Meet Class Notes Artists Silver Spruce Duo

by Claire Philpott, Minnesota Public Radio
November 13, 2013

DULUTH, Minn. — The Silver Spruce Duo is so named to reflect two concepts: the materials of the instruments — silver of Betty Braunstein's flute and spruce wood that makes up the sounding board of Janell Lemire's harp; and the beautiful silver spruces around Duluth, Minn., where the duo is based.

Braunstein and Lemire have years' experience presenting educational performances together through the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra's Music To You outreach program. Longtime members of the DSSO, they also play in other ensembles as far as Thunder Bay, Ont., and the Twin Cities, as well as maintaining their own private studios. Silver Spruce Duo also provides entertainment at weddings and private parties, and takes part in recital series.

In the Silver Spruce Duo's educational performances, the audience learns a little bit of everything: music history, stories behind the music, the parts of the instruments and how they function. Braunstein and Lemire take turns explaining their own individual instruments, performing solos so that the students can hear clearly the unique sounds of each instrument. Their duet music covers a range of styles and time periods, from the Renaissance era Theme and Variations on Greensleeves, to an arrangement of Musetta's Waltz; from Puccini's 1895 opera La Bohème, to a beautiful melancholy composition with a traditional Irish flavor called Sweet Molly's Lament by contemporary composer Jennifer Grady. The soothing — and, at times, haunting — sounds of the flute and harp together make it easy to see why these instruments have remained so beloved over the thousands of years that they have existed, and why they enchant children at the schools.

Here is what the members of the Silver Spruce Duo have to say about the value of performing for schools:

"Almost all of music heard today is consumed like most of our food; on the run, pre-packaged, processed and far from its source. It's fun and delectable to cook musical courses up close and personal. I love the 'ah ha' moment when kids realize that beautiful music, like spaghetti, doesn't grow on trees, but it created by real people."-Betty Braunstein, flute

"I enjoy doing these performances because I have a passion for music and teaching. This venue allows me to share both of these [passions] to a very inquisitive, appreciative young audience. I love hearing the "oohs" and "aahs" when I demonstrate a glissando. The positive effect and the fascination the harp brings to all ages, in return, makes me feel good to be able to perform and share myself through music."-Janell Lemire, harp


  • Auguste Vern: Nocturne for Flute and Harp, Op. 11 — I. Adagio
  • Auguste Vern: Nocturne for Flute and Harp, Op.11 — II. Allegro agitato
  • Michel Rondeau: Suite No. 12 "Flute and Harp" — I. Joyeusement et sans presser
  • Michel Rondeau: Suite No. 12 "Flute and Harp" — III. Ballade lente


  • Stowe Elementary — Duluth, Minn.
  • Homecroft Elementary — Duluth, Minn.
  • Laura MacArthur Elementary — Duluth, Minn.
  • Lester Park Elementary — Duluth, Minn.
  • Piedmont Elementary — Duluth, Minn.
  • Lakewood Elementary — Duluth, Minn.
  • Meyers-Wilkins Elementary — Duluth, Minn.
  • Minnehaha Elementary — Two Harbors, Minn.
  • Churchill Elementary — Cloquet, Minn.
  • Washington Elementary — Cloquet, Minn.
  • North Shore Community School — Duluth, Minn.
  • Sawtooth Mountain Elementary — Grand Marais, Minn.

About the Classical MPR Class Notes Artists program this year

Now in its fifth year, the Class Notes Artists program at Classical MPR brings performers to elementary schools throughout the state of Minnesota to give educational concerts. Each performance includes a presentation about the Artists' respective instruments, as well as the style, technique, history, and traditions related to the music that they perform.

The Artists are selected for the quality of their musicianship, and for their interest in promoting music education. This year, the following Artists will collectively travel to over 50 schools in four different geographical hubs.

  • Lyz Jaakola — Greater Bemidji area

  • Silver Spruce Duo — Duluth, Cloquet, and the North Shore
  • Dolce Wind Quintet — Twin Cities
  • Artaria String Quartet — Twin Cities
  • Minneapolis Guitar Quartet — Twin Cities
  • Vecchione/Erdahl Duo — Twin Cities
  • Odelia Trio — Rochester

These performances are supported by Minnesota music education standards-based curriculum designed by Classical MPR's Curriculum Specialist. These lessons and activities are given to music teachers in advance of each Artist's visit, and are to be used as learning materials for before and/or after each performance.

Students at participating schools will also receive an MPR-produced compilation CD featuring the year's Artists, allowing students to experience a wide range of different musical styles and ensembles. The 2013-14 album, A Musical History Tour is also available to stream online.

Classical MPR's goal for the Class Notes Artist program is to create authentic and transformative experiences for young pupils that will inspire their creative pursuits, and be a meaningful addition to what they are already learning from their music teachers.

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