The curatorial power of Kate Nordstrum

Under Kate Nordstrum’s reign, the Southern Theater became the place to see performances of new music by some of the genre’s biggest names.

When the Southern Theater hit upon hard financial times it was forced to lay off almost all of its staff, and no longer curates artistic performances.


Curator and producer Kate Nordstrum has carved a niche presenting live concerts of new music which don’t fit neatly into established musical genres. (Photo courtesy of Stacy Schwartz)

But as MPR’s Euan Kerr reports, Nordstrum is still hard at work, bringing innovative voices to Twin Cities venues. This weekend she is co-presenting the 802 Tour with the Walker Art Center.

According to Kerr, it’s the latest step in her evolution from arts administrator to curatorial powerhouse.

Originally a dancer, Nordstrum focused on the growing number of talented performers slipping between genres. While there are numerous places to see live music in the Twin Cities, most present just one style: classical, jazz, rock, or folk.

Nordstrum recalls seeing Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche perform a solo percussion set at First Avenue one night. She left feeling it deserved a slightly more serious setting.

“Where people were listening intently and there weren’t beer bottles clanging in the background necessarily; where people were still feeling really relaxed and feeling like they are at a night out and having a good time with their friends, but that was a little bit more focused,” she said. When Nordstrum realized the size and acoustics of the Southern Theater lent themselves perfectly to such concerts, she began to book shows. “At the Southern, it was wonderful to use the space that way,” she said. “To showcase music with good lighting, with good atmosphere, with glasses of wine in people’s hands in a space that kind of allowed people to let down their guard and be adventurous.”

While prospects for Nordstrom looked bleak for a while, the SPCO recently offered her a part-time position curating new works. Details won’t be revealed until August, but Nordstrum said SPCO musicians will likely work with developing composers in a way which will allow audiences to become familiar with their work.

You can find out more about Nordstrum’s work by reading the full story here.