HANDBELL CHOIRS HAVE LONG HAD A PLACE IN CHURCH SERVICES OF MANY DENOMINATIONS. The goal of Rochester Area Handbells (rah) is to bring the art of handbell performance out of a church setting and into the greater Rochester community. The ensemble plays music that ranges from classic favorites to contemporary and will be kicking off a concert series in late November.

RAH is a fairly new ensemble—it officially launched in August 2017. Founder and musical director Paul Kingsbury, who moved to Rochester in 2015, was surprised to learn that there wasn’t a community handbell group in a city this size, especially with so many fantastic choral groups and other music ensembles already in existence. Fast-forward a couple of years, and the groundwork was laid to organize a handbell group.

RAH’s inaugural season was marked with five concerts, including a Christmas concert in the Rochester Public Library auditorium that maxed out room capacity. The city of Rochester also had the good fortune of hosting the 2018 Area 7 Handbell Musicians of America Festival Conference in June, which brought ringers from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Manitoba into the city for three days of ringing and workshops. Along with performing in the massed ringing event, RAH had the honor of opening the festival with a concert and reception. 



Women behind the Curtain: Rochester area theatre directors

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Written by Debi Neville Photography by dawn sanborn Photography

THE TITLE “ARTISTIC DIRECTOR” IS LISTED IN NEARLY ALL PROGRAMS OF LIVE THEATRE, FOLLOWED BY A NAME. Sometimes the first page contains a note from the director with thoughts about the playwright, the actors or the overall production. That’s about all we know of the person behind the curtains—the one who assembles the designers, cast and crew; the one responsible for helping each actor realize their full potential resulting in a remarkable, memorable and profitable show; the one who quite possibly is entrusted with the fate and future of the theatre itself.  

It’s a long and winding road that leads a director to be the driving force behind the curtain, and for women sometimes the road is fraught with bumps, twists and turns. Southeast Minnesota has numerous women who have traveled the road and are now successful and prolific theatre directors.

Cheryl Frarck has worked her magic on numerous stages. “I began as a drama director while teaching at a high school,” Frarck says. “That was almost 50 years ago. I was frustrated with the lack of importance the drama department was given and subsequently the lack of respect for the drama director.” She wanted to focus on educational theatre, to “create generations of theatre lovers.” Frarck made an impact on the high school stage for many years before making the transition to community theatre.




Rochester native and Mayo Clinic employee Sarah Gifford started out playing piano. She came to enjoy playing accompaniments with other musicians, rather than doing solo pieces. “My journey with the clarinet was a little more thorny,” she says. While not her first choice of instrument, she stuck with playing and found she enjoyed it. “I love music and playing with a group,” she explains. She also plays clarinet in local ensembles and teaches private lessons. 

Susan Oftedahl’s music journey began with her father, a former music college professor. It was his job at Minnesota State University in Mankato that moved her family to Minnesota. He took Oftedahl and her brothers to see a variety of student and professional musical performances. She plays cello in the Rochester Symphony with a cello that was a gift from her father and was made by David Folland, a luthier (a maker of stringed instruments such as violins or guitars) in Northfield. “The enriched sounds deepen my enjoyment of playing,” she says.



Sisters Forever: Linked by Heart and Spirit

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Written by Trish Amundson

MANY SISTERS HAVE A SPECIAL BOND THAT GROWS STRONGER OVER TIME. Tami Berg and Lisa Thorson have an incredible and ever-growing connection with their sister, Meg Hawks, even though they just met her last year. Now united, the three women are connected not only by paternal roots, but by similar characteristics, interests and love of family. They are sisters by blood—and sisters by heart.  

Dream Come True
Tami, a professor and director of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Winona State University, grew up with her biological sister, Lisa. “I had no idea I had another sister until I did an Ancestry.com DNA test,” says Tami. She had questions about her ethnic background. “It came back with a ‘first order relative’ match, so a little detective work began.” 

The genealogy website linked Tami to Meg in Nebraska. She also had tested her DNA. “I remember getting the message from Tami asking if I knew how we could be related,” says Meg, who also works in education as a school secretary. Adopted at birth, she had limited information but knew her birth dad was a salesman and her birth mother had relatives in Italy. “I just wanted to know my ethnicity. I figured I would never find out about my father.”  


THANKSGIVING IS A TIME FOR REFLECTION, GRATITUDE AND GIVING. This is especially true for Jean Voxland, her husband, Andrew, and her birth parents, Dennis “Denny” and Karen Vinar. With a new and profound appreciation for each other, they continue to get to know one another.  

The couples are inspiring others through recounted experiences in their recent book, “How Did You Find Me…After All These Years? A Family Memoir.” Jean explains, “We documented our story for future generations. We felt it was important to write down how we felt at this point in our lives and how far we have all come in getting together.”

