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University Opera presents Verdi’s Falstaff, re-envisioned in Hollywood, 1930

As part of the worldwide commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, University Opera will present Verdi’s final masterpiece, Falstaff.  Based on material from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV, and Henry V, Falstaff is a wild, comic romp.  In the UW-Madison production, updated to Hollywood in 1930, Falstaff is a has-been silent movie actor, out of work with the advent of the “talkies,” holding onto his former glory and living beyond his means at the Chateau Marmont.  Now a petty criminal, Falstaff puts the make on Alice Ford and Meg Page in an effort to bilk their husbands of money.  The ladies, incensed at his audacity, hatch a plot to give Falstaff his comeuppance.  But not before Mr. Ford, (a movie studio executive in the UW production) acting on his own ill-founded suspicions, gets involved and complicates matters.  At the end, all are reconciled as both men are taught their respective lessons.


Falstaff will be presented in Italian with English supertitles for three performances, November 11 at 7:30 pm, November 13 at 3:00 pm, and November 15 at 7:30 pm in Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus.  Directed by David Ronis with James Smith conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra, the production will involve over 90 UW singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew.  This production opens just one week after the national traveling exhibit of Shakespeare’s First Folio arrives at the Chazen Museum of Art.

Buy tickets here.

Following the success of the panel discussion before University Opera’s production of Transformations last spring, Ronis will again be assembling a panel of colleagues to discuss Falstaff on Friday, November 11 at 6:00pm in the Music Hall, admission free.  Featured panelists include:

Joshua Calhoun, Assistant Professor of English, UW-Madison

Cabell Gathman, Lecturer, Dept. of Gender and Women’s Studies, UW-Madison

Steffen Silvis, Dramaturg and Doctoral Candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, UW-Madison

David Ronis, Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, UW-Madison

Susan Cook, Pamela O. Hamel/Music Board of Advisors Director of the Mead Witter School of Music, Moderator

Paul Rowe, Professor of Voice at UW-Madison, will sing the title role amidst a cast featuring current students and a couple of guest alums.  The principal ladies’ roles will be filled by Yanzelmalee Rivera and Sarah Kendall (Alice Ford), Courtney Kayser and Talia Engstrom (Meg Page), Emily Weaver and Claire Powling (Nannetta), Rebecca Buechel and Jessica Kasinski (Quickly).  The men in the cast will be alum Brian Schnieder and guest artist Richard Schonberg (Ford), José Muñiz (Fenton), Wesley Dunnagan (Dr. Caius), Jiabao Zhang (Bardolfo) and alum Benjamin Schultz (Pistola).  Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor, with musical preparation by new professor of opera and vocal coaching, Dr. Daniel Fung, Chan Mi Jean, and chorus master, Christopher Boveroux.

The physical production will be designed by Greg Silver.  Costume design is by Sydney Krieger, and Hyewon Park, lighting design by Kenneth Ferencek, props design by David Heuer, and the production stage manager will be Alec Brown.  The production staff include Erin Bryan, operations manager for University Opera; Jimmy Dewhurst and Daniel Lewis, master electricians; and Ethan White, lighting board operator.

Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.  Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.  The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact opera@music.wisc.edu. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.


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Christopher Taylor to Debut New Piano

From the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
September 13, 2016

In a marriage of the Baroque and the modern, celebrated UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor will debut his much-anticipated new electronic double-keyboard piano this October 28, performing J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.”

The “Variations” is an 80-minute work once dubbed a “Rubik’s Cube of invention and architecture” that Bach wrote around 1741 for a double-keyboard harpsichord.

Not by coincidence, Taylor will play Bach’s “Rubik’s cube” on a brand-new piano that could be described in much the same way.

Named the “Hyperpiano” by Taylor, it is actually three instruments – two of them ordinary concert grands, the third a special double-keyboard console designed by Taylor – connected by a riot of sensors and wires, with a mechanism that feels nearly normal for the performer but offers sonic possibilities that are unique.

Click here to view images of the “Hyperpiano” in development at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery “fab lab”

Taylor developed the piano over several years in a laboratory at the Morgridge Institutes for Research, assisted by many faculty and technicians who trained him to machine new parts using computers and guided him as he designed 60-odd circuit boards that make the instrument run. In addition, Taylor wrote several thousand lines of computer code that manage sensing and communications. In 2014, Taylor received United States patent # 8,664,497 B2 for the “Hyperpiano.”

Taylor entering the "fab lab" at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

Taylor entering the “fab lab” at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

His inspiration to develop it came from another unusual instrument that he inherited shortly after coming to UW-Madison in 2000, a double-keyboard piano made by Steinway in 1929.

Johann Sebastian Bach was known as a composer who welcomed new concepts in musical instruments. Accordingly, Taylor says, Bach designed the Goldberg Variations for the most deluxe instrument of his day, a double-keyboard harpsichord with a four-and-a-half octave range. Today, musicians often perform the work on a regular piano, but must generally “resort to tricks, compromises, fudging or outright studio chicanery to play all the notes as Bach wrote them,” as writer Tom Huizenga wrote in his blog, “Deceptive Cadence.”

The Hyperpiano will allow Taylor to overcome those obstacles. “I can recreate effects more like what Bach imagined, even while producing at the same time completely novel musical results,” Taylor says.

Taylor was a bronze medal winner in the 1993 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, at which he performed the Goldberg Variations, among other works, on a standard single-keyboard Steinway. He also holds a degree in mathematics from Harvard University.

The concert will take place on Friday, October 28, at 8 PM in Mills Hall, Humanities, 455 North Park Street. There will be one intermission.

Tickets for adults are $18; for students, $5. They may be purchased at Campus Arts Ticketing or in person at the Memorial Union Box Office.

Patrons are advised to arrive early.

Mills Hall seats 700, of which 100 seats will be reserved on a first-call basis for music students, staff and faculty.

Christopher Taylor’s “Hyperpiano” Creates New Musical Possibilities

By Michael Muckian

“I would never be content as a pianist to play the same half-dozen pieces the same way year in and year out,” Taylor explained. “In piano literature, we have a vast array of great compositions, but we are always questing for new variety.”

Christopher Taylor grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where his father taught physics at the University of Colorado and his mother was a high school English instructor. The family owned a piano and Taylor initially was taught to play by a neighbor down the street.

The casual lessons didn’t last long; by age 10, the young pianist was playing Beethoven. By high school he was composing music.

While music was his first love, Taylor also proved gifted in mathematics, a field that seemed to offer a more stable career path. The young pianist chose to follow that thread, graduating summa cum laude in mathematics from Harvard University in 1992.

During those same years, Taylor also studied piano under Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he began to attract the attention of the East Coast classical music community. In 1990, at the end of his sophomore year, Taylor won the University of Maryland’s William Kapell International Piano Competition, and later that same year made his performance debut in Alice Tully Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

However, Taylor’s watershed moment came in 1993 at the age of 23, when he earned a bronze medal at the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, for his performances of works by Beethoven, Boulez and Brahms, as well as Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” now a standard part of his repertoire. For the young mathematician-slash-pianist, the competition win sealed his fate.

Christopher Taylor performing in Mills Hall, Feb. 2015. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

Christopher Taylor performing in Mills Hall, Feb. 2015. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

“I had sat on the fence between music and mathematics for many years, but the bronze medal made the decision for me,” Taylor said. But while his musical career had become ascendant, he kept up his math and computer studies. “I didn’t want to put the other parts of my brain on ice.”

