Sound familiar?

Posted: February 23, 2011

Sue Nelson's image is reflected in the corner plexiglass of the Minnehaha ice arena during a recent boys' hockey game. (Photo by Cristina Anfang)

The organist you hear at Target Field has also been playing at M.A. boys’ hockey games

Sue Nelson brings a lifelong love of sports, music and fun to campus

by Wilson Kozel
Talon staff writer

At the varsity boys’ hockey home games, at the far right corner of the rink by the home bench stands a small, older woman with a Minnehaha jacket on, hunched over what appears to be a portable keyboard.

She’s so cold standing on the cement floor in what her son, a Minnesota State High School League referee, has deemed the “coldest ice rink in the state,” that between periods she has to go and sit directly under the heaters which hang over the bleaches. But not once does a youthful smile ever leave her face.

“She always has a smile on her face,” observed junior captain Michael Fabie. “She loves being there and the team really likes having her here.”

Her name is Sue Nelson, the first ever organist for the boy’s varsity hockey games. But she’s no novice at playing the organ at sporting events, Nelson has played the organ for many of Minnesota’s sports teams including the North Stars, the U of M hockey team, the Minnesota Strikers and the Twins.

So what brought her here to Minnehaha?

Former varsity hockey coach John Gould called Nelson and asked if she would play for the MA boys.

“He [Gould] played for Holy Angels 14 years ago, and that was my first year playing the organ for them,” Nelson said.

Despite Gould’s resignation, Nelson plans to continue playing for the Redhawks, a bright spot during a tough season for the 3-17 boys team.

“Mr. Gould left and then Mr. Fabie called and asked me to keep playing and I said, ‘Well, yeah sure!’ because I really enjoyed it,” Nelson said.

A cheerleader at heart

Nelson insists that she is more a cheerleader than a musician.

“Musicians want to play their own music,” Nelson said. “I mean, most musicians are into music, and I’m not terribly much into music, I’m more into sports.”

One of Nelson’s favorite parts of being an organist is also one of the main advantages it holds over recorded music: crowd interaction.

“At the Twins they respond so well, I just start ‘Dun dun…’ and they join in and it’s so cool,” Nelson explained with a large grin etched on her face.

Nelson’s enthusiasm for playing at games and being a “cheerleader” does not go unnoticed.

“She’s very inspirational and gets us fired up,” said junior captain Johnny Seibel. “Not just during the game, but in warm-ups too.”

Although this is only Nelson’s first season playing for Minnehaha, there was a clear tone of excitement and pride in her voice when she talked about two MA home wins versus Legacy Christian and Winona.

“Legacy Christian was here and they went one goal ahead with less than a minute and we tied it up with just 20 seconds left and then we won in overtime,” Nelson explained. “That was so fantastic.”

The show must go on

Nelson’s biggest desire is that someone would come and become her organ apprentice.

“I wish somebody would come and watch me and hang around and want the job as much as I did,” Nelson said.

That is how Nelson got the job as the Twins organist. She sat with the former Twins organist and watched him play; he started developing arthritis and Nelson took over for him.

Nelson explained that she is open to anyone who is interested in tagging along for some high school sporting events.

“I wish that there was someone that would be able to do it because, you know, I’m old and anything can happen at any time, and if something would happen I don’t know who would do it,” Nelson said, adamant that someone had to take over when she was done.

“You know, I’ve been playing organ for over 30 years now and I just love it,” Nelson said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

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