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And the concerto winners are…..UW-Madison presents its annual “Symphony Showcase”

L-R: Kangwoo Jin, piano; Luis Alberto Peña, piano; Garrett Mendelow, percussion; and Paran Amininazari, violin. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson. 

Kangwoo Jin, piano; Luis Alberto Peña, piano; Garrett Mendelow, percussion; and Paran Amininazari, violin. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

A percussionist, a violinist, two pianists and a composer will take the stage on Feb. 14 at the UW-Madison School of Music, when the school offers its annual “Symphony Showcase,” a night of joy and musical revelry celebrating winners of our annual concerto competition. The concert is open to the public.

Yunkyung Hong, composer. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson. 

Yunkyung Hong, composer. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

The concert takes place in Mills Hall at 7:30 PM on February 14, Valentine’s Day, which falls on a Sunday, and will be followed by a reception in Mills Hall lobby.

Winning students will solo with the UW Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Smith.

While tickets for children and students are free, tickets for adults are $10.00. Tickets are sold at the Memorial Union Box office on Langdon Street and in Mills lobby day of show. A $4 fee is added to online sales. Please note: We recommend that patrons arrive early to buy a ticket in the lobby.

Box Office link: Buy online ($4 fee).

Free parking (every Sunday) is available at the Business School/Grainger Hall parking lot, diagonally across University Avenue from Humanities.

2016 winners include:

Violinist Paran Amininazari, 31, a doctoral student of assistant professor Soh-Hyun Park Altino, performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, is the concertmaster of the Middleton Community Orchestra and is also the artistic director of the new summer chamber group, the Willy Street Chamber Players. At UW-Madison, she is also a member of the Hunt Quartet, sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Dr. Kato Perlman. She will play a movement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63, written in 1935, which contains a Russian folk melody in the first and second movements and ends in a Spanish-tinged theme, complete with castanets.  Amininazari has an undergraduate degree from the New England Conservatory of Music and attended the Orchestral Skills Program at the University of Nevada-Reno.

Composer and South Korean native Yunkyung Hong, 31, is a doctoral candidate in composition, studying with professors Laura Schwendinger and Stephen Dembski. “Yun” received her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin where studied composition with Russell Pinkston, Yevgeniy Sharlat, and Donald Grantham. At the University of Florida, she studied composition with James Paul Sain and Paul Koonce and received a master’s degree.

She has presented her music at The Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS); Sejong Chamber Center (Korea); Unbalanced Concerts, University of Florida; Wet Inks, University of Texas at Austin; and has been commissioned by the Berliner Ensemble Essenz, Ensemble Mise-en at Illinois State. She has also won awards at the Out of Bounds Ensemble, the Mullen Sacred Music Composition at UW-Madison, the University of Missouri Kansas City composers competition and the American Prize chamber music division.  In Madison, Yun is now employed as a sound designer for UW-Madison’s “Moocs” program. Her winning composition, titled “Translucency,” includes four movements that reflect the life cycle of a living organism. For the winners recital only the first movement will be performed. “This first movement is about blossoming,” Yun says. “At the opening, we will hear a musical depiction of seeds fluttering in the wind, then gradually this material will develop and blossom at the arrival. The movement is focused on textural and coloristic alterations.”

Pianist and Collins Fellow Kangwoo Jin, 34, a doctoral student of professors Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson, is a native of South Korea who has won numerous competitions, including the Korea-Herald Newspaper Competition, the Eumyoun piano competitions, plus the Beethoven Piano Competition at UW-Madison,  sponsored by former Chancellor Irving Shain. He also performed a debut concert sponsored by the Chosun Daily Newspaper in Korea. Jin received an undergraduate degree from Hanyang University in South Korea and a master’s degree from  Indiana University, where has received the J.Battista Scholarship on Excellence and worked as an associate instructor. In Madison, Jin is an instructor in the School’s “Piano Pioneers” and Community Music Lessons programs, and has worked at the Summer Music Clinic as a collaborative pianist. Jin will perform the third movement from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor Op. 18.

Garrett Mendelow, 26, a doctoral percussionist and Collins Fellow studying with professor Anthony Di Sanza, has placed in numerous percussion competitions and premiered many new works. In 2012, Mendelow won second prize in the biennial Tromp Percussion Competition in The Netherlands, and in 2014, he was a semifinalist at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich, Germany. Mendelow has an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from SUNY-Stony Brook, and also studied at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold in Germany.
In Madison, Garrett has performed with trombone professor Mark Hetzler, with the ensemble SO Percussion and is also involved with the Beyond Border Percussion Group, a group consisting of percussionists from different cultural and musical backgrounds.