The newly minted concert pianist, who would go on to earn critical accolades such as “frighteningly talented” (The New York Times) and “a great pianist” (The Los Angeles Times), knew that his mathematics training went far to inform and support his music.

Both disciplines draw on similar mental skill sets, Taylor explained, noting that hours of piano practice can provide the necessary rigor to solve a complex mathematical proof.

“Music performance is more visceral than math, but when I’m performing I am definitely using the logical part of my brain,” he added. “Mentally understanding a piece of music is essential to surviving a performance.”

Following the Van Cliburn competition win, Taylor became a touring musician. His new wife wanted to pursue her doctorate in musicology at the University of Michigan, so the couple moved to Ann Arbor while Taylor spent weeks on the road playing several dozen concerts per year across the U.S. and in Europe.

Life on the road proved strenuous for the young pianist, who became known for his intense, sweat-soaked, highly physical performances. Eventually, Taylor decided he might want to teach. When the University of Wisconsin offered Taylor a faculty position in 2000, his family moved to Madison.

At UW-Madison, Taylor came across a prototype that would prove the foundation for his new invention. And he can credit a little known Hungarian composer for the introduction.

Emánuel Moór, who during his life composed five operas, eight symphonies and other orchestral works, is best remembered today as the inventor of the Moór Pianoforte, a double-keyboard instrument that attempted to replicate the benefits of the harpsichord and organ in the piano format. It boasted a two-tiered keyboard, but space within the cabinet allowed for only 76 keys on the top tier instead of the usual 88. The layout of the 164 keys allowed one hand to stretch across a range of over two octaves at once, creating a richer and fuller sound.

Watch a video of Taylor describing his plan for a new piano.

Moór was a professional colleague of composer Maurice Ravel and cellist Pablo Casals, both of whom championed his work, including his pianoforte. Despite such celebrity support, many musicians considered Moór’s instrument more of a novelty and found it difficult, if not impossible, to play.

European manufacturers produced about 60 pianofortes during the 1920s, including one made in 1929 in Hamburg, Germany, by Steinway. Until very recently, that particular instrument occupied a corner of Taylor’s cramped office in the Mosse Humanities Building.

The Moór pianoforte found its way to UW-Madison after Danish pianist Gunnar Johansen became the university’s artist in residence in 1939. Enthralled with the strange instrument, Johansen lobbied university donors until they broke down and bought it for him on the condition that its ownership revert to the university upon the pianist’s death.

By the time Johansen died in 1991, interest in the pianoforte had waned. It lay in storage for 14 years until Taylor rediscovered it in 2005. He performed on the pianoforte in dozens of concerts across the country, eventually getting a feel for the instrument and gaining notoriety for his performances. In 2007, the New York Times interviewed Taylor and created a video about the piano. In 2010, while he was in Washington, D.C. for a performance, the Kennedy Center created its own version.

“It’s clever as a musical contrivance, but it’s a little unwieldy and feels strange under your fingers,” Taylor said, noting that corresponding keys on both keyboards end up striking the same string. “You have to work very hard to play the keys because of the Rube Goldberg mechanism that connects them with the hammers.”

Around 2009, having studied the levers, rods, and platforms lurking inside the Moór piano, Taylor decided there might be a better way, a way that would take advantage of 21st-century technology. He began to draw up blueprints, discussed his ideas with a number of experts, and eventually received a grant from the UW Arts Institute to pursue them further. In early 2012 he approached George Petry, a prototyping manager at the Morgridge Institute for Research, to talk about his idea, an idea that much later would be named the “Hyperpiano.” Petry thought Taylor was nuts.

“I thought Chris was crazy because I knew this was going to be so much work,” Petry said. “I have a lot of students coming in who have never built anything before who say they want to build a space shuttle. I thought this was Chris’s space shuttle.”

But Petry gave Taylor the benefit of the doubt, and also a corner in the Morgridge Institute’s Advanced Fabrication Laboratory – better known as the “fab lab” — inside the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery building on University Avenue, a home where engineers and inventors collaborate to build prototypes of their ideas. And Petry started to teach Taylor how to use all the computer-operated machines.

Another important teacher was Giri Venkataramanan, a professor in the UW-Madison Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who served as a high-level consultant to the project. “His motivation was sky-high and it sounded like he knew what he was doing,” Venkataramanan said.

At first blush, the Hyperpiano’s double-keyboard console – what Taylor calls the “input device” – looks like a contemporary upright piano that is thicker in girth than normal. It features a two-tiered keyboard with 176 keys total along with five pedals. Hidden inside the cabinet, behind the keys, are two sets of standard mass-produced piano hammers.

But that is where similarities to a regular piano end. There are no strings for these hammers to strike, and Taylor admits that their only function is to mimic the feel of playing a normal single-keyboard piano. In fact, in the absence of strings Taylor had to create special foam bars for the hammers to strike, designed to replicate an ordinary instrument’s behavior but create as little “banging” noise as possible.

“Even building a conventional piano that works is a very difficult process in itself,” says Robert Hohf, a professional piano technician who aided Taylor. “The keyboard orientation and the alignment of parts is unbelievably complicated.”

And with the Hyperpiano, the complications only increased.

Designing an instrument that contains twice the normal number of keys and twice as many hammers, aligning everything inside a single wooden frame, took a massive amount of re-engineering, Taylor says. Each of the 176 keys in the Hyperpiano has a unique shape that had to be specially carved by a router, which got its directions from multiple computer programs written by Taylor.

To actually make music, the double-keyboard console contains electronic sensors that read the movement of the keys during each stroke, then send coded electronic impulses via wires to two player-piano mechanisms called “Vorsetzers.” (First developed in the early twentieth century, Vorsetzers were mechanical key-pressing contraptions that could be attached to the keyboards of ordinary pianos.) The Vorsetzers are affixed to any pair of pianos one has handy, which, in theory, could be some distance away. Thus the motions of the pianist’s fingers on one part of the stage are transmitted instantaneously to produce music emanating    from two other parts of the stage.

Taylor plays Prokofiev

Timing everything so that the music would sound like music—not a jangle of disparate noises – was another hurdle Taylor had to surmount. Taylor’s new technology solves that problem: it senses a fraction of a millimeter of motion as soon as a key is pressed. The sensors immediately send the data to the Vorsetzers, which move the corresponding key the same amount at exactly the same time.

“It involved a lot of software jujitsu to make this happen,” he said. But in the end, “everything is choreographed to deliver the final notes in real time,” he explained.

The Hyperpiano could afford some novel performance opportunities, says Taylor: “For starters, it will be capable of everything the Moór piano can produce: far-flung chords beyond the grasp of ordinary human hands on ordinary pianos, intricate counterpoint where the hands mingle in the same register (effects that would cause impossible traffic jams on a single keyboard), and, with the aid of an extra fourth pedal, sonorities reinforced by extra tones one octave higher than the keys the pianist is actually pressing.

“But it will offer customized behaviors beyond these,” he continues. “The ability to reinforce the pianist’s keypresses with any number of additional notes, so that the motion of a single finger produces an elaborate harmony; novel hybrid sonorities obtained by combining different pedaling patterns on the two subsidiary pianos; repeated notes faster than what ordinary pianos permit; and the interesting spatial effects that will result when the two subsidiary pianos get rolled to different parts of the stage.”

Taylor is eager to produce new arrangements and compositions that take advantage of these musical novelties. “I’m in discussions with a number of composers about the possibility of their contributing to a new chapter in the piano literature,” he says.

With the end of the project in sight, the pianist says he’s pleased with the outcome of his years of work, even as he adjusts to new variations in sound and performance.

