What Makes a Great Place For a Concert?

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One reason (of many) why I find my position at the Schubert Club so interesting is that we present concerts and recitals in so many venues. It means that I am always happy to hear from people about performance spaces they’ve enjoyed. Though I’ve lived in the Twin Cities since 1995 (with a 5-year hiatus in London), and I’ve been lucky to attend many live arts events all over the place, I am still learning about new spaces where Schubert Club might present live music. This curiosity for new venues is especially relevant for our Schubert Club Mix series which got underway for its fifth season last week at Aria in Minneapolis.

Mix (as it is inevitably shortened to) is our concert series designed to appeal to music lovers who prefer live performances with less formality and concert ritual. We’re intentionally informal; artists interact with the audience more; and we go to extra efforts to make the ambiance in the venue more relaxed than it is likely to be in a more traditional concert hall like our wonderful Ordway (home of the International Artist Series) or a church like St Anthony Park UCC (home of Music in the Park Series). 

As we plan future years of Schubert Club Mix, I will always be on the look out for new and interesting spaces. There are three primary criteria in a space which factor in assessing a space’s suitability for presenting concerts: Acoustic, location, & ambiance.

Acoustic: kind of obvious, but not all big rooms with large volumes sound the same. We’re blessed in the Twin Cities with several venues which have truly world-class acoustics for unamplified music – the Ordway and Orchestra Hall are at the top of that list. The recent removal of carpet and other changes at St Anthony Park’s United Church of Christ have made an extraordinary difference, making this church a wonderful place to listen to chamber music. Not all venues can have superlative acoustics though. What I always look for is a balance of resonance and clarity, and the confidence that the sound produced by musicians and their instruments really fills the space.

Location: it’s not only important to present concerts in locations which are convenient for an audience to get to, but also that they have amenities close by like parking, restaurants and bars and that the whole experience of going out for the evening feels safe and enjoyable. 

Ambiance:  slightly more difficult to put one’s finger on, ambiance is, I believe, hugely significant to an audience member’s enjoyment of an event – and thus an important factor in the decision whether to return another time. Ambiance can be created by the look or architecture of a space, its history, the welcome of our staff and ushers, lighting, even an aroma or some kind of association that is personal to an individual. A great example of this is the comment I hear regularly at Aria when audience members nostalgically remember performances by Theater de la Jeune Lune ten or more years ago.

Since Schubert Club has no primary performance space, we will always be on the look out for new possible venues. This nomadic approach to presenting concerts is, I think, a strength and opportunity for Schubert Club.  We can seek out spaces which suit different performers and meet the needs of different audience members. As our new strategic plan calls for the organization to make connections with new communities, we need to pursue our curiosity to find gathering spaces which we haven’t yet come across.  I’ll be pleased to hear from anyone who has venues or community connections they would like to recommend.





Join us for the first ever “First Thursday” in the Schubert Club Museum

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Today’s blog post is by Education & Museum Director, Kate Cooper. 

So often I hear from visitors of the Schubert Club Museum how surprised they are that we have such an impressive collection of historical music instruments and original manuscripts in addition to the opportunities they have to interact with items in the collection, adding to a memorable hands-on experience. The phrase “….a hidden gem in the Twin Cities” is relayed to me almost weekly.

Since the opening of our galleries on the 2nd floor of Landmark Center, the Museum has been open to the public weekday afternoons from Noon-4 pm in addition to Sunday afternoons. We feel like there is a segment of the Twin Cities population that has been missing out on this “hidden gem” primarily because it is not accessible during hours that are convenient to them. Those visitors who work 9-5 during the week and have other priorities on Sundays really never get the opportunity to visit!

Thus, we are thrilled to announce extended hours in the museum on the first Thursday of every month from 4-8 pm beginning October 5. We hope to be more accessible to the daytime working crowd; we are trying to be more symbiotic with times that people are heading or staying downtown with social and entertainment plans; and we are designating this one evening to offer opportunities separate from school and other public daytime tour crowds.

