’t always do that.  And I didn’t know whether I’d be able to play every single rehearsal and concert, and I can’t.  But once I’ve gotten myself there and we begin to play, a part of myself I thought I might have lost forever reawakens!  I believe the first piece we played at the very first rehearsal I attended was the Wagner Overture to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – a piece I’d played countless times since high school.  But it was as if I were playing for the very first time all over again!  Hearing the sound of the full orchestra around me again, and playing that first violin part that has you soaring up into stratosphere gave me more than anything that any of my favorite doctors or the best treatments could provide!  Another popular saying in the Parkinson’s community is “Exercise is medicine!”, and I firmly believe that to be true.  But in my case, the more important saying would be “Music is medicine”!

People ask me what it’s like playing in the BSO after having been in the Minnesota Orchestra, and I suspect that they think they know how I’m going to reply. We rehearse in a church basement instead of Orchestra Hall, we’re a far smaller group, and not everyone has had the same amount of musical training in their background.  But beginning with that first rehearsal three years ago, through to our most recent concert in the Schneider Theater on November 20, I have to say that there’s no difference at all in anything that really matters!  I feel the same rush and the same sense of accomplishment and comradery after having played well during a BSO rehearsal or performance as I did during and after my concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra!  I’m very fortunate to have found the BSO three years ago when I desperately needed musical nourishment after living in a musical desert for some time, and the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra has most definitely become my new “musical tribe”!



BSO & Beethoven Concert Preview No. 2

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 “BSO & Beethoven” concert that will be performed on Sunday, November 20, 2016.

Beethoven and His Seventh Symphony

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was born in Bonn, Germany and named aft er his grandfather. Neither parents nor grandparents could have known that their progeny would be the most critical link between the Classical period of music and the subsequent Romantic. He would turn formal music on its head with innovations that untied the hands of his contemporaries and set a new standard for those that followed.

His symphonies began innocently enough with his ?rst, following all the rules of sonata-allegro form. However, even in the elegant simplicity of this ?rst symphony in C major he left us with a new form of writing: the scherzo. Whereas a minuet was the norm for most symphonies in a moderate three quarter time, he increased the tempo dramatically and thus was born the brisk one-two-three that became so widely imitated by others that followed.

By the time December of 1813 rolled around, Beethoven had changed the meaning of the introduction for the ?rst movement of a symphony. In his third, two loud E? chords su?iced as introduction before launching into the exposition and for his ?fth, an angry outburst of four notes became the most famous in musical history becoming his signature forever.

So, it is interesting to observe that this Seventh Symphony goes back to his roots with a slow introduction of strong chords with woodwind solos suspended in mid-air as in his ?rst symphony. The introduction becomes a competitive game as the winds and strings toss sixteenth notes back and forth to each other. Eventually, what seems like an academic exercise becomes a cheerful dance that develops provocatively with gentility and sheer anger.

The second movement opens with the winds establishing a serious-sounding A minor. The lower strings set a pace that is oft en regarded as a funeral march but Beethoven never said any such thing. With a bit of imagination it can easily be perceived as a dance but with slow, measured steps that give way to a sunny major section. Back and forth, the major and minor struggle for dominance before the winds end the movement exactly as they began it.

The scherzo that Beethoven invented comes back in an infectious ?t of good humor that is a treat for the eyes as well as the ear in the way that motifs are thrown from player to player in an almost dizzying fashion. Beethoven uses the repeat to play a game with the listener involving the trio sections and a ?nal deceptive cadence that, well… let’s not spoil the surprise.

Finally, Beethoven proves his greatness with the ability to sustain a whirling dervish of rhythm and simple melodic material that never lets up in its intensity. He manages to develop two sixteenth notes and an eighth note… a fanfare, nothing more… and couple it with a string ?gure that spins into one of the most blazing ?nales in the symphonic literature.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “BSO & Beethoven” featuring BSO Concertmaster Michael Sutton, who will play-conduct the Mozart Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 20, 2016, at 3 p.m., at the Schneider Theater in Bloomington’s Center for the Arts.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.


BSO & Beethoven – Concert Preview No. 1

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the first of the “Musings” for the “BSO & Beethoven” concert that will be performed on Sunday, November 20, 2016.

Overture to William Tell

Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)

RossiniIt would fairly easy to argue that being able to essentially retire in your mid-thirties a millionaire and a household name is definitive of one’s professional success but that is precisely what the composer of the opera William Tell did. Born the son of a trumpet player in Pesaro, Italy, Rossini grew to be someone who lived to the fullest in many ways including making it to then the then-ripe old age of 76!

His early studies in music included learning the horn under his father and other instruments under the instruction of local priests. By the time he began more formal studies in the city of Bologna, to where the family had relocated, he was ready to receive vocal instruction and the requisite keyboard studies he would need. By 1806 he was accepted to the Liceo Musicale. His musical career truly had an ideal trajectory from that point. From his first opera, La Cambiale di Matrimonio to his final, William Tell, his rise was meteoric as he became the standard for simple and also florid, ornate melodies that challenged the singers of the day to expand their vocal technique in order to sing his music.

While his retirement was figurative rather than literal, he did some composing of non-operatic music including choral works, solo pieces, and chamber music. He enjoyed a vivacious social life and was something of a chef, creating recipes that were enjoyed by gourmands the most famous of which is Tournedos Rossini.

Mozart ColorWolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and his violin concerti

The name “Mozart” is one of those that is synonymous with great music. This comes with good reason as he was from the start a genius able to compose from the age of 5. He studied piano and violin and used these as conduits for his art writing over 600 works for varied combinations of musicians. Understand that many of these works were multi-movement in nature. Therefore, like J.S. Bach., Mozart’s output numbered in the thousands!

