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SUBMITTED PHOTO The Bemidji Symphony Orchestra begins its 75th concert season Saturday with its annual summer pops concert, "Summer Celebrations." Dr. Beverly Everett, conductor of the BSO, said the orchestra consists of 60 to 80 members at any given concert.

"Summer Celebrations" kicks off BSO's 75th season

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BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji Symphony Orchestra will kick-off its 75th concert season Saturday with the annual summer pops concert, "Summer Celebrations."

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Performing at the Bemidji High School auditorium at 7:30 p.m., the BSO will be accompanied by musical guests Aaron Meyer, a rock violinist, and guitarist Tim Ellis.

"We love playing with orchestras and we love traveling to new places," Meyer said. "We've had wonderful times performing in the Midwest and this sounds like a great opportunity."

Under the direction of Dr. Beverly Everett, the orchestra will perform a variety of musical selections, which Everett said are sure to be a crowd engager.

"No matter what kind of music you like, we are playing something for everyone," she said. "It's definitely different from the things we do throughout the regular season."

Admission is $10 for adults with children K-12 free. Tickets can be purchased at the entrance or in advance at Leuken's Village Foods or at brownpapertickets.com. Seating begins at 7 p.m.

"These guest artists are great," Everett said. "They play a real variety of music and it's going to be a real family friendly concert."

The Portland-based violinist is credited for performing music of the rock, jazz, folk and celtic origin, which, according to Everett, is one of the reasons for bringing the duo to Bemidji.

"They're really engaging with the audience and the orchestra," she said. "What they do is inspiring."

Everett has previously worked with Meyer and Ellis at an orchestra in Bismarck.

A tradition of the annual summer pops concert, different artists are invited to perform with the

orchestra each year.

Having served as BSO conductor for nine years, Everett said the music group has evolved immensely in all aspects of what it means to be an orchestra.

"My goal was to take them from a small, community orchestra to a regional orchestral group," she said.

With about 25 musicians in 2004, the BSO has tripled in size, averaging 60 to 80 consistent musicians. Aside from local musicians, Everett said some BSO members hail from Park Rapids, Thief River Falls, Bagley, Pequot Lakes, Minneapolis, Duluth and Fargo.

MaryAnne Wilimek, executive director of the orchestra, credits Everett for leading the orchestra on a "progressive" path.

"She has raised the bar of artistic quality," Wilimek said. "Feeding souls with artistic excellence -- this is what sets the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra and Dr. Beverly Everett on an impressive trajectory."

All musicians in the BSO are volunteers and only meet periodically to prep for performances.

Wilimek, who has served as executive director for three years, said the volunteerism aspect of the orchestra is unique in the fact that the BSO has become a draw for so many regional artists.

"The BSO takes risks and aims high," she said. "They choose music that is both beautiful and strenuous, then pour themselves into the hard work of collaboration and musicianship to bring these performances to life."

This collaboration and musicianship is why Gretchen Rusch has been a part of the BSO for nearly eight years.

"We were a much smaller group, but we've gotten so much better," Rusch said, who is the principal oboist of the orchestra.

Also serving as the personal manager and music librarian for the BSO, Rusch said performing with the orchestra has allowed her to achieve some of her musical aspirations as a musician, such as continuing her passion for music and performing musical pieces that she has always wanted to play.

"This is a treasure in Bemidji," Rusch said, who is an adjunct oboe instructor at Bemidji State University. "People think orchestra is only for wealthy people, but that's not true; it's geared toward everybody."

Season tickets for 75th concert series entitled "A Season of Celebrations" will be available for purchase at the "Summer Celebrations" concert or can be ordered online at bemidjisymphony.org. The first of the six subscription series begins October 6 with a "Nordic Celebrations" concert.

If you go:

What: Bemidji Symphony Orchestra's "Summer Celebrations" summer pops concert

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Bemidji High School auditorium

Cost: $10 adults, K-12 free

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