Superior star returns to roots

Violinist DeAnn Letourneau has played with musical superstars like Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood and Andrea Bocelli. "She's a marvelous musician," said Warren Friesen, conductor of the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra. Audiences love Letourneau's ...

DeAnn Letourneau

Violinist DeAnn Letourneau has played with musical superstars like Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood and Andrea Bocelli.

"She’s a marvelous musician," said Warren Friesen, conductor of the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra.

Audiences love Letourneau’s big, beautiful sound and the personal touch the Superior native gives every song.

"Her enjoyment of the piece comes through in her playing, sound, body language and smile," Friesen said.

Letourneau, concertmaster for the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra, will light up the stage with the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra on Thursday, performing pieces including "Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Bach’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor. The musicians will explore variations on the "Happy Birthday" song as well.


"One of the things I love to do when I’m performing, I like the audience to feel like they’re having a concert in their backyard or living room," Letourneau said.

Whether it’s a brand new piece to them or one they’ve heard 100 times, she aims to give them something new.

"I want to bring something interesting to the table for them just in this moment," Letourneau said during a telephone interview from her family cabin in Solon Springs.

This is a violinist who delivers, Friesen said.

"She’s quite an amazing person and funny as all get-out," he said. "She is a very serious musician; she also has a lot of fun."

Letourneau and Friesen have known each other for more than 30 years. They met when she was a junior at Superior Senior High School. At 16, she became the youngest full-time member ever to win a position with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra; he was a viola player with the orchestra.

When the chamber orchestra was founded in 1987 to continue classical music into the summer season, Letourneau was Friesen’s first guest artist. She’s come back every few years to lend her signature touch to their concerts.

"In 30 years, she’s performed as a soloist with us more than anyone else," Friesen said. She’s versatile, good natured and "always game for anything."


For Letourneau, Thursday’s concert is a musical family reunion. It gives her a chance to reconnect with fellow musicians she’s known for decades. They chat about their families and trust in each other’s skills.

"The LSCO on any of their concerts would be phenomenal," Letourneau said, thanks to their unique synergy.

Working with Friesen has always been a treat, she said. He loves to showcase new music and mix things up.

"What he has going on up here is unique and very special," Letourneau said. "Any time I get to come up here to play a concert I’m so happy."

Letourneau grew up in a family of entrepreneurs.

"Watching people live what they love to do is what I’ve seen my whole life," she said.

Her passion for music led her to excel locally and reach for the stars. She went on to meet and marry a Duluth native and settle in Las Vegas. The couple is raising three daughters who are reaching for passions of their own - singing, taekwondo and dance. Their oldest daughter is eyeing the University of Minnesota Duluth for college.

While studying music throughout the country, Letourneau got a lot of blank looks when she told people she was from Superior.


"I said ‘Yes, we have cows, we have cheese and we have a really great orchestra …" she said, noting that the musical community in the Twin Ports is open, giving and honest.

Letourneau has full-time commitments with the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Celine Dion’s show. As coach and teacher at Nevada School of the Arts, the Superior native loves to inspire young artists. She’s also formed a number of new music groups, from classical to modern paired with electronic sound.

Her dedication to cultivating the arts and youth in Las Vegas has earned Letourneau numerous honors and in March of 2012, she was inducted into the Superior Academic and Athletic Hall of Fame with a "Lifetime Achievement Award."

"That floored me," Letourneau said. "I’m only halfway done. I’m just in mid-stream."

Future plans include a return to Superior for a concert with Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Erin Aldridge this fall. Chances are, she’ll return again to play with Friesen and their Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra family.

"Everyone leaves absolutely loving the concerts," Letourneau said.

Thursday’s performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at Mitchell Auditorium on the College of St. Scholastica campus. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $10 for students with valid ID and $5 for children 12 and under. They can be purchased online or at the door. For more information, visit or call 218-525-4076.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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