“Capriccio espagnol” Musings Now Posted!

We are pleased to post Manny’s Musings, a preview of the program notes for our upcoming concert. Enjoy these notes, and buy your tickets for the concert to hear these pieces played in person. 

Capriccio espagnol

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Finally, this afternoon’s concert will end with a Russian work that has become synonymous with Spanish musical styles. The Capriccio espagnol of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov has been thrilling audiences since its premiere in 1887 in St. Petersburg.

A painting of an older man with a long gray beard and glasses, who is sitting at a desk, looking at a large paper document
A portrait of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov by Valentin Serov (1898)

Though he showed aptitude for math and science as a lad, he fell prey to the muses and succumbed to a lifetime in art. So much so, in fact, that after meeting other Russian composers of the day and excelling in his piano studies, he became a member of what became known as “The Five.” The Five were Russian composers who made it their business to establish a clear identity for Russian music. Thus it was somewhat ironic that Rimsky-Korsakov would become so well known for his Spanish Caprice. Yet, perhaps not so much when we remember that he was the man who wrote a book on orchestration that would become a required text for study for many composers that followed after him.

The Capriccio was first thought of as a solo work for violin and orchestra but he thought better of it and spread the wealth of his composition among the various instruments in the orchestra. It is, for all intents and purposes, a five-movement concerto for orchestra!

It begins with a lively Alborada that celebrates our daily sunrise with full percussion complement and competitive solos by the clarinet and solo violin. The lovely Variazioni that follow are a smooth showcase for the horns and voluptuous strings, ending with a wandering flute that leads us to another Alborada but a half step higher and the sound of what is mostly a wind band. The penultimate movement, Scena e canto Gitano is a suite of opportunities for soloists and complete orchestra sections to, well, show off a bit at their own pace before we end with the Fandango Asturiano and its blindingly energetic whirling dance music. The pace is dizzying and intoxicating but this is Spain… eso es asi!


Favorites: Yours, Mine, and Ours will be presented at the Schneider Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts on Sunday, November 19 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $14-$25 for adults and seniors, and free for students with ID and can be purchased online or by visiting the Bloomington Box Office in person Wednesday – Friday: 12:30 – 4:30 p.m., or by emailing boxoffice@bloomingtonmn.gov or  calling 952-563-8545

A photo featuring violin, viola, flute, clarinet, oboe, and bassoonists, a mix of men and women, wearing black outfits or tuxedos, taken from an overhead perspective
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Now Posted! Manny’s Musings ~ Bach’s Violin Concerto

We are pleased to post Manny’s Musings, a preview of the program notes for our upcoming concert. Enjoy these notes, and buy your tickets for the concert to hear these pieces played in person. 

Violin Concerto in E Major, BWV 1042

Johann Sebastian Bach

Genius reveals itself in myriad ways, but what is key in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is the unbelievable simplicity in the construction of his works. This certainly goes for the other great composers, as well. Beethoven was another with a talent for creating masterpieces out of simple arpeggios and rhythms that seem to have been born of a tantrum.

In Bach’s Concerto in E Major for Violin and Orchestra, he launches upward in typical optimistic fashion, taking the listener with him on the sonic roller coaster ride that is characteristic of so much of his music. In fact, it truly does seem to have the uplift that is found in the second of his Brandenburg concerti. Bach was reputed to have written quite a few concerti for violin, of which only three remain, one of them being a duo. What is not emphasized enough is the sheer virtuosity required to play these concerti. Familiarity may have us think that these are works that are merely “tossed off” by a soloist. Not so.

Johann Sebastian Bach (aged 61) in a portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann, copy or second version of his 1746 canvas. The original painting hangs in the upstairs gallery of the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) in Leipzig, Germany.

In the first movement Bach provides us with the opportunity to witness the cleverness that takes us from ascending melodies that seem to not want to come back down to earth, to minor passages that are almost stern in character. Bach sets up a cadenza that pauses before the soloist and orchestra settle into a firm ending.

The slow movement displays what Bach does so well. That is, an elegant melody that is sweet without ever becoming maudlin or self-indulgent. Although the Romantic era in music and its ancestral Baroque era have about 75 years (arguably) between them, Bach seems to provide one of those glimpses which speak of a different day to come. Mozart and Beethoven were partners in the same effort, whether accidental or intentional.

