Courtroom Concerts: The Little Series that Could

By Max Carlson

Wander into the beautiful Landmark Center at Rice Park on a Thursday noontime, and if your route takes you near the high-ceilinged, wood-paneled courtroom on the third floor, you are likely to hear a performance by some of the finest musicians in the Twin Cities. The music is part of Schubert Club’s Courtroom Concert Series.

The series came into existence in 1992 as successor to the long-running “Live from Landmark Series,” co-sponsored with Minnesota Public Radio. At that time, MPR was making changes to its programming format and reassigned priorities. When the decision came to cancel “Live From Landmark,” some hearts sank; however, almost as quickly a remarkable recovery materialized, due in part to Ramsey County’s desire to provide free events in the building. 

Only a few changes were necessary: the programs would no longer be broadcast, and the venue was changed from the Weyerhaeuser Auditorium in the lower level of Landmark Center to the Ramsey County Courtroom on the third floor. 

Schubert Club would continue to tap superb performers from our musically-rich community: orchestra players, teachers, student scholarship winners, and freelancers. While some might recall a few empty seats in the first years of this new series, it didn’t take long for word to spread that here was a little concert worth coming to. Now the concerts are often “standing room only.”

Complimentary coffee continues to be served each week, and there is no admission charge. But the real draw is the interesting and varied programming, which has remained the focus of the series throughout the years. From Early Music to music composed earlier in the week, from marimba to mezzo-soprano, from solo piano to string quartet, a broad mixture of programming keeps the series fresh and keeps the crowds coming.

Hosted by composer Abbie Betinis, the Courtroom Concerts run from October through April.