Maestro Dennis Simons has been the conductor of the Minot Symphony Orchestra for 10 years. He has been such an integral part of the orchestra and Minot State University that it will be hard to imagine the Minot cultural scene without his baton.
"Ten years seemed a nice, round number to be ending with," he said. "It's been such a fabulous time here, with musicians who have tackled a lot of exciting repertoire and risen to the challenges. These are musicians who are willing to put their backs into it, and I've really enjoyed that kind of work ethic. I think the audience actually got that from them.
But (wife) Penny and I are going back to England to be with her family. It's time for another career move, and I'm still well-known there, so there will be opportunities to build up another group as I did here in Minot. It's sort of what I did with the philharmonic in Manchester for 13 years. We've come a long way here in different ways, and I've appreciated how well it's been done the community support, the (MSO) board support. I couldn't be happier with what we've accomplished. Of course I'll be leaving with mixed feelings."
Penny Simons has also been with MSU, teaching piano pedagogy and performance both there and at Minot Air Force Base. "It's odd," she said. "My father was in the (British) Air Ministry, so we lived on a lot of air bases growing up. I love getting to know the young airmen. I've made a lot of good friends here."
She lists some of her accomplishments in terms of how well her students have done. "I've had 12 pianists graduate, with four going on to get their master's degrees, and one of them working on a PhD in piano performance and pedagogy." She continued wistfully, "But I do miss England, especially in the spring. We always went back in the summer or at Christmastime, and I do get homesick for it all year, particularly now with the grandchildren. Our son has a 14-year-old and our daughter has one 6 and one 8. The little one is attracted to the piano, so I'm pleased by that, and the other one wants to be a violinist, so of course Dennis likes that."
The couple has an apartment in Bath, with family closer to London on the main road, and Penny points out this will also put them closer to the Continent, which is a definite draw. "One gets more playing there, (in England and Europe) with the chamber music and orchestras. There are more groups in that area."
The couple will be feted in a modest way following the concert on Saturday, a celebration to which the public is invited.