The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra’s (DSSO) staff goes well beyond the musicians, it also relies on two St. Scholastica faculty members to provide key contributions to their performances.
Music department faculty members Bill Bastian and Penny Schwarze are two of the people making the concert a complete program. While both have made appearances as musicians for the DSSO, it’s in other aspects of the concerts that their value shines.
"They hire me sometimes to sing, although it’s been a while," Bastian said. "I do the pre-concert talks, so before the concert I meet with whoever wants to be there and I tell them about the pieces that they’re going to hear. Not really unlike the way I would introduce things in the Intro to Symphony and Opera courses here."
During the pre-concert talks, Bastian presents the idea’s to the audience differently from the way he does for his college courses, where he doesn’t give specific themes and expect students to notice them, but rather he is more complex and in-depth with the DSSO audiences.
Schwarze plays a similar role, only in print form, as she writes the program notes for the DSSO’s classical music concerts.
"I’ve been writing the notes for the past four or five years," Schwarze said. "They give seven concerts each season that are serious or art music, and then they do two or three that are classical, they are intended to give the audience members some background on the pieces."
Schwarze, who teaches stringed instruments and music history at St. Scholastica, admits that she can sympathize with students when they have to write papers and our sweating it out.
"It takes a surprising amount of time," Schwarze said. " But since music history is my background, so I do enjoy the research part of it. The writing however is harder, deciding how to fit my 20 pages of notes for each program into two pages for the booklets."
Schwarze was first involved with the DSSO as a musician, as she was granted the seat of Assistant Principal Second Violinist in her section. But after a few years the time commitment became too much and she has since been a substitute for the orchestra.
While Bastian primarily performs as an opera singer, he says that his enjoyment of symphony music is much different.
"I really enjoy the symphony’s," Bastian said. "For me when I listen to a symphony I listen to it like anybody else who doesn’t play and instrument, I find the music viable, workable and expressive."
Bastian, who’s wife is also a part of the DSSO as the Principal Second Violinist, credits his passion for symphony to the music of 20th century English composer Von Williams.
"It’s music that’s of a really relatively conservative nature," Bastian said. "It’s music that in many ways could have been made 50 years prior to when it was and not been out of place. He was never really out there to write strange music, but rather to things that he wanted to hear, and so that’s what really touched me early on."
Schwarze’s ties to her role go back to a former student who was offered the position, but recommended her instead.
"He was working as the librarian for the symphony and they asked him if he wanted to write the program notes," Schwarze said. Which he said no to because it would just mean more papers on top of his school work, but thought that I would be a good person to ask."
Schwarze’s studies and passion of music history make her a great fit for this role with the DSSO, but she still enjoys the opportunity to fill in as a violinist with the orchestra.
"I’ve especially enjoy being ask to play as a substitute after I’ve been writing the program notes to play music and think how I would have written the notes differently had I already been rehearsing the piece with this conductor," Schwarze said.
Schwarze’s professional violin orchestra experience includes when she played for the San Jose Symphony in her hometown in California, as well as time spent studying and playing in an orchestra in France and continues now with the DSSO.
"It’s amazing that a small city of this size can have and orchestra that’s as good as it is," Schwarze said. "Overall it’s a wonderful organization and everyone should take in an event there"