As the third movement begins, do not deny yourself the smile that is inevitable as the forces launch into a 6/8 time worthy of a dance! It is, typical to Bach, a briefer movement than the preceding two and is meant to provide the listener with the same taste in the mouth as would a tantalizing bonbon after a good meal. If you find yourself rocking to-and-fro in your seat as the music plays, not to worry, we understand.

Favorites: Yours, Mine, and Ours will be presented at the Schneider Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts on Sunday, November 19 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $14-$25 for adults and seniors, and free for students with ID and can be purchased online or by visiting the Bloomington Box Office in person Wednesday – Friday: 12:30 – 4:30 p.m., or by emailing boxoffice@bloomingtonmn.gov or  calling 952-563-8545

Three violinists in a row, one man with glasses, and two women with curly hair, play
https://bloomingtonsymphony.orgBSO Concertmaster, Michael Sutton with violinists Jennifer Volby and Anna Andrews, play in concert Photo credit: Leslie Plesser
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Musicians Musings – April 2022

We are always thrilled to share the non-musical talents of our musicians. This month’s musing is written by SO Principal Trombonist John Metcalfe. Read on to learn more about John’s other artistic pursuit, and then visit the link at the bottom of the page to bid on the lamp (auction will be open April 24-28, 2022).

A white man with white hair plays a trombone, a younger Hispanic man plays trumpet in the background
John Metcalfe, BSO Principal Trombone & Stained Glass Artist

I joined the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra in the fall of 1985 as principal trombonist, a position I have held since then.  In that time I have played for some very talented conductors, played with some incredibly gifted colleagues, and performed some of the world’s greatest music.  I even had the opportunity to solo with the orchestra – twice – playing the Gordon Jacob “Concerto” and the Launy Grondahl “Concerto.”  As a non-professional, playing in this wonderful orchestra has allowed me to pursue this avocation at a high level well into my retirement years.

In addition to playing in the orchestra, I have also served on the Board of Directors and have contributed to various orchestra fundraisers.  This includes a stained glass lamp that I contributed to this year’s event.  And that brings me to my other avocation, stained glass work.

A stained glass lamp created by BSO musician John Metcalfe

I had long admired the stained glass work that I saw at various art shows, such as the Renaissance Festival.  Then one day, about 15 years ago, I was running some errands and happened to walk past a stained glass supply shop.  I stopped in and asked the proprietor if stained glass was an expensive hobby.  He replied, “It’s cheaper than golf.”  I liked his attitude right from the start.  He said they had a beginner’s class coming up in a month.  I signed up, took the class, set up a studio in my garage, bought the necessary tools, and jumped in.

The pieces that I make are either panel lamps (lamps consisting of 4, 6, or 8 flat panels), windows or hanging panels, or small suncatchers.

I have sold a few pieces that were commissioned, given a few as gifts, and we have a number of pieces in our home.  But many of the pieces I have made have been donated to causes that are meaningful to me.  When the Bloomington Symphony participated in Taste of Chocolate, I donated lamps to the silent auction.  And for the past ten years I have donated to a similar fundraiser at my former school, Community of Peace Academy.  A few years ago, I created three large windows for the Prayer Room at my church, Augustana Lutheran in West St Paul. 

And I have donated many pieces in support of the Lutheran Church in Guatemala, with which my church has a partnership.  Most of those projects have been in conjunction with our annual gala fundraiser.  But one project consisted of four large windows which are installed in the Lutheran Center in Guatemala City.  (The glass pieces were cut and packed here and then assembled and finished in Guatemala.)  When I told the proprietor at the glass shop that I was working on this, he remarked, “Cool!  You’ll be hung in a foreign capital.”  To which I replied, “I guess that’s better than being hanged in a foreign capital.”

This has been a great hobby for me.  I have a CD player in my studio.  And since most of the glass work is quiet, I can listen to great music while doing the work.  I may lose track of time, but I know that if I get to the end of a Mahler symphony, it’s time to take a break.

You can help the BSO make it’s end of year fundraising goal by bidding on this lamp or one of the other fabulous items and experiences on our virtual auction. Click here to see all of the items on this year’s auction. Thank you for supporting the BSO!