“I’m delighted to find that the final product is matching my initial vision pretty closely,” Taylor says. “There is still some tweaking that needs to take place — software refinements mostly — in order to ensure that as a pianist I have the level of musical control that I need. This work may prove challenging, but as in the past I am very determined to overcome the remaining obstacles.”

Venkataramanan agrees and also is thinking ahead to the piano’s next iteration.

Scientists, unfortunately, are never satisfied.

“As a problem-solving exercise, this has been pretty impressive,” the engineering professor says. “But he still runs wires between his keyboards. The next phase would be to do this on a wireless basis and using Cloud technology.”


Mr. Taylor is eager to acknowledge the invaluable help he received from a large number of collaborators over the past five years. Apart from piano technician Robert Hohf, machinist George Petry, and EE Professor Giri Venkataramanan, these individuals include: Rock Mackie and Kevin Eliceiri, the former and current directors of the Morgridge Institute for Research, who were amazingly welcoming hosts during his four-plus years in the Fab Lab; UW-Madison piano technician Baoli Liu; Justin Anderson at WARF and Callie Bell of Bell Manning LLC, who shepherded the patent application process; Kevin Earley, who built the wooden housing for the input console; Convenience Electronics of Madison (in particular Betsy Vanden Wymelenberg), who custom assembled the instrument’s many wires and cables; Calvin Cherry, Nate Hess, Brian Urso, and Ryan Solberg, whom Taylor employed to solder together circuit boards and who contributed greatly to his EE education; UW-Madison’s Bill Sethares, along with Terence O’Laughlin and Alberto Rodriguez of Madison College, who put Taylor in contact with the aforementioned companies and employees; and the UW Arts Institute, former chancellor John Wiley, and Paul Collins, who provided moral as well as financial support.







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Third UW-Madison Brass Fest to feature renowned Stockholm Chamber Brass – Sept. 30/Oct. 1

BRASS, BRASS AND MORE BRASS – With No. 3, UW-Madison cements a tradition as a Brass Hub of the Midwest

On September 30 and October 1, 2016, the newly renamed Mead Witter School of Music will welcome the internationally acclaimed Stockholm Chamber Brass to campus for a third annual Brass Fest. The quintet’s tour of upstate New York, Michigan and Wisconsin will be their first-ever appearances in the United States.

The Stockholm Chamber Brass. Credit: Beatrice Winter.

The Stockholm Chamber Brass. Credit: Beatrice Winter.

Brass Fest III will also mark the first time that high school students will play an active role, attending master classes and performing on stage in a final Festival Brass Concert. Area high schools planning to attend include Middleton, Madison East, Madison West, Edgewood, and Memorial.

A number of major instrument makers and music companies, many located in Wisconsin, will also be on hand to display their wares. The School will also offer commemorative fund-raising t-shirts; scroll to bottom to learn more.

The events will include a concert with Stockholm Chamber Brass on Friday, September, 30, at 8 PM, and a second concert on October 1, also at 8 PM, with the Stockholm Chamber Brass, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, UW-Madison student performers and selected high school students. Both concerts will be held in Mills Hall in the Humanities Building.

Tickets: $20 for Friday’s concert ($5.00 non-music students); $15 for Saturday’s concert ($5.00 non-music students). Buy tickets here or at the door.

“We are expanding the festival because our mission is to perform and to teach,” says Daniel Grabois, assistant professor of horn and member of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet. “We are motivated by the Wisconsin Idea, and we are making every effort to bring what we do to the population of the state. There are many students in the state who play brass instruments, and we want to include them in our educational mission. We also want to build on the successes of the past two years – many people enthusiastically attended the festival, and we want to make it better, more exciting, and more inclusive.”


Stockholm Chamber Brass, formed in 1985, consists of some of Scandinavia’s leading brass musicians. Its five members are all prize winners at major international solo competitions, including the ARD-Wettbewerb, CIEM Geneve, Markneukrichen and Toulon. Their international breakthrough came in 1988 when Stockholm Chamber Brass won 1st Prize at “Ville de Narbonne,” the most prestigious international competition for brass quintets.

Stockholm Chamber Brass has performed at Bad Kissingen Sommer, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Niedesächsische Musiktage, International de Musique Sion Valais, the Prague Spring Music Festival, the Budapest International Music Festival, Festival Internacional de Santander, the Soundstream Festival in Toronto, the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, the Umeå International Chamber Music Festival and the Stockholm New Music Festival. The ensemble has also performed at various brass festivals, including the Lieksa Brass Week, the International Trombone Festival in Helsinki, the Melbourne International Festival of Brass, Epsival Limoge and the Blekinge International Brass Academy.

Stockholm Chamber Brass has received glowing reviews for its CDs. A reviewer at American Record Guide writes, “I cannot imagine that a better brass quintet has ever existed.”

The ensemble’s repertoire consists mostly of original compositions and their own arrangements of older and contemporary music. Their interest in new music has resulted in over thirty compositions written specifically for the ensemble. Stockholm Chamber Brass has worked with a long list of leading composers, including Anders Hillborg, Sven-David Sandström, Pär Mårtensson, Britta Byström, Henrik Strindberg Piers Hellawell and Eino Tamberg. The ensemble has also collaborated with leading brass soloists Håkan Hardenberger and Christian Lindberg.

The current members of the Stockholm Chamber Brass are Urban Agnas, trumpet; Tom Poulson, trumpet; Jonas Bylund, trombone; Annamia Larsson, horn; and Sami Al Fakir, tuba.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet, formed in 1972, is one of three faculty chamber ensembles in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music. Deeply committed to the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, the group travels widely to offer its concerts and educational services to students and the public in all corners of the state.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet includes John Aley, trumpet; Matthew Onstad, trumpet; Mark Hetzler, trombone; Tom Curry, tuba; and Daniel Grabois, horn.

New this year: Commemorative Limited Edition T-Shirts, featuring our new Brass Fest III logo on the front and “Mead Witter School of Music” on the back. Prices from $11 to $14; all proceeds will support the School of Music. Send an email to t-shirt sales if you’d like to buy one.


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University Opera Presents “Transformations”: Fairy Tales with a Twist!

February 12, 2016

This spring, University Opera will present Transformations, Conrad Susa’s daring 1973 chamber opera with texts by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton. Transformations will be directed by Interim Director of Opera, David Ronis, and conducted by Kyle Knox, who recently conducted Madison Opera’s production of Little Women.

Anne Sexton. Photograph by Gwendolyn Stewart.

Anne Sexton. Photograph by Gwendolyn Stewart.

This new production will be performed in English with projected supertitles in Music Hall, 925 Bascom Hill, on Friday, March 11 at 7:30 PM; Sunday, March 13 at 3:00 PM; and Tuesday, March 15 at 7:30 PM.

Transformations is an adult re-telling of ten classic fairy tales (among them, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretel) as seen through Sexton’s eyes. Her struggle with depression and mental illness frames the darkly humorous and audaciously recounted tales, filled with mid-twentieth-century references, both literary and musical. As the singers play multiple characters, Sexton and Susa shed light on a variety of unexplored psychological implications of these stories, often using a confessional, even confrontational approach. The result is a wild ride – a true ensemble piece that is both wickedly funny and profoundly resonant.

In addition to winning a Pulitzer Prize, Sexton was also a fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Literature and the first female member of the Harvard chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. She committed suicide in 1974 at age 45.

