Nonprofit of The Month: Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra

7 mins read

Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra is a nonprofit organization 48 years in the making. Having been incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization in 1976, the original vision has stood the test of time and remains to improve life in central and western North Dakota through music and innovative programming. I had the privilege of connecting with Mike Gardner, executive director of the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra to learn more about the nonprofit, its impact on the community, how they’re uniquely engaging with the community’s youth, and much more.

In the vast and vibrant landscape of central and western North Dakota, an orchestra resonates, filling the air with melodies that touch the heart and get the community excited for a unique time out on the town. The Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra (BMSO), with a legacy spanning nearly five decades, stands as a beacon of musical excellence and community enrichment. We had the privilege of chatting with Mike Gardner, the dedicated executive director of BMSO, who shared insights into the orchestra’s remarkable journey and the impact it continues to make.

The BMSO’s journey began in 1976 when it was formally incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, marking the start of a musical odyssey that now spans an impressive 48 seasons; nearly half a century. The initial vision, shared then as it is now, was to “enhance the quality of life in central and western North Dakota through music with innovative artistic and educational programming,” Gardner said. Rooted in a desire to entertain, enrich, and elevate the lives of North Dakotans through orchestral music, the BMSO set out on a journey that would leave a significant mark on the Bis-Man community. 

“We’ve certainly expanded and grown [BMSO] to be something that we’re proud of,” Gardner said. For example, the BMSO has added a Youth Orchestra program and educational concerts for fourth graders. Beyond musical performances, the BMSO assumed a prominent role in the state capital’s Fourth of July celebration, orchestrating everything from the music to the fireworks.

As an example of growth, the BMSO has added a Youth Orchestra program, as well as free educational concerts for fourth graders. Along their journey, they’ve also taken over the Fourth of July celebration at the Bismarck State Capital!

The Belle Mehus Auditoruum

Bismarck’s Belle Mehus City Auditorium, an architectural and cultural gem, was inaugurated on January 19, 1914, marking a pivotal moment of civic pride. The auditorium’s inception, designed by local architect Arthur Van Horn and funded through a special bond issue, was a transformative step for a town that had rapidly evolved from its saloon-riddled past. Hosting its inaugural gala with the operetta “Robin Hood” conducted by composer Reginald DeKoven, the venue’s popularity soared, drawing audiences even from neighboring Mandan and forging memorable nights marked by performances by acts such as violinist Fritz Kreisler and sopranos Geraldine Farrar and Beverly Sills. Throughout the years, the auditorium thrived as a platform for local talent, enduring challenges, restoration, and recognition on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1989, it was aptly renamed the Belle Mehus City Auditorium to honor the legacy of the beloved music educator. Today, it stands as a 21st-century arts haven at the heart of Bismarck.

BMSO’s Year in Review

2022-2023 Seasoon

  • 10 Live Concerts
  • 11 Guest Artists
  • 54 Musical Works
  • 75 Youth Musicians
  • 80 Local Musicians
  • 1,300 Fourth Graders Impacted
  • 9,000 Audience Members Reached through concerts

Did You Know?
According to a study by Americans For The Arts, 87% of Americans believe that the arts are important to their quality of life, and 82% believe that arts organizations are important to local businesses and the economy.

Gardner shared several insights about the BMSO that might surprise many. Contrary to any preconceived notions of formality, Gardner said, “We are not stuffy! Come see a concert, we have something for everyone.” Beyond the stage, the BMSO’s Musical Director and Maestro Dr. Beverly Everett, emerges as a multifaceted artist who has performed and conducted on a global stage. Adding to their community engagement, the orchestra maintains accessible ticket pricing, with tickets contributing to only about 30% of their costs.

BMSO is the sole full orchestra in central North Dakota. This unique position allows them to draw diverse audiences through collaborations with other musical entities in the community. Moreover, their nationally renowned musical director empowers the BMSO to attract esteemed guest artists, further enriching the cultural landscape of Bismarck.

Within the present landscape, the BMSO’s services resonate through a full season of orchestral performances, spanning from a Fourth of July celebration to a series of concerts from September to April. In addition, the orchestra nurtures burgeoning talent through a dedicated Youth Orchestra program, cultivating a love for music from a young age. Aligning with their commitment to education, the BMSO offers a free concert to all fourth graders in the Bismarck Public Schools system, fostering an appreciation for orchestral music.

Transitioning to the orchestra’s financial sustenance, Gardner outlined the vital role of donations in supporting their concert series. “All donations go towards putting on our concert series,” he said. In addition, the BMSO welcomes various forms of support beyond monetary contributions, including attendance at concerts, word-of-mouth promotion, and engagement with their social media channels.

