It Takes a Village: Volunteer Opportunities with Schubert Club

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Today’s blog post is written by Kate Cooper, the Schubert Club’s Education and Museum Director. 

As the preparation begins for our 95th annual Bruce P. Carlson Student Scholarship Competition, I am surrounded by to-do lists, timelines, schedules, agendas and rosters.  It’s a chaotic time of the season, but one that gives me great satisfaction.  One of the most fulfilling pieces is the rallying together and camaraderie of what I call the “Schubert Club family” or our great circle of dedicated and passionate Schubert Club volunteers.

The old phrase “it takes a village” is quite apparent when planning for the scholarship competition.  We assemble up to 40 volunteers on a single day of student auditions.  I personally am so energized when I interact with our volunteers who arrive for their assigned positions filled with motivation and enthusiasm.  It results in days that flow like clockwork, and the atmosphere is filled with joy and excitement. 

One of the keys to our success to the Schubert Club volunteer program is our fabulous Volunteer Coordinator, Kirsten Peterson. She is impeccably organized and connects with our volunteers with kindness, radiating a true love for the organization.  “I love connecting our volunteers with opportunities that are a great fit for their interests and talents, and then watching the magic happen”, says Kirsten.  “our volunteers embody what it means to be part of the Schubert Club family, working with friends old and new, united by the music, to support Schubert Club programs.”

A volunteer can enjoy an abundance of Schubert Club programs.  Whether it’s welcoming audiences to concerts as an usher, helping nervous competition students stay calm, or playing silly songs on homemade instruments with delighted KidsJam kids, you will be instrumental in helping people in our greater community of all ages learn to love music and so much more!  Please check out the video below and feel the genuine and heartfelt spirit of Schubert Club volunteerism.

I want to encourage all who are reading this blog to consider becoming an integral part of the Schubert Club as a volunteer, if you aren’t already.  Interact with familiar friends and make new friends as you share a common interest and enjoy fun and fulfilling activities.   Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering adds more zest and happiness to your life as you give to others!

Watch our website announcing our annual volunteer appreciation events which are held every September.  We celebrate and welcome new and existing volunteers to start the season off.  We are blessed with the spirit of volunteerism within our organization so please consider joining the family!

If you are interested in volunteering, and would like to receive more information about opportunities, please email our volunteer coordinator, Kirsten at She’ll put you on our list and keep you informed of any upcoming opportunities. You can also learn more about volunteer opportunities at  


Celebrating Composers-in-Residence: Edie Hill & Abbie Betinis

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Later this week, we will post an announcement inviting applications for a new position for Composer-in-Residence at the Schubert Club.  It will be a revamped composer position, and I am excited at the prospect of reading proposals and meeting some of Minnesota’s finest creative people during our search.

But in today’s blog, I would like to turn my focus on two very special people, the two colleagues who have served jointly in the role of Schubert Club Composer-in-Residence for the past twelve years.  Edie Hill and Abbie Betinis joined the Schubert Club as Composers-in-Residence in 2005.  They were brought into the team by the late Bruce Carlson, Schubert Club Director from 1968 through 2006.  They have devoted their creativity, time and passion for music to a broad array of Schubert Club activities and have provided wonderful inspiration to three different Schubert Club directors: Bruce Carlson, Kathleen van Bergen and myself.

Their twelve years of service is considerably longer than the usual composer residency in a music organization, but their work and contributions have always been fresh and enthusiastic.  I have hesitated to initiate change for this very reason, but we have all agreed that a healthy residency should last a finite amount of time and that change in any creative position can and should be a positive thing. 

A few words about the extraordinary work that Edie and Abbie have done during their residencies.

Edie Hill has devoted herself primarily to our Composer Mentorship program. Under her leadership it has grown to offer mentorship to four high school age composers each year with remarkable devotion.  Those of us who have had the opportunity to see the April performance of the resulting new works in a Courtroom Concert know what an impression Edie has on these talented and creative young people.  It is a profound experience for all involved (Edie included) – and for those of us who have witnessed the program first-hand too.