In addition to the engaging permanent collection, visitors can experience during these extended hours: guided tours, live demonstrations, fun interactive music-making, trivia contests with opportunities to win tickets for Schubert Club performances. And while exploring, visitors 21+ can enjoy a glass of wine along with appetizers and other refreshments for all! 

We hope to see visitors returning several late evenings throughout the year. There will always be something new to see, hear and experience and unique fascinating facts about music and history to learn.  

This first late evening in October will feature our favorite keyboard technician and research specialist, Steve Misener, who will demonstrate cool things and tell fascinating stories about three 18th and 19th century English keyboards.  The first time I saw Steve “dissect” a keyboard I was completely captivated by the intricacies of these magnificent instruments and how the parts all work together to produce their beautiful sounds. Steve also has a gift for remembering and sharing the fascinating stories behind these instruments and their makers.

In addition, we will have keyboardist Donald Livingston compare two of our 18th and 19th century keyboard replicas, the way they work, the musicians who played them, and the most famous pieces relevant to each. Visitors will have an opportunity to plunk out few notes of their own on these instruments as well.

This fun and fact-filled evening of short segments of music talks and demonstrations will enlighten and entertain! It will be a very relaxed atmosphere and there’s no pressure to take part in anything if you’d happily just explore the galleries and enjoy a glass of wine with friends. There will be plenty of joyful sounds filling the galleries – from visitors trying their hand at Indonesian gamelan music, a historic music box playing a beautiful tune filled with chiming bells, or Donald performing a charming Baroque piece on an 18th century French harpsichord replica. Be sure to mark your first Thursday evenings on the calendar, and I’ll look forward to seeing you in the galleries!

Congratulations to Clara Osowski and Tyler Wottrich who won the Richard Tauber Prize for the best interpretation of Schubert Lieder at Wigmore Hall, London

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Congratulations to local mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski and pianist Tyler Wottrich who were finalists in the recent Wigmore Hall International Song Competition in London, and indeed they won the Richard Tauber Prize for the best interpretation of Schubert Lieder.  Clara’s outstanding voice and magical song interpretations are very familiar to Schubert Club regulars and supporters of the Source Song Festival.  

The day after the competition, Clara and Tyler were interviewed on BBC Radio 3  by Ian Skelly.  The 2 hour radio show, “In Tune” can be heard here for another 3 weeks.
Clara and Tyler’s interview and song performances begin at about 3 minutes and end at 22 minutes.

There is also a lovely review of their performance in the competition itself in Britain’s Daily Telegraph.  

2017-2022 Strategic Plan

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The Schubert Club Board of Directors recently adopted a new five year strategic plan for the period 2017-2022. This plan took shape over the course of the past 12 months with input from Board Members, staff, audience, community members and donors. It is our intention to use it as we would us a map, helping us to strengthen our programs and to cultivate new community connections through a shared passion for music.

KEY STRATEGY 1: Invest in new and expanded program initiatives to advance Schubert Club as an innovative and nationally recognized classical music presenter with a strong commitment to music education.

KEY STRATEGY 2: Broaden Schubert Club’s scope of service in the Twin Cities community.

KEY STRATEGY 3: Enhance Schubert Club’s impact on concert audiences, Museum visitors and education participants through interaction, learning and new technology opportunities.

KEY STRATEGY 4: Build strong governance and institutional resources to ensure the long-term ability of Schubert Club to respond to opportunities and pursue new initiatives.

View the Plan Here

Announcing the 2017 An die Musik recipient: Nancy Weyerhaeuser

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The An die Musik Award is Schubert Club’s highest honor. It’s presented annually to one classical music enthusiast whose outstanding dedication and commitment over many years has significantly furthered the work and mission of Schubert Club. It is announced and presented at our Annual Meeting. This year’s well-deserved recipient is Nancy Weyerhaeuser.