The UW-Madison production sets Transformations in a 1973 group therapy meeting of which Sexton is the facilitator. At the meeting, the characters process their fears through acting out the fairy tales. Among other twists to the tales, the “happy-ever-after” endings are subverted and Sexton often alludes to mental illness and popular culture.  It is a risky opera as it contains dark themes, scandalous dialogue, and witty humor. Sexton was viewed as a “confessional poet” who tackled many taboo female subjects such as abortion, masturbation, incest, and the list goes on. Note: Transformations is recommended for high school age and up.

Because of the themes raised, Ronis has scheduled a pre-performance panel discussion.

March 11, 2016
6:00 – 7:00 PM
Music Hall
Free Admission

The panelists will include:
Lynn Keller – Professor of Poetry, UW-Madison
Thomas DuBois – Professor of Scandinavian Studies, Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies,UW-Madison
Laura Schwendinger – Professor of Composition, School of Music, UW-Madison
Karlos Moser – Emeritus Director of Opera, UW-Madison
David Ronis – Interim Director of Opera, UW-Madison
Moderator: Susan Cook, Director, UW-Madison School of Music

We will also hold talkback sessions after each performance.

The work was commissioned by the Minnesota Opera and premiered there in 1973, a year and a half before Sexton’s suicide. In 1976, Karlos Moser presented the local premiere at UW—Madison and there was a subsequent University Opera production, again under Moser, in 1991. University Opera is undertaking this project in the spirit of our role as an education institution that values presenting contemporary operas and the discourse that it encourages.

The UW-Madison production will feature sopranos Erin Bryan, Nicole Heinen and Cayla Rosché, mezzo-soprano Rebecca Buechel, tenors Dennis Gotkowski, Michael Hoke and William Ottow, baritone Brian Schneider and guest bass-baritone Benjamin Schultz. The design team includes David Gipson, lighting; Hyewon Park and Sydney Krieger, costumes; and Greg Silver, technical director. The production stage manager will be Delaney Egan and additional student staff includes Thomas Stone, master electrician, and James Dewhurst, assistant master electrician.

Performance dates, times and prices:

Fri Mar 11 @ 7:30pm
Sun Mar 13 @ 3:00pm
Tue Mar 15 @ 7:30pm
General Admission: $25
Seniors: $20
Students: $10
Tickets available at the Union Box Office
Also available at the door.

Read a review of a biography of Anne Sexton: “The Death is Not the Life”

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Kyle Knox: The Accidental Conductor

by Katherine Esposito

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.  – James Baldwin

It was the path he’d chosen, the direction he’d pursued, and Kyle Knox had finally tasted triumph in 2005, when he won, at age 23, the position of assistant principal clarinet of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

It was a plum trophy in a sometimes punishing profession, realized only after a decade of studious toil in the practice room and on the orchestra stage.

Kyle Knox.

Kyle Knox. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

The young man who’d once won Most Valuable Player in Raritan, New Jersey as a 12-year-old Little Leaguer had bent his competitive edge toward music, and he’d won something akin to MVP there, too.  He studied with the great clarinetists – Ricardo Morales and Yehuda Gilad – went on to Juilliard and Tanglewood, and bested hundreds of rivals for the Milwaukee job.

Then, three years later, almost imperceptibly, one neuron at a time, it all started to unravel.

Today, Knox is best known in Madison as a promising young conductor, a graduate student at UW-Madison who will conduct UW’s upcoming opera, Transformationsand recently made his Madison Opera debut in its production of Little Women.  In 2014 and 2015, he conducted University Opera’s award-winning Albert Herring and two concerts with the Middleton Community Orchestra.  (He is also the husband of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster, Naha Greenholtz.)

Kyle Knox with his wife, Naha Greenholtz, hiking in Santa Fe, 2009.

Kyle Knox with his wife, Naha Greenholtz, hiking in Santa Fe, 2009. Family photograph.

He has impressed many observers, including Madison Symphony Orchestra conductor John DeMain, who has watched Knox conduct several times, including Albert Herring, in which DeMain’s daughter Jennifer was cast. “[Kyle] worked uncompromisingly to achieve as close to perfection as possible,” says DeMain.

Until a few years ago, however, Kyle had never considered becoming a conductor leading an orchestra.  He was exhilarated to be playing in one.

His emergence as a conductor has almost been an accident, one that may now be resolving in his favor. But he faced many bleak days before he got there.


It was almost imperceptible at first, just odd coordination problems with his right hand. It was the spring of 2009. “I remember I was playing principal on Peter and the Wolf, and there’s this one passage with fast 16th notes and C-major arpeggios, and I remember having a hard time with this particular passage, repeating 16th notes, a very specific sequence of finger motions, and thinking, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ It was very strange” Kyle says.

For that concert, he wound up transposing it into a different key, and playing on an A clarinet instead of the usual one. “I didn’t think anything of it at the time,” he continues. “I just thought, oh, for some reason, my pointer finger is a little slow.”

“But maybe a month later, I was playing E-flat clarinet on Shostakovich’s 6th Symphony, and there’s a huge E-flat solo in the beginning of the second movement, very fast, and it had a very similar sequence of fingerings in the middle of the solo, and I practiced it obsessively, and I recorded it at home, and drove my wife crazy. But no matter how much I practiced, I never felt comfortable with the fingerwork.”

Classical orchestral musicians, at the highest levels, achieve mastery through one main thing: practice. It is not enough to be talented and musical; one must constantly revisit passage after passage to precisely engrave notes in the mind. Largely due to this kind of preparation, Kyle had always been assured and confident while performing. But now he began to feel unmoored.

The symphony schedule was intense: much music, many solos, multiple performances. In concert after concert, the strange sensations recurred.  At first, Kyle thought it was just a matter of working harder, to fix those notes even more firmly in his brain. “When something’s difficult, you want to feel secure on it. When I do these octaves, I know the distances, [so that] even if I miss the note,  I know it was a fluke. It has to feel right in your head,” he says.

But it wasn’t feeling right anymore. He began to lose confidence in his playing. A rigorous orchestra schedule gave him little respite.

His fellow musicians and the symphony patrons did not detect anything awry. But Kyle felt it was getting worse.

After six months he consulted neurological specialists at the Cleveland Clinic and Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, who studied his movements as played his clarinet in their offices. They asked him questions and ruled out a few possibilities. Then they gave him a diagnosis: focal dystonia. He had never heard of it before.

His response was to practice even harder. He describes the chain of events that unfolded. “I started obsessively practicing, to make it feel right. In an effort to make it feel right, you start playing wrong, because you start compensating. You start doing strange things, which eventually start to show in your actual playing, and then you start hearing mistakes, which confirms your initial fear that there was something wrong. And then it becomes a feedback loop.”

For three years, Kyle continued to play with the MSO. He was managing, but the amount of music to learn and crush of performances — 150 per year — became overwhelming. “I just couldn’t rehab in a way that gave me confidence about playing in orchestra full time,” he says. “Wind players can’t hide.  Everything you do is a solo, so you feel exposed. It was a really rough time.”

He remembers his final concert, in October 2010, Mozart’s Requiem with conductor Edo de Waart, on which he played the basset horn.  “I hadn’t told anyone anything about what I was dealing with,” he says. “I remember thinking about the routines of orchestra life, how accustomed to the whole ritual I had become and reflecting on how some day soon I just wouldn’t be doing it anymore.  It was heavy.  After that Requiem performance I talked to the personnel manager and started my injury leave. That was it.”


Since the age 13, Kyle had known he wanted to work with music. He remembers hearing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on the radio, and watching a documentary about Leonard Bernstein and the music of Gustav Mahler. “I was mesmerized,” he says. “I was interested innately. I had to figure out a way to access it, and access came through the clarinet.”

