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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Musician’s Musing – November 2018

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by BSO board member and associate principal violist, Sarah Oxendale

I didn’t find music; music found me.

As a young girl growing up in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities, I had no knowledge of classical music. I had no family members that were musicians, and in our neighborhood, few families were able to afford music lessons for their children. Playing an instrument had never crossed my mind, until I was 11 years old and I had the chance to get out of reading class.

One day in fifth grade, Mrs. Wilson visited our classroom. She brought along a violin and played a few songs that most of us could recognize: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Row Your Boat, and other childhood songs. She also played music I had never heard before, but instantly I was fascinated by the sound of the violin, with soaring melodies and sparkling notes. Mrs. Wilson handed out paper and asked us to trace our left hand with a crayon. Then, one by one, she looked at each student’s hand drawing and asked them if they would be interested in learning an instrument. When Mrs. Wilson saw my hand, she exclaimed at my long fingers and said “You can play any instrument you want to! Would you like to try the string bass?” I shook my head no- the violin had found me. Orchestra class was once a week during reading class, and although I loved reading, I loved doing things with my friends even more. A few of my friends signed up for orchestra, and I went home and told my parents I wanted to play the violin.

Many things attracted me to the violin. I, of course, loved the sparkling and dazzling sound of the instrument. I also loved the look of the instrument- carved out of wood and lacquered a beautiful orange-brown color. Most of all, I was drawn to the process of learning how to play the instrument. I loved the tactile experience of holding the violin in the left hand and the bow in the right, and learning how to coordinate the movements to produce a sound (although it took some time to learn how to stop squeaking!). Learning how to move the fingers in my left hand with rhythm and precision took a lot of practice, and I found myself, even at a young age, practicing for hours to master each song for orchestra class.

By the time I was 13, I was fully immersed in orchestra. Mrs. Wilson, who had inspired me to begin violin, recommended to my parents that I take private lessons. I did, and with the help of my teacher, I successfully auditioned to join the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies. There I got my first experience with “real” classical music. In the symphony, we played entire pieces instead of short excerpts, and we had a full orchestra including winds, brass, and percussion instead of my school string-only orchestra. Yet I still didn’t love classical music. As I told my mom, I loved playing classical music but I didn’t like listening to it.

When I entered high school, my musical world broadened. I began studying privately with a new teacher, Lynda Bradley-Vacco. My high school had many opportunities for musicians outside of regular orchestra class, including chamber orchestra, pit orchestra with the musical theater, and all-conference and all-state orchestra groups that I joined by audition. It wasn’t until I was playing music several hours a day, several days a week that classical music found me- I finally began to understand and appreciate classical music. I learned to hear how music evolved with history, from the sturdy Baroque sounds of Handel and Bach to the passionate sounds of Debussy to the unusual and even strange sounds of 20th century music. I began listening to classical music constantly and for me it became an outlet for expression, a respite from stress and worry, and a reflection of joy and happiness.  I learned how to apply my musical skills to bring expression and personality to the music. Around this time I also learned that I loved something even more than the violin- the viola! Compared to the violin, the viola is slightly bigger, with a lower range, a deeper sound, and more richness and depth. There are fewer sparkling, dancing melodies, but more interesting harmonies and beautiful singing tones that spoke to my quiet personality more than the flashy, center of attention violin. With the support of my teacher Lynda (who was primarily a violist herself), I began to learn the viola and decided to switch exclusively to viola when I began college.

Inspired by my teachers, I decided to pursue a degree in music education, hoping to become an orchestra teacher myself. However, as I began to take education curriculum courses, I realized that my love of music did not include a love of teaching. I began to explore other career options outside of music, and I discovered occupational therapy. Occupational therapists are healthcare professionals that work in the rehabilitation process, helping people with disabilities or injuries to gain or regain skills that they need to function in daily life. My particular interest area was hand therapy; this is a specialty of occupational therapy that helps people recover from injuries and surgeries of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand. From my experience as a violinist, learning how to teach my hands to work and refine skills to play an instrument, I knew that I would love helping others with rehabilitating their hands to be able to do the things they love to do. I learned that some hand therapists specialize in working with musicians and treating musician injuries, and I was fortunate enough as an OT student to do a clinical internship with the musician’s clinic at Sister Kenney Rehabilitation in Minneapolis (now a part of Courage Kenney Sports and Physical Therapy).

After graduating with my Doctorate in Occupational Therapy in 2008, I began working full time as a hand therapist. Unfortunately, during my studies I had put my viola aside, as I did not have opportunities or time to play my instrument. Classical music was still an important part of my life and I missed my viola, but my passion for my career, and then my family, came first.

Then, music found me again. In 2013, I had stopped working and was a stay-at-home parent to my infant twin daughters. Lynda Bradley-Vacco, my former teacher, sent me a Facebook message one day and asked me if I’d like to play viola with the orchestra she was leading, the Bethel University Orchestra. I jumped at the chance to start playing and performing music again. I pulled my viola out of storage and dusted it off, and to my surprise it felt easy to play, even after taking a seven year hiatus from playing. My hands remembered what to do; the hours and hours I spent refining my skills paid off as muscle memory. It took a little bit more time to refresh my speed at reading music and understanding rhythms, but I worked hard to gain those skills back to perform with the Bethel Orchestra. Music found me and I felt back at home doing something I loved. Lynda was proud of me for returning to my passion for music, and I was grateful to her for giving me the opportunity and inspiration.

