Heartland Symphony Orchestra is a treasure that belongs to many area communities

Concerts and board meetings set in both Little Falls and Brainerd


Staff Writer

[email protected]


The seventh annual Heartland Symphony Orchestra fundraiser luncheon and style show, held every year at First United Church in Little Falls, is coordinated by a seasoned group of volunteers. More than 20 baskets were donated by symphony members, board members and supporters for ticket drawings this year, Saturday, April 28. There were also door prizes. Money raised at the luncheon directly benefits the orchestra, helping with such things as renting and buying music. Pictured above with some of the donated baskets are (from left): Echo Kowalzek, Mona Steinke, Karol Charon, Collette Wagner and Helen O’Brien. Local shops, BonJos and [email protected] provide many enticing fashions, jewelry and accessories which are featured by volunteer models. Below are (from left): escort Tom Kotval, model Sarah Swanstrom, and Susan Paulsen from [email protected] “This is a wonderful event for our community,” said Paulsen, “and I like being able to participate.”

The Heartland Symphony Orchestra is a treasure for the rural area of Central Minnesota. The membership of the orchestra reflects the diversity of the residents of this region, by pulling in musicians from Wadena and Nisswa, Crosby and Pierz, Little Falls, St. Cloud, Long Prairie and Browerville, just to name a few.

“Community symphonies play a really important role in their host communities,” said violinist and Concert Master, Leslie Zander of Brainerd. “Some members are teachers, but many are recreational players. This is not just about professionals.”

Zander is a middle school orchestra teacher who has been a member of the symphony for 11 years, and concert master for about four years. She started with the symphony when she was in her second year of teaching.

“We are diverse in age, occupation, background and where we live,” said Zander.

The Heartland Symphony Orchestra was established in 1977, to be shared by both the Little Falls and Brainerd extended communities.

Each spring the symphony hosts a benefit luncheon at First United Church in Little Falls. “We enjoy this space,” said Collette Wagner, luncheon planning committee chair “and they’ve been good to us.”

“But practices, concerts and board meetings all take place in both locations,” said Wagner. “The membership of the board of directors is split evenly between the Little Falls area and the Brainerd area.”

Three sets of concerts are given annually. Besides those live concerts, the symphony’s conductor, guest artists and musicians present music education clinics in area schools and offer ticket give-away programs to schools and youth groups.

These music clinics are presented free to the schools and the students who attend them, but the artist’s time and travel expenses are paid by the symphony through special grant funding. Students who attend the clinics are often given family discount passes to attend the upcoming concert performance of the artist they have spent time with. Last season, more than 600 young people participated.

“A smaller town like ours is very fortunate to have a symphony that plays this kind of music,” said Wagner. “They are so good. I am proud to be involved with such a fine organization.”

“Arts events play an important role in educating and enriching their communities,” Zander said.

Musicians in the orchestra have a variety of musical training, ranging from adults who have studied their instrument in college or teach professionally, to adults who just recently began studying an instrument, to local high school musicians who are trying to broaden their playing experiences. All are welcome and encouraged to participate.

For general questions or information about joining the Heartland Symphony Orchestra, call 1 (800) 826-1997 or e-mail at: [email protected]