Now, that access was cut short. He was adrift.  He immediately dove into conducting after cobbling together a volunteer orchestra in Milwaukee, trying out conducting studies at Northwestern University, and ultimately attending graduate school at UW-Madison.

At the School of Music, he studies with orchestra conductor James Smith, an “accidental conductor” himself who also once played clarinet. “Jim is enormously accomplished,” Kyle says. “I’ve been very lucky to play some of America’s greatest orchestras in my career. I’ve played for a lot a famous conductors, and I can legitimately say that Jim is as good as anyone I’ve ever played for.”

Kyle Knox with the UW Symphony Orchestra, 2013.

Kyle Knox with the UW Symphony Orchestra, 2013.

Scott Gendel (MM & DMA, School of Music) and Kyle Knox, preparing Little Women. Gendel is coach & accompanist for the show. Photograph by Steffanie Berg.

Scott Gendel (MM & DMA, School of Music) and Kyle Knox, preparing Little Women. Gendel is coach & accompanist for the show. Photograph by Steffanie Berg.

Madison got to know Kyle three years later, after several notable turns as a promising young conductor. Early on, he caught the eye of John DeMain, who knew about Kyle’s focal dystonia, and who saw real promise, and wanted to give him a chance.

Telling Kyle’s story on paper makes it all sound so simple. One career ended, another one started. He did it the only way he knows, urgently, intently, almost desperately, uncomfortable with any lack of movement in his life. The truth, however, is that he really had very little control over what was happening. And that was the main thing he needed to accept.

“Being a clarinetist was a thing that defined me,” he says. “It was part of my sense of self, and you can’t underestimate that.”  He knows better now. “The things that made me able to accomplish anything on the clarinet are intrinsic qualities. The clarinet doesn’t define me. I define myself.”

If he had to enter that valley once more, he’d hope to approach it differently. He’d take time to grieve, to try to discern underlying meaning, to try to figure out the nature of the problem. Rushing doesn’t help anyway, he says.

“Sometimes, in a effort to redefine yourself too quickly, you can slow your process down of ending up where you’re going to end up anyway,” he continues. “Maybe you’ve been pushing too hard, maybe you’re been working too hard. Your body is telling you things, and you need to use it as an opportunity to reflect.”

“You have to be sympathetic with yourself. I think that is hugely important. And to have as much an eye on the long term as possible-that life is long, that your career is long, that there are lots of things in the future that will happen that are potentially good. But you have to let them unfold.”

Ten years ago, he wouldn’t have listened to these words. It wasn’t who he was. But it is who he is now.

“It’s possible to have great aspirations, but also to be patient and to be sane. It is possible to be of both minds. And I think the most successful people are that way.”


Spring Performances with Kyle Knox, Conductor

University Opera, Transformations

March 11, 13, 15, 2016



Madison Savoyards, The Gondoliers

July & August, 2016



Middleton Players Theater, Sunday in the Park with George

June & July, 2016



Summer Music Clinic Honors Orchestra

June 26-July 1, 2016



Katherine Esposito is the publicist and concert manager for the UW-Madison School of Music.


About Focal Dystonia

Kyle Knox is only one of many musicians who was diagnosed with focal dystonia, many of them very famous. Glenn Gould, the pianist, and Robert Schumann, the 19th century composer, both are now believed to have suffered from it. Pianist Leon Fleischer used only his left hand for several decades while searching for a solution. A New York Times story in 2012 sheds light on this little-understood and seldom discussed condition. Another Times story recounts the story of pianist Fleischer.

Here’s how Kyle Knox describes it:

“Focal dystonia is far too complicated for me to paraphrase easily.  That said, I’ll try: Basically it is a neurological condition where the brain’s ability to rewire itself, called plasticity (normally a good thing as it enables the acquisition of new skills and information), becomes overactive. In the case of musicians, it becomes overactive in a very specific way that involves otherwise familiar gestures that have been long perfected through years of practice. To put it simply, music that was once effortless suddenly starts to ‘feel’ wrong.  It doesn’t sound wrong to outside listeners, but the neurological experience of playing, for example,  a certain finger combination,  becomes distorted in the player’s mind. As my neurologist told me, ‘all initial symptoms of musician’s focal dystonia are imperceptible to the outside observer.'”

A link from the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation provides more information.



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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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Mead Witter Foundation gives $25 million to UW–Madison School of Music

By John Allen, University Communications
December 3, 2015


The Witter and Mead families have been connected to the State of Wisconsin and to the University of Wisconsin since before the notes of “On, Wisconsin” were ever heard. For more than a century, the university’s expansion and achievements have played like an accompaniment to the accomplishments of the industrialist family that developed the coated-paper industry in the state and the nation. This fall, their 64-year-old Mead Witter Foundation commemorated that long and mellifluous history with a $25 million legacy gift to the University of Wisconsin.

An artist’s depiction of the new School of Music building, which will contain the Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall and is scheduled for construction beginning in late 2016. The school will be renamed the Mead Witter School of Music. Image courtesy of Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture and Strang Architects

An artist’s depiction of the new School of Music building, which will contain the Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall and is scheduled for construction beginning in late 2016. The school will be renamed the Mead Witter School of Music.
Image courtesy of Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture and Strang Architects

The gift will provide major funding for the UW-Madison School of Music’s new performance building, sited at the corner of University Avenue and Lake Street and scheduled to begin construction in late 2016. In appreciation of the gift, UW-Madison will name its music school the Mead Witter School of Music, and the large concert hall within the performance building will be known as the Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall.

“Though none of our family studied music at the UW, a fondness for music unites us,” says George W. Mead II, chairman of the foundation. “Everyone needs music. It is an inspiration point for all areas of creativity and learning. This is a way to recognize the connection we’ve enjoyed with the UW and to project that connection into the future.”

“Until the Mead Witter Foundation provided incentive to build the entire music performance center at once, the center was to have been built in phases,” UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank explains. “We are deeply grateful to the foundation for its generosity that will provide our music program with a superb concert space.”

“Chancellor Blank enthusiastically and effectively took the lead in procuring the final pieces of funding to complete the now much larger $55.8 million project, complementing the gifts of the two major donors,” Mead says. The music performance center had its beginnings in 2007 when the Hamel family of California pledged $15 million toward Phase I of the project, and in 2014, the UW announced it would name the new building the Hamel Music Center.

“The University of Wisconsin System, particularly the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has touched the lives of dozens of Mead and Witter family members through their studies at the UW. The UW impact has also affected probably thousands of our employees and their children who have attended the UW since Consolidated Water Power Company began in 1894,” Mead says. In addition to chairing the Mead Witter Foundation, he was the fourth-generation leader of the corporation that his great-grandfather J.D. Witter began and his grandfather George W. Mead I built to be a world leader in coated papermaking.

Witter came to Wisconsin in 1850. He amassed his fortune from banking, timber, manufacturing and hydropower on the Wisconsin River. Having the highest regard for education, he sent his two children, Isaac and Ruth, to the University of Wisconsin. They were the first generation in the family to receive a college education, and it was at the UW that Isaac met George W. Mead I, who graduated in 1894.

Several years later Isaac introduced George to his sister, Ruth. Ruth and George eventually married, and when her father died unexpectedly in 1902, George took over the waterpower and papermaking enterprise.

“My grandfather George had the greatest connection to the UW. He served as a University of Wisconsin regent from 1928 to 1939, and in 1950 the university awarded him an honorary doctorate. Our legacy gift is in honor and commemoration of the Mead and Witter ancestors whose hard work, along with the hard work of our tens of thousands of employees over the last century and a half, generated the prosperity that allowed for this gift,” Mead emphasized.