Abbie Betinis has dedicated herself to the Schubert Club too – in myriad ways.  Though we see her most often as our weekly Courtroom Concert host, her role as liaison to the Minnesota new music community has included both musical and administrative jobs, including advocacy and programming, new music grants and adjudication, staff arranger and engraver, co-administering the Composer Mentorship program, and numerous writing and speaking projects.  Her work lives on in her contributions to our museum guides’ script, cataloging our composer archives, and her Schubert Club book chapter “125 Years of New Music”.

Of course as composers, we’ve heard music by each of them, at least once every year at their Courtroom Concerts.  Their programs this season will be in March and April. 

I personally am grateful to them for their wise words and counsel whenever I’ve needed them.  These are two creative minds and wonderful human beings.  We will have the opportunity to celebrate their contributions and thank them for work at the Schubert Club later this spring.  We are lucky to have artists like these two women in our community.


Live Streaming Concerts Expands Access to Schubert Club

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This coming Thursday at 7:00pm, Schubert Club presents an encore performance of our lunchtime program Songs for the Season, a program dedicated entirely to holiday songs and carols created by Minnesota composers.  It is curated by Schubert Club composer-in-residence Abbie Betinis and colleague Max Carlson, and features an outstanding vocal quartet with guitar and cello accompaniment.  The evening performance, a full repeat of the noon concert, will be held at TPT’s Street Space in Lowertown St Paul.

Those who have attended this particular presentation in Decembers past know that this is a very popular lunchtime concert; so popular indeed that we have had to turn people away when the Courtroom in Landmark Center reaches capacity.  So, adding a repeat performance makes sense for that reason alone.

The 7:00pm performance will be a first for another reason:  we will live stream the concert.  It will be accessible to anyone around the world with access to the internet by going to our website,

More and more performers and presenters are making concerts and events available by live stream.  Our Schubert Club digital technology committee has discussed the merits of live streaming many times, as we see concerts and recitals available online through internet broadcasters like, as well as major institutions like Carnegie Hall and Wigmore Hall.

I’m really excited about Schubert Club’s first ever live-streamed concert.  Most importantly, it expands access to music by 15 Minnesotan composers beyond those who can make their way to downtown St. Paul to listen in the flesh.  I hope families, friends and fans of the composers and performers, indeed anyone with an interest in music written by living composers will join us remotely if they can’t be at the performance in person.

This will be an interesting experiment for us at Schubert Club and I expect that it will signal the introduction of further concerts and events broadcast via the internet.  However, I remain hesitant as to whether we will rush to introduce live streaming of all our concerts, at least in the near future.  For the time being, I expect us to pursue live streaming when a program is unique or in some way special to us as an organization.  So, programs like our Student Scholarship Competition Winners Recital “Schubert Club Musicians on the Rise” and other specially curated concerts will be our focus for live streaming in the next few years, rather than recitals presented in the International Artist Series or Music in the Park Series.   

Watching a live stream online is, of course, not the same as being in the actual room with musicians, music and an audience, a community of fellow music-lovers.  But for those who cannot attend in person for whatever reason, participating remotely is the next best thing.  Whether you join us in person or join us via the live feed, you will be warmly welcome.

Concert details:

Schubert Club presents Songs for the Season by Minnesota Composers

December 15, 2016
12pm Courtroom Concert at Landmark Center
7pm Encore performance at Twin Cities Public Television and streaming live online below

Both concerts are FREE, and we expect both concerts to reach capacity.
The 12pm performance will be first come, first served. We are no longer accepting reservations for the 7pm concert, though if you are interested in attending the concert, walk-ups are welcomed at the door.


More details here:

How We Put Donations to Work for our Community

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As I finish up signing a large pile of letters to generous donors asking them to renew their gifts to the Schubert Club’s annual fund, I’ve been reflecting on how fortunate we are to have patrons who support our programs.  It’s an appropriate moment to be grateful, having just celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday! 

Did you know that the revenue the Schubert Club earns from ticket sales covers just less than 30% of our expenditure?  Our endowment funds with gifts to the Schubert invested over many past decades generates a further 25% of the funds needed to run the organization.  The remaining 45% of revenue comes from contributions and grants – from the State, the City of Saint Paul, foundations, corporations and most significantly, from individuals.

