June 22, 2024

Audra Bielke: Going in on a High Note

UMW Philharmonic Operations Manager Audra Bielke. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

UMW Philharmonic Operations Manager Audra Bielke. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

You’d think Audra Bielke would always keep her cool around famous people. After all, the UMW Philharmonic’s operations manager already has one season under her belt of juggling logistics for the popular Celebrity Concert Series. But being in the presence of one legendary opera diva left her star-struck.

“Before I worked at Mary Washington, I attended Renée Fleming’s concert with the Philharmonic in fall 2017,” said Bielke, who hails from Minnesota and traded brutal winters for Virginia’s scorching summers over a decade ago. “I’m a longtime fan and have seen her perform several times, so I was delighted when she came to Fredericksburg!”

These days, Bielke takes in stride the aura of celebrities; helping the musical luminaries who come to campus is all part of her gig. Her responsibilities include making arrangements for guest performers, coordinating volunteers and planning special events for the orchestra. And that’s in addition to stewarding Friends of the Philharmonic. “We have hundreds of dedicated supporters, and I enjoy getting to know them all,” she said.

Though it’s still a month away, Bielke is already preparing for the return of virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman, who kicks off the Philharmonic’s 49th season on Oct. 26.

“I’m always cognizant that our performances not only represent the Philharmonic, but also Mary Washington as a whole,” Bielke said. “So it’s important that everything is perfect.”

Tickets for the Celebrity Concert Series performance with Itzhak Perlman went on sale Sept. 23 for the general public. Contact the Philharmonic office at (540) 654-1324 with questions or for a season brochure.


Q: What brought you to Mary Washington?
A: I helped plan the 2017 Concert for Hope with the UMW Philharmonic to benefit Loisann’s Hope House. This community effort raised over $200,000 to end homelessness in our region. I was thrilled when an opportunity later arose to be employed by the orchestra.

Q: What’s your musical background?
A: I grew up playing piano and clarinet. Alas, I’m a better operations manager, so I now leave playing music to the pros.

Q: What’s your favorite piece of classical music?
A: Vaughn Williams’ “The Lark Ascending.” I live in a rural area, and it’s visceral and soothing to listen to this piece while watching the nature surrounding me.

Q: What would you say to someone who has never listened to classical music?
A: Come to our Fiddlestix family concert on Oct. 20, which is free and open to the public.

Q: What makes the Philharmonic unique?
A: The community-orchestra partnership is very special. Our students play alongside and learn from local musicians and vice versa.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I have a master’s degree in international relations and studied Mandarin Chinese.

Q: What do you enjoy about working in Pollard?
A: My office abuts the music practice rooms, so I listen to students playing their instruments all day. Thanks to guidance from our music faculty, I get to hear their progress throughout the semester.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Leave nothing to chance. It’s served me well in this job.


  1. Spencer Greenwald says

    Audra is one of the best things to happen to the UMW Philharmonic. And that’s after some amazing things over the half century it’s been in existence. BZ Audra. Or