60th Anniversary Recollections from Past Music Directors & Concertmasters

Over the past 60 years, the BSO has been fortunate to have strong musical leaders including the following Music Directors & Concertmasters. We are thrilled to share the following recollections and well-wishes, contributed by each author.

Music Directors

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra was a family affair.  My husband, Paul (Doc) Evans was the founder and first conductor until his death in 1977.  I played cello and our teenage son, Jeff, played violin. The entire family pitched in to fold programs and greet guests at performances. After 15 years, I left the orchestra and formed a string quartet, Ms. Bloomington Quartet which consisted of women from the BSO; we even performed at the Governor’s mansion.

In 1984, I married Bob Hattery and moved to Bloomington, IN, where I found a baroque trio (cello, piano, and recorder) to play with.

We moved to Grand Marais in 1988, where I was a part of the Christmas Concert at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, directed by B.J. Muus. In 2013, I moved to Northfield, where my son and I played in the Village on the Cannon’s Christmas event.

Eleanor Hattery, widow of Doc Evans (1963-1977)

You would think someone who grew up as F. Melius Christiansen’s paper boy and Olaf Christiansen’s student and neighbor would naturally choose a career in music. Not me. I was determined to become a psychologist–but I still played my trumpet and sang in (and eventually directed) my church choir. Then came Dr. Frank Bencriscutto and the University of Minnesota Concert Band Ensemble. Still, I pursued psychology. It wasn’t until a stint at the Mayo Clinic where I was often called on to talk suicidal people off the Mayo Tower that I began to see that music can be a major part of good mental health. So after spending some time as a counselor, I kept blowing my trumpet and looking for musical outlets. The Bloomington Symphony offered a much-appreciated opportunity.

Doc Evans was the founder and director of the Bloomington Symphony when I joined as a trumpet player and part-time percussionist in the early 1970s. Doc was somewhat new to orchestral conducting, especially the use of fairly complicated scores. He sometimes lost his place or turned too many pages. I was stationed near him and assigned the task of calling out bar numbers when needed. I became interested in conducting and offered to be Doc’s assistant and amazingly, he agreed.

The seed was planted, and I began to recognize the role of community in our musical world. My family had recently settled in Minnetonka, so I approached the Minnetonka City Council with a plan to bring music into our neighborhoods. Fifty years ago next year, the Music Association of Minnetonka (MAM) was founded. It is thanks to Doc Evans and all the wonderful friends in Bloomington that I saw a need for music everywhere.

In Minnetonka, we started with a symphony orchestra and grew to an organization at one time recognized as the largest community music program in the country. During the 1990s, we sponsored an auditioned Symphony Orchestra and grew to a total of ten groups for music lovers ages 6 to 96. One of the choirs for high school girls, the Minnetonka Chamber Choir, competed nationally and internationally and became well-known worldwide. Along the way, I also directed the Apollo Male Chorus for 35 years. This wonderful ensemble has been around for well over 100 years and is still going strong.

In 2014, my back started giving me trouble. (Too much skiing and bouncing around waving my arms had turned part of my spine to sand.) It was time to pass many musical opportunities to youngsters among us. I am eternally grateful to all the people who encouraged me, helped me, and shared their lives with me over the years. Special thanks and congratulations on your 60 years, Bloomington Symphony, and best wishes for many years to come

Sincerely, Roger Satrang Hoel, Assistant Conductor, 1964-1977

I spent 13 wonderful years as conductor/music director of the BSO (1984-1997) and it was an honor to make music with this fine orchestra.  There are too many cherished memories to recount, but when I ponder my experiences with the BSO, I so enjoyed the opportunities to make great music and forge meaningful relationships with all the gifted instrumentalists, devoted board members and of course the many supporters of this fantastic organization. 

Music is always at its best when it is shared and there is nothing quite like the full symphony orchestra in action on stage, bows moving in unison, lush and vibrant colors blending across the various instrumental sections, and the wonderful interaction among the musicians on stage and between the musicians and the audience.  Music is a reflection of the human spirit, and we are captivated and inspired by its power to move and enlighten. I am continually filled with gratitude for all the many experiences I’ve shared on stage, and my time with BSO was a formative time in my musical development.