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Remembering Kristin Brinkmann

By Sara Kleinsasser Tan

Kristin Brinkamn
Kristin Brinkmann, violinist

My first encounter with Kristin was in late August 2014, via a message from the BSO’s website contact form. Her message simply read: “Being on permanent disability from MN Orch and suddenly being relegated to the audience is seriously not agreeing with me. Would you have a spare chair for me here? I miss it too much.”

A short time later, Kristin joined the BSO as a first violinist, where she served as assistant concertmaster, filled in as concertmaster from time to time, led sectionals for the second violin section, and served on the Board of Directors.

If you attended a concert between October 2014 and November 2017, you likely saw a very tall (over six feet!) first violinist who would sit on an unusually tall chair on the outside of the section. She didn’t always stand when the rest of the orchestra rose, and she’d often stay in her chair during the intermission.

In addition to the aforementioned disability, Kristin lived with Parkinsons disease. She was forced to step away from her professional playing with the Minnesota Orchestra, but with the right combination and timing of pain medication, Kristin was able to prepare for and participate in the BSO’s weekly rehearsal. She would embark on the long drive from her home in White Bear Lake, to rehearsals in Bloomington, often arriving early to give her time to move in her heavy chair, and warm up her muscles enough to be able to play.

During her time on the board, Kristin provided me with so much insight that could only come with her extensive musical experience. One example that stands out is the unique perspective she offered on repertoire. One year, Manny had his eye on a certain piece for an upcoming season concert. Kristin knew the piece from her days at the Minnesota Orchestra, and warned against programming it, noting its difficulty for the professional musicians of the MN Orchestra. She was able to suggest alternate ideas that would lead the ensemble to musical success and musicians’ personal satisfaction.

I leaned heavily on Kristin’s editing skills for program notes and grant applications. She vigorously used the Microsoft Word editing feature, enthusiastically placing every comma, correcting many a grammatical error, strictly adhering to her inner style guide, always making sure the BSO was representing itself to the highest standard.

Over the years, Kristin started experiencing more and more pain. Following the November 2017 concert, she stepped away from playing and unfortunately never returned. We have missed Kristin’s playing and presence, but have always been planning on her return to playing and board service. We were heartbroken when we received the news that Kristin died of pneumonia on January 24, 2020, at the too young age of 52.

We humbly offer this tribute, along with the rose on the empty chair, as a memorial to a musician who has left her indelible mark on our organization. We are grateful for her time and service to our musicians and board.

We encourage you to read Kristin’s “Musicians Musings” posted on our website where you can read more of her story in her own words.

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Dmitri Kabalevsky Stayed at My House by Michael Sutton

Sounds like the title for a children’s book. Maybe it should be.

It’s 1979, and I’m having a wonderful childhood. I go to school, play with my friends, etc. In my mind, it’s nothing out of the ordinary, except that I’ve been a Suzuki violin kid for five years, I practice every day, and I’m starting to get good at it.

Before I go any further, allow me to introduce my parents so this story makes more sense. My loving mother Phyllis is the backbone of the household, taking me to lessons and helping mepractice, while steadfastly supporting my talented dad. His name is Vern, and he is balancing a singing career while also being a professor, and head of the opera department at the University of Minnesota.

I realize now that my childhood was anything but ordinary.

My parents inform me that we are going to have company, and that it isn’t family. They set the usual ground rules, and added a new one; I was not to use the phone while he was here, so that we could focus all of our attention on our guest. That was OK with me, because as a nine-year-old I didn’t really use it that much.

I had no idea who our guest was, just that he was important.

At our South Minneapolis house, near the University, arrives Dmitri Kabalevsky. He is a kindly old man, very tall, softly speaking a language I have never heard before. Thankfully, he has a translator traveling with him! She is magnificent; beautiful and elegant, her English so perfect it sounds fake. She is always there to help, but never in the way. I don’t remember anything she says in particular, except that I am welcome to call her Tatiana, and him Dmitri. It’s a short visit, and he has a busy schedule. But we are able to share some meals together, after which I play my little heart out for him.

