MMHOF adds six inductees

NEW ULM – The Minnesota Music Hall of Fame (MMHOF) added six inductees Friday at its 25th Annual Induction Ceremony and Banquet at Turner Hall.

Inductees included New Ulm concertina player and teacher Leon Olsen, Mankato native Mary Jan Alm, Cloquet accordionist Lorren Lindevig, American Pop artist Leo Kottke, Minneapolis jazz entertainer Dennis Spears and the St. Olaf Choir.

About to enter his 50th year with his band, Olsen, a Tyler native, began playing trumpet in the fifth grade but was also very interested in the concertina, getting his first paying job at the Checkboard Cafe in Lake Benton at age 11. He soon added bass and rhythm guitar to his repertoire.

After high school, Olsen began teaching students and building concertinas at Brown’s Music Store in New Ulm.

The Leon Olsen Show has received many awards including the World Concertina Association and others. It has 19 recordings and continues to play across the country including Las Vegas and Mesa, Az.

“Thanks to the Lord, my mom, dad, wife Ann and rest of the family for all their support,” Olsen said. “My great grandson started touching the accordion keys, so I have hope for him. Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s a great feeling when your students get their own bands.”

Born in Mankato, Alm sang solo at coffee houses and small clubs before fronting several Mankato bands and singing with City Mouse before forming her own band in the early 1980s. A country/rock artist, she’s toured the U.S., China, Russia, Poland, Mexico, Bermuda and more. She thanked her Heavenly Father “all my amazing blessings.”

Lindevig has been playing his Wurlitzer piano accordion for 72 years and is considered one of the most versatile accordionists in the world, playing polkas and country western music.

Kottke drew on blues, jazz and folk music with a finger-picking guitar style. He changed to a classical style due to an injury in the early 1980 and added jazz composition and playing techniques. Kottke is a frequent guest on “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Jazzman Dennis Spears grew up on a Louisiana farm and began singing in a church choir at a young age. Working for Northwestern National Insurance company in Minneapolis in 1981, Spears knew he was born to entertain and joined the “Moore by Four” jazz vocal group before going solo seven years later. He was named Best Jazz vocalist at the 1990 Minnesota Jazz Awards.

Spears thanked his church family for attending. “In the words of Jed Clampett, ‘we dogies,’ he said. “I love you all and there ain’t nothing you can do about it. God bless you and thank you.”

Nancy Buckentine and Nancy Brooks received the MMHOF Volunteer of the Year Awards. Dale Besemer, MMHOF President, who was a driving force in organizing the group, received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I want to thank the board for making this organization so successful,” Besemer said. “Dodie (Wendinger) does all the daily work, takes all the guff and accomplishes the most. Thanks to all my family for being here.”

The St. Olaf Choir has been singing “near pefectly in every technical detail” for capacity audiences around the world including President Bush in 2005, Carnegie Hall in New York City, according to Master of Ceremonies Brian Filzen.

The 2013 Inductee Showcase at the Museum will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2. Participants are welcome to tour the museum, located at 27 North Broadway, for free and enjoy refreshments and entertainment by Donnie Klossner.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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