BEMIDJI -- Minnesota’s support for the arts got the attention of Stephanie Rosenbaum as she considered a career move from her native California. Now, two months after starting her new job as executive director of the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra, Rosenbaum is seeing that support up close.
“I was looking at a couple of places that have a pretty vibrant arts scene,” Rosenbaum said. “The state of Minnesota has one of the highest per capita arts funding of any state. So I was looking all over the state, and I thought this was an incredible opportunity, getting into the role as executive director at this phase of my career was a wonderful, wonderful opportunity.”
Rosenbaum will get her first chance to hear the orchestra perform for an audience at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3 at the symphony’s Summer Pops Concert in the Bemidji High School Auditorium.
“I was looking a little at the Twin Cities and places like that,” she said, “but I was looking at the sort of medium sized, not a big city, but not a tiny little town either, because I wanted a place that’s going to have vibrant culture. And I really like the fact that it’s a college town, it’s got a lot of people coming and going and the professors and that sort of focus on education. I know a couple of folks who have lived here, and they all had just really positive things to say about the city.”
Rosenbaum grew up near Monterey, Calif., majored in music and psychology at the University of Northern Colorado, and earned two master’s degrees from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. She has a master of arts in international education management and a master of public administration.
Rosenbaum was director of operations for a chamber orchestra in Monterey before moving to Bemidji.
“She’s got a lot of wonderful experience in arts administration and brings that to our community," said Beverly Everett, musical director and conductor of the BSO. “She has a good positive energy about her. She’s worked with some chamber music groups. I’m excited to see what ideas she has about how we can expand our outreach with the orchestra.”
The admiration is mutual.
“I think Beverly probably is one of the best things that has happened to this organization,” Rosenbaum said. “She’s so talented; that’s immediately apparent. And she’s just a wonderful person. She’s incredibly good at what she does, and she’s incredibly good at communicating what it is that we do, in ways that meet people where they are.”
Rosenbaum hopes to extend the BSO’s reach in the community and region and grow its audience base. That could include developing a youth orchestra.
“For the people who are already coming (to the concerts), most of them love it and they’re really loyal,” she said. “If we continue to do high quality concerts they’ll keep coming back. But people who don’t have that experience with classical music, you have to convince them first off that they should come to a classical music concert, and then they should come to our classical music concert. That’s a challenge that a lot of orchestras around the country are having right now. To get younger folks, people who didn’t necessarily grow up with that traditional art form in the home.”
Rosenbaum grew up in a family of choral singers. She has performed in chorales for more than 27 years in at least eight different countries, doing some classical music, some opera and master works.
“We do music because we love it, and it changes our lives, and that’s not something that should just be reserved for people who grew up doing it,” she said. “We want that to be something that everyone can access.”