Musician’s Musing – January 2018

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by BSO Principal Cellist and former Board President, Laurie Maiser.

 

The Major Leagues – A Fantasy Camp Experience

I’m a small-town Minnesota girl.  Born and raised in Austin, MN, it was a special event when we would have a school event to trek up to “The Cities” to see the Minnesota Orchestra.  As a student cellist, the MO was the brass ring – the incredible group of hometown professionals I daydreamed about being a part of someday.

But then 25 years passed, in which I switched from my Music major to Economics, worked in IT, married, and had kids.  The aspiration switched from performing at Orchestra Hall to just making time in a busy life to attend the concerts.  Then one day last spring I had three people send me the same email – the Minnesota Orchestra was hosting a Fantasy Camp

Fantasy Camp was a 2+ day event in July, culminating in a performance of Berloiz’s Roman Carnival Overture on stage in a side-by-side with the Minnesota Orchestra, under the direction of Osmo Vänskä.

I wrote about it a lot on social media, so when the BSO Board asked me to write a blog post about my experience and what I can bring from it back to BSO, I thought it would be easy.  No problem, I can do that in a week.  That was a couple of months ago.

Turns out, it was harder than I expected.

The experience was sublime, no doubt.  The performance flew by so quickly…. followed by rousing cheers and a standing ovation. The crowd was full of our “plants” – each camper got 10 comp tickets – but still, the crowd reaction was icing on the cake. Two thousand people cheered us on. The MO musicians smiled and congratulated us as we walked off the stage – they were gracious and classy at every turn.

But what did I learn?  What can I bring back to BSO?

There were little cello things I thought of right away – how I learned so much from sitting next to Tony Ross, principal cellist, and trying to mimic shift timing and bow articulation.  How well Osmo Vänskä can imitate the roar of a motorcycle.  How the cellists all stick their end pins right in the floor – and have metal files backstage to keep them dangerously sharp.  But most of you don’t care about that.  So I kept thinking.

I left that camp a changed musician, but why?  If it wasn’t the little things, then what were the big ones?  I think I needed some time to live with these changes to put them into words, but I finally found some.

Preparation, preparation, preparation.  Without doubt, the level of preparation of MO musicians is exemplary.  We were told when accepted into Camp that we needed to know that music when we arrived, and they weren’t kidding.  We had sectionals on our own, but our rehearsals with the MO musicians were little more than run-throughs.  When you walk on that hallowed stage, you are expected to have every note down.  How much would we all grow if we had that mindset whenever we played?  We are largely amateurs in BSO – we all have other commitments – but what if we all did our best to come into that first rehearsal performance-ready?  What if we could use those rehearsals to work on ensemble and musical expression, because the notes were already there?

Think like a conductor.  Sarah Hicks, Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, did a seminar for us on The Art of Conducting.  She went through the preparation of a conductor– what they must think through, what decisions they must make – before they lead an orchestra.  This was truly eye-opening.  I always study recordings of our BSO repertoire, but am laser-focused on the cello line.  This inspired me to listen differently.  What else is going on?  Which line are we taking over?  Where do we fit in the context?  I hear music differently now than I did before, and even catch myself conducting in the car.

The orchestra is a family.  BSO’s own Concertmaster, Michael Sutton, was tasked with talking to the campers about what was loosely titled “Auditions.”  They couldn’t have put that job to anyone better suited.  We heard his personal story, asked a bunch of questions, and eventually through his candid and colorful storytelling heard some hysterical “inside jokes” of the orchestra that – more than anything all week – connected us to the MO in a personal way and made the “fantasy” come to life.  What can each of us do to bring that culture of professional respect, personal courtesy, and a playful sense of humor to our playing experiences?   How can we make coming to rehearsal a personal pleasure beyond the music?

Above and beyond all of this, however, I walked out with overwhelming gratitude for the Bloomington Symphony.  You see, unlike some of the other “campers” I met there, I did not leave camp wistfully wondering when I would get to play symphonic music again. I have an incredible opportunity every week to make music at a high level with truly wonderful people.  I can keep learning under the inspiring leadership of Manny Laureano and Michael Sutton – who through their examples make every rehearsal like our own mini Fantasy Camp.  I’ve always been proud and grateful to be part of the Bloomington Symphony, but never more so than now.  Like any incredible vacation, Fantasy Camp was a tremendous thrill to experience.  However, at the journey’s end… there’s no place like home.