“The ability to construct the entire music center at once is an incredible gift to our students,” says Susan Cook, director of the School of Music. “These are spaces where our undergraduates will perform their capstone projects; where our graduate students will do their final doctoral recitals; where our large student ensembles will perform; and where we will hold chamber recitals, lecture recitals and public events. It will be a magnet for faculty, students and the public for generations.”

The University of Wisconsin was chosen for the gift, Mead says, because it would have the greatest impact for the greatest number of Wisconsinites.

“The Mead Witter Foundation attempts to find projects which enhance the well being of the people of Wisconsin. We have invested heavily in higher education, both through student scholarships and institutional support. We also have a history of helping libraries. Many environmental projects, ranging from the 30,000-acre, state-owned Mead Wildlife Area to the reintroduction of the whooping crane, have received assistance,” Mead says.

At the UW, the Mead Witter Foundation also supports scholarships and professorships in engineering. The foundation was a contributor to the recent Chazen Museum of Art addition, as well. Organized in 1951 as the Consolidated Civic Foundation, the foundation, based in Wisconsin Rapids, has provided more than $67 million in support to colleges, universities, civic organizations and other charitable organizations.

The new performance facility is designed by Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture of New York, in partnership with Strang Architects of Madison. Acoustic design is by Richard Talaske/Sound Thinking of Oak Park, Illinois, and theatrical design is by Fisher Dachs Associates of New York. The center will open in 2018.

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A summer lark that led to something bigger: Meet UW-Madison cellist Kyle Price

By Katherine Esposito

It all started with an idea for summer fun, in the midst of a verdant paradise, at a family home he’d visited every year since he was a wee toddler. Now he was a 19-year-old cellist who wanted his college friends to hang out and play music at his grandma’s lake house. They could play string quartets practically in their sleep. Why not invite a few neighbors to hear them?

Kyle Price. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

Kyle Price. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.


Paradise was tiny Caroga Lake, New York, a 54-square mile town in the lower Adirondacks that is home to 1,200 permanent residents and booms to 4,000 every summer.  In 2012, the cellist, Kyle Price, asked a group of friends from undergrad at the Cleveland Institute of Music to join him, and they wound up performing Bach and Mendelssohn as an opener for the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Lake Performing Arts Center as well as at two other venues. Not bad for a first stab at a music party.

Kyle dubbed the event the Caroga Lake Music Festival, and an annual tradition was born. In 2015, in its fourth year, the Caroga Lake Music Festival offered four weeks of free concerts at venues ranging from Fulton-­‐Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, the Canada Lake Marina (on floating barges), several churches, a nursing home, on a farm and in New York City.

Kyle, now a master’s student and Collins Fellow at UW-Madison, studying with professor Uri Vardi, plans a fifth festival for 2016 and has even bigger ideas: he is cultivating support to evolve it into a year-round arts center located on the site of Sherman’s, a long-shuttered amusement park. He’s created an official nonprofit, the Caroga Arts Collective, and established a board of directors sprinkled with names from big companies like L.L. Bean, Borden Dairy and two law firms – all people with summer homes in the area.


Somehow he’s doing this around a full-time schedule as a music student. “It’s tough,” he says, with a laugh. “Recently, I’ve been needing to go back there to present things, meaning I miss class here, but the teachers have been great.” His classes mostly include performance-based classes such as chamber orchestra with conductor James Smith and chamber ensembles with professor Parry Karp, but he’s also enrolled in Jazz Improvisation with saxophone professor Les Thimmig.

It was the Internet that got him hooked on Madison.

Price, who is originally from Columbus, Ohio, knew nothing about the university until he watched a YouTube video about the National Summer Cello Institute, an intensive week-long camp for cellists organized by professor of cello, Uri Vardi. The camp has been held at UW-Madison since 2010 and offers classes that explore connections between body awareness, musical expression, and injury prevention.  “I was literally sitting with my cello in front of my computer in a practice room, and I came across a video that linked to the NSCI,” he says. “There was this funky word, Feldenkrais, and  a video of Uri explaining Feldenkrais and how it relates to performance. And I decided, I totally have to go to this. It was my main priority, cello-wise, for the summer.” (Feldenkrais is a technique that helps people to increase ease and range of motion.)

By the time he graduated, he also had decided that he wanted to apply for a master’s degree at the UW-Madison School of Music, a behemoth compared to the 350-student Cleveland Institute of Music. “I didn’t know much more about the school, but Uri was someone I wanted to study with.” He’s been impressed with the city and the university. “It was amazing, meeting all these undergrads – some are double or triple majors. Everyone is so smart and the faculty is amazing.”

Of Vardi, Kyle says: “It’s been fantastic. He’s pretty brilliant. He tries to get you out of your habits, so you have options to work with, then you can expand your palette. His teaching goes way beyond the cello in a lot of ways. It made a big impact on my life, and on playing the cello.”

Prof. Vardi has similar praise for Kyle. “He’s a mensch,” he says, with a twinkle in his eye. “He has a good heart and appreciates beauty. He wants to improve life for society. And he’s one of the most musical students I’ve ever worked with.”

All of these, he said, are why Vardi nominated Kyle for the Collins Fellowship, a full graduate scholarship funded by longtime School of Music supporter Paul Collins.

His intuition was accurate.  In 2015, Kyle was a winner in the Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition and a finalist in the G. Gershwin International Music Competition. After graduation next spring, he plans to devote himself full-time to growing the Caroga festival, plus freelancing and composing music.

Kyle has high hopes for the future of the festival, now an annual tradition that has captivated those who live in the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys of central New York state. It may have begun as a lark, but it’s brought deep pleasure to the small community. “We have a mix of audience: the experienced ones who’ve been to Saratoga and New York City, and people who are completely brand new and who are experiencing classical, jazz, even alternative music for the very first time,” he says.

People like Jim Hinkle, from Johnstown,  who in 2014 penned a letter to editors of the Leader Herald, a local newspaper.  Wrote Hinkle: “My knowledge of music is extremely limited. But now I am hooked on this concert series. It took some time for me to figure out whom they they talking about when they correctly pronounced Debussy. It’s not De Bu Sea like I had been taught. There are still play dates left. I urge you to not watch television but go to the free concert, sit in back and if the music is not right for you, leave during the applause. It’s OK. Please give it a chance, as I did.”

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Five UW-Madison Alumni Composers return in November for performances of their works

In early November, the UW-Madison School of Music will welcome back five graduates of the composition studio who have developed creative,  multi-dimensional careers in a range of fields: acoustic and electronic composition, musicology, theory, audio production, conducting, education, concert management and administration, performance, and other fields as well. The two-day event on Nov. 5 & 6 will feature concerts of chamber music and Wind Ensemble music, symposia on marketing, publicity, and career development, and ample opportunities for conversation.

The composers include Jeffrey Stadelman (BM, 1983; MM, 1985), now associate professor of music composition at the University at Buffalo;  Paula Matthusen (BM, 2001), assistant professor of music at Wesleyan University; William Rhoads (BM, 1996), vice president of marketing & communications for Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York City; Andrew Rindfleisch (BM, 1987), professor of composition at Cleveland State University; and Kevin Ernste (BM, 1997), professor of composition at Cornell University.

Music will be performed by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet, the UW Wind Ensemble, and other faculty and students. The works being performed by both faculty and students range from standard instrumentations (woodwind and brass quintets) to unusual combinations (piano, percussion, clarinet, and oboe) to solo works performed by some of our most accomplished students.