Here’s a brief summary of what those contributions allow us to do:

  • Keep our ticket prices affordable. This current season, a subscriber to the International Artist Series pays between $20 and $51 for their seat – even to hear Renée Fleming in recital!
  • Offer 24 free lunchtime concerts on Thursdays in Courtroom 317 at Landmark Center.
  • Present free family concerts in St Anthony Park as part of Music in the Park Series; and our Azure family concerts (for families with kids on the autism spectrum) are also free.
  • Maintain free entry to our Schubert Club Museum. Last year we had about 8,000 visitors, many of them school groups.  Among the exhibits you can currently see – in some cases even play – are keyboards from 4 different centuries (including an 1830 Kisting piano once played by Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn and an 1878 Bechstein played by Liszt, Brahms and Mahler); original handwritten letters by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin; and a room dedicated to instruments of the brass family including some visitors can try out.
  • Support student musicians with over $50,000 of scholarships.
  • Bring musical teaching artists to a number of after-school programs in Saint Paul and surrounding neighborhoods at no cost through our new KidsJam program (photo above).
  • Provide the Project CHEER program for up to 100 kids in Saint Paul’s Rondo neighborhood with affordable piano and guitar lessons in collaboration with the Hallie Q. Brown Center.
  • Co-sponsor a jazz piano workshop day for advanced and beginner student jazz pianists.

Just under half the number of people who attend Schubert Club events, education programs and our Museum do so without charge.  It is a wonderful way to make sure that music is accessible to all in the community who wish to participate.

So a warm and sincere thank you to all our contributors.  Whether your gift is a few dollars or many thousands of dollars, every donation makes a difference in our community.


Following in the Footsteps of Mendelssohn

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Today’s post is written by Paul Olson, Director of Development at the Schubert Club. 

In the summer of 1829, the 20-year-old composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy made a three-week visit to London and Scotland which resulted in the writing of two of his best-loved works: the Overture – The Hebrides, and the Symphony No 3 in A minor (Scottish).

In May 2016, a group of 28 Schubert Club patrons traveled together to the UK to trace Mendelssohn’s trip in order to experience the sights, sounds and culture that influenced him to write these two iconic works. Most people don’t realize that Mendelssohn was also a painter and sketch artist, and we visited these locations and compared his sketches to the scenes – they are virtually unchanged for the past 187 years.

img_9178We had the privilege of being led on this tour by Mendelssohn scholar, UK musician and orchestra administrator, Stephen Carpenter. Our tour began in London, just as Mendelssohn started his trip before embarking on his Scottish journey. Highlights included a champagne toast atop the Shard (London’s tallest building) while enjoying the vistas of London, a private luncheon and tour at Houses of Parliament, a recital by violinist Augustin Hadelich at the iconic Wigmore Hall (Hadelich will be performing for the Schubert Club International Artist Series concerts on November 29 and December 1), a tour and private recital at Handel and Hendrix House, and some in the group imbibed each evening at area pubs. 

img_2235A lovely train trip to Scotland began our tour to Edinburgh. We boarded a coach and went down to Melrose and Abbotsford (the home of Sir Walter Scott), around the Highlands and over to the western Isles of Mull, Iona and Staffa (with Fingal’s Cave which influenced the Hebrides Overture) and Loch Lomond. Along the way, we experienced quintessential Scottish traditions: Eating Haggis (grain, spices and sheep organ meat baked in the sheep’s stomach, which was surprisingly delicious), having a private Scotch whiskey distillery tour and tasting, walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh in pouring rain, enjoying a private evening in the Queen’s dining room on the Royal Yacht Britannia, and hearing the haunting sounds of bagpipers in traditional kilts. 

img_0257As I now reflect back on the amazing experiences from this tour, I never imagined that a group of Schubert Club patrons, traveling together to Scotland to trace the travels of a German composer, would result in friendships that will last a lifetime. I believe that is the most important thing that came out of the trip. And for that, I sincerely thank you,  Felix Mendelssohn!



Full Halls are Not Good Enough

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The Schubert Club is very fortunate to have a very strong base of donors and subscribers. We are able to brag about halls that are 85% full on average, a number much higher than many other similar organizations, for years and years on end. While we’re proud of these numbers, we are still determined to improve and are constantly working to attract new and younger audiences to our concerts in an effort to make sure the arts remain vibrant well into the future.