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Musician’s Musing – December 2017

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by BSO Principal Bassist, Chuck Kreitzer.

Chuck Kreitzer, Principal Bassist

 

Hello, my name is Charles Kreitzer although I prefer to be addressed as “Chuck”.  I was most happy to contribute to the musician’s musings when asked by Sara Tan, I am a returning bassist this year with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra as I played a couple of seasons previously in the late 1990’s when Bill Jones was the conductor.  I was born into a musical family; both of my parents were public school music teachers in Sioux Falls, SD, my father was a bassist and my mother a cellist.  All of my 5 siblings also are practicing musicians in one genre or another.  I remember as a child that my friends were a bit jealous in that I always knew what I was going to be as an adult: a musician.

My first experience with music was learning the piano at an early age.  When entering the 5th grade I began my journey learning the French Horn.  I played the French Horn through college and was actually a French Horn major as a freshmen in college.  One day while I was attending the University of South Dakota the orchestra director found out I could play the bass a bit he recruited me to play bass in the orchestra.  Playing a stringed instrument in an orchestral setting was far more enjoyable than playing French Horn in a concert band setting (I no longer needed to worry about breath control nor my embouchure!).  Truly playing a wind / brass instrument is an internal experience whereas playing a stringed instrument is external.

I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of South Dakota (if you have never been to see the Shrine to Music, now known as the National Museum of Musical Instruments, you really should!) and then received a Masters of Music from the University of Colorado in Boulder.  Both degrees were in performance, I later finished my teaching certificate in 1984.  When I began teaching public school music in 1985 I was only planning on teaching no more than 5 years, my goal was to be playing in a professional orchestra by then.  But the years flew by and then I had a family, plans change.  I’ve very much enjoyed the past 33 years teaching public school orchestra but sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I had made it into a professional orchestra?   I have auditioned for the Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, Omaha, Minnesota Orchestras to name a few…

As most of you know, when you show up for an audition there’s well over 100 other fine musicians trying for that coveted spot.  At my “seasoned” age I’m thankful that I still have the opportunity to actively participate as a musician rather than just a consumer of music.  For me, music is an aspect of my life that will never fail me, I feel very fortunate that I’m in a profession where I get to teach young people the joys of making music, and hopefully it will become an important aspect of their lives too.  When my mother developed dementia, when she could no longer communicate verbally she could still play the piano without missing a note.   I’m thankful for once again being a member of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, thank you!

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In memoriam: Jennifer Werner, BSO Substitute Trombone

If you attended one of the BSO concerts in 2016-17, you had a 75% chance of hearing Jennifer Werner play as a substitute bass trombonist. She was our “first call” sub for that chair (for many years, not just 2016-17!), and an immensely talented and capable player. As a bonus, she was the wife of the BSO’s tuba player, Michael Werner, and their chemistry as players and spouses was obvious to anyone who saw them interact onstage and off.

Following is the obituary written by Jennifer’s sister, Stephanie Sheldon. Our thoughts our with Jennifer’s family, her husband Mike, and all of the friends and musicians whose lives she impacted through her too brief but shining life.

Jennifer Werner, Bass Trombone
Photo credit: Leslie Plesser/Shuttersmack

Jennifer Werner passed away peacefully in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by family, on September 13th, 2017 at the age of 29. She lost an unfair battle against a rare and aggressive cancer, NUT Midline Carcinoma (NMC), after being diagnosed just a short 1 month and 10 days prior.

Jennifer’s passion resided in the arts. She attended the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and received her Bachelors of Arts in Music Therapy. Alongside working full time, she gigged with jazz bands including the Adam Meckler Orchestra, and played in classical ensembles including the Encore Wind Ensemble. People who have had the honor of playing with her or have listened to her play, know that she could slay a bass trombone part in a rockin’ jazz tune then turn around and create beautiful classical music as part of an orchestra. She possessed a musical talent that we all could appreciate, and quite frankly, be jealous of.

As much as music was a part of her life, her attributes far exceeded her musical talent. She was a wife, a daughter, a sister, a dog mother, a colleague, an aquascaper, a remodeler, a liberal advocate, and a friend to so many. Her personality, sense of humor, opinions, drive, and thoughtfulness will be greatly missed as we are left here to comprehend the loss of a truly beautiful person.