Nancy’s involvement with and commitment to the Schubert Club goes back more years than we can imagine.  Since her mother Catherine Neimeyer was President of the Schubert Club Board some 60 years ago, it appears that Nancy had no choice but to be immersed in Schubert Club music and ideas from an early age. A past member of the Board of Directors, a member of the erst-while Corporate Board, a founding member of the Advisory Circle, a still-very-active community member of the Nominating & Governance Committee with apparently unlimited ideas for potential new board members, a subscriber with husband Ted for more decades than we have records, a generous and engaged supporter of all we do, the list of Nancy’s commitment to the Schubert Club is extensive. She and Ted established the John and Catherine Neimeyer International Artist Series Endowment Fund in memory of Nancy’s parents. She and Ted were Honorary Chairs of our 130th Anniversary Gala concert featuring the great American Soprano, Jessye Norman. Because of Nancy’s commitment and thoughtfulness, in addition to her love for music and the Schubert Club, we are honored to award her the 2017 An die Musik Award. 

Bach to Basics Trivia Quiz Answers

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At last week’s Schubert Club Mix featuring music by Philip Glass and Johan Sebastian Bach played by Christopher O’Riley, we had a pre-concert trivia quiz.  Thanks to former Schubert Club intern Quinn Shadko for researching and presenting the quiz.

Here are the answers to our Bach to Basics trivia quiz:

Sound Round

  1. The Beach Boys, “Lady Lynda” (Bach – Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring)
  2. Xzibit featuring Dr. Dre, “Symphony in X Major” (Bach – Brandenburg #3)
  3. Paul Simon, “American Tune” (Bach – St. Matthew’s Passion)
  4. Alicia Keys, “Karma” (Brahms – Violin Concerto)
  5. The Toys, “Lover’s Concerto” (Bach – Minuet in G)


A: Mozart


A: Mendelssohn


A: Schoenberg


A: Brahms


A: Chopin

General Knowledge

Q:Who is attributed with saying that Bach is “the immortal god of harmony?”
A: Beethoven

Q: Bach once walked a great distance to hear his favorite organist, Dietrich Buxtehude, perform. How many miles did he walk?
A: 250 miles

Q: What famous film features Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor during a baptism scene?
A: The Godfather

Q: What Broadway musical draws from Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for one of its main themes?
A: The Phantom of the Opera

Q: What is the common title of Bach’s comic cantata that directly translates from German as “Be still, stop chattering?”
A: The Coffee Cantata


An Endowment: what is it and why does it matter?

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Schubert Club has an Endowment Fund. We are very fortunate to have this Fund  — a vital piece of the organizational and financial puzzle challenging today’s non-profit organizations. I thought I would write my blog today about our Endowment and provide, I hope, some clarity around what it is and what it does for Schubert Club’s programming.

First, what do we mean by “Endowment”? An Endowment is a long-term or perpetual investment owned by an organization that generates income to fund its ongoing mission. The gifts that are given to the Endowment are not spent; they remain invested in stocks, bonds and other investment vehicles, managed either directly or indirectly by the Board of Directors.

The first Schubert Club Scholarship Fund was established back in 1922 on the occasion of Schubert Club’s 40th anniversary!  Over the years, a significant number of donors have added to the endowment with generous gifts and bequests. Some donors may wish to support a particular program, to honor a person, or simply to express their belief in the organization’s mission; but in all cases, the reason Endowment gifts are made is to help ensure the long-term stability of Schubert Club. The current value of our Endowment is approximately $15 million.

Each year, the Board authorizes a certain percentage to be withdrawn from the Endowment to fund programming. Of course we all know that the value of investment portfolios can go down as well as up. So, the Endowment draw authorized by the Board of Directors needs to be small enough to reasonably allow the fund to sustain itself for future years, and large enough to actually fulfill the Endowment’s mission-related purpose each year. This year, Schubert Club’s Endowment draw is 4.5%.

Of Schubert Club’s annual draw, about 70% is restricted by donors for specific programs, and the other 30% is available for general operating purposes. In the current year, the Endowment draw amounts to 28% of our total revenue. The rest comes primarily from ticket sales, donations, grants and sponsorships.