In specific regard to his violin-playing abilities, his father, Leopold, encouraged his teen-aged son to add more spirit and fire and play as though he were the greatest in all of Europe. Whether he did or didn’t remains to be seen. Nevertheless, his legacy includes five concerti for violin, the final three of which are the most popular of the set. He wrote the last four of the five in one astonishing year (1775) of composing. This, of course, is in addition to everything else he wrote that year.

The Fourth Concerto in D major has a spritely opening theme that has the characteristics of a trumpet fanfare. Leopold had tried in vain to get young Wolfgang to like the sound of the trumpet and perhaps this is a humorous reference to that lifelong disdain using an instrument he did love. The remaining themes are optimistic and exemplary of the charm we associate with Mozart’s writing.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “BSO & Beethoven” featuring BSO Concertmaster Michael Sutton, who will play-conduct the Mozart Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 20, 2016, at 3 p.m., at the Schneider Theater in Bloomington’s Center for the Ar.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.


Give to the Max 2016 :: Video No. 1

Bloomington Symphony Orchestra principal horn Becky Jyrkas shares about what she loves most about the BSO and why community support is so important to her and the orchestra.

Watch and then give online to the Bloomington Symphony.


Musician’s Musing – October 2016

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by BSO Board Member, Laila Stainbrook. Learn more about her journey from wee violinist to BSO clarinetist!


Laila Stainbrook performs at her first violin recital

It all started with a cereal box, a rubber band, and a stick. My journey into the world of being a musician that is. Thanks to the Suzuki program in Virginia, MN, and the persistence and patience of my mom, I had access to high quality musical training beginning with the violin at the ripe age of four years old.

When I graduated from variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to mastering Gossec’s Gavotte in Suzuki Book One, I earned the privilege to learn how to read music instead of learning by rote. Around then, I also began piano lessons in addition to my weekly violin lessons. I grew up with a piano in the house, and some of my earliest memories are sitting on the wooden bench tinkering around with the keys and making notations — really illegible scribbles — in my mom’s piano books. I would spend hours entertaining myself in a make believe world where I was both teacher and student.

My mom was active in our local community orchestra and sometimes played in the pit for local musical theater productions. In elementary school, I remember tagging along to many of those rehearsals and sitting in the empty auditorium, audience of one, listening while doing homework or reading. Already familiar with strings and the piano, these full orchestra rehearsals were my first exposure to seeing woodwind and brass players. I grew up listening to a lot of classical music, but it was something different to see the instruments and players in person. I was awestruck and immediately drawn to the shimmering beauty and flashy lines I heard coming from the flutes. When I had the opportunity to sign up to play a “band instrument” in the 4th grade, I knew immediately I wanted to play the flute. I hoped and wished my first choice would be granted. It was not. I don’t really remember how our music teacher talked me into the clarinet, or what other options he gave me, but I remember him convincing me it was very similar to the flute, and I should try it. Begrudgingly I agreed, though for months I secretly hoped enough of the flutes would drop out, and I would be allowed to switch.

My musical training continued through elementary and early middle school. I took private violin and piano lessons, and played the clarinet in the school band. And then the summer before 8th grade, my mom and I moved to Duluth. We found new violin and piano lesson teachers for me, and, for the first time, I began private lessons on the clarinet with Frank Garcia at the University of Minnesota — Duluth.

Frank was a San Diego transplant who had studied with legendary clarinetist Yehuda Gilad at the University of Southern California. A talented classical and jazz player, many said Frank’s tone reminded them of long­time Minnesota Orchestra clarinetist, Burt Hara. Listening to Frank play at my first lesson, I quickly realized I never knew what the clarinet could sound like before I heard him play. The clarity of his tone and sincerity of expression struck a chord in my heart and forever made me want to be a clarinetist. I get goosebumps even now thinking back to this experience. In the five years I spent studying with Frank, I fell more and more in love with the clarinet every day. It became hands down my favorite instrument to play. And while I enjoyed playing in my high school wind ensemble, nothing came close to the magic of playing the clarinet in an orchestra. I was able to play works ranging from Elgar to Borodin to Korsakov both in my high school orchestra and also as a part of the Duluth Superior Symphony Youth Orchestra. I believe as clarinetists we are lucky to be able to produce a tone that can either blend in subtly in a supporting role, or project and soar above the whole orchestra like no other voice.

After high school, I attended the University of Minnesota — Minneapolis. There I was able to study music and journalism, and continue with several music performance opportunities from the wind ensemble to campus orchestra to a woodwind quintet called the “Chamberpunks” that I formed with some close friends. I took clarinet lessons all through college, studying with Dr. John Anderson primarily during the school year and Burt Hara and Timothy Paradise during the summer.

Post college, I missed orchestral clarinet playing the most. It was a few years of searching and subbing with various ensembles before I had the opportunity to audition for a full-­time spot in the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra. Now nine years later, I feel incredibly fortunate to have found a group as talented and committed to artistic excellence as the BSO, and to once again play the clarinet in my favorite setting, the symphony orchestra.

The Sunny Era Band

The Sunny Era Band

And these days, I’m flexing a new musical muscle. Shortly after college, I began collaborating with my husband and dabbling in the world of indie rock. What started off as informal jam sessions has evolved into a five­piece rock band called The Sunny Era. I play violin, keyboards, accordion, and sing background vocals in the band. We just finished recording our fifth studio album to be released later this year. (more info at

Whether it’s playing the clarinet with the BSO or rocking out on stage with my band, I am forever grateful to all of the teachers and experiences I had to get me here, and I look forward to many more musical adventures to come!