Back together, in song: BSU Choir Reunion Concert brings the generations back to campus

By Jordan Shearer on Sep 22, 2017 at 9:05 p.m.

BSU Assistant Professor of Music Dwight Jilek conducts the BSU choir during a recent rehearsal ahead of the choir's reunion concert Saturday night. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)

BSU Assistant Professor of Music Dwight Jilek conducts the BSU choir during a recent rehearsal ahead of the choir's reunion concert Saturday night. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—Much has changed since Robert Green graduated from BSU in 1957, or since Paul Brandvik retired from the university in 1998.

But both men will be able to relive a little bit of the past Saturday as they come together, along with dozens of others, to commemorate a milestone for the school they all shared.

Totaling more than 100 alumni and current students, Saturday's BSU Choir Reunion Concert will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the program.

BSU Director of Choral Activities Dwight Jilek said it's a special opportunity for the school to undertake. "It was something that seemed like a natural and very exciting thing to put forward,"Jilek said.

"It's an opportunity for us to use that shared experience of Bemidji State University to come together, join in song and create new connections."

The reunion choir will take plate at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Bemidji Evangelical Covenant Church, which is located at 5405 Hart Ln. NW. It is free and open to the public.

With both alumni and current students taking part, the choir has swelled to more than 130 vocalists who will perform. In preparing for the reunion, Jilek worked with the BSU Alumni Office as well as the BSU Alumni Choir that's based in Minneapolis.

"It's a very, very good turnout," Jilek said. "These opportunities don't happen very often, and I think that's why it's been received so well."

For some of Saturday's performers, graduation was just a few years ago. For a few students, though, like Green, graduation day is more than half a century down memory lane.

It's been 60 years since Green put away his textbooks, threw his cap in the air and said goodbye to BSU, but on Saturday evening, he'll return to sing in the same choir he used to perform with as a young man.

Although there will be alumni from throughout the decades, Green is one of the oldest singers to return. Now 82, Green was a student under Carl O. Thompson, who started the choir program in 1937 and then continued to lead it until 1967 when Brandvik stepped into the position.

While he was still in college, Thompson served as Green's adviser. After graduation, Green left, joined the U.S. Navy and didn't move back to Minnesota until about three years ago. At that point, he connected with the BSU Alumni Choir.

"We had a practice room up on the second floor of the main building, not too far from Carl's office," Green said about his college years. "Carl developed a great choir. He influenced people to come and sing under his very distinguished direction."

Brandvik began teaching at what is now Bemidji State University in 1967 when it was still known as Bemidji State College. He would remain in that role until retiring in 1998. Although he no longer teaches at the university, he will conduct one of his own arrangements during the reunion concert, "We're coming Father Abraham." He arranged the piece in 1976.

Like Green, it's been multiple decades since Brandvik officially left the classrooms of the university. In spite of that time lapse, Brandvik said he was thrilled to have the chance to come back and lead many of his former students in the choir, many of whom he's stayed in touch with throughout the years.

"The thing is they still love to do what we taught them to do," Brandvik said. "You have to look hard sometimes to find beauty. And when you can find beauty in music and the things we create, I think that is so refreshing."


Bemidji State University 80th Anniversary Choral Music Celebration


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Concert - 6:30 p.m.
(Bemidji High School Auditorium)

Banquet/Dinner - 8:15 p.m. 
(Beaux Arts Ballroom, BSU Campus)

Please join Dr. Paul Brandvik and Dr. Dwight Jilek to celebrate the ensemble's 80th Anniversary in a special Reunion Choir Performance on Saturday, September 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the Bemidji High School Auditorium. An anniversary dinner honoring the legacy of the choir will be held at 8:15 p.m. in the Beaux Arts Ballroom on the BSU campus.

Schedule of Events:

9:30 - 10:30 a.m.     Registration (Bangsberg Hall)
10:30 - 12:30 p.m.   Rehearsal 1 (Bangsberg Hall)
12:30 - 2:15 p.m.     Lunch
2:15 - 4:00 p.m.       Rehearsal 2
4:00 p.m.                 Break, then travel to BHS
5:00 p.m.                 Sound check at BHS Auditorium
6:00 p.m.                 Doors open for concert
6:30 p.m.                 Concert - BHS Auditorium
7:45 p.m.                 Social at Beaux Arts Ballroom
8:15 p.m.                  Dinner at Beaux Arts Ballroom


Reception/Dinner & Music - $25.00
Recption/ Dinner Only - $20.00
Music Only - $5.00

Contact Deb Schlager, BAC Choir Manager, at if you would like to be a part of this special celebration. 

**If you are attending the Reception/Dinner and have special dietary needs, please contact the BSU Alumni Office at (218)755-3989 or


Join Us for our Fall Mini Season

It’s time for the Bemidji Alumni Choir's upcoming October MINI season, and you can be a part! 

Rehearsal Location:

Oak Grove Lutheran Church
70th and Lyndale Ave
Richfield, MN

Rehearsal Dates:

  • Thursday, October 6 - 7:00-8:30
  • Thursday, October 13 - 7:00-8:30
  • Thursday, October 20 - 7:00-8:30

Performance: Sunday, October 23 

Performance Location: 

Mt Olivet Lutheran Church West Campus
7150 Rolling Acres Rd,
Victoria, MN 55331

We will be singing 3 songs at all of their services that morning.  The BAC is getting paid for singing at the services.  It is a way to raise money to fund our spring concerts. 

This is a great way to get back into singing with a great group of talented musicians for a very short period of time.  Please join us for very fun yet short season!  

For those who have never sung with the choir, or have only sang at our annual Twin's game performance of the National Anthem, this is a great chance get a feel for what we are about, and how welcoming this group of singers and friends are to sing with.  

Our director is fellow member Mark Carlson (BSU Music Grad - ’75).  Mark a great musician and is wonderful to work with!

After enjoying this, mini experience, please come back in January as we begin preparing for our spring concerts.

Please share with BSU friends and other interested singers.

2015 Season Update

The Bemidji Alumni Choir at the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, 2015

The Bemidji Alumni Choir at the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, 2015

We had a wonderful rehearsal last night in preparation for the Northern Voice Festival on April 11th at Hoversten Chapel, Augsburg College. Actually, this season has been a joy all the way around. We began with a mass performance at the Basilica of St. Mary. On April 26, the Bemidji Alumni Choir joined Dr. P. Bradley Logan's Bemidji Choir and Chamber Singers as they stopped in Bloomington as part of their spring MN tour. It was a full evening of choral music as well as a full church. Christ the King Lutheran Church in Bloomington was filled with sounds but beautiful and abstract as the Bemidji Choir treated the audience with an aleatoric piece from a Bach motet. The Bemidji Alumni Choir was happy to hear and see current Bemidji Choir members in performance and an exciting announcement was made that evening. The Bemidji Choir and Bemidji Alumni Choir plan to perform together on at least one Minnesota spring tour performance annually. This announcement was one that brings singers young and "mature," in the words of Dr. Logan, together to celebrate the choral tradition of Bemidji State University. We look forward to this new tradition of joint concerts as a strong future for BSU singers and their alumni.