What does our Endowment Fund pay for? Donors over time have made endowment gifts to support Schubert Club’s overall mission in the Operating Fund, as well as to support specific programs. There are five specific areas of programming that the Endowment funds:

  1. The Concert Fund supports primarily our International Artist Series. It pays for some of the artist fees and concert production costs, allowing us to keep ticket prices affordable. You’re unlikely to be able to buy top price tickets to a 5-performance recital series featuring artists like Renée Fleming and Sir András Schiff anywhere else in the country for $200! 
  2. The Music in the Park Series Fund was added in 2014 to help support that wonderful concert series.
  3. The Scholarship Fund supports student musicians through the Bruce P. Carlson Scholarship Competition, the Special Music Grants program, and the Jazz Piano Workshop day.
  4. The Education Fund supports the Schubert Club’s education and outreach programs, which are offered at free or reduced cost to participants.
  5. The Museum Fund has enabled us to keep Museum admission free.   

Endowment giving is not possible for everyone, but it’s certainly not just for wealthy music lovers. Consider this: an endowment gift or provision in your will of $5,000 will generate $225 every year (4.5% of $5,000). Similarly, $10,000 will generate $450 annually.  Every endowment gift, be it $50,000 or $5,000, is meaningful  because it contributes to Schubert Club’s ability to offer our programs to people who share our love of music without the barrier of high prices. 

If music is important to you and if you believe Schubert Club is playing a role in your musical life and in the musical life of the Twin Cities community, please give it some thought.  You can really make a difference.

Theo-what? Shedding light on Theoroi, Schubert Club’s arts ambassador program

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I regularly find myself discussing and answering questions about our very unique young professionals program, Theoroi, with audience members, colleagues in the industry and even our own Board Members. Many people have heard a little about this group, and it has caught their intrigue, but don’t fully understand what the program is and how it fits into Schubert Club’s offerings. So because this is something I am asked about so frequently, I will dedicate this blog post to shedding some light on this complicated and unique program that we’re very proud of.

So, to start: Theoroi is a program that was started in 2011 in an effort to connect more young people to the Schubert Club in a meaningful way. The idea was to introduce new people to a wide variety of arts performances in an effort to give them the chance to sample all kinds of different art forms and pick and choose what they like. Of course, a good sampling of Schubert Club concerts are sprinkled in each season’s schedule with the hope that many of the young participants will come away with a devotion to our organization and our offerings.

Each ten-month season features six or more different events and offers a variety of genres including classical music, dance, jazz, world music, theater, and opera. As much as I’m able, I try to arrange some sort of extra enrichment opportunity for the group such as backstage tours or Q&A sessions with the artists or production staff. I also arrange some sort of social opportunity for each event to encourage the group to get to know each other well and form deep friendships.

We are able to accommodate between 20 to 30 individuals (all ages 21-39) each season. Each participant has to submit a written application stating their interest and making a commitment to participate for a 10 month season. The application period runs from June-August with the season spanning September-June. The cost to participate is highly subsidized by the Schubert Club, so to guarantee a solid commitment from each member and to be sure tickets that have been paid for aren’t going unused, in addition to the cost to participate, each member is also required to make a deposit that is refunded at the completion of the program.

If you remember, 2011 was when Twitter, Facebook and blogging were just becoming very mainstream, and there was a lot of excitement about implementing these tools into the audience experience at concerts. So to jump on board the social media bandwagon, we decided one of the core components of this group would be a requirement to use social media leading up to or after each event the group attended. Activating each user’s social media network would expand the reach of this program beyond just those participating to the hundreds and hundreds of people who are connected to each of the participants through social networks. The idea was that by asking the members to post about their experiences, they will show their peers, “Hey, look, the arts are cool. The arts are for young people. Look at all the great opportunities we have in the Twin Cities!”

The name Theoroi was chosen (despite being a very difficult word to pronounce) because much like the Theoroi of Ancient Greece, whose job it was to journey to festivals as ambassadors and announce and invite others to these celebrations, the members of Schubert Club’s Theoroi act as ambassadors of the arts by spreading the word about their cultural experiences through interactive social media outlets.

So here we are, nearing the completion of year six of the program, and I’d like to share a list of many of the successes of this program so far.

