2015-16 Season Reflections

By Barry Kempton


Earlier this month, I had the opportunity at our Schubert Club Annual Luncheon to reflect back on the past season.  In case you weren’t there, here’s a transcript of what I said.

It’s always difficult to single out highlights from a year packed with so much wonderful music-making and music education programs.  It would be easy to get carried away and mention everything, but I’ve done my best to resist that kind of temptation.

Our headline for concert attendance is, I think, strong:  we sold 800 more seats for the International Artist Series compared with last year and had the highest revenue ever for the series.  And Music in the Park Series chamber music concerts were pretty much sold out again this year.

This past season was the first season in which we’ve been able to present the International Artist Series in both Ordway venues:  the original, elegant Music Theater and our glorious new Concert Hall with its outstanding acoustic.  It was also our first season of morning coffee recitals at the Ordway.  We believe that these daytime concerts (same artists and same programs as the evening series) will grow increasingly popular, in particular with those who have retired or prefer not to be out driving at night – and especially during the middle of winter.

One of the International Artist Series programs included clarinetist Michael Collins & pianist Michael McHale playing Rhapsodos, a fine new work by one of our two excellent composers-in-residence Abbie Betinis.  The piece was commissioned by the wonderful Minnesota Commissioning Club, to whom we owe a big thank you.

Our focus is so often on the outstanding artists and ensembles we invite from the United States and around the world, but it is just as important to celebrate The Schubert Club concert series which feature artists from the Twin Cities and Minnesota.  You might be surprised to learn that between the Courtroom Concerts series, Accordo, the Hill House Chamber Players and Live at the Museum, we featured – and I might add paid performance fees to – over 120 Minnesota-based professional and student musicians; and our programming included 55 works written by 26 different Minnesota-based composers.

Adding to the Music in the Park Series Family Concert Series which my dear friend and colleague Julie Himmelstrup started many years ago, we have just completed our first full year of KidsJam, our new program devised by Kate Cooper, which is a hybrid between workshop and concert for kids to play, create, listen and learn;  we connected fabulous musicians with kids who rarely get access to live musicians and music workshops of any kind.  This year, we partnered with four local community centers which run after-school programs for young kids and at-risk teenagers, introducing them, among other things, to brass music, the art of the didgeridoo and Hawaiian hula dancing.

We said goodbye to some dear friends and passionate supporters of The Schubert Club over the course of this past year.  I will mention Meredith Alden, Elise Donahue, Bruce Doughman, Bill Hueg, Donald Kahn, Helen Smith, and Thelma Hunter.  It’s incredible to think back on what these women and men have meant to The Schubert Club over the years.  We announce several months ago that we have named our Schubert Club Museum performance space the Thelma Hunter Recital Room in honor of Thelma who performed, participated and supported The Schubert Club for over 50 years.

We had our first Schubert Club Patron tour – Paul Olson and I traveled with a tour group of 26 Schubert Club friends to London and then Scotland, following some of the journey Felix Mendelssohn made in 1829.  Fortunately we had a lot better weather than he did – and we did it in 8 days rather than the 4 or so months Felix took.

Finally, it’s important for me to take this opportunity to recognize and thank The Schubert Club staff.  It’s a small team and they work incredibly hard.  I thank them all for their roles in making the 2015-16 the success it was.

My Schubert Club blog will be taking a summer break.  Back in September.