At Symphony Showcase, Mendelow will play the Arena Concerto, written in 2004 by Swedish composer Tobias Broström, which includes a combination of wood, metal and skin percussion instruments in the first part, and a virtuosic marimba part in the second movement.

Colombian Luis Alberto Peña, 27, a doctoral student of professor Christopher Taylor, has soloed with the Unimusica Orchestra, the Tolima Conservatory Symphony, the Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra, the Meadows Symphony Orchestra, the Camerata Dallas, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Panama, and won prizes in competitions in Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica and the United States.
Luis holds degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, Southern Methodist University and the Juan N. Corpas University of Bogota. Luis will perform Richard Strauss’s Burleske in D Minor for Piano and Orchestra, composed in 1885-86, an exciting and colorful one-movement work. “What makes it particularly unique among romantic piano concertos is its predominantly humorous character,” says Luis. “However, it preserves an irresistible elegance and charm all throughout and all its wild brilliance is counterbalanced by many moments of incredible beauty and mystery.”

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UW Percussion celebrates 50 years with a concert and trip to China

Fifty years is not a long time in the world of classical music, but it’s a very long time in the world of formal percussion studies. In the 1960s and before, the very notion of teaching percussion beyond the basic orchestral instruments caused music educators to simply shake their heads in disbelief.

Professor Anthony Di Sanza, right, with members of the World Percussion Ensemble. Photo by Mike Anderson.

Professor Anthony Di Sanza, right, with members of the World Percussion Ensemble. Photo by Mike Anderson.

“There was this old guard tradition that very much did not see percussion as a viable solo artistic instrument,” says Anthony Di Sanza, professor of percussion at UW-Madison. In fact, John Cage, one of the pioneers in the field, was unable to find percussionists to play his first works; instead, they were performed by dancers and composers. “The percussionists wanted nothing to do with it,” Di Sanza says. “Most were in orchestra.” One famous orchestral percussionist even referred to the rising deployment of sirens and whistles in cutting-edge percussion pieces as “debasements.”

But that was then.

Since then, percussion studies have exploded, with UW-Madison firmly in the vanguard. In 1950, the University of Illinois established the first accredited university percussion ensemble. In 1965, UW-Madison staged its first percussion concert, followed one year later with a full-blown major. In 1968, James Latimer was hired as program director and served until 1999 when he retired and was replaced by Di Sanza. While at UW, Latimer spearheaded a Duke Ellington Festival, started the Madison Marimba Quartet, initiated the first of 300 Young Audience Concerts held in public schools from 1969 to 1984, and hosted the Wisconsin Percussive Arts Society “Days of Percussion.”

Di Sanza’s tenure has been marked by numerous world premieres, commissions, recordings, and collaborations. In 2004, a doctoral program was founded, and two additional teachers are now on board: Todd Hammes and Tom Ross, both with specialties of their own.

Now, almost exactly 50 years after the school’s first percussion concert, Di Sanza’s studio plans to celebrate.

On March 20 at 8 pm in Mills Hall, the percussion ensemble will present a ticketed concert of music from the United States, China, Mexico, Brazil and the Middle East with emeritus professor James Latimer as guest conductor and Clocks in Motion, a four-year-old professional alumni ensemble, as guest artists. With the help of Latimer and many others, DiSanza has doggedly tracked down dozens of former students from over the years, and hopes that many of them will be able to attend. Buy tickets here or at the door. Adults $10.00/students of all ages are free.

Latimer will conduct the ensemble in Carlos Chavez’s landmark composition Toccata for Percussion, which was performed on their first concert in 1965.

But that’s only the prelude. In April, Di Sanza’s studio will embark on its first international tour, a ten-day trip to China to perform and also partner with students at the Shenyang and China Conservatories.

The group was invited by percussion professor Lu Qingshan of the Shenyang Conservatory, whose former student, Zhang Yuqi, is now a master’s candidate at UW-Madison. There, they will play works by American and Chinese composers as well as music from the Middle East and Brazil. The trip is funded by the Wisconsin China Initiative, Dr. and Mrs. Robert W. Graebner, the UW-Madison Division of International Studies and the UW-Madison School of Music.

Since the program’s founding fifty years ago, hundreds of graduates have established multi-pronged careers of their own, as teachers, as arts managers, as performers playing music from every tradition imaginable and on every instrument that makes a sound, which includes pretty much anything.

Including whistles.

Want to know the full history of the UW-Madison Percussion Program from decade to decade? Download a timeline here.

Wonder what percussion with whistles sounds like? Watch a video of the UW-Madison Percussion Ensemble in 2009, performing John Cage’s “Dance Music for Elfrid Ide II.”