  • Out of about 115 total participants, over 40 have gone on to attend other Schubert Club performances; 14 have made financial contributions and six have gone on to become Board Members!
  • Word of mouth has caught on, and most new participants are a result of positive word of mouth from past or current members, and many people choose to participate for several years in a row (despite an increased cost for returning members).
  • The typical participant has no prior association with the Schubert Club and is a novice to many, if not most, of the different art forms featured in our season.
  • The varied season gives participants a wide variety of experiences which lets everyone come away learning what they like and dislike and hopefully exposing the group to many performances they might not have otherwise attended, fostering a well-rounded appreciation of the arts.
  • Not only are we aiding in the audience development efforts for Schubert Club specifically, but we are assisting audience development initiatives across the entire Twin Cities arts scene. In doing so, the Schubert Club has been recognized as a leader in the area of helping to grow Twin Cities’ audiences.
  • This program gives us the opportunity to form close ties with the audience development, ticketing, and marketing teams at other arts organizations and form collaborative relationships.
  • The last two years have quickly met capacity before the application deadline even passed.

For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into the list of challenges in this post, but I will say that that list is much, much shorter. It is encouraging to see so many young people having very positive experiences at so many of our events and going on to further their engagement with both the Schubert Club and many other Twin Cities arts organizations. I am grateful to the Schubert Club Board for viewing this program as a priority and giving me the opportunity to be involved in such an impactful program.

If you or someone you know is interested in getting involved, watch our website for the application process starting in June, or even better yet, shoot me an email and let me know you’re interested, and I’ll be sure to remind you when it’s time to apply!

Video Interview: Minnesota’s Clara Osowski Wins 2nd Prize in International Song Competition

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Last week, I had the fun task of interviewing Twin Cities-based mezzo soprano Clara Osowski who is just back from Europe having won second place in the prestigious Das Lied International Song Competition in Heidelberg, Germany.  Here are some highlights from my conversation with her.  Sincere thanks to Schubert Club Board Member Peter Myers for recording and editing this interview.

Clara is well known to Schubert Club regulars who have enjoyed following the progress of her career over a number of years.  More information about Clara can be found here.


My description of the Schubert Club – but what is yours?

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A few weeks ago, I was asked for a brief written description of the Schubert Club for someone unfamiliar with what we are.  Sounds easy!  But like the perfect elevator speech, it kept me busy for a lot longer than I thought it would.  Here it is:   

Schubert Club is not so much a club, but rather a community of music-lovers, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to presenting and supporting classical music and musicians, with a focus on solo recitals and chamber music.  Sixty concerts each year feature guest artists and ensembles of world renown as well as distinguished local musicians.  Not just a concert presenter, Schubert Club supports local music students with scholarships, and provides introductory music lessons and workshops for Twin Cities children who otherwise get little exposure to music learning.  A third focus, our Museum in Landmark Center with keyboard instruments from four centuries and handwritten letters from famous composers among its exhibits (attracting 8,000 visitors annually), makes us a truly unique entity.  What keeps this 135-year old organization thriving?  A passion for music and a sincere belief in the positive impact of music on the quality of life.

While writing it, I was reminded that this is an organization that wears a variety of hats.  Music-lovers in this community – indeed music enthusiasts from all over the country and abroad know us for different reasons.  It might be the concert series they have attended for many years, it might be because of a particular composer letter in our Museum collection which throws light on their academic research (as happened recently) or because they participated in Project CHEER or won a scholarship years ago.  Concerts, the Museum collection and music education are all important facets of the Schubert Club and each aspect has a long history.  Even the relatively new Schubert Club Museum will be 50 in less than 5 years!

In addition to identifying what we do, I also want the biography to convey a little of why we do it – the passion and interest in music which ties together all who participate as a community.

But this is just my description of the Schubert Club, and I know that others may see it differently.  I’d love to hear your portrayal of the Schubert Club and invite you to compose a paragraph and post it below in the comments. Try to keep to 150 words or fewer.  We will include some submissions on our website and in future issues of our program magazine An die Musik, and anyone who participates will be entered to win tickets to your choice of an upcoming concert in the 2016-2017 season. We’ll contact the winners by email at the very end of March.