Northern Lights Music Festival has new home

Dahlin great-grandson Teddy, right, is pictured with Cecilia Lopez, star of “La traviata’’ and Dahlin grandsons Michael and Todd.

AURORA — The Northern Lights Music Festival (NLMF) has a new home — literally, they have a house.

Each year, the Northern Lights Music Festival brings string and piano students along with opera singers and instructors to the Iron Range for an intense performance schedule. In the past, they have been housed at various area dormitories but after issues finding housing this year, the organization decided to purchase a house in Aurora to be used for housing primarily students.

The ideal location was on the market and the group purchased a multi-family building which had originally been built as the Aurora Hospital. They named it the Dahlin House.

Entering the expansive house, Veda Zuponcic walked into a room on the left. Zuponcic is the group’s artistic director and a founding member.

“This used to be the doctor’s office,” she explained. In the hallway hung a picture Dr. Ivor T. Dahlin at work in the office.

Today, instead of the desk and papers shown in the picture, two twin beds sat ready under the windows. Two further rooms were attached to this main space along with a bathroom. One room will be used as a changing room with dressers while the other holds a bunk bed.

Leading us across the hall, Zuponcic entered another door saying, “This was the dentist’s office.” Similarly two beds were ready for NLMF students. Attached to this room was also a bathroom and a space that previously had been converted into a kitchenette.

“We didn’t take the kitchens out because we don’t know what our future holds,” she explained. “The space works perfectly for us because we can isolate certain areas of the building with existing doors.” Zuponcic explained that different age groups and genders could be assigned different parts to the building. “Every suite has its own bathroom. It was very easy to make this into a dormitory as there was already plumbing.”

The dedication of the Dahlin House was last Sunday and an open house was sponsored by the Friends of the Northern Lights Music Festival. Many people brought house-warming gifts but they are still in-need of several items including: two sets of twin bunk beds, four twin mattresses, dressers and end tables.

“We hope this facility will be a warm haven for all the young people who will stay here as they pursue their academic and musical activities.”

The building has 14 rooms, six bathrooms, three kitchens along with countless corridors and closets.

“So this is kinda cute, huh?” said Zuponcic with a smile.

The Dahlin House is located at 401 North Main Street West in Aurora and was named for Dr. Ivor T. Dahlin. The building was built in 1907 as the Aurora Hospital. It was founded by Dr. Charles Lenont, who also founded another clinic in Virginia. It was owned by St. James Mining until 1956.

Although records are unclear, Lenont served as Aurora Hospital’s doctor until the 19-teens. Then, in the late 1920’s, after another doctor held the post, Dr. Ivor T. Dahlin came to Aurora. He and his family were on the 1930 census. Dahlin served the community out of this building until the mid 1950’s.

Dahlin worked as a team with local dentist Dr. Robert Anderson. Anderson had severe arthritis and Dahlin would often help pull teeth.

In 1962 Dahlin retired. He passed away in 1962.

“Dr. Dahlin was a legend for those who knew him,” states the open house’s pamphlet. “He was considered to be an exceptional diagnostician and knew what he could do with his own set of knowledge and skills, and when another specialist needed to be seen. He had a tremendous, positive effect on generations of Aurora citizens, and the Northern Lights Music Festival, wanting to preserve a bit of Aurora history through naming the building after the local doctor who practiced here would be an appropriate gesture.”

Zuponcic is a native of Aurora and has her own special story of Dahlin’s quick decision making saving her ability to pursue an international music career.

From 1956-2019 the building was owned by the Stanley Trost family and used as their primary residence.

The purchase of the property was made possibly through a $45,000 grant to the Northern Lights Music Festival from the Iron Range Resource and Rehabilitation Board and mortgage through the National Bank of Gilbert.

Each season, the Northern Lights Music Festival spends about $16,000 for housing in the area dorms. The group is now able to invest this money into this sustainable facility.

When asked how contributions toward the house could be made, Zuponcic said, “Come to the opera! Come to the concerts! If you want to help us pay the mortgage fill the seats. That’s the point of this festival- to bring music to the Iron Range.”

Although some performances are free, there are admission charges to the rest but Zuponcic hopes tickets are affordable.

“This opera is here for those who can’t afford to spend $200 on a ticket,” she said. “When I see the audience full of local people my heart goes pitter-patter. I’ve even heard of people inviting visitors specifically during this festival.”

“This is a long overdue and welcome development for which we congratulate the Northern Lights Music Festival,” said Aurora Mayor Douglas Gregor Tuesday following a special city council meeting. “We congratulate them and all the efforts put forth by Veda. The vision that went into acquiring the facility is to be applauded- along with the area tradespeople who have transformed the structure to be celebrated.”

The interior of Dahlin House was painted by Ron Scherle Painting of Aurora who scraped patched and re-painted the large building. Upgrades to the bathrooms and repairing of the floors were completed by Gary La Frenierre and Alvin Rintala with assistance provided by Steven Hambling, Jim Tossava and Brian DeMarte.

