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Three musicians playing on a stage on Northrop plaza.

The Becky Schlegel Band in action last summer. The band will play again on June 21.

Summer at Northrop: 52 years and counting

Since 1954, the U has offered free noon concerts on Northrop plaza

June 9, 2006

Every summer, for the past 52 years, hordes of people have converged on Northrop plaza on the Twin Cities campus to eat their lunch and take in a free concert. This summer will be no different. The 2006 "Summer at Northrop" series serves up an assortment of concerts through July 26.

Boyd Lee and Joe Cruz will perform on Monday, June 12, from noon to 1 p.m. with music that blends folk, Latin, pop, jazz, and rock. The duo, which got together almost six years ago, is known for "[putting] out a hell of a lot of sound for just two guys" and "[looking] like they're having way too much fun," says a couple of fans on the group's Web site. Lee's the vocalist and rhythm guitarist; Cruz plays the Steel string acoustic and mandolin. In addition to music, June 12 concertgoers can enjoy free ice cream sandwiches and popsicles courtesy of the organizers.

"Summer at Northrop" is presented by the U's Summer Session program and Department of Concerts and Lectures, and it's funded by student services fees collected during the May and summer academic sessions. The series is one of hundreds of free public events held at the University of Minnesota that entertain, intellectually engage, or inform. Others include book readings, art gallery talks, and forums on health-related topics or health screenings, such as the popular Melanoma Monday each May. (See the U's online calendar for current events.)

In 1954, the Minnesota Orchestra first performed a free concert for University of Minnesota students, faculty, and staff on Northrop plaza. The event, which was offered in appreciation for the orchestra's temporary home at Northrop Auditorium, launched the tradition of free outdoor performances by local and international artists on the Twin Cities campus. Every year, more than 20 concerts are held in June and July. (This year, there are 24 concerts on the list.)

"I don't know of another university that rivals this long-standing tradition," says Jack Johnson, director of the Summer Session program. "The music with influences from all over the world, the aroma of grilling at the University's brat stand, and picnic tables crowded with people make the plaza in front of Northrop Auditorium an inviting place to be day after day. It's great to have this community atmosphere each summer."

Other acts this season include The Abdomen, a University of Minnesota sibling pop rock band; Charanga Tropical, a classic Cuban salsa band; Red Wolfe's Memorial Ellington Echoes Octet; and the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra. All concerts are noon to 1 p.m., and if it rains, they'll be moved inside to Northrop Auditorium. For a complete list of bands and their types of music, see 2006 Summer at Northrop.