Less than a year after we had reconnected, Lynda tragically died of cancer. For me, and for so many of her former students, the pain we felt could only be expressed in music. Her funeral included music performed by a full string orchestra and honored the gifts of faith, love, and music that Lynda gave each of her students. I decided that reconnecting with her and finding music again had a purpose, and that I wanted to stay involved in music in part to honor her legacy. Years ago, Lynda had played occasionally with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra and had spoken highly of her musical experience with the group, and I decided that I would audition to join the BSO. I’ve now been a member of the BSO viola section for 3 years and I’m grateful that yet again, music found me.

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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. 3

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 “Musical Milestones” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 7, 2018.

La Mer by Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy, composer

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 (1862-1918).

Active imaginations are occasionally fed by real-life experiences or desires. Debussy, whose father had been a proud member of the French Navy, would remark one day when it became clear that the maritime life was not in the cards, “…I’ve retained a sincere devotion to the sea. To which you’ll reply that the Atlantic doesn’t exactly wash the foothills of Burgundy …! And that the result could be one of those hack landscapes done in the studio! But I have innumerable memories, and those, in my view, are worth more than a reality…” So, perhaps it was a good thing that Debussy’s renderings in his colorful work, La Mer, benefited from what what his mind saw, rather than his eyes.

It can be easily argued that Debussy’s craft here led to the single greatest work of the Impressionist period even though, as often happens, the initial critical reception was not stunning. Even critics who were friendly to the composer could not wrap their brains around what they had just heard in 1905. With our contemporary ears, the salt air, the freshness of a welcome breeze, and the sound of fish playing below the surface is inescapable to the point where Minnesotans may recognize a section that was used to sell local spring water on a television commercial!


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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“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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Musician’s Musing – October 2018

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by BSO board member and timpanist, Trevor Haining

I’ve been a percussionist for most of my life. It started with pots, pans and furniture. Then my parents got me my first drum set at age two, a Mickey Mouse kit that I allegedly broke within a few days.  Coming from a musical family, I’m very thankful for an upbringing that allowed me to embrace music. Though my focus was jazz drum set, classical and orchestral music still captivated me. In high school my passion for classical music was ignited by attending my brothers Minnesota Youth Symphonies concert. After being inspired by the musicians playing great, challenging music at such a high level, I decided that I had to be a part of it. I made the symphony orchestra with Manny Laureano conducting and it remains one of the best experiences of my life.

I went to college to study jazz drums and with the help of my drum set professor, convinced the faculty to let me play percussion in some of the orchestras on the side. I remember sneaking into the timpani practice rooms, practicing out of method books and playing excerpts, dreaming of one day playing them in an orchestra.

I first heard about the Bloomington Symphony when I was playing a jazz gig one night. Our oboist, Patrice Pakiz, happened to be in the audience. We ended up chatting and she told me that she played in the BSO, that Manny Laureano was their conductor, and that their timpani position was opening up. I remember thinking how much I would like the opportunity to play with the BSO and to work with Manny again. However, having not played timpani since college, I didn’t think I could win the audition. After my dad kept twisting my arm to audition, I decided to dust off my timpani and go for it, and I’m very glad I did. Playing in the BSO has challenged me to grow personally and musically. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to play great challenging, inspiring music with an amazing community of musicians. It’s a dream come true.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite composers, Felix Mendelssohn:

“Though everything else may appear shallow and repulsive, even the smallest task in music is so absorbing, and carries us so far away from town, country, earth, and all worldly things, that it is truly a blessed gift of God.”

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“Musical Milestones” 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 edition of the “Musings” for the “Musical Milestones” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 7, 2018.

Overture to Candide by Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein

Imagine a life that consists of working a decent job from 9 to 5, five days a week that has you looking forward to those blessed 2 weeks of vacation. There are promotions, a home upgrade or two, birthdays and graduations… all followed one day by a retirement and perhaps many days of earned fishing trips as you rest your head against the memories of a good life free of frequent drama.

The Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) that had one of the most productive 1954’s imaginable could never have sat still long enough to think of living a life as sedate as the one I described. In fact, this pianist/conductor/composer (put those in any order you like) from Lawrence, Massachusetts, was living a prolific and successful decade — one that could easily be the envy of any musician.

In that decade he composed minor and major works that helped develop the language that was clearly “Lenny” from a melodic and harmonic sense. Peter Pan, Trouble in Tahiti, Wonderful Town, the soundtrack for On the Waterfront and its corresponding orchestral suite, the Serenade for Violin and Orchestra, and finally, West Side Story were written and performed. All this while conducting ubiquitously, as well as being appointed to succeed Serge Koussevitsky as the head of conducting for the Tanglewood Music Festival, and producing television programs designed to educate all of America about classical music’s greatest works. He even allowed Felicia Montealegre to convince him that they should marry. Somehow, in the middle of all this, a collaboration with Lillian Hellman spawned a bitingly cynical bit of theater in 1956 called Candide.