Data compiled by the National Endowment for the Arts shows that the average age of classical music audiences has shifted from an average age of 42.5 in 1982 to 49 in 2008. Additional studies reveal that about 9% of the U.S. adult population participated in classical music events in 2012, down from 11.5% in 2002. Similar downward trending statistics are true for other disciplines including Art Museums, Musical Theater, Jazz, Dance, and Opera. This same set of data shows that the biggest decreases in arts attendance are among young people. This could be due to the increased competition for young people’s leisure time, a waning of arts education in schools, or because more and more people are getting their “arts fix” through technological means versus live performances. Whatever the reasons, it seems quite apparent that all arts organizations need to play their part to help ensure we reverse this trend and help ensure arts appreciation grows among the youth of today.

The Schubert Club has several initiatives to help grow arts appreciation in younger audiences. We have our Family Concerts for kids of the very youngest of ages. KidsJam workshops (interactive music workshops in our Museum and after-school programs) and Project Cheer (free private music lessons at the Hallie Q. Brown Center) target school aged children. We also have a unique program called Theoroi that aims to grow arts appreciation in a group of young adults, ages 21-40, and encourages them to share their enthusiasm with their peers using social media.

In addition to these programs, we also have student ticket discounts, extremely affordable subscription options for students, a discount ticket membership program called “Five Dollar Scholar,” and we have tailored our marketing strategies to better connect with younger audiences.

While we’ve seen great successes with all of these initiatives, our work is by no means done. As we celebrate our 135th anniversary season and look forward to the next 100+ years, reaching new audiences will remain a top priority for us. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas about how to cultivate a new generation of arts appreciators. Please do share with us.


About Tessa Retterath Jones
Tessa Retterath Jones is the Marketing & Audience Development Manager at the Schubert Club, responsible for all aspects of marketing, ticketing, audience development, and online communications such as social media and content. Tessa has been with the Schubert Club since 2006. 

The Power of Music: reflections on a recent Kidsjam workshop

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Today’s blog post is about one of our newest education programs, KidsJam, written by Kate Cooper, our Director of Museum and Education at The Schubert Club. 

nirmala-photo-1The 2016-17 season of KidsJam began last week with some great moments as over 100 children played, listened, learned and created with music in workshops led by Nirmala Rajasekar and her percussion partner, Boopathi.  Students in after-school programs at Hallie Q Brown Center, Ramsey County Library – Maplewood, Arlington Hills Community Center and Paul Wellstone Neighborhood House participated in the Ragas and Talas (Melodies and Rhythms) of India, creating and playing their own rhythm instrument called a Mridangam.

kidsjam-2However, some new descriptive words came to mind after a very moving session last week at one of the KidsJam locations- impactful, freedom of expression, empathy, responsiveness, sensitivity, compassion, nondiscriminatory.  Twelve children from 4-5 different cultures gathering together expressed their feelings after hearing some improvisational Indian music sung by Nirmala.  They all meditated deeply throughout the performance and following, shared their stories with deep emotion.  What struck me, was the way these children, many who looked quite different from the child sitting next to them, comforted and embraced each other without any barriers of skin color or race between them.

kidsjam-3Nirmala was in awe by the flood of responses from these children, most only 7 or 8 years old.  “Responses from ‘calming’ to ‘feeling safe’ to ‘feeling like I am sitting right here with a family member who died’ to ‘missing my parent who I see rarely’;  the emotions discussed were deep, powerful and matured coming from the mouths of seeming babes.  The blessing of a common experience was upon us, the whole space had a transformed atmosphere.  Not many dry eyes listening to each child share.  I was personally full of gratitude….to the magical notes of music that connect, help understand one another and transform us…continually across man-made boundaries….a bridge like none other.”

Hailey, one of the group leaders at this venue said this experience “…was unlike anything I would have ever expected.  We had a very emotional night full of peacefulness laced with sadness as many children were willing to share their stories and their sorrow.  In my 3-1/2 years with this program, this is the first time that I have seen music bring out such raw emotions from my kids and bring us all closer.  It’s a moment I’m going to remember for the rest of my life!”