Our house and car are his lodging and transportation during his stay, so Dad chauffeurs him to his functions at the University. One magical time, I get to go along. We pile into the front seat of our maroon Chevy Malibu station wagon, Tatiana alone in the back. As I sit in the middle of the bench seat, Dmitri ever so gently cradles my hands, rubbing them like you would a newborn. I feel an overwhelming sense of calm. He turns his head to the side and speaks over my head to his translator. Tatiana explains he is saying I must take care of my hands, as they are my gift.

Fast forward to adulthood.

This part would not be in the children’s book. This part is called “come to find out.” When I was old enough to understand, my parents let me in on a few things about this incredible visit. The University invited Kabalevsky to be their guest as they put on a festival honoring him and his music. He asked to stay in a home rather than a hotel, and we got the nod. This meant a few things were put in place behind the scenes:
That old rotary phone I was told not to use had been tapped by the CIA. I hadn’t even noticed the unmarked van parked next to our house. We were followed everywhere. That’s what happens when a high-ranking KGB agent stays at your house during the Cold War. “Tatiana” as she called herself, was there to make sure Kabalevsky didn’t defect. Our government was making sure she wasn’t here to steal secrets from Minnesota companies who worked with the Department of Defense.

Hearing this for the first time was chilling. But after the initial shock, my memories warmed me back up: I was so grateful I saw the whole event through the innocent lens of a nine-year-old. None of the politics I was oblivious to would ever take away the unspoken emotional bond I shared with my new gentle friend, Dmitri.

A score to the Concerto for Violin, written from Dmitri Kabalevsky to a young Michael Sutton

Come and hear Michael Sutton play Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Violin Concerto on Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 3 p.m. Complete concert information is available here.

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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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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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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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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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Musician’s Musing – March 2018

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by BSO first violinist, Jessica Cheng who shares her experience with the Minnesota Orchestra Fantasy Camp.

The Major Leagues – A Fantasy Camp Experience, Part II

Fantasy Camp with the Minnesota Orchestra was an incredible experience. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. All I knew is that my friend, Cynthia, expressed interest in participating, and she managed to sucker me into doing it as well. I had initial doubts if this was going to be worth my time since I had to take time off of work. But as I look back on the two days that I spent in Orchestra Hall, I can confidently say that the time was well spent.

 

Some highlights from the Minnesota Orchestra Fantasy Camp:

– I had the privilege of sitting next to Rui Du, the assistant concertmaster. I was extremely humbled (and intimidated!) by his talent, but the best part about sitting next to him was getting to know him outside of his profession. We talked about our Asian backgrounds, our families, and how this event was something that he also enjoyed. We also talked about how we are both transplants to Minneapolis and the associated challenges that transplants often face. This ability to empathize with similar issues made me realize that I, Jo Schmoe with a corporate job, am actually not that different from a professional musician.

– The orchestra knows how to have fun. I remembered mentally preparing myself to be as professional and serious as possible on stage, especially in front of Osmo. But my nerves quickly faded away when I saw everybody smiling and joking around, including Osmo. You could truly tell that these musicians loved playing together. And there’s definitely some ‘class clowns’ in the orchestra (e.g. viola section, Peter McGuire, dare I also include Michael Sutton?)

– I am proud of the musicians that the Bloomington Symphony brings together. We are a talented bunch. I was taken by surprise after the second rehearsal when Jonathan Magness, second violin, and I were chatting and he told me that I sounded great! I was thinking, “who? Me?!” The compliment has since resonated with me, so Jonathan, if you’re reading this– thank you. That meant so much to me.

– If you have never played at Orchestra Hall, you absolutely have to. The acoustics are out of this world. The ability to play in such a beautiful and pleasing space was worth every penny.

– And last but not least, the highlight of the entire experience was the standing ovation from a completely sold out concert. We struck our last chord of Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, and the roar of clapping and whistles was overwhelming. As I looked out, I saw a row of my closest friends and colleagues, and my heart was filled with so much joy. In that moment, I realized that I had just played with the Minnesota Orchestra, and I was so happy that I was able to share that moment with the people who are so important to my Minneapolis community.

I thank the Minnesota Orchestra, Sarah Hicks, Osmo Vanska, and my fellow amateur musician friends for making the Fantasy Camp so fun. I am honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to play with some of the best musicians in the world in an incredible venue, and I look forward to doing it again!

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