Community Music: Dr. Paula Gudmundson Invites Duluth to Listen
On September 16, 2020, Dr. Paula Gudmundson (Music) graced Duluth with not one, but six free mini-concerts set outdoors. The flute concerts were part of the Vagabond Mobile Concert Series put on by the Bach Society of Minnesota.
Gudmundson curated her program to adhere to COVID-19 protocols at the time, which meant each performance could only be 15 minutes in length. Given the Bach Society’s focus on Baroque music, her program included “Fantasia in A Minor” by G. F. Telemann, “Rondeau for Unaccompanied Flute” by Michel Blavet, and “Partita in A Minor” by J.S. Bach.
She also purposefully chose the locations of the concerts, which included UMD’s Ordean Court, Glensheen’s Juliette Balcony, St. Scholastica’s Benedictine Living Community, the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, Pocket Park in West Duluth, and the Northland Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. Gudmundson explained, “I felt really strongly the desire to perform in all corners of Duluth—from East to West Duluth—and to select not only venues where there might be people out and about but also places where the audience may be feeling isolated.”
The Bach Society provided a map of the 200 total concerts performed that week, and the Duluth News Tribune published the concert schedule ahead of time; however, Gudmundson left much of the advertising to organic word of mouth and was pleasantly surprised. “I really enjoyed playing in the Central Hillside neighborhood as people seemed to have the intention of coming to listen, and a FedEx truck even stopped to listen! As a performer, it can be distracting to have so many things going on, but it was a really wonderful way to offer music to every location, and every experience was unique,” she reflected.
Gudmundson didn’t go through the day alone. Ren Crowder, a UMD flute student, helped provide audience members with materials intended to ensure safety at the concerts during the pandemic. As part of their course, Dr. Jennifer Moore’s journalism students also conducted interviews with attendees and / or Gudmundson at various concert locations before publishing stories about her performances.
Additionally, Gudmundson collaborated with local DanSan Creatives to create a video of her performance. “Working with DanSan Creatives allowed me to bring a bit of my vision to his amazing storytelling ability. Duluth offered the perfect backdrop to the performance of J.S. Bach’s ‘Partita.’”
Community is not only at the forefront of Gudmundson’s concerts, but also her artistry and teaching. She asserted, “We need our community for us to be musicians. Really, we learn music to perform it for our community. COVID-19 has led to a lack of ‘traditional’ venues to perform for live audiences but has allowed us to explore the variety of ways we can engage with audiences virtually.
“I am interested in instilling in my students a need to remove barriers to music. Access to music and equity in access to music education is top of mind for me personally. We might think we are providing unlimited ways of accessing music, but there are always barriers—it might be the cost, the location, the type of music, the length of programs, the perception of who performs this type of music….Music has a tremendous level of power to shape and mold our community and its values. Duluth residents really value the arts, and they will show up; they just want to be invited.”
At the time of this writing, Gudmundson hopes to participate in the Bach Society’s spring concert series and is exploring the possibility of student outdoor concerts in Ordean Court, also this spring.