Using Voltaire’s classic story as its basis, Bernstein managed to provide the perfect musical context to the acid-laced words from Hellman’s pen. Getting there was no easy feat, however, as the gallery of musical theater personalities all had different ideas about scenery, timing, and deadlines, and because Hellman had a reputation for taking her time. Of course, Bernstein didn’t help matters by going off to Rome to conduct opera performances with Maria Callas, leading to an interminable gestation for this wild musical child.

With Felicia now pregnant with their second child and bills piling up (the Bernstein’s knew how to spend money but saving it was not a huge priority) it truly is a wonder that the work ever got written. But written it was to tepid reception by the critics. It didn’t gain the respect it would eventually garner until the idea to engage noted Broadway Hal Prince in a much more successful revival in 1974. Prince was merciless in cutting what he felt was a bloated original version down to 105 minutes and preserving only the absolute best of the musical offerings.

The operetta brings to life the misadventures of a Professor Pangloss and his students Candide and his Cunegonde as they search for the best their lives can offer in this “best of all possible worlds.” They endure all manner of absurd hardships only to realize what Dorothy Gale learned with a click of her ruby slippers: After searching for their hearts’ desire, there really is no place like home.

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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Musician’s Musing – May 2018

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by BSO first violinist, Kelly who shares her experience with the Minnesota Orchestra Fantasy Camp as well as the trials and tribulations that led her to the BSO.

The Major Leagues – A Fantasy Camp Experience, Part III

Music has always played an important role in my life.  To simply put a complex experience, it has been a constant vehicle of learning and growth.  In addition to the music, from an early age, the orchestra helped me learn what it means to be a part of a team, to work hard, to build trust and relationships, and to have fun while doing it!  My high school orchestra and teacher made the greatest impacts on my childhood, which inspired the decisions that led to where I am now as an adult.

I became a violin teacher.  It’s a job I love and look forward to every day.  But despite that, I was still missing what made me fall in love with the instrument – making music with the orchestra.  So I set my sights on the Bloomington Symphony.  Their reputation and quality was something I wanted to contribute to.  So, I practiced my solo and excerpts and wasn’t sure what to expect – I had never auditioned for a panel before.  Nervously, I played and failed.  It was rough, and in reality, I was unprepared.  It was hard to hear the critiques, but important, since I was already planning on auditioning again.

Next summer came, and this time it was going to be different.  I set a practice regiment, joined a sight-reading orchestra and sought out a teacher for myself.  Alas, it still wasn’t enough and I failed the second audition.

Another year went by, and the Bloomington Symphony had announced that Manny Laureano would be taking over.  This sparked a different motivation in me than before – I had been listening to him play trumpet on stage with the Minnesota Orchestra since childhood.  He was a musical hero to me and I saw this as a huge learning opportunity to play under him.  I increased the practice time, focused my efforts, and began studying under another teacher, Pam Arnstein of the Minnesota Orchestra.  In addition to being an incredible musician, she is equally amazing at teaching and helped my playing reach new levels than before.  I went in for my third audition and passed!  At last, I was in the orchestra.

Why I Play: Kelly Carter

Since then, my time with Bloomington Symphony has been priceless.  The repertoire and demands of Manny and the orchestra have elevated my musicianship to a place I never thought it could be.  I’m extremely grateful and owe a lot of my progress to the group.  I’m pretty sure this also contributed largely into my acceptance in the Minnesota Orchestra Fantasy Camp held last summer.

Fantasy Camp is a 3-day experience allowing amateur musicians to feel what it’s like to be in the Minnesota Orchestra – something I had dreamed about since beginning the violin.  The camp was demanding and expected the music to be fully prepared for the first day.  By doing this, it made room for us to focus on the music making right away, instead of learning the notes.  We also attended talks on conducting with Sarah Hicks, Q&A with Michael Sutton, and rehearsals with Osmo.  But what I was most looking forward to was playing with the orchestra.  We received our seating assignments the second day and BAM!  That’s when the camp became surreal.  My seat was next to Pam.

Our rehearsals felt like it went by quickly but I was ready.  We took our places on stage for the concert and it all just hit me.  Here I was standing on Orchestra Hall, playing in partnership with my teacher, under Osmo, in front of a sold-out hall.  We played Roman Carnival Overture by Berlioz and the crowd went wild.  It’s an indescribable feeling of joy, appreciating the circumstances, work, and support that put you there on that stage.

Without the Bloomington Symphony, it wouldn’t have happened.  I would have never known what preparation meant, or how to quickly interpret the requests of a demanding conductor, let alone my playing quality.  They have helped me grow over the years and I’m so grateful that I get to be a part of the orchestra’s growth now too.  Since graduating, I had missed that feeling of camaraderie, and am honored that I have found it again with this family of musicians, the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra.

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