Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


It was disheartening to read Richard Chin's article in last Sunday's paper, "Requiem for the piano" (March 31). I grew up playing the piano (upon my parents' insistence). For 10 years I would walk a half mile through rain, sleet and snow all the way to Mrs. Henderson's house every Saturday morning for my piano lessons. Sadly, I didn't practice much, but I stuck with it and played the piano into adulthood. I also paid for piano lessons for my own kids, but unfortunately they weren't all that interested. So I picked it up again and I am blown away by how playing difficult musical pieces is exceptional for the brain! I am proud of being able to pound out "Prelude in C-sharp Minor" by Rachmaninoff along with switching to the slow, melodic and haunting pace of "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven. I haven't mastered the extremely difficult second movement like my father has, however. Nevertheless, my fingers still get a workout.

As a teenager, I composed little snippets of musical pieces that my parents wanted me to write down. Thank goodness I followed through with their request, because to this day I play those snippets whenever I need a boost.

Through the years I've gained an appreciation for a variety of classical music and Minnesota Public Radio always gets me through the day.

On another note, I hear that many people in China own a piano. Good for them! They are also determinately nipping at our heels economically. Perhaps it is because they appreciate the art, the history, the intellectual stimulation and the pure pleasure of mastering a piece of music on the piano.

Folks, I highly recommend hanging on to your piano! Play a little tune just for old time's sake.

Sharon E. Carlson, Andover


Stillwater, St. Cloud prisons must go

Maurice L. Ward and David Boehnke made a compelling case in "Close two of the state's aging prisons: Stillwater and St. Cloud" (Opinion Exchange, March 31), arguing that our state could both save taxpayer money and address serious safety concerns by shuttering two decrepit institutions that have become both a liability and a disgrace.

While many people may argue that prisoners do not deserve posh conditions, imposing harsh conditions on inmates reflects poorly on us as a society. Forcing prisoners to live in subhuman conditions, where they must endure sweltering heat, drink contaminated water and reside in unsafely crowded facilities is not only unjustifiably wrong, it also damages our collective moral character.

Imposing these subhuman conditions on our state's prisoners will certainly not assist in their rehabilitation, and it's difficult to see what possible benefit could be obtained from inflicting additional suffering on incarcerated people.

But Minnesota has a chance to reconsider our values and choose a different path: A path of mercy and understanding. We can start by considering the release of prisoners deemed to be minimal risk on a case-by-case basis and closing Stillwater and St. Cloud facilities, each more than a century old. Should the state decide to close these prisons, Minnesota could invest some of the substantial cost savings on crime deterrence and community-building programs that will improve our society.

Brian Wagenaar, Edina


Thank you for the spotlight

I am writing in response to the recent article titled "The struggle continues" about those with developmental disabilities. I am the mother of a young adult with a disability on the precipice of entering the world of employment, where it is likely he will be judged based on his disability. As noted in this article, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than twice the rate for people without a disability. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, within every demographic group the disabled population is more likely to work part time, earning less income (median earnings of $39,297 for disabled full-time workers vs. $46,318 for non-disabled workers). Addressing obstacles for successful employment for disabled workers will not only lift economic growth but also allow disabled workers to participate in a more equitable economy. Additionally, the presence of people with disabilities in the workforce is an opportunity to acknowledge the worthiness of their contributions to society.

I am optimistic that my son will not only secure meaningful employment but also become a contributing member of his community. He will serve as an example that all individuals, regardless of disability, deserve respect as unique individuals. Thank you for continuing to share stories of advocacy for people with disabilities.

Alicia Gramins, Elk River


Thank you for the beautiful inspirational article "The struggle continues" and U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank doing his part to encourage people to accept and respect wholeheartedly all disabled people for each and every individual's persona and talents.

Personally, 77 years ago, I was sent to Michael Dowling School For Crippled Children for fifth grade for being in a temporary body cast for nine months. That was my most memorable life experience to date. I, like Judge Frank, saw a firsthand difference of being accepted "as you are" vs. ignored or banished from events and situations and also learned that not all disabilities are noticeable. Students were taught to partner up and help each other, a lesson for all to learn and practice.

As an adult, I attended art shows by people with disabilities at the Wasie Building at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital. A powerful lasting impression of difficult accomplishments.

Everyone should read the article and live by the fact that "we will all be judged by how we treat the most vulnerable members of our society." You'll feel better. They'll feel better. A win-win for all.

Barbara Nylen, Minneapolis


For pure enjoyment, skip Division I

Quite a bit of ink has been given in the Star Tribune lately both on their sports and opinion pages concerning the repercussions of the transfer portals being used by University of Minnesota football, basketball and hockey players allowing athletes to transfer at will from one school to another without the former one-year sit-out penalty. (Opinion editor's note: Some of the most recent include the April 3 letter to the editor "Lamenting the transfer trend" and" "Johnson still optimistic four starters could stay" in the April 2 sports section.)

And the portal is being enhanced by the fact that athletes can now be enticed to transfer to other schools because of money provided them from tax-exempt booster clubs called "collectives," which essentially give cash to student-athletes who transfer to other schools to play sports.

Well, finally those who have supported Division I athletics are being exposed to this reality some have known for years — that big-time university football, basketball and hockey programs are nothing more than farm clubs for the NFL, NBA and NHL at no expense to those pro teams. Yes, the schools build the stadiums and house and provide a free four-year education to their scholarshipped athletes while developing these athletes in a sport with no money provided from pro teams, who ultimately benefit from this folly.

So, if Minnesota Division I college fans want to watch an NFL, NBA or NHL farm club made up of paid athletes, by all means, help yourself. Some of us will, instead, spend our fall and winter afternoons and evenings raking leaves or skiing, or maybe even attending Division III MIAC athletic events where the players are competing at their own expense for the love of their game and their school.

Bob Statz, Onamia, Minn.