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MSU Profiles

University connects with community through rock and roll

With proceeds benefitting the Minot String Academy, a youth music education program, the second annual Community Rocks! concert will be Feb. 6 at the Grand Hotel in Minot, at 6 p.m. Local orchestra musicians will present three sets of rock favorites by acts such as the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Styx, Heart, Metallica, Cold Play and many others. It all began as a stairwell conversation about rock and roll and orchestras between Andy Bertsch, business administration professor, and Erik Anderson, music professor.

"Community Rocks! was Andy's brainchild. He had this crazy idea that we should put on this rock and roll orchestra event," Anderson said. "So we started talking about it, and he said 'Let's make this happen.'"

"The seed was planted when my daughter and I saw the Trans-Siberian Orchestra," Bertsch said. "I thought, 'Minot is hungry for this type of thing, we have to do something like this.' A couple of years later, I started talking to Erik, and he was an easy sell, as he knows how to put on a great show, and I know how to throw a big party, and here we are!"

Bertsch and Anderson started formulating a plan. They discussed forming the event as an money-making entity, but ultimately decided what they really wanted was a philanthropic event, seeing it as an opportunity to donate each year's proceeds to a worthy organization.

"It's so important for Minot State University to connect with the community in tangible and beneficial ways, and the Minot String Academy and others in the future are direct connections to people who live and work in Minot and that's what we want this to be"

The two professors knew such a huge undertaking would require more people, so they reached out to MSU students, faculty and staff and community members. Erik M. Anderson, a junior in MSU's music program, arranged many of the songs for the orchestra.

"This rock and roll event is so great," Erik Anderson said. "The buzz around town is 'I want to be a part of this.'"

"I was asked to sing, and I said yes immediately to playing in front of a 30-member orchestra led by Dr. Anderson and donating my time to a terrific cause," said Melissa Spelchen, criminal justice assistant professor and interim Honors director. "This event represents Minot State so well! We have such talent on this campus, and to use those talents and give to others who are in need is exactly the piece of community service that we discuss time again at MSU. This is the exact vehicle for it."

Evidence shows that early musical training has profound effects on the developing child, producing long-lasting changes in motor abilities and brain structure. Funds from Community Rocks! 2016 will provide the instruments, supplies and instruction necessary to begin the Minot String Academy. The academy will be dedicated to providing one-on-one lessons and string orchestra experiences to low-income children, beginning in the first grade. This musical boost will provide social and academic benefits to youth, as well as create the future leaders of the Minot Public Schools orchestra program.

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a social, hors d'oeuvres, cash bars and silent auction, followed by the first music set at 7. Open seating is available in two areas: Reserved seats ($60) are all center rows, while general admission seats are $45. Tickets are available at Budget Music and Video in downtown Minot and at Jacobsen Music on 31st Ave. S.W., Minot. The event is open to all ages.

Now incorporated as a 501-C3 philanthropic organization, Community Rocks! will plan and organize future events. Erik Anderson and Bertsch lead the organization as president and vice president/treasurer respectively, and Erik M. Anderson is the entity's secretary. Dean Frantsvog, accounting and finance associate professor and attorney-at-law, serves as a board member. The group plans to grow the actual orchestra rock and roll party every year. A venue is already booked for the next five years, with great aspirations looming in the air for even greater success in the future, contributing to the citizens of Minot.