Heron Lake grad Janie Becker visits Memorial Auditorium

Janie Becker, a 1972 graduate of Heron Lake High School, will deliver a “Piano Inspirations” concert at MAPAC at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16.

Janie Becker, a pianist who grew up in Heron Lake and is now a renowned performer and piano music composer, will perform a concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, using the beautiful Steinway grand piano at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.
Janie Becker, a pianist who grew up in Heron Lake and is now a renowned performer and piano music composer, will perform a concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, using the beautiful Steinway grand piano at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.
Tim Middagh/The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — Pianos are key to many events at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, and the resident 1906 Steinway grand piano there is about to have some cool company — both in the form of an accomplished player and its more contemporary “sister act.”

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Janie Becker, a 1972 graduate of Heron Lake High School whose music is popular on streaming platforms including Spotify and Pandora, will deliver a “Piano Inspirations” concert at MAPAC at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16.

Preceding Becker’s performance that day, concert goers can hear local musicians play a brand new electronic keyboard in the MAPAC lobby beginning at 1 p.m., followed by a short dedication ceremony just prior to the concert.

“Come early and listen to a number of our talented local pianists,” urged Tammy Makram, MAPAC’s managing director. “And then take a seat in our beautiful auditorium to enjoy Janie Becker’s performance.

“If you like Lorie Line’s music, you’ll love Janie Becker’s, too.”


Rolling in the Roland

With the support of a few donor groups, MAPAC’s Friends of the Auditorium purchased a Roland RD-2000 electronic stage piano for use at MAPAC.

Tammy Makram, managing director of the Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, tries out the new Roland Keyboard.
Tammy Makram, managing director of the Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, tries out the new Roland Keyboard.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

The boards of the former Worthington Concert Association and the Worthington Area Piano Teachers Association (WAPTA), both of which recently disbanded, voted to direct the remainder of their funds toward the cost of the keyboard.

An additional generous gift in support of the keyboard acquisition came from Cheryl and Frank Rainaldi of Surprise, Ariz. The Rainaldis are former Minnesotans familiar with MAPAC due to Makram, who is Cheryl Rainaldi’s cousin.

“MAPAC has its super grand piano, but there are times when that isn’t the appropriate instrument,” said Sylvia Andersen, chair of the former WAPTA. “To be able to contribute to a quality alternate keyboard was huge for us.”

A piano teacher and pianist herself, Andersen knows there will be numerous occasions when the Roland RD-2000 will be put to use at MAPAC; for pre-concert lobby entertainment, as a stage piano for touring music acts, high school musical rehearsals and pit bands, orchestral accompaniment and more.

“To be able to perpetuate music in town with something that will benefit a lot of musicians in the future — and for it to be specifically a keyboard, no less — was honestly a no-brainer for us,” said Andersen, adding that the remaining WAPTA members unanimously agreed.

Because the Friends of the Auditorium is a 501(c)3 organization, it’s supportive of those seeking to make tax-deductible gifts, Makram reminds potential donors.

“There are always projects or specific needs that aren’t part of our regular budget,” she said, “and we are happy to suggest projects that will put your gifts to use very productively.”


A grand performance

Becker will demonstrate her considerable skill on MAPAC’s fully restored Steinway, which Makram says is continuously praised by professionals.

“I can’t tell you how many times professional musicians have asked if they can take it with them,” said Makram.

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Becker has her own white six-foot grand in her Chanhassen home, but she is thrilled at the prospect of making her MAPAC debut next month.

“I’m really excited about the venue, showcasing my music with new audiences and playing that beautiful piano,” said Becker.

The eldest of the late Ben and Dorothy Becker’s five children, she grew up on the family farm near Talcott Lake. Her musical journey began when the nuns at Heron Lake’s Sacred Heart Catholic School suggested to her mother the active second-grader needed something more to do — piano lessons, a horse, anything that might occupy and exhaust her.

“I had more energy than they knew what to do with,” said Becker.

Thus, she began taking piano lessons at age eight, practicing on an old upright piano in the unheated porch of the Becker farmhouse.

It didn’t take long for her to become a performer; by age 10 she was pressed into service at Sacred Heart’s daily morning masses.


“They thought I could learn to play organ, so I have played both piano and organ — and been a church musician — my entire life,” she said.