Thursday, Nov. 5,  7:30 PM, Mills Hall, free concert. Click for program.

Friday, Nov. 6, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall, free concert.  Click for program.

Additional sessions, to be held on Friday, Nov. 6 at the Student Activities Center, University Square:

11:30 – 12:10 Marketing for Musicians
Today, savvy understanding of marketing and pr is a necessity for performers and composers. Learn the basics of building an effective communications strategy to promote and publicize your event, your career, or your new work.

12:15 – 12:55 Publishing for Composers
With power shifting from large publishing houses to individual composers, it’s an exciting time to be a creative artist. Get an overview of the recent history and changes in music publishing and important guidelines on the myriad channels that exist which allow you benefit from the use of your music.

1 PM: Meet Bill Rhoads at CoffeeBytes.


All five composers grew up in Wisconsin or Minnesota, and they provide a variety of career models, in both industry and academia, in both live and electronic music, for our student composers and performers. This may be the first time that a university music school has brought together the alumni of an academic composition program, from a period of several decades, for concerts of their music, workshops with current students, and public informational events.

Here are composer biographies along with comments about their works.

Composer Andrew Rindfleisch has enjoyed a career in music that has also included professional activity as a conductor, pianist, vocalist, improviser, record producer, radio show host, educator, and concert organizer. As a composer, he has produced dozens of works for the concert hall, including solo, chamber, vocal, orchestral, brass, and wind music, as well as an unusually large catalog of choral music. His committed interest in other forms of music-making have also led him to the composition and performance of jazz and related forms of improvisation. “Their brass quintet, ‘In the Zone,’  is a pun on the Italian word ‘canzone,’ a style of piece often written for brass ensembles (the works of Gabrieli are great examples),” says Daniel Grabois, professor of horn. “If an old canzone were fractured and reassembled using a 21st century sensibility, the result would sound like this piece. At times it throbs with the wild abandon of a medieval band, and at other times grooves with the rhythmic snap and clarity of a group of Renaissance troubadours.” (Note: The Wisconsin Brass Quintet will perform “In the Zone” on the Thursday concert.) Listen to Rindfleisch’s music on SoundCloud.

Andrew Rindfleisch

Andrew Rindfleisch

Mr. Rindfleisch is the recipient of the Rome Prize, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the Aaron Copland Award, and the Koussevitzky Foundation Fellowship from the Library of Congress. Over forty other prizes and awards have followed honoring his music. He has participated in dozens of renowned music festivals and has received residency fellowships from the Bogliasco Foundation (Italy), the Czech-American Institute in Prague, the Charles Ives Center for American Music, the June in Buffalo Contemporary Music Festival, the MacDowell Colony, and the Pierre Boulez Conductor’s Workshop at Carnegie Hall. He holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (Bachelor of Music), the New England Conservatory of Music (Master of Music), and Harvard University (PhD).

As a conductor and producer, Mr. Rindfleisch’s commitment to contemporary music culture has brought into performance and recording over 500 works by living composers over the past 20 years. He has founded several contemporary music ensembles and currently heads the Cleveland Contemporary Players Artist in Residency Series at Cleveland State University, and the Vertigo Ensemble at the Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City. He has made guest conducting appearances throughout the United States and abroad with many diverse musical organizations; from opera and musical theatre, to orchestral, jazz, improvisational, and contemporary avant-garde ensembles.

Paula Matthusen writes both electroacoustic and acoustic music and realizes sound installations. In addition to writing for a variety of different ensembles, she also collaborates with choreographers and theater companies. She has written for diverse instrumentations, such as “run-on sentence of the pavement” for piano, ping-pong balls, and electronics, which Alex Ross of The New Yorker noted as being “entrancing”. Her work often considers discrepancies in musical space—real, imagined, and remembered. “A pleasant surprise in the Sunday morning program [for the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music] was Paula Matthusen’s piece “of memory and minutiae” (2006), a plaintive, haunting setting of a Norwegian prayer that fragments further with each repetition. Olenka Slywynska gave the soprano line a chantlike quality while cello counterpoint and electronic timbres wove a graceful atmospheric cocoon around it.” Allan Kozinn, New York Times, 2009. Listen to Matthusen’s music on SoundCloud.

Paula Matthusen

Paula Matthusen

Her music has been performed by Dither, Mantra Percussion, the Bang On A Can All-Stars, the Scharoun Ensemble, Mantra Percussion, Dither Electric Guitar Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), orchest de ereprijs, The Glass Farm Ensemble, the Estonian National Ballet, James Moore, Kathryn Woodard, Todd Reynolds, Kathleen Supové, Margaret Lancaster and Jody Redhage. Her work has been performed at numerous venues and festivals in America and Europe, including the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, the MusicNOW Series of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Ecstatic Music Festival, Other Minds, the MATA Festival, Merkin Concert Hall, the Aspen Music Festival, Bang on a Can Summer Institute of Music at MassMoCA, the Gaudeamus New Music Week, SEAMUS, International Computer Music Conference and Dither’s Invisible Dog Extravaganza. She performs live-electronics frequently, often with Object Collection, and through the theater company Kinderdeutsch Projekts.

Awards include the Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Fulbright Grant, two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers’ Awards, First Prize in the Young Composers’ Meeting Composition Competition, the MacCracken and Langley Ryan Fellowship, the “New Genre Prize” from the IAWM Search for New Music, and recently the 2014 Elliott Carter Rome Prize.

Matthusen has also held residencies at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, create@iEar at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, STEIM, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Matthusen completed her Ph.D. at New York University – GSAS. She was Director of Music Technology at Florida International University for four years, where she founded the FLEA Laptop Ensemble. Matthusen is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan University, where she teaches experimental music, composition, and music technology.

Currently Vice President of Marketing & Communications for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Bill Rhoads was previously President and Managing Director of Bill Rhoads & Associates, which was promotion agent for several publishing houses, including CF Peters, EC Schirmer, Subito Music and MMB Publishing; and represented the interests of Frank Zappa, John Zorn, Ornette Coleman, Ethel, counter)induction, Fred Ho, and two Pulitzer Prize-winning composers, along with a host of other prominent artists and firms in the music industry. Prior to opening his own firm, Mr. Rhoads was Director of the Concert Music Division for Carl Fischer, LLC in New York.

Bill Rhoads

Bill Rhoads

He has been active as board member of the Phoenix Concerts, the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, Wisconsin Alliance for Composers, and co-director of Composers Concordance and E.A.R. (Elastic Arts Room) in New York City. In addition, Mr. Rhoads served the music industry as Communications Advisor for ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), Board Member for CRI (Composers Recordings, Inc.), and the MPA (Music Publishers Association), as Honorary Advisory Board Member for The Women’s Philharmonic, and as panel member, speaker and judge on numerous committees for organizations serving the needs of composers, educators, and performers, including ASCAP, MENC, and the League of American Orchestras.

His work was influenced by his early experiences as guitarist in several rock bands, his training as an audio engineer and producer, background in philosophy and aesthetics, immersion into the experimental music scene of NYC, and composition studies with Stephen Dembski, Joel Naumann, Joseph Koykkar, John Corigliano, George Rochberg and John Harbison. It has been performed and recorded by ensembles throughout the U.S., including Sequitur and Composers Concordance in New York City, May in Miami Festival, Present Music in Milwaukee; and Bach, Dancing, and Dynamite and Oakwood Chamber Players in Madison. “Written idiomatically, even brilliantly, for the instruments at hand, Scherzophrenia springs from the “and now for something completely different” school of composition. Like John Zorn, its best-known practitioner, Rhoads quick-cuts snippets of familiar styles: cartoon illustrative music, lofty trumpet calls, Brahmsian piano trios, cheesy waltzes, clarinet horselaughs, rim shots. Rhoads wrinkle if to bring back his materials in different contexts – to remix them, as it were.” Tom Strini, music critic, The Milwaukee Journal, 1994. Listen to “Slam,” recorded in 2004.

