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Making connections beyond the campus

Long after the lights in Ann Nicole Nelson Hall are dark and musicians have packed their instruments, Minot Symphony Orchestra patrons might think that after such a wonderful concert, the evening is complete.

But as the saying goes, it's never over until the fat lady sings, and in these cases she often appears as a piano quintet or jazz combo.

Erik and Dianna Anderson, MSU music professors and MSO musicians, extend their harmonious passions by hosting events for the sole purpose of friendship, food and live music. After a concert, one can find an eclectic mix of musicians, patrons, faculty, students, farmers, kids and dogs at the Andersons, imbibing in a heady mix of conversation, appetizers, beverages and melody. A musical backdrop floats from the Steinway or a small ensemble in the corner of the concert-hall living room.

"Dianna and I love to cook, love to host, and love to encourage live music," Erik Anderson said. "We're just trying to enjoy music and enjoy friendship."

The Andersons' open door policy isn't limited to post-concert parties. They frequently invite students for informal weekday lessons and dinner, host evening gatherings to watch a symphony or explore another musical topic, and offer smaller music-reading sessions with musicians from the community and campus.

"Music students (in the Midwest) are underserved," he explained. "This is a remote area, and they are not exposed to what exists in the art of classical music on the national level. Our students often have a limited understanding of the level of playing and commitment young musicians in larger musical communities make early on; ultimately, these are their market competitors. Dianna and I want to give students every opportunity to grow."

The Andersons have driven thousands of miles to various locales in North Dakota, Montana, Kansas and New York to expose students to performance opportunities, regional competitions and internationally recognized summer camps.

"When I look back at my undergraduate experience, I loved my teachers and the curriculum, but honestly, that was a minimum. It was the activities outside of class that put me where I am today. It's the other experiences that make a college campus vibrant," Erik Anderson said.

In providing education and culture, the Andersons seamlessly intertwine professional and personal happenings that blend students, faculty, community, music and food.

"You combine those things, and no one has a bad time."