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From Our Community

Q&A with Symphony Ball Chairs Diane and Tony Hofstede

Diane and Tony Hostede, standing and dressed in formal wear in front of a white background.
2024 Symphony Ball Chairs Diane and Tony Hofstede

As co-chairs of River Rhapsody, the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2024 Symphony Ball gala fundraiser, Diane and Tony Hofstede have exciting plans in store for the can’t-miss event of the season. On Saturday, May 4, at Orchestra Hall and the Minneapolis Hilton, the Ball will celebrate the soul-nourishing, life-giving currents of music and water that flow through all of us. You’re invited to join the evening of music, dancing, dining, drinks, auctions and good company—all celebrating the Orchestra, the Mississippi River and Music Director Thomas Søndergård, and raising funds for the Orchestra’s artistic and educational missions. Diane and Tony previewed the Ball and reflected on their connections with the river, the Orchestra and the Minnesota community.

What have been some of your memorable connections with the Mississippi River over the years?

Diane: When I was growing up, my grandmother and I would walk across the Lowry Avenue Bridge to visit my aunt and cousins, and I could look down and see the mighty, magnificent river. Tony and I have walked along it together as far back as our high school sweetheart days, when we’d go to dances at his school, DeLaSalle. We’ve gone down it on river boats and canoes, and today we live near the Mississippi River. It’s an important part of our lives. The river is important to me, to our city and our state’s history—as an industrial river, a means of transportation, a tourist attraction for people from around the world and a place to live.

Tony: We’ve both worked on projects for the river. I was Chair of the Capital Long Range Improvement Committee for the City of Minneapolis for 24 years. Diane worked most closely through her time as an elected official on the Minneapolis City Council and with the environmental non-profit she directs, the Great River Coalition. She’s worked on many projects that have impacted our community such as saving the Pillsbury A-Mill and enhancing the riverfront with improved housing, parks and bridges.

What links do you see between the river and music?

Diane: One reason we picked River Rhapsody as this year’s Symphony Ball theme is that the Mississippi River is a national treasure, as is our Orchestra.

I believe that music nourishes and soothes the soul, as does being on the river.

How did your connections with the Orchestra begin, and what have been your favorite concerts?

Diane: We’ve been attending concerts for a long time, and Tony and I like to say that each time we come to Orchestra Hall, that becomes our new favorite memory of the Orchestra. Each performance is extraordinary!

Tony: When I was 14, my brother Al, former Mayor of Minneapolis, dedicated Orchestra Hall at its grand opening in 1974. He also took me to a concert to hear Van Cliburn, and I have never forgotten it! What we most love today is seeing the exuberance of young people at concerts, and their laughter and engagement at performances such as Home Alone. It’s so important to bring in young people, whether it’s through the movie concerts or with school groups. Seeing their enthusiasm brings us back to our early days with music, singing in choirs and coming to appreciate music.

What makes the Orchestra important enough to you to serve as Symphony Ball Chairs?

Diane: I firmly believe that it’s the arts that will help restore the cities of our state. Minneapolis means a lot to us—we’ve been here our whole life, and the Orchestra is an important part of it. This is one important thing that we can do to help.

What experience will people have at this year’s Symphony Ball?

Tony: Our vision is that the Ball will be an exciting and fun event! Musical styles and food from up and down the river will be featured. Get ready to enjoy!

Diane: The evening will be full of highlights, whether it’s making new friends at the icebreaker, auction items related to the river, some of which people will be able to bid for online, music by the Orchestra, guest artists, great food, beautiful décor and even a parade!

A major part of the Ball will be celebrating our new music director, Thomas Søndergård.

Tony: That’s right, we want to introduce Thomas to the city, but more importantly, we want the city and the state to be introduced to him. And what better avenue than to have a party? When you see him conduct, you feel the energy and the chemistry that he not only has with his Orchestra, but also with the audience. He moves with rhythm and energy, and we want more people to experience and appreciate it. The water theme will resonate on a personal level, too, since Thomas often talks about going to the sea as a place where you can get close to nature and feel the calmness.

What other activities are important to you?

Diane: Since I left public office, I’ve been committed to environmental causes, including directing the Great River Coalition. One of our major events is an annual Earth Day 5K Bee Run, Walk and River Cleanup, in collaboration with 40 other organizations. Our mission is to promote a healthy ecosystem to support a more hospitable environment along the river for birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators. I also serve on the boards of the Minnesota Orchestra, Guthrie Theater and Minneapolis Audubon Society, and Chair of the Board of Directors of Event Sales.

Tony: I am President of Event Sales, which is an international corporation that I’ve owned for 37 years and which employs about 75 people. For 32 years I was also fortunate to be appointed to the Capital and Long-Range Improvement Committee for the City of Minneapolis. Many of our projects had to do with water, the river and infrastructure. I worked on many of Diane’s campaigns and we’ve both worked on other campaigns, too, because we’re invested in where the city and state are going, and we’ve tried to make a difference as a team.

Learn more about Symphony Ball and purchase tickets.