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Longtime symphony member, music educator Roberta Sellon retires from BSO

BEMIDJI — During her 57 years in the string section, Roberta (Bobbi) Sellon has seen — and had a big hand in developing — the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra grow from a small group of musicians at BSU to the fine regional orchestra it is today.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in music from University of Oklahoma, Sellon turned her educational career northward and achieved her master’s degree in music at BSU.

And Bemidji is where she chose to spend her life and musical talents as teacher and mentor to private students as well as those at BSU, where she taught violin, viola and string ensemble for 20 years.

Sellon, who will turn 90 in a few weeks, just this season retired from BSO.

“I have taught many students during my 50 plus years of teaching,” said Sellon, “and have had some very great students including a young lady who teaches violin at Concordia. Each year was different; a challenge and successful in various ways.”

Sellon has played in every BSO concert and was always prepared to play, even while prompting the other string players to become the best that they could be. Sellon mused about how BSO artistic director Beverly Everett has worked the orchestra to an “almost professional caliber” and admits she’s a bit disappointed she’s still not performing.

Sellon could always be counted on to play with the orchestra and proved herself to be an integral member of the local teaching community. Her caring and professional manner earned her the adulation of many former students. A proponent of the Suzuki Method, which she feels is the natural way for children to learn to play a string instrument. A toddler can begin with the smallest violin imaginable made from a Cracker Jack box — empty of course — and learning by listening and imitating, she said.

And although she’s retired from the BSO, she is still playing. “I have retired from the orchestra this year; I just don’t have the energy to play these big symphonies anymore but I still play the violin at Sacred Heart Church in Wilton every Sunday with Polly Scotland on the organ,” she added.

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