Beloit Janesville Symphony: beyond 60

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Ian Gronau | October 31, 2013

JANESVILLE -- With 60 years behind them, one wonders what the next 60 years will hold for the Beloit Janesville Symphony?

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According to Executive Director Michael Krueger, things are about to change for the better.

The symphony, established in 1953 at Beloit College, celebrated its 60th season this year with a diamond jubilee concert last month.

For 60 years the orchestra has entertained the Stateline, but like any organization, it is only the sum of it parts. Staple orchestra members like timpani player Ellen Knutson and trumpeter Kay Schultz have added a lifetime of performance to the orchestra's past.

Schultz has been with the orchestra for 48 of its 60 years, and is still going strong. She joined as a sophomore at Clinton High School with the youth symphony that was offered at the time. She spent some time playing under the direction of the BJSO's founder, and has gone on to play under all of his successors. The experience is dear to Schultz, who plays her trumpet every single day to stay sharp.

"I think it's a tribute to our community," Schultz said. "It's so exciting for all of us to play. We have a sort of camaraderie among the musicians. You have to be prepared for all the rehearsals, but they are a very enjoyable time, musically and socially."

Schultz is as professional a musician as they come. Not too long after graduating from Clinton High School, she went on to become the school's band director and held that position for 41 years. Retirement has hardly slowed her down though; in addition to playing for the orchestra, she still teaches at Beloit Music and Melody Music Studios out of Reno, Nev., via Skype and has time for freelance playing at weddings and other events.

Knutson has had a similar experience with the orchestra, joining in 1962, three years before Schultz. She has been beating away at the kettledrums for the organization's performances through all three conductors as well. Knutson got her start during her college days and, like Schultz, still is going strong.

The orchestra brings together all types of musicians from different age groups and ethnic backgrounds, but their reasons, one way or another, are the same: They are there because they love to make music.

"I played for many years not getting paid at all just for the fun of it," Knutson said. "What we get paid now isn't much, but it's not why we do it. Most of us are there because we just love to play."

"It's a great orchestra to play with," Schultz said. "Their standards are high, and I really enjoy being part of a topnotch group."
Looking to grow

"One of the things orchestras all over the world are facing right now is remaining relevant with audiences, and part of that is attracting a younger demographic," said Krueger. "We are really looking to grow regionally next season. We really want to establish ourselves as a true regional orchestra and reach out even further than Beloit and Janesville. We are going to start making a real effort to remove two sets of boundaries, both geographic and artistic boundaries."

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