Becker earned a bachelor’s degree at the College of St. Benedict and in more recent years has studied composition and orchestration with faculty from the Berklee College of Music, Boston, and the University of Minnesota.

She began writing her own compositions, and arranging other composers’ work, around 2000 and has never looked back.

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“I was going through some changes in my life and began writing original music,” said Becker.

But it was arrangements of her favorite Christmas carols that launched her sought-after first two CDs. Her initial original CD, “Ports of Call,” was inspired by travel in the Mediterranean.

“My style is very elegant, and it’s uncommonly soothing and relaxing,” said Becker, though it’s not necessarily easy to pigeonhole her work within a specific genre.

“Is my music ‘New Age’ or ‘Easy Listening?’ It’s definitely the latter, probably somewhat ‘New Age,’ but it’s not so far ‘out there’ because it’s very melodic,” she explained.

While Becker continues as the primary keyboard musician and accompanist at Christ the King Catholic Church in south Minneapolis, she is a frequent solo performer and also has a standing gig at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where she is one of several musicians the MSP Airport Foundation hires to entertain travelers in the North Star Commons shopping area in Terminal 1 past the security checkpoint.

“The MSP Airport Foundation has a large arts and culture program that uses its funds to make the airport more beautiful,” Becker said, mentioning not only the nine-foot Steinway she plays once a week during a three-hour shift but also enhancements like inlaid marble mosaics, flower baskets and more.

“You always meet interesting people, and they like hearing the music which can help them calm down after passing through security or relax in between flights,” she detailed. “You never know who’s walking by at the airport.”

Hometown connections

When Becker was casting about some years ago for help with recording her music, her mother ran into an old friend, Rosalie Brodin, who happened to have given Becker organ lessons during her high school years.

The two were chatting about their children when Rosalie informed Becker’s mother that her son, Mark Brodin, was a musician and sound engineer.

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The Windom-based Brodin has served as MAPAC’s technical director for several years, among other professional pursuits. As Becker’s recording engineer, he has been integral in producing all of Becker’s CDs to date.

“I just recorded a bunch of new music with Mark in June and released it to the Internet,” said Becker. “I’ll play a set of that new music at the concert.”

Regarding the recording experience, Becker appreciates that Brodin arrives with his equipment and allows her to record on the instrument she is most comfortable playing.

“It’s wonderful to play and record on the piano that I know so intimately,” Becker said.

Brodin, himself a skilled musician and award-winning documentarian, appreciates and vouches for Becker’s talents.

“What really attracted me to the music Jane does is that it’s ‘smart’ music,” said Brodin. “She is a classically trained musician with a formal educational background and that gives her a broader perspective of her particular art form.

“Her work is very melodic and approachable, and audiences will hear things they recognize and understand in the themes she presents, but she keeps it all interesting with her use of counterpoint, revoicing of chords and key changes.”

Brodin is certain the broader Worthington-area audience will value Becker’s music as much as he does.

“Jane’s music and MAPAC are a great match, because you can hear her background history in her music,” said Brodin, saying the social, cultural and religious touchpoints she includes will be largely familiar to listeners here.

“Having her here is a real natural pairing.”

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On the afternoon of Oct. 16, Becker expects her sisters (Dana Hogan of Fulda and Sandy Lund of Windom) will be in the audience; she’s not as certain about her brothers (Jim Becker and Steven Becker, both of Dundee) because she said “the boys may be harvesting then.”

But Becker is hoping many other area residents will prioritize the matinee concert — if not for her sake, then for theirs.

She shared a story about how her music boosted a woman who first heard her while passing through the MSP airport after participating in humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti.

“The woman bought two of my CDs,” said Becker. “A year later, she sent a letter and told me she had been on her way home (from Haiti) when she heard me — because her son had committed suicide.

“She ended up listening to my music all that year and wrote to tell me how integral it was to her healing and grieving process.”

Becker delights in bringing joy to others through her music, and she looks forward to doing the same in Worthington.

Sign up for Becker’s newsletter at and receive a free download of her music.

Tickets for “Janie Becker: Piano Inspirations” on Sunday, Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. are available at the Memorial Auditorium box office (stop in at 714 13th St., Worthington, or call 507-376-9101 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) or by visiting

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