Music with Minnesotans: Elizabeth Cutter

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
May 8, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It was one of those perfect winter afternoons. The snow piled up on the trees in winter wonderland fashion, the temperature not too crazy cold and I could kick back and enjoy the scenery from the warmth of one very well appointed home that was host to a little soiree, a recital.

But this was no ordinary recital.

Eric Nilsson is a part-time violinist and full-time attorney and with the recent orchestral labor disputes in the news, Eric and friends put music itself on trial. So with clever repartee, visual aids, and some lovely playing by amateurs keeping up their chops, we had a lot of fun.

Eric even invited a judge in her robes to decide the case. And that's how I met Elizabeth 'Liz' Cutter. Dressed in dangerously high - but tremendously stylish - black pumps, bangly earrings and her jet black hair accented by gray streaks around her face, I was absolutely taken in.

And Liz also had a flute with her and the music for Claude Bolling's iconic "Suite for Flute and Jazz trio" next to her as she waited for her cue. Of course Liz made music - and judged music could continue being played - and I just had to ask her to join us today.

Liz is a Hennepin County Judge as of this past January. She says in all her years as a trial attorney, she was impressed with the difference a good judge can make in the administration of justice.

Judge Cutter is a Minnesotan from birth and studied right up the road at William Mitchell College of Law. Her work has focused on felony domestic violence prosecution and she tells me one of the most rewarding moments in her career was when she was invited to to Kazakhstan and Turkey to train local prosecutors, law enforcement, and judges on implementation of their countries' domestic violence laws, laws that represented a complete shift in mindset in the region.

Liz has made music since childhood, playing flute and piano. She tells a story of learning a Chopin Nocturne and reading on her music a biographical note that Chopin had died at age 39 which so moved her to tears because she could hardly imagine losing someone who could create such beauty so young.

Working her way through college, Liz worked as a cocktail waitress at the Commodore Hotel. She had a serious driveway moment listening to Classical MPR knowing that she was hearing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto - but not who was playing. It made her late for work, but she was soon forgiven and a regular even bought her the disc.

Liz still makes music, even tackling the Claude Bolling recently and judging music could - and should - continue being made.

Elizabeth Cutter's playlist:

Sergei Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet: selections - Toronto/Saraste

Claude Bolling, Suite for flute and Jazz Trio: Javanaise - Jean-Pierre Rampal/Bolling Trio

Frederic Chopin, Two Waltzes - Stephen Hough

Johann Giacomo Puccini, Turandot: Nessun Dorma - Luciano Pavarotti

Peter Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto: Finale - Itshak Perlman/Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Next week Jim Waldo shares his deep, rich radio voice and also his deep love of music. He's a founding member of the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and sings regularly with Dale Warland.

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