Many of you know I’m married to a BSO cellist. When Jane and I became engaged fairly early in my tenure with the orchestra, the BSO threw us a huge party at violinist Mary Hamel’s home. They showered us with toasts, provided entertaining live music (performed by my St. Olaf colleague, pianist Charles Forsberg), and gave us gifts that we still treasure.  It was a lively, festive occasion – one that Jane and l will never forget! 

I was pleased to be part of the BSO’s musical growth in the 80s and 90s. We enjoyed strong audience development and the inauguration of the new BSO Endowment Fund, which has grown nicely over the years.  And we shared lots of fun times, including annual spring picnics with the Management Committee at our home in Northfield.

In addition to our regular concerts featuring great symphonic works by the masters in the fall, winter and spring, the BSO always gave a summer pops concert on July 4th as part of the Bloomington Summerfete celebration. We enjoyed huge audiences seated on the grass for as far as we could see. These concerts were always followed with fireworks, which were deafening as we tried to hurry off stage!  The outdoor concert on one particular July 4th evening was the windiest I’d ever experienced.  I had to put a sizable rock on my conductor’s score to keep the score from flying away, and of course turning pages was nearly impossible.  At one point, there was an especially strong gust of wind and my score suddenly flew completely off the music stand.  As I looked up to see how the orchestral musicians were faring, I saw about a dozen pieces of music flying through the air as BSO members jumped from their chairs to try to catch their parts to no avail.  I could hear some in the audience gasp and I caught a few delighted eyes from those sitting close to the stage.  Under the lights, it was quite the spectacle!  I have no idea how we made it through that concert, but I assure you it was one of the most stressful experiences I’ve had on the podium.

Many of you know that I spent 41 years as a music professor and conductor of the St. Olaf Orchestra at St. Olaf College in Northfield.  I retired in the spring of 2022 and I am happily engaged in guest conducting activities and composing new works for orchestra.  

I was thrilled to be asked to compose new work (Handprints)  tin celebration of the BSO’s 50th anniversary and I am honored that the orchestra chose to offer a reprise performance of Handprints for this year’s 60th!  As I indicated in the program notes, Handprints represents the hands of all who have impacted this ensemble.  The hands of the incredible musicians, conductors, the hard working hands of the board and staff, and the hands of all the hundreds of donors and others who regularly support the orchestra through their presence at concerts and other events associated with the BSO.  

Steven Amundson, Music Director 1984-1997

I was an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Minnesota when I was also conductor of BSO. Prior to my time at the university, I was assistant conductor of Minnesota Orchestra and was familiar with many of the musicians there. Imagine my surprise when I checked my staff mailbox (a physical box in the university music office) and found an application to BSO from Milana Reiche, a first violinist with Minnesota Orchestra! I contacted her and explained that our pay was not too big and asked her why she was interested in playing with us. She assured me she wanted to play with BSO as a way to give back to her community. She took the BSO audition. Of course, she was accepted, and she became the concertmaster of BSO, replacing Elizabeth Bell, a long-time concertmaster who had recently stepped down.

At one of the BSO rehearsals, when I gave the cue for the first violins to come in, NOBODY from the section played! It seemed Milana had miscounted and didn’t come in at my cue. It was then that I realized the section was following her more than they were following me. I stopped the rehearsal and noted to the orchestra that the first violin section trusted Milana more than they trusted me. I told the first violin section that I might have to give them a wrong cue sometime just to test them! We all laughed about it then, and I still laugh about it now.

I have many other wonderful memories of conducting BSO. I wish the orchestra continued success and longevity.

Akira Mori, Music Director, 2000-2005

Akira Mori, conducting a tsunami relief concert in 2011

Joseph Schlefke was music director and conductor of the BSO from 2007–2011. He loved every minute of it and is still thankful to the wonderful players of the BSO for consistently engaging in such meaningful music-making. After completing his tenure with the BSO, Joe traveled throughout North America for about a year before settling in Mexico to become an English teacher.

