About the Hill House Chamber Players

Composed of musicians from the U of M School of Music faculty, Minnesota Opera, and Minnesota Orchestra, the Hill House Chamber Players have been presenting concerts in the intimate historical venue of the James J Hill House for 32 years.

Julie Ayer, violinist and founder of the Hill House Chamber Players, was assistant principal second violin with the Minnesota Orchestra for 36 years. She studied violin with world renowned Josef Gingold at Indiana University where she earned a master's degree. Julie is the author of More than Meets the Ear: How Symphony Musicians Made Labor History, published in 2005, and since then has presented workshops to a variety of groups on the subject.

Cellist Tanya Remenikova has inspired critical acclaim during her 40 year international performing career. She studied with the legendary Mistislav Rostropovich at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire. Currently Professor of cello and chamber music at the University of Minnesota, she is a recipient of the Master Teacher Studio Award from the Minnesota chapter of the American String Teachers Association.

Pianist Mary Jo Gothmann enjoys a varied career as a chamber musician, soloist, opera coach and organist. She performs frequently with the Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and has worked for the Metropolitan Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and Minnesota Opera companies. Mary Jo is a sought after chamber music partner, playing with the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, Colonial Chamber Music Series, Bakken Trio, JOYA in Anoka and Lakes Area Music Festival.

Tom Turner is a violist of the Minnesota Orchestra and regularly appears as soloist with the orchestra. After graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music, he began his career in Germany as principal viola with the Varga Chamber Orchestra and Berlin Radio Symphony. He was the winner of a 2004-5 McKnight Fellowship.

Pre-concert talk Historian

Emily Hogstad

Emily Hogstad writes about classical music on her widely read blog Song of the Lark and for the website Interlude.hk. Her work has been cited by Kevin Case, Norman Lebrecht, and Alex Ross, among others, and she has also appeared on or in MinnPost, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minnesota Public Radio, National Public Radio, WQXR, Slipped Disc, Performance Today, and New Music Box. She was the first writer to crowdfund coverage of an American orchestra's tour to Europe when she covered the Minnesota Orchestra's 2016 European tour. Her main topics include orchestral labor disputes, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the history of women in music.

Our History

The unusual and special collaboration between three major Twin Cities arts organizations has resulted in a remarkable thirty-two years of chamber music in the James J. Hill House. It has been a constant creative and imaginative effort by all involved, notwithstanding the possibility of closure of the James J. Hill House.


The Minnesota Historical Society stepped outside its usual role by facilitating this venue for the Hill House Chamber Players. Architecturally and historically, the James J. Hill House is one of the most important among the many sites operated by the MHS. Nina Archabal, (former MHS and Schubert Club President), Betsy Doermann and Craig Johnson (former James J. Hill site managers), were instrumental in allowing (offering) use of the art gallery, or the music room for the concerts, setting up the space, providing staff, refreshments and post-concert mini-tours. Parlor concerts are not a new idea! Before the turn of the twentieth century, the Schubert Club and the Hill House had an historic tradition of presenting recitals, which seemed to tie it all together.


With the help and effort of Bruce Carlson, former Schubert Club President, and continuing with current Artistic and Executive Director Barry Kempton, we created an affiliation/co-sponsorship with the HHCP, MHS and The Schubert Club. Schubert Club Museum historic and reproduction instruments have been incorporated into the concerts over the years, and the Schubert Club's Steinway Model B piano from 1952, is currently in residence at the Hill House on extended loan. The Schubert Club also produced two CD’s for the HHCP, Music in the Gallery I and II.


MPR and WCAL were broadcast partners for many years during the 1980’s and ’90’s, a valuable promotion for the Parlor Concerts.


We began with four musicians, and frequently invited guest artists depending on the repertoire. Craig Johnson wore several hats throughout the years, appearing on our programs numerous times in his role as actor, poet or narrator. Our wonderful guest artists are too numerous to mention by name, but suffice to say all of them enhanced our programs immeasurably. When audience demand exceeded the available seating (120) for each concert, the series was expanded to include two performances of each program. The Hill House Chamber Players have performed several benefit concerts for both the Schubert Club and the James J Hill House, most recently the Schubertiade in June of 2015.


It has been an extremely rewarding relationship for all of us. As our audiences expanded over the years, awareness grew of the James J Hill House, (and by extension, the Minnesota Historical Society), as well as the Schubert Club. All are cultural treasures and an important part of our local and national collective history. We are honored to have worked together successfully for so many years.

The James J. Hill House

Our performances take place in the art gallery of the Gilded Age mansion, built by railroad magnate James J. Hill in 1891. A National Historical Landmark since 1961, it is open to the public for field trips and tours daily, by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Learn more about the history and legacy, guided and virtual tours of the James J. Hill House at the Minnesota Historical Society website.

240 Summit Avenue

St. Paul, MN 55102

See map: Google Maps

    ©2017 by The Hill House Chamber Players.