To honor Jennifer, celebrate her life, and help others that are fighting this impossible battle against NMC, our family is holding a benefit/memorial service open to all friends and family on Saturday September 23rd, 2017 from 12pm-3pm at the McColl Pond ELC in Savage, MN. This will be in place of funeral services, as Jennifer has selflessly donated herself to the University of Minnesota for research on this rare cancer. Jennifer’s musical colleagues and her husband will be providing live music for the event. The proceeds from CD sales from the Adam Meckler Orchestra and money that is donated will be given to the NMC Registry Research Fund out of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. Our family will then donate all proceeds on what would have been Jennifer’s 30th birthday, 9/27/17.

For more information on the Memorial Service, please check out Jennifer’s CaringBridge site.

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Audition Date Scheduled

The Bloomington Symphony will hold auditions for Principal Trumpet and Percussion on Sunday, May 21. If you are interested in either of these positions, please send an email to auditions@bloomingtonsymphony.org for more information.

We will have a string audition date announcement shortly. We will be holding auditions for all string sections including leadership chairs in the first and second violins, violas and bass. We encourage all players to submit a video at your earliest convenience to be included in the early summer audition date.

All successful candidates will be invited to join the Bloomington Symphony at the Arts in the Park concert on Thursday, August 10 (rehearsals will begin on August 3).

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra performs at Arts in the Park, August 2016

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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.

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Give to the Max 2016 – Michael Sutton

Hear from the Bloomington Symphony’s Concertmaster Michael Sutton!

Then, Give to the Max here!

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Musician’s Musing – November 2016

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by BSO Board Member and second horn player, Brian Rule. Read his Musing to learn about how his encounter with a piece of hair metal turned his high school teammates to the beauty of Beethoven.

The Wango Tango.  If you are a classical music lover, I wouldn’t be surprised if you had no idea what this song was (nor would I really blame you) but this hair metal band piece is a strange example of promulgation of classical music, whether you believe it or not.

Brian Rule, BSO Horn player and Board Member

Brian Rule, BSO Horn player and Board Member

We talk of music and its importance to each of us, but music in my life never existed in a vacuum.  I was also engaged heavily in academics (as many musicians are) throughout K-12 and college, and I saw accomplishments in sports that mirrored the ones I had in music, and possibly exceeded my musical endeavors.  In my younger years, I was treated to a great deal of music according to my father’s tastes- pop music from the 50’s and 60’s, but also his love for folk music, and I also experienced his adoration of the Boston Pops, as well as an extremely treasured find he came home with one day- a used record of solos by trumpet virutouso Rafael Mendez.

But all things being equal, my interest in classical music was minimal when I had my first chance to play a musical instrument starting in 6th grade.  In fact, aside from a few well known pieces, the thought of sitting for a lengthy symphony made me practically queasy.  It wasn’t until I had unwittingly landed myself into auditions for the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies that the allure of classical music began to reveal itself to me.

Within a year, classical was all that I listened to, and all other music had lost its appeal.  I would rather sit and listen to Handel’s Water Music on a loop than a single hit on mainstream radio.  By the time of my sophomore year, I could barely fathom the time before my classical music renaissance any longer, and it was at this point, as I was beginning to hit my stride musically, that I managed to pull myself into our school’s State 200 Medley Relay team as their best (and only) breaststroker.

At meets, I would sit quietly before my main events with a pair of headphones listening to the old hand me down Walkman player my dad had let me use listening to the most inspiring classical music I could find.  Favorites included Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries (of course), the finale to Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony, Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony and Chopin’s Military Polonaise, but no piece stoked as much flame within me so much as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  Everyone knows those opening chords to the symphony, and to be fair, they do and have always caught my attention and drawn me in, unwilling to allow myself to be satiated by only a quick blurb of this iconic work of musical art, but this is not the part that I look forward to most.  No, as I sat there at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in a side room waiting our turn to swim our relay in a swim off for a chance to compete for the 16th place spot in the finals the next day, I was listening to the third and fourth movements of the piece on loop, and the sensation I got from that symphony was visceral.

