Random Rochesterite: Stephanie Kilen

One resident, numerous anecdotes

Stephanie Kilen

Name: Stephanie Kilen

Age: Still not able to say it out loud!

Occupation: Director of audience development at Rochester Symphony

Where we found her: Dessa concert at Forager Brewery

Best concert you’ve ever seen? Oh my gosh, the U2 Joshua Tree tour in 2017. It was a combination of a few things: I’ve always loved their music, and they played a lot of songs I loved. But there was also just this new spin on social relevance, visuals, and poetry.


Who’s your favorite local band? Is Dessa local?! I will say that my favorite local music ensemble is definitely Rochester Symphony.

What does a director of audience development do? They work on everything from promotions and publicity to community engagement, community partnerships, business partnerships—anything that draws people into the symphony. It’s the person responsible for developing and growing a supportive community around Rochester Symphony.

What might someone be surprised to learn about Rochester Symphony? I think some people would be surprised to learn that our orchestra musicians are paid professionals. I think people assume it’s a volunteer orchestra.

Are you a musician? No. Not at all.

So how were you drawn to this position? Primarily through my kids. When my boys, who are now adults, expressed an interest in joining the youth orchestra, we all got really into it as a family. As their interest and skill progressed, and we were attending more and more music events and concerts, we started going to professional orchestra concerts. But our first big exposure that really sparked our curiosity for orchestral music was when we saw an orchestra play the score to Legend of Zelda in Seattle. We went because of the video game, but it was so thrilling!

Why Seattle? We moved to Washington state for three years between 2010 and 2013. I was born and raised in Rochester, and went to school at all the same schools my kids are going to now. Washington state is the only other place we’ve lived.

What brought you there? My husband got a job there in IT. I started trying to get back to Minnesota as soon as we got there! I did not like it. The weather is a real issue—it’s gray and wet, and I just could not handle so much rain. I spent the first few months never wanting to go anywhere. I missed Minnesota. I’m a Minnesotan through and through.

Did your family agree with you? My husband would’ve liked to stay longer—he loved the natural landscape. We were in Olympia, an hour from mountains, an hour from Seattle. But he was definitely outvoted. The kids wanted to come back, too.


Tell me about your kids? We have four kids, 24, 21, 15, 13. My two oldest are boys and in college right now. And my girls are still in Rochester Public Schools.

Your first kiss? All I’ll say about that is that the Rochester park system provided the opportunity under a bridge along the river. And that’s all the detail you get to know!

Something you didn’t tell your parents until you were an adult? I had very few secrets from my parents, and the ones I had, I still have not told them! I better not start now in case I run for political office again.

Biggest adventure? Last summer, all six of us went to the Apostle Islands and camped for four days on an island that was only accessible by boat. It was a whole backpacking, super minimalist, outdoor experience. It was amazing.

You’ll do it again? Yes, although I’ll test my equipment ahead of time next time. I took my air mattress along—and I hadn’t used it since the summer before. When I inflated it, it failed, so I slept on solid ground for four nights in a row. Really big life lesson!

Advice you’ve given? I tell my kids that they don’t have to accept what somebody else says about them as the truth. They get to choose what is real about themselves. So when somebody else says something or treats them in a way that is unkind or critical, they are perfectly capable of rejecting that and not internalizing that. Sometimes I make them say it out loud: “That’s not true. They’re wrong.” I wish someone had made me say that over and over again. It’s something I still work on.

Scariest moment? The scariest moment was when I filed to run for mayor in 2014 against Ardell Brede. It was always something I had wanted to do, but at that moment when you submit that form to the city clerk, you’re committed. It’s no longer something you’re “thinking” about. Once you file—the level of the workload that’s demanded of you, the level of public scrutiny and criticism from everybody, your own need to be really articulate about everything you say—that all culminates right in front of you at the moment you submit that form and pay that fee and are an official candidate. It’s so big.

What do you take away from that now? You can do really hard things. And even when you don’t get the ideal outcome, it was still worth doing, and you come out the other side surviving and wiser. Losing is not necessarily the worst outcome. I think that was the biggest thing for me. One of the reasons I was scared to run is because I was scared of losing. I lost. And things were fine. The world didn’t end. There were other things on the horizon for me. Now I’m not afraid to do things because of the fear that they might not work out how I wanted.

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