Music with Minnesotans: Susan Berkson

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
March 14, 2012

St. Paul, Minn. — What a delight getting to know Susan Berkson. Like me, she speaks with her hands and will sing a tune at the drop of a hat — including our High School song — and she makes me laugh too.

Susan called me up before coming on Music with Minnesotans and hummed her music on the phone to ask for help in identifying them.

She's far from musically illiterate, but she narrowed her playlist to music she grew up on, and those pieces were ones played in her three-times-per-week ballet class.

So classical music was not just music — but grand plie, tendu and grand battement music. And the muscle memory connected to this music got directly into her blood.

It was around Valentine's day that I played Eric Satie's "Gymnopedies" and mentioned how my flute-playing boyfriend at Interlochen Arts Academy wooed me with this sultry music.

Susan wrote and said she too went to Interlochen and has fond memories of Satie — and also of learning an awful lot about music.

Curiously, Susan found the music she had a mad passion for as a teenager — Brahms and Mahler — no longer would travel with her to a hypothetical desert island. She wants uplifting, happy music — and that's why she brought a Mozart trio that she finds so calming and centering, she'll listen every time she's about to get on a plane.

Susan is a writer and creative strategist. She's worked at the Star Tribune, MPR and has also written copy for the Minnesota Orchestra — a job she really liked because she could just immerse herself completely in the subject, and that one was Mozart.

I have posted one of her gigs for us at MPR — a humor piece "Women in Stupid Shoes" sung to Beethoven's 5th. It's just to the right of this article.


Susan Berkson's playlist:

Georges Bizet, Children's Games: The Spinning Top - Batiz/Mexico City Philharmonic

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Rondo alla Turca - Christian Zacharias

Frederic Chopin, Polonaise "Militaire" - Vladimir Askenazy

Leo Delibes, Coppelia: Mazurka - Zinman/Rotterdam

Wolfgamg Amadeus Mozart, Cosi fan Tutte: Soave sia il vento - Renee Fleming/Anne Sophie von Otter/Michel Pertusi/Solti/Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Abduction from the Seraglio: Oh Happy Happy Day - Kathleen Battle/Met Opera Orchestra

Peter Tchaikovsly, The Nutcracker: Waltz of the Snowflakes - MTT/Philharmonia


Next week screen and stage actor Allen Hamilton joins me. He tells me he has no musical talent whatsoever. Where his talent lies is in his passion and enthusiasm for music and wanting to grab his friends and say "Sit down. You gotta hear this!"

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