BLOSSOM SORBY ANDERSON
1990 GRAND MARSHAL
With music, determination and style
She has touched so many lives
To Blossom Anderson, music is a gift of joy, and it is through her gift of music that she has touched so many lives. She fondly recalls the students, the concerts, the performances and the rehearsals that have been such a major part of her life. To Blossom it seems like music has always been there. "It probably started the time I was three years old and mother couldn't find me," Blossom said. "It turned out that I was upstairs, dancing for a small crowd that had gathered around me." As a young child in Montevideo, Blossom began to discover and develop her talents in music. Her father had a love of music and the family supported Blossom's musical interests. She took lessons in piano, dance and violin, and band was her first love from fifth grade through high school. Blossom also sang in the chorus, but it wasn't until her sophomore year that she began to seriously develop her interest in voice. She had been offered the lead in the musical "Mikado," and it was then that she discovered true joy through music. At St. Olaf College, Blossom majored in voice and public school music. She sang in the St. Olaf Choir under the direction of F. Melius Christiansen and often was awarded solo parts. After graduation, Blossom held teaching positions in Emmons and Bagley, Minnesota. When polio struck in 1944, 26-year-old Blossom spent eight months in Sheltering Arms treatment center in Minneapolis and learned to walk with the use of "Kenny sticks," named after the Sister Kenny method of polio rehabilitation. It was during her treatment that she began her tradition of personalizing her correspondence by drawing colorful pictures on the envelopes. Blossom still surprises friends and acquaintances on special occasions with cards and envelopes which she has made herself. With plenty of determination still intact, one year after being bit with polio Blossom became a music teacher in Morris at the West Central School of Agriculture--now known as the University of Minnesota. Blossom laughs that the biggest challenge was not in moving around with her Kenny sticks, but in teaching music to students with no music background. "Oh what a challenge!" Blossom said. "Many of the students were from farm communities and did much of their learning by rote. But that first year, and for the next five years, we performed college-level choral music and gave concerts in surrounding communities." It was at the WCSA that Blossom met Les Dehlin, one of her students who later became the choir director in Alexandria. She also met Palmer Anderson, and in 1949 Blossom's acappella choir sang at their wedding. In 1963 the Andersons moved to Alexandria, and Blossom was immediately welcomed into this musical community. Within months, Blossom and her 12-year-old son, Kirk, were performing in the Euterpean Club production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors." She became a charter member of the Alexienne Chapter of Sweet Adelines, substitute taught in Alexandria and other nearby schools, sang in the First Lutheran Church Choir, and played many familiar roles in the bi-annual Alexandria Area Arts Association musicals. She also gave private voice lessons, and even today she continues her work as a vocal coach and instructor. "Alex is tops in musical activities," Blossom said, and she considers the family's relocation to Alexandria one of their most exciting moves. For a short time Blossom taught band, choir and music history in nearby Brandon, and her determination proved to be stronger than her polio. "Band was my first love," Blossom said, "and I felt right at home when I used my Kenny sticks and marched down main street with my own band for our Homecoming parade." Today Blossom again will feel a sense of pride from being in a parade, but at today's parade she is not marching as a director, she is riding as the Grand Marshal. She is both humble and thrilled about her selection for the honor. "I don't know if I should be embarrassed or not," she said. "Compared to the careers of previous Grand Marshals I hardly feel worthy of this honor." "Being selected Grand Marshal will be my one claim to fame along with being chosen to perform in the St. Olaf alumni recital in 1986," she said. Music continues to be an important part of Blossom's life, whether at home in Alexandria or at their winter haven in Arizona. "I have been able to be very close to students from five years old to senior citizens," she said. "The love of singing is very important to me and I thank God every day that His gift is still keeping me active no matter where I am."