Dale Haefner has been the Performance Series Director here at Minnesota State University, Mankato for twenty years, bringing a wide range of different sights and sounds to the Mankato area.
Haefner also teaches upper-level music industry courses for student’s pursuing majors in music.
Haefner has been an incredible influence on not only MNSU’s campus with concerts and students, but on the whole Mankato region as well with his ability to schedule artists that expose audiences to a variety of new music.
“It’s a fun job,” he said. “I get to interact with a lot of great musicians.”
Haefner mentions how hard it was for him to get the performance series initially started here at MNSU.
“It actually grew out of a master’s project,” he said. Haefner’s area of mastery was in Art Administration. “Instead of writing a thesis, I proposed to my committee that I would do an experiential [project]. Putting on a concert along with writing a shorter paper, detailing how I put that together.”
In order for Haefner to make this work though, he needed more than a good idea.
“The dean said, ‘great idea, but we’re not gonna give you any money’,” he said.
Haefner said in the spirit of arts administration and in order to gain experience raising money and finding donors, he managed to raise $5,000. This was quite an impressive feat for Haefner to have taken upon himself to raise that much amount of money.
After the success of being able to put on the first concert, the performance series has grown larger with nearly every passing year. It is now up to over twenty concerts a year and a four-day piano festival.
There used to be an all-day Jazz festival where artist would perform at the Jazz Maverick, as well as neighboring high school jazz bands come in for the day. That has sort of died out though, Haefner said.
“There are 16 to 18 events in the recital hall, 5 off-campus events at Hooligans bar. The events at Hooligans are more involved with community members since the bar is for those who are 21 and older,” said Haefner.
At Hooligans, Haefner said he tries to usually bring in bands that wouldn’t work in a recital hall.
The teaching spectrum of Haefner’s position is something he also enjoys. Getting to teach students how the music industry works and giving them useful knowledge for post-graduation is a way for Haefner to interact directly with them.
Haefner said he teaches music industry courses adjunct to scheduling concerts, one of them being Music Management/Concert Production.
“With all the events,” he said, “I can draw experience producing concerts and relate that to my students.”
This past knowledge from scheduling events is helpful insight for his students in the future workforce. Haefner has experience dealing with artist’s managers, contract negotiations, busy scheduling, to name a few aspects.
Haefner thinks gaining hands on experience and getting involved is very valuable for students interested in concert production management because they get to “interact with someone actually doing it in the field,” he said.
Haefner was born here in Mankato, and attended school here at MNSU for his undergraduate and graduate degree. He is a musical artist of his own and plays piano in the group City Mouse.
The group has been around for almost 50 years. The current six members have been together for thirty-six years—that’s a long time to be making music.
Haefner mentioned they would be “playing to make a living, playing six or seven nights a week.”
Haefner’s musical accomplishments have not gone unnoticed though, as City Mouse was inducted into Minnesota Music Hall of Fame about ten years ago.
Moving forward, it is Haefner’s hope that the performance series will continue. The biggest thing moving forward for Haefner is to keep the series going financially. This gets harder every year, with the constant increase in prices.
With Haefner approaching retirement age, he isn’t sure about the future for the music series, saying “it may continue or it may not.”
Through the music series, Haefner is also currently involved in a three-year grant program.
“The series is one of eight sights in the United States to receive the grant from the association of performing arts professionals in Washington D.C.,” he said. “The grant is to bring in international Somali artists to elevate the understanding of Somali culture and Somali music.”
Haefner’s time at MSU and in the Mankato area have overall been a success. The other night he was standing in Hooligans after a concert and had people come up to him to say thank you for bringing different bands to Mankato and to keep up the good work.
“It’s nice hearing those compliments,” he said.