He currently lives in Pachuca, Mexico with his partner and their dog, and he works for a international publisher of English teaching materials. He regularly travels to more than a dozen countries in Central and South America, speaking at conferences, delivering workshops, and working with English teachers. He sends heartfelt congratulations to everyone associated with the BSO, past and present, and the very best wishes on the remarkable occasion of the 60th anniversary concert. 


I succeeded Eddie Horak as Concertmaster of the BSO way back when Doc Evans and Roger Hoel were the conductors. More recently, after sitting in as a sub for a couple of outdoor concerts last summer (2022), I am glad to see that the BSO is still flourishing under Manny Laureano. I thought the playing level of the orchestra was quite high for some challenging music. 

David Preves ~ Concertmaster 1974-1976

Presently I am in my 38th year as a professor of Violin and Viola at St. Olaf College. I have often toured with the St. Olaf Choir, performing as violin and viola soloist (over 350 concerts) including 7 times at Carnegie and Severance Halls and to Korea and Japan in 2017. During my time with the Bloomington Symphony, I began playing as a regular substitute in the viola section of the MN Orchestra. I played with them from 1991-2011. I participated in 5 domestic tours with the orchestra while playing up to 30 weeks each year.

I am on the music staff at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church where I conduct the 40+ member orchestra. I teach 18 high school and middle school students in Northfield and Rochester where I also work with the Southeast MN Youth Orchestra (SEMYO). In addition to music-related activities I ref over 185  high-level soccer  HS varsity and adult games each year.

My favorite memories of my Bloomington days were driving back and forth to rehearsals and concerts with Steve Amundson from our home base in Northfield, MN.  Bloomington Symphony was a place where I connected with many former St. Olaf students, some of whom still perform in the orchestra today. I began to seriously date and eventually marry my wife Deonne while we both played in the orchestra! 

Some performances I especially remember are: Playing Wieniawski Polonaise and Dvorak Romance solos with the orchestra at Nativity of Mary Catholic Church; Playing the concertmaster solos in Rimski-Korsakov-Scheherazade at Christ the King and performing the premiere of Dan Kallman’s “Messiah, Prince of Peace”.

I had the pleasure of sharing a stand with long-time member Jim Chlebecek. We shared many breaks in rehearsals and concerts cheering for the Vikings backstage-especially as Steve Amundson was an avid Packer fan. I also have fond memories of the break times in our rehearsals when the orchestra gathered around the “snack” table in the old 98th and Penn community center.

Charles Gray ~ Concertmaster 1986-1992

A fond memory for me with the BSO was when former MN Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vanska came and conducted the BSO in a “side by side” with the Bloomington High School Orchestra in the middle of winter. He had just been guest conducting the San Francisco Symphony and flew to conduct us for a rehearsal and concert on a Sunday evening. His dedication and commitment meant a lot, and so many were touched by his artistic influence.

Since leaving my position as concertmaster of the BSO, I have continued work with the MN Orchestra, participated annually with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, made frequent visits to Havana, Cuba as part of CAYO, and participated in various ensembles across the twin cities and US. I love that I was able to spend some of my years with the BSO!

Milana Elise Reiche ~ BSO Concertmaster 2006-2010

I think back so fondly to my time with the BSO, and especially how warmly I was welcomed by its wonderful and kind members. At every single rehearsal, I was met with so many smiles, and so many people happy to contribute in many ways – everything from asking clarifications on bowings to helping set up or tear down chairs. I was also lucky to work with a variety of conductors, spanning from the end of Joe Schlefke’s reign through an intense conductor search and into Manny Laureano’s inaugural year. 

Thinking back on my biggest highlight with the organization, I have to say that performing the Shostakovich violin concerto with this group was a lifetime dream-come-true, and I will always treasure the memory of that opportunity.  I’d aspired to perform this piece in full since the age of 12, and it is because of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra that my hope came to fruition. As always, the can-do attitude of the BSO musicians, who gamely tackled the challenges this concerto presents to the entire orchestra, was the key to success!  Thank you, Bloomington Symphony, for being such a special part of my musical journey. 

Rebecca Corruccini – BSO Concertmaster 2010-2014 (Photo from 2013)