As the BMSO continues its journey, the resonating melodies and impactful programs they offer serve as a testament to the enduring power of music. With an open invitation to all, the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra encourages you to experience their magic firsthand—attend their concerts, embrace their diverse offerings, and contribute to the symphony of support echoing through North Dakota’s heart.

BMSO’s Road to Prominence

The Bismarck-Mandan Orchestral Association had its roots in the Bismarck-Mandan Council for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. In 1974, following a successful three-day residency in Bismarck, the Chamber Orchestra expressed a desire to establish Bismarck as their inaugural Regional Home City. As interest grew throughout late 1975 for the creation of a local orchestra, the foundation for the BismarckMandan Orchestral Association was laid. In February 1976, this association was formally established as a non-profit tax-exempt corporation, acting as a sponsoring entity for the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra. The inaugural season of the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra unfolded in 1976-1977, featuring three captivating concerts directed by Loran Eckroth. A significant milestone transpired in 1977, with the unanimous decision to merge the Bismarck-Mandan Council for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the BMOA, consolidating them under the banner of the Bismarck-Mandan Orchestral Association. In this productive year, the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony League also emerged, evolving into a robust support mechanism for the Association’s endeavors.

For further information on performances, contributions, and ways to engage, visit the BMSO’s official website and connect with them on social media. Your participation becomes a resonant chord that extends far beyond the concert hall, enriching lives and nurturing a vibrant cultural legacy.

Meet The Conductor, Dr. Beverly Everett

“Dr. Beverly Everett is currently the Music Director of the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra and the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra. In 2009, Dr. Everett was the youngest-ever recipient of the “Friend of the Arts” award for her contributions to the arts in Bemidji. And in 2010, Everett was one of six conductors in the nation to receive an “Excellence in Music Education” award by the American Prize. Everett was one of two recipients of the first 2011 Region 2 Arts/McKnight Career Advancement Fellowship to study with JoAnn Falletta. She was also one of the first inductees to her hometown’s Fine Arts Hall of Fame in Waxahachie, Texas. Dr. Everett has been a frequent guest conductor and clinician for orchestras and festivals in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

In addition to her conducting career, Dr. Everett is an active concert organist, teacher, and service player. She has been a featured organist in recitals, music festivals and workshops, and masterclasses throughout the United States and in Europe and British Columbia. Everett is an Adjunct Professor of Organ at the University of Mary in Bismarck. Beverly holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Organ Performance from Baylor University where she studied with Joyce Jones, and a Master of Arts in Organ Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Iowa, where she studied with Delbert Disselhorst. She was the first-place winner of the Ft. Worth AGO Competition, and the MTNA Competition. She is a frequent guest performer with the Aaron Meyer Band holiday concerts in Portland, Oregon. Everett has played in some of the great halls of the world including St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, and the Duomo in Florence, Italy.”

– BMSO Website

“Back in October, we presented the Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin. It tells the story of the courageous Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp (Terezín) during World War II who performed Verdi’s Requiem while experiencing the depths of human degradation. With only a single smuggled score, they performed the celebrated oratorio sixteen times, including one performance before senior SS officials from Berlin and an International Red Cross delegation.”

A Q&A with Mike Gardner, Executive Director of the BMSO

Q: What sets the BMSO apart from other organizations in the Bis-Man community?

A: We are the only full orchestra in central North Dakota. There are lots of other ways to hear great music in the community though, and our paid musicians often play with other groups as well, growing the diversity of our audience. Having a nationally famous maestro, we can draw guest artists to Bismarck that might not otherwise come.

Q: How can people donate to the BMSO in other ways than money?

A: Our favorite way to raise money is through ticket sales! If you are interested in supporting the BMSO, buy a ticket! We also have some volunteer opportunities, mostly ushering, and we love trade partners. We can trade for hotel rooms, advertising, printing, office supplies, and even office equipment. We are currently in need of upgraded PCs for our office.

Q: What are all of the ways that readers can support the BMSO?

A: Most importantly, come see a concert! You will not be disappointed. If you already are a patron, tell your friends. Please like our Facebook page as well.

The Values Behind BMSO

As a nonprofit organization, the BMSO aims to provide outstanding cultural opportunities in central and western North Dakota. These values, derived directly from our mission and vision statements, help focus our work and guide institutional decisions.

  • Artistic Excellence: The BMSO consistently strives to provide a highly artistic product.
  • Commitment to our Community and Region: The BMSO demonstrates commitment through community project involvement, education concerts, and performances in other cities by request or partnership.
  • Vision Statement: The Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra is a dynamic regional organization known for achieving excellence in music performance and education, outreach, internal structure, and resource management.

Did You Know?
The Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra was first launched “to entertain, enrich, and enhance the lives of North Dakotans through orchestral music,” according to Gardner.
[email protected]
(701) 258-8345
Facebook | /BismarckMandanSymphony
215 N 6th St Bismarck, ND