When asked about the economic impact of the students being housed in Aurora Gregor said, “Past experiences lead to confidence that the students will be welcomed and make a positive contribution by patronizing local businesses.”

This year, students have come from all over the world to learn and perform for the Northern Lights Music Festival. Strings and pianists came from all over America, Japan, Colombia and several Asian countries. The professional level singers include a Nigierian, Mexican Americans and a Choctaw Native American.

“We have a very interesting group this year,” said Zuponcic. “That was not intentional. We looked for the right people for the parts and it came together.”

Along with national and international performers, locals are invited to participate in the opera’s chorus.

These students and performers come to the area and stay for about a month.

This all started in 2003 when founding president Thomas Gillach invited Zuponcic to hold a piano performance on the Iron Range. With that visit home, Zuponcic had the idea of creating the Northern Lights Music Festival.

The Northern Lights Music Festival began as a music camp 16 years ago. “It evolved into including faculty concerts, then an opera. One thing lead to another and now we have a pretty good pattern,” said Zuponcic. “Our students are all exceptional for their ages and they get a lot of opportunities to perform.”

Each season, the Northern Lights Music Festival brings and opera to the region. This year’s opera is “La traviata.” According to the group’s website, “‘La traviata’ is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It is based on ‘La Dame aux camélias’ (1852), a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas fils [the son of Alexandre Dumas, the author of ‘The Three Musketeers’]. The opera was originally titled ‘Violetta’, after the main character. It was first performed on 6 March 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in Venice.”

Along with the opera and student performances, the attendees are provided lessons and coached in chamber music.

“There is a very busy schedule,” said Veda. “There are 22 performances over three weeks and that doesn’t include lectures, master classes or competition.”

For more information on the Northern Lights Music Festival visit their website at, contact them by emailing or by calling 218-780-2292. Tickets for performances can be bought in advance at local business, online and by phone or, in most cases, at the door. Select performances are free!

Purchase locations include: Bradach’s Lumber in Aurora, Schmitt’s Music in Virginia, Borealis Art Guild in Hibbing, Kess Gallery in Ely and Valentini’s Supper Club in Chisholm.

The board of directors of the Northern Lights Music Festival includes president Barbara Baldrica, vice-president Mary Mulari, treasurer Matt Uhan, secretary Rhonda Zuponcic, founding president Thomas Gillach and artistic director Veda Zuponcic.


July 1: 11 a.m., Gilbert Public Library, Kids for Kids Concert-Free

July 2: 7 p.m., Veda Zuponcic Auditorium at Mesabi East, Gala Opening Concert

July 4: 4 p.m., Veda Zuponcic Auditorium at Mesabi East, Festive Fourth! Concert featuring the cast of La Traviata

July 5: 7 p.m., Chisholm High School Auditorium, Girls Night Out! Chamber Music Concert

July 6: 3 p.m., McCarthy Beach State Park in Side Lake, Concert on the Beach-Free

July 7: 4 p.m., Kiesler Wellness Center in Grand Rapids, Chamber Music Concert

July 8: 10:30 a.m., Ely Public Library, Kids for Kids Concert-Free

July 8: 1 p.m., Carefree Living in Aurora, Kids Chamber Concert-Free

July 9: 11 a.m., Copper Top Church in Duluth, Young Artists Chamber Music Concert-Free

July 10: 1 p.m., Virginia Public Library, Kids for Kids Concert-Free

July 11: 7 p.m., Buhl Public Library, Chamber Music Concert

July 12: 5:30 p.m., Mesabi East Media Center, Pre-Opera talk by Bill Bastian

July 12: 7 p.m., Veda Zuponcic Auditorium at Mesabi East, Opening Night! Opera La Traviata

July 12: Following the Opera, Aurora Senior Center, Opening Night Gala- catered reception

July 13: 7 p.m., B’Nai Abraham in Virginia, Chamber Concert-Free

July 14: 1:30 p.m., Chisholm Jr. High Library, Pre-opera talk by Bill Bastian

July 14: 3 p.m., Chisholm High School Auditorium, Opera La Traviata

July 14: Valentini’s Supper Club in Chisholm, Dinner with the Artists

July 15: 5:30 p.m., Washington Auditorium Library in Ely, Pre-Opera talk by Bill Bastian

July 15: 7 p.m., Washington Auditorium in Ely, Opera La Traviata

July 16: 11 a.m., Chisholm Baptist Church, Kids for Kids Concert-Free

July 16: 7 p.m., Veda Zuponcic Auditorium at Mesabi East, Chamber Concert

July 17: 7 p.m., Hibbing High School Auditorium, NLMF Orchestra Concert

July 17: 7 p.m., Greenway High School in Coleraine, Opera Scenes

July 18: 7 p.m., Vermilion Community College in Ely, Chamber Music Concert

July 19: 7 p.m., Veda Zuponcic Auditorium at Mesabi East, Final Concert-Free

July 20: 7 p.m., Mesabi Range College in Virginia, Opera Scenes


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