BEMIDJI - In February of 1988, Shannon Jones, organist at the Bemidji's United Methodist Church, and Larry and Mary Jane Shroth, choir director and organist, respectively, at the First Presbyterian Church wrote a letter to their colleagues.
"For some time we have had thoughts about the possibilities and potential of gathering church musicians together to form an association committed to church musical education and ecumenical music making," the letter states.
By June of 1988, the first six concerts of the Bemidji Area Church Musicians summer recital series were performed and Jones, one of the original musicians, will be back to help celebrate the 25th Anniversary Season.
This year the series will start with a special program of liturgical music by special guest artist Michael Olson of Fargo from noon to 12:45 p.m. June 6 at the Evangelical Free Church, 115 Carr Lake Road SW.
Olson was last here as a performer in 1992 and this year's recital includes classical liturgical literature and a hymn sing with the audience. He has chosen hymns based on various psalms like "How Great is Thy Faithfulness." The committee is hoping for a full house at the newly renovated church, which now can seat up to 450 people.
The church musicians who play do not accept an honorarium and all monies collected through free-will donations are used to support the scholarship program.
The first $500 instrumental music scholarship winner was Dustin Berg back in 1998 and since then $15,000 has been awarded to area students. Offerings are applied toward the scholarship fund.
The 2012 Summer Recital series will welcome back five past winners, including Eric Haugen on cello and Jennifer Paquette on piano. The concerts will run Wednesdays from June 6 until August 29, with the exception of July 4. Each week's concert and musicians will be listed in the Sunday Pioneer Preview column. From classical organ literature to Blue Grass, the series has music to attract a general audience.
The fund raising luncheons that follow each recital are nominally priced.
Typically about 120 attendees go to the fellowship rooms to enjoy the food and the camaraderie built over the past years. This year, the musicians and the board are hoping to gather an even wider audience among Bemidjians; a lunch time activity for all age groups.