Ears, head and heart:  they all play their part in listening to music

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After a relatively quiet summer – at least in terms of attending concerts – I find myself back in full swing.  We’ve had two Schubert Club concerts already and look forward to welcoming Renee Fleming and Hartmut Höll for their recital this coming Wednesday.  But I’ve also recently been to several other concerts locally, and I’ve been on the road to hear various artists and ensembles during August and September.

Especially when I go to hear a musician or ensemble we’re considering for a future Schubert Club invitation, I go with heightened senses.  I’m listening, I’m trying to figure out if this is music-making which would fit on one of our series, in short I’m in full judgment mode. 

When such performances begin, I’ve grown conscious that I’m usually listening very analytically.  How do I rate the technique, what about tempos, dynamics, phrasing, intonation, sound qualities, overall shape, stylistic choices appropriate to the music.  Does it all add up to something interesting?  It’s highly subjective of course, but these are all things that help us all assess a performance, and consequently help me to determine whether artist A or ensemble B are high on our wish list or not.

But I’ve noticed that on many occasions, after I’ve spent a few minutes organizing those thoughts, the really strong performers cause me to forget about analysis.  Instead, of thinking about the language, it’s what the musicians are communicating which takes over.  It doesn’t matter how they’re doing it, it’s the music they are making which speaks directly to the heart.   It might be uplifting and comforting, it might be unsettling, but it’s at that point that I’m won over.  After all, having a command of any language is only useful if you have something meaningful to say.  It’s not that the analysis isn’t worthwhile, but at some level we all respond to music and musicians at a gut level.  It can be difficult to speak or write articulately about how we respond to music and why a performance was good or not.  Sometimes we can only express a reaction in terms of “it was great.”

Have you attended any performances lately that have spoken to your heart? Please share with us.


Barry Kempton is Artistic & Executive Director of The Schubert Club. Originally from the UK, his previous management experience spans 25 years at the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and City of London Sinfonia.
More posts by Barry Kempton

Five things I like to see in concert venues – before even a note is heard

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Over the summer I read a blog post of a professional orchestra wind player who wrote up a list of things he didn’t like to see during a concert. Apparently he developed the list initially for student musicians he was coaching.  I agreed with pretty much everything he included, but it got me thinking about what I actually do like to see.  I came up with these five things pretty quickly, all in advance of the actual experience of hearing any music.

  1. Smiling ushers and welcoming box office staff as I enter the venue. If the journey to the venue has been trying, parking difficult or the temperature outside is 20 Fahrenheit below, a warm welcome changes your mood.  It’s nice to think that someone appears to appreciate the effort you’ve made to get there.
  2. A clean and tidy stage or performance area with lights focused on the stage – and also on any special features in the room. For example, a former presenting partner of the Accordo series (Ben Johnson) encouraged us to feature the impressive candlestick at Christ Church Lutheran – and to light the candles.  It was a lovely image which many audience members commented on.
  3. A buzzing, expectant audience. One of the reasons we go to concert venues is to experience music in a community of fellow music-lovers.  So, walking first into the lobby and then into the performance space itself is particularly fun if other people are excited about the upcoming experience too.
  4. Musicians entering the stage with a purpose. It might seem trivial or of little importance to some, but I believe that the way a musician or ensemble enters the stage and engages with the audience from the moment we see them, tells us audience members something about the performance we’re about to experience.  It’s all about the energy projected from the stage.  Audiences (consciously or subconsciously) respond to the energy coming from the stage, they reflect their own energy back to the performers.   And as many artists have told me, they feel that energy from the audience, feed off it and usually perform better because of it.
  5. Well-dressed musicians. I am not a fan particularly of uniforms or conventional concert dress.  I don’t mind it, but I have grown tired of seeing orchestras in tails, evening dress or all-black attire.  Most important for me, is that musicians on stage have made some effort (shirts ironed, shoes polished), that they have thought about style (and some color please!) and that these don’t look like clothes they might have worn on the way to the concert.

Disagree? Or did I miss something important to you?  Please let me know.  Maybe you can help us improve the experience of attending Schubert Club concerts this coming season.    

2015-16 Season Reflections

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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.