Big Band sounds coming to Rushford this weekend

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Big band sounds are coming to Rushford this Sunday, Nov. 11. The John Paulson Big Band will share the stage with the Rushford-Peterson High School Jazz Band during a free concert starting at 3:30 p.m. in the R-P High School Theater.

The concert will actually be the culmination of an artist-in-residency appearance that starts on Friday, Nov. 9th, when  Paulson works with the high school’s jazz students, as well as other music students, leading up to the concert. The appearance is supported by a grant from the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council.

 “The whole project was started by me looking for venues a couple years ago,” Paulson said.  “I was eventually put in touch with (R-P Band Director) Adam George. It was funny because his name sounded so familiar. He was a music education major at Winona State University and had a Jazz Minor. After I left my teaching job at St. Mary’s in Winona, I taught at Winona State part-time. I actually had him in two of my jazz classes.

“The basis for an artist-in-residency appearance is the artist works in the school for a certain period of time. I’ll be working with students of different ages during the day. I’ll be working with kids to help get them ready for the concert on Sunday while my bandmates work together to get themselves prepared too.”

“I’ll be working with the regular band students (at R-P), as well as the students in the jazz band,” Paulson said. ”We’ll work on some special techniques and try to tighten up the songs that the jazz band will play on Sunday when they open for the Big Band. They’re going to play three songs before we take the stage.

“I’ll work with them on Friday, but Dr. Rich MacDonald, Director of Jazz Studies at Winona State, will work with the kids on Sunday during their rehearsal before the performance. Adam Meckler, one of our star soloists from the Twin Cities, will also be helping out with the kids on Sunday.”

This Sunday, Nov. 11, is Veteran’s Day, so Paulson said they will take time to acknowledge any veterans in the audience before his band performs. As they launch into their big band music, Paulson said his group is a unique collection of performers.

“We’re all teachers and semi-professional musicians,” Paulson said. “We’re a pretty diverse group. For example, we’ve got an alto sax band director coming from Austin, a half-dozen performers are from Rochester, as well as a good number of musicians from Winona. We all teach during the week and spend a lot of time playing on weekends.”

The grant was actually approved in the summer of 2016, with the appearance and concert tentatively scheduled for January or February of 2017. Unfortunately, Paulson had to delay the appearance after an accident in his backyard fall left him seriously injured.

“It was basically a double-fracture of both the bones right about my ankle,” he recalled. “So, the first time the concert was scheduled, I had a huge cast on my leg. As if that wasn’t enough, I also tore up my shoulder and had surgery on that too. Humpty Dumpty finally got put back together again.”

Paulson was grateful to SEMAC for being understanding when he couldn’t follow through on the initial performance date. R-P school had already gotten the grant money for his big band to perform. SEMAC basically told Paulson and the school to “schedule it when you can.” He felt very fortunate that they were understanding.

Paulson is originally from Rochester, so southeast Minnesota is his home territory. His academic trail took him away from his home area on a winding road through his education. Paulson’s initial career goal was to be a mortician, before taking a sharp turn in a different direction toward a career in music.

“I started out at RCTC in Rochester, moved on to a year at Winona State University, and then transferred out to the University of Utah,” he recalled. “That’s where I first got bit by the jazz bug and wound up getting my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. After the master’s degree, I went on the road with a rock band for a while and didn’t have an address except for my van.

“I eventually studied for a year with people in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, while also working at Tower Records. Then, I went back to Salt Lake City to teach music at a private Episcopalian school for a few years, and then transferred up to the University of Washington to get my doctorate in music education.”

After that, Paulson applied for jobs all over the country and wound up close to home at St. Mary’s University in Winona, starting in 1981 and retiring in 2012. He then took a part-time job teaching music at Winona State University, recently retiring from that position as well.

His first big band CD “The John Paulson Big Band Project” was released in 2012 and the formal release on the band’s second CD “Five Years On” is slated for release this month. 

For more information on the concert, call Adam George at 507-864-7785 ext. 3034, or visit the school websites at or on Facebook at For further details about John Paulson, see

These events were made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts & cultural heritage fund.