Young Love
Denny and Karen began dating when he was 15 and she was 13. They fell in love, but when Karen became pregnant at the age of 15, she went to a home for unwed mothers. Baby Denise (later named Jean) was born in August 1961 and placed for adoption. 


MN ADULT & TEEN CHALLENGE ROCHESTER–WOMEN’S CENTER IS A PLACE OF HOPE AND HEALING. While laughter echoes through the hallways and children enjoy visits with their mothers, profound life-altering changes take place in a safe environment. A cocoon of love and respect envelops these women, sheltering them from the storms of daily life while they face down their demons and do the hard work of freeing themselves from addiction. 

Faith-based Mn Adult & Teen Challenge, headquartered in the Twin Cities, has been helping adults and teens break free from drug and alcohol addictions since 1983. A few years ago, Mn Adult & Teen Challenge recognized a need in southeast Minnesota and opened a men’s facility in Rochester in January 2014. The men’s facility is located in the old Samaritan Bethany nursing home near Assisi Heights. Nearly from the beginning, there was a vision for a women’s center in Rochester. Center Director Tom Truszinski, who oversees both the men’s and women’s campuses, says having the opportunity to build the women’s facility is a prayer answered.



CHUTNEY: Spice up the holidays

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Written by Jorrie Johnson Photography by tiffany Hansen

I WAS RAISED IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA EATING A BASIC, BLAND DIET. When I moved to Rochester about 20 years ago, a doctor’s wife told me about using chutney to flavor meat. Not knowing what chutney was, I simply nodded, smiled and agreed with her exotic palate.  

A few years ago, after hearing about chutney again and again, I decided to learn more about it and discovered chutney is made of spices, vegetables and fruits. Commonly, chutney is a spiced relish or condiment used in Indian cooking. The holidays are apropos to bring on the spices, so let’s get started.



To Brine, or Not to Brine: That is the question

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Written by Jorrie Johnson Photography by tiffany Hansen

I first heard about brining last year and upon being introduced, I searched and found that brine is a salt and water solution and learned that soaking in brine before roasting makes turkey juicer and tastier.


Myrecipes.com says, “Brining is a technique that submerges food in a salt solution to prevent moisture loss during cooking, creating succulent, juicy bites.” A basic brine can be used for fish, shrimp or white meats such as chicken, turkey or pork.

Smithsonian.com says when you place a turkey in a brine, the proteins in the turkey rearrange to incorporate the sodium and chloride ions from the salt. This reconfiguration of the protein makes the meat more tender.

Frozen turkeys found in the grocery stores are pre-brined, containing turkey broth, salt, sodium phosphate, sugar and “natural flavorings for tenderness and juiciness.” Brining a store-bought turkey is unnecessary. Untreated turkeys, from the wild or raised on a turkey farm, such as Ferndale Market, are best treated with a brine solution. 


Part I was published in Rochester Women magazine September/October 2018 issue.

WE MADE SOME DAY TRIPS WHEN WE STAYED AT THE AGRITOURISMO FARM WITH OUR HOSTS, SYLVIA AND MICHELANGELO. We visited Loro Ciuffenna, an old town with fewer tourists than the main Tuscany towns, which was a blessing. The architecture and landscape were mesmerizing.  

Hair flying in the wind with the top down on a cute little convertible red Fiat 500 was the way to travel. Except for a few moments of terror with my friend at the wheel, we took the backroads and enjoyed the beautiful sights. Going through grittier parts of Italy, we passed several factories for designers like Prada, and got lost a few times. It was worth it to end up in the spa town of Saturnia and soak in the Cascate del Mulino hot springs.


AS WE MOVE INTO THE WINTER MONTHS, IT IS ESSENTIAL TO ENSURE YOUR HOME IS IN PEAK FORM TO HANDLE THE COLD WEATHER. In addition to having your furnace tuned up and removing the screens from your windows, there are several other chores you may want tackle before the full brunt of winter is upon us.  

Snowblowers need a tune-up before the beginning of the winter. If you didn’t have your snowblower tuned up this past spring, call today to schedule your tune-up. You may wait several weeks for an appointment, so don’t delay this critical step. If you prefer, you can tune up your snowblower yourself. Simply check and replace oil, ensure the fuel filter is clean, add fuel stabilizer to fresh fuel, check tires, lubricate bearings and inspect parts for wear.

Either way, you don’t want to discover you have problems with your snowblower after a foot of snow is dumped on us overnight. Your snowblower needs to perform on-demand, and a well-running snowblower is something you’ll be glad you have after each significant snowfall.


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