How we had gotten there was in itself a story.  We were a motley crew of sorts; our butterflier was our top man in the individual medley, who owned a spot on the record board for many years, but who was also a cad who saw himself as a ladies’ man.  He once told me when he was accused of egging a well-known teacher’s home who lived two houses down from me, “I didn’t throw a single egg and I never would have, but you can’t blame me for handing them to the other guys in the car as fast as I could.” Our backstroker was a young prodigy of sorts in the water and the youngest of the team, who also owned a place on the record board for a ridiculous amount of time after graduating, and whose advanced talent in the pool was contrasted perfectly by his delayed emotional maturity while our freestyler was the quintessential pretty boy, perfect grades in school as well as a soft mannered jock and all around likeable guy whom I very much looked up to.

And then there was me: scrawny for my age, overly chesty, awkward in every sense of the word and far more of a dork than I care to remember.  We had tied the other relay for 16th place going into prelims down to the ten thousandth of a second and now had to face off for the right to make it to the next day.  The other team all shaved their heads and disappeared into a group chant on the bleachers opposite our side of the pool.  The stands were filled with virtually no one, save the 8 sets of parents, versus bleachers that moments before had been packed with thousands of people, and we, the four of us from Elk River, sat preparing with as much individuality as our varied backgrounds would suggest.  Spencer, our team captain and butterflier watched me, listening to a Sony Discman when his curiosity got the better of him.

Whatever I was listening to, it was having an effect on me, and he wanted to know what it was, so he cut a deal with me- if I’d listen to his music, he’d listen to mine.  Worried it was some kind of cruel setup, I cautiously applied his headphones, and he mine and my eyes nearly fell out of their sockets as the earphones lit my ears up at full volume “ALRIGHT! IT’S ZEE WANGO, ZEE TANGO!”  The music was odd, too loud and left me speechless, but strangely I couldn’t quite hit the stop button.  Meanwhile, Spencer was lost in the rapture of Beethoven, stopping after a moment to tell me “holy ****, this is intense!”

The exchange caught the attention of our coaches and team mates, who also were too curious to let my motivational music slide by without a listen as well.  The consensus?  Definitely Beethoven.

Behind the blocks, we stood, each stretching and shaking our limbs loose while our opponents stood as a group egging each other on to greater and greater levels of impetus.  Their coaches chanted and hollered to their athletes, and they were unified in one purpose and mission.  On our side, Coach Eidem stood with Spencer’s Discman, banging her head to Wango Tango, while Doesken contemplated Beethoven, and our respective parents attempted to fill the empty aquatorium with their screams.

“Take your mark! BEEP!!” and the race was on, and we were on fire.  As the last man of the other team slammed into the wall, he looked up at the board and immediately caught his time.  He marveled at the fact that after a long, hard day of competing, they had managed to cut their time a half second from their original swim.

“That’s great,” his coach derided, “but they dropped 4 seconds.”  Had we managed that same feat earlier in the day, we would have been solidly in 5th place, instead of 16th, but then, it didn’t matter.  We were going to finals, which was a first for all but one of us.  The school record we set that day also lasted for many years, though I was equally proud to see the new names replace it when the time came. But even if their time was faster, I stand firm in the knowledge that the magic of their swim didn’t compare to ours.

And Spencer? Before he graduated, he’d occasionally come to me to share new classical music he’d discovered and to ask about what else I had to share, and word spread among the rest of the swim team.  When I wasn’t sitting prepping for a race myself, others wanted to borrow what I had to inspire themselves, and the results were equally as magical.

Wango Tango still brings back fond memories, but the Beethoven?  To this day it still makes me rocket from wherever I may be standing.

For those who are curious, we leave you with this:

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Musician’s Musings – September 2016

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by substitute flutist and BSO Board Member, Charlotte Bartholomew. 

Does music give you chills?

Charlotte Bartholomew, BSO Board Member & Substitute Flute/Piccolo

Charlotte Bartholomew, BSO Board Member & Substitute Flute/Piccolo

Having been born to two parents who were musicians, I assumed everyone in the world felt chills or had emotional responses when listening to music.  Imagine my dismay in junior high when, upon doing a scientific survey of one – with my closest friend – as we swooned over songs played by the most popular band on the radio at the time, her answer to my question about whether she felt chills was, “No.” I hid my shock, having thought the question was basically rhetorical.

