Osmo’s Top Concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra

Yesterday I wrote out some personal reflections of Osmo Vänskä’s tenure as Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra.

It’s important to keep in mind that Osmo himself always spoke through his music. And so in that spirit, I’m offering a list of my favorite Osmo concerts, that I think collectively sum up his time here. Some are epochal events that will be talked about for generations… some are simply on the list just for personal reasons. I freely admit that I’ve performed in many of these concerts as a singer in the Minnesota Chorale—this is less a case of nepotism than it is a reflection that these will always be close to my heart. Moreover, I’ve written about many of them before, either here on my blog or a journalist for MinnPost. Enjoy.

And I’d be curious what others’ choices are…?

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You Can Be a Hero to Cuban Music Students

I’ve learned about a campaign underway to change the lives of Cuban music students that we met during the Minnesota Orchestra’s recent tour to Havana… and I think it will resonate with you, my readers.


Julie Gramolini Williams, Marni Hougham, Lauren Ríos Hernández, and John Snow in Havana.

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Final Thoughts on Cuba

For some time now, I’ve been planning on doing a final wrap-up about my time in Cuba with the Minnesota Orchestra. My last tour-related article for MinnPost was a more analytical overview of what the tour meant on a broader scale, and I’m quite proud of it.

But at the same time, the tour touched me deeply on a personal level, and I wanted to capture my personal feelings with a post here on my blog—one that would serve as my final thoughts about the tour, provide profound wisdom that would set the Internet ablaze, and no doubt win me not just a Pulitzer, but a Nobel Peace Prize for my ability to bring two hostile countries together. Continue reading

Reflections on Cuba: Running Down Hemingway’s Cocktails

[Now that things have calmed down, I wanted to share some personal reminiscences about my time in Havana with the Minnesota Orchestra.]


“My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.” – Ernest Hemingway

This iconic line, written out by Ernest Hemingway in regards to two of his favorite drinks in two of his favorite haunts in Havana, was an inspiration. I have a long fondness for rum (the essential ingredient for both drinks), and one of my hobbies is putting together craft cocktails. And since no one knew either Havana or rum like Ernest Hemingway… well, I knew that as soon as I had some downtime, I was going to hit the cobblestone streets of Old Havana, find Papa Hemingway’s favorite rum joints, and experience them for myself. Continue reading

Reflections on Cuba: Talking Pirates in a Pirate Fortress

[Now that things have calmed down, I wanted to share some personal reminiscences about my time in Havana with the Minnesota Orchestra.]


Like many people, I’ve had a long fascination with pirates. (Well, perhaps I should say like many people in the English-speaking world; people in the Spanish Caribbean tend to have a somewhat different view of the “golden age of piracy.” In these parts of the world, Sir Francis Drake is still remembered as “El Draque,” a monstrous bogeyman used to frighten children.) Continue reading

A Look Backstage from Cuba

One concert down… one to go.

In case you are just making your way to my blog, I’m currently in Havana covering the Minnesota Orchestra’s historic tour to Cuba. And as a man who makes a living from writing, I’m embarrassed to admit I’m having a hard time describing everything that’s going on… it feels like mere words are simply not enough. Continue reading