Five years later, as a music major in college, I instinctively knew I was among fellow chill-feelers.  Whether we are simply listening, or participating in making the music, apparently 50% or more of us have this type of reaction (read the article!), and the percentage is much higher among musicians.  While this sensitivity may or may not make me a better communicator, it influences my drive both to create and listen to music, not just in a vacuum, but in the rewarding and unpredictable province of Other People.

“Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.”
– Leonard Bernstein

As with all artistic works, there is something wholly impressionistic about music – the experience of it is different for each individual; at once, we share it with others and own it for ourselves.  In an orchestra, we seem to be doing both simultaneously.  During those glorious moments when we are musically and mentally in sync, I equate the chills I feel to a sympathetic vibration with everyone else in the group, and I believe that collective sensation is telegraphed to audience members. They, in turn, feel chills or whatever the music happens to evoke for them.  That is when we are communicating beyond printed notes on a page.

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BSO Benefit Recital 2016 Photos

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Musician’s Musings – March 2016

This month’s Musician’s Musings might better be called “Manager’s Musings,” since it was written by our General Manager, Sara Tan. We hope you enjoy the chance to learn more about a person who helps the BSO to do what we do – make great music!

The Long and Winding Path

by Sara Kleinsasser Tan

SaraI remember the moment when I had the revelation: I was sitting in a Music History exam at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. I suddenly and somewhat inexplicably thought, “I want to be the Education Director a major orchestra.” Until that point I had only considered being a middle school or high school band director. The entire trajectory of my life had been pointing in the direction of Music Education and teaching band in a public school, so to have such a sudden change of heart was surprising.

Two years later, while chaperoning a middle school orchestra trip, I met Gary Alan Wood, the Education Director at the Minnesota Orchestra. He and I chatted for awhile and I boldly told him, “I want your job.” A decade later, I started working with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, one of the Twin Cities’ finest community orchestras. While not in the education department, nor at a “major” orchestra, being the General Manager of the BSO been a wonderful fit for my passion to support the arts in my community. It also allows me to work while caring for my two children, ages five and three.

The positions that led me here helped prepare me for this very job. I taught beginning and middle school band in southern Minnesota for a year, then returned to my alma mater, Concordia, where I led domestic and international concert tours for the band and orchestra. After that, I spent a year working as the Artistic Coordinator for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, then moved to Cleveland, Ohio where I worked in the Education Department at the second-largest performing arts center in America, Playhouse Square. My husband attended the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and while there, I worked with the leadership programs for MBA and BBA students.

During my brief tenure as a public school teacher, I gained a deep empathy for what music educators do. I’m especially grateful for the wonderful musicians and teachers who the BSO partners with every year for the Bloomington Orchestra Festival.

While in Detroit, I worked with dozens of classical, jazz and pops guest artists and conductors, including the Beaux Arts Trio, Dawn Upshaw, Oscar Peterson, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Mark Wigglesworth, Itzhak Perlman, k.d. lang, and John Lithgow. I spent hours with these artists, driving them to the concert hall, learning more about their artistic and personal lives. I learned the importance of contracts and navigated the complicated process of obtaining artist visas.

My experience at Playhouse Square was much more rooted in theater, but I learned a great deal about working with a team of passionate individuals, true community outreach and the beauty of work that is being created for young audiences all over the world. At the Ross School of Business, I led a team and had a chance to flex my creative muscle while developing new and innovative programs for the world’s top MBA students.

After relocating to the Twin Cities in 2009, I took some time off to start my family, but a chance encounter with a BSO musician led me to take on the challenge of managing the BSO. In my day-to-day work I make sure the bills get paid, make sure the librarian has music to distribute, correspond with musicians and community members, and make sure venues are secured. I work closely with the Board of Directors to help accomplish their goals and am in close communication with the Music Director to assure he has what he needs to accomplish his musical goals.

This position allows me to exercise my mind – and on concert days, my feet! – and do work that doesn’t always feel like work. I feel fortunate to be in a position where I can do work that is important, while learning and growing myself and supporting such a great community asset. I hope you will join me in supporting the BSO in some way – Maybe you’ll audition to play, join the board, make a donation or attend a concert. No matter what you do, your time and effort is valuable to the BSO.

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