With deep roots in American modernism, composer Jeff Stadelman has developed over the past 30 years a complex, lyrical musical language that suggests no obvious counterpart.  Five CDs containing his compositions have appeared since 2007, including the solo monographic CD, “Pity Paid” (Centaur Records). Los Angeles Times critic Josef Woodard called the music “painterly . . . , deftly dispersed in time and glazed with a dry wit” while Jay Batzner, of Sequenza 21, describes it as a “powerful, caged beast … barely contained by its enclosure.” Listen to Stadelman’s music on SoundCloud.

Jeffrey Stadelman

Jeffrey Stadelman

Stadelman sees his music as “obsessed with <i>reference<i>, drawing deep sustenance from the classical works of past and present that most richly exploit possibilities for building associative structures of great beauty.”

Stadelman has received commissions and invitations for compositions from, among others, the Fromm Foundation and Boston Musica Viva, Nuove Sincronie, Concert Artists Guild, Trio Italiano Contemporaneo, Phantom Arts, Bernhard Wambach, Elizabeth McNutt, Jon Nelson and UW-Madison. Grants and awards include those from Meet the Composer, Harvard University, Friends and Enemies of New Music, and the Darmstadt Summer Courses.

Originally from Wisconsin, Stadelman serves as associate professor of music composition at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, as well as Department Chair. He studied composition as an undergraduate with Stephen Dembski at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and then with Donald Martino and others for his Ph.D. at Harvard University. His most recently recorded project is a large orchestral work entitled “Messenger,” which appeared in January 2013 on the Navona label. Stadelman writes, “My music tends to be up-tempo and syncopated, with emphasis on independent instrumental lines interacting energetically. People have pointed out that there often seems to be an ironic glaze over the proceedings, and in any case I favor what classical music calls “scherzoso” attitude — playful, even joking. However when my music gets serious, it’s _very_serious indeed. I am always interested in conjuring referential clouds of various sorts, where any particular musical
utterance is heard to ring of, or rhyme with, several others from other sections of the same piece. This music is generally in dialogue with one or more models from the past, and melody always comes first. Very recent works have focused on creating linked canons (rounds) between the instruments, with the actual chords looking backwards historically, but chordal progressions looking in some other direction.”

 Kevin Ernste is a composer, performer, and teacher of composition and electronic music at Cornell University where he is Director of the Cornell Electroacoustic Music Center. He was the Acting Director and lecturer at the Eastman Computer Music Center and Co-director of the ImageMovementSound festival.

Kevin Ernste

Kevin Ernste

His recent music includes Palimpsest for the JACK Quartet–the result of a 2011 Fromm Foundation Commission, presented recently at the Sweet Thunder Festival in San Francisco and the International Computer Music Conference in Athens Greece, Nisi [nee-see] (“Island” in Greek) for hornist Adam Unsworth  released on Equilibrium Records “Snapshots” (CD111), Adwords/Edward, dedicated to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and composed for Google Glass,  Numina for Brooklyn-based Janus Trio (flute, viola, harp) presented recently at the Spark Festival in MN, Seiend for brass quintet premiered by Ensemble Paris Lodron (Salzburg, Austria, Roses Don’t Need Perfume for guitarist Kenneth Meyer (gtr. and electronic sounds, 2009) recently presented by Dr. Meyer on his 2010 Hungary/Romania tour, a piece for saxophone and electronics called To Be Neither Proud Nor Ashamed (recently released on Innova Records), and Birches for viola with electronic sounds for John Graham performed on Mr. Graham’s recent China tour (Beijing, Wuhan, Xiamen, Hong Kong) as well as at the Aspen Summer Music Festival.  Mr, Graham presented Birches again in August 2011 at the International Computer Music Conference  (ICMC) in Huddersfield, UK and again in 2012 at CCRMA for the Linux Audio Conference. Listen to Ernst’s music on SoundCloud.


This two-day event is sponsored by the UW-Madison Anonymous Fund and the Mandel Foundation.










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University Opera presents The Marriage of Figaro: Oct. 23-27

University Opera presents The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart and da Ponte’s masterpiece of comedy and intrigue

After the unprecedented success of last spring’s sold-out run of The Magic Flute, this fall, University Opera will present four performances of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.  This new production will be directed by returning interim opera director, David Ronis, and James Smith will conduct the UW Symphony Orchestra.  The production will involve over 80 UW singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew.

The opera will be performed in Italian with projected English supertitles in the Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, on Friday, October 23 at 7:00pm, Saturday, October 24 at 7:00pm, Sunday, October 25 at 3:00pm, and Tuesday, October 27 at 7:00pm.


The Marriage of Figaro was the first of Mozart’s collaborations with the formidable librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, and shows both geniuses at the height of their powers.  Da Ponte based his libretto on Pierre Beaumarchais’ seminal play of the same title.  With its topical references and oblique indictment of the French aristocracy, the play was considered scandalous when it opened in 1784.  Although Da Ponte and Mozart’s version, written two years later, keenly depicts the underlying tension between the sexes and social classes, it focuses less on the period’s political issues and more on the complex humanity of its characters.  Mozart and da Ponte’s Figaro, which provides insight into the tenuousness of human relationships via hilarious situational comedy, is at once an eminently delightful, yet profoundly moving work.  Mozart’s brilliant score mirrors the complex world it depicts.  Full of stunning arias and intricate yet transparent ensembles, Figaro is one of the crowning achievements of one of the world’s great artists.

James Smith

James Smith. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

Although written before Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro represents the continuation of that story.  In Figaro, Count Almaviva, having married Rosina, has taken to philandering.  His downtrodden wife conspires with Figaro, now his valet, and Figaro’s bride-to-be, Susanna, the Count’s current amorous target, to teach him a lesson.  In the process, all of the relationships in the opera are called into question and undergo both subtle and not so subtle changes.  All is resolved in the end when the Countess’s love and devotion wins out as she is reunited with her repentant husband.

Viewing Figaro as a work that is intimately tied to the 18th-century, Director Ronis has assembled a design team to create a traditional setting for the production.  But he also sees it as a piece with tremendous relevance today.  “Even though it can be difficult for modern audiences to relate to men in frock coats and women in hoop skirts, by realistically focusing on the characters’ joys, pains, and struggles, it is possible to deliver messages of The Marriage of Figaro in a way that is both entertaining and meaningful in the 21st century,” he says.

The large cast of The Marriage of Figaro includes Joel Rathmann and alumnus Benjamin Schultz, who will split performances of the title role; Erin Bryan and Anna Whiteway as Susanna; Brian Schneider and Gavin Waid as Count Almaviva; and Anna Polum and Yanzelmalee Rivera as the Countess.  The role of Cherubino will be split between Alaina Carlson and Kirsten Larson.  In supporting roles, the production will feature Tia Cleveland and Meghan Hilker as Marcellina, alum Thomas Weis as Bartolo, Dennis Gotkowski and Fabian Qamar as Basilio, Kyle Connors and Mikko Utevsky as Antonio, Emi Chen and Emily Weaver as Barbarina, Todd Keller and Jiabao Zhang as Don Curzio.

Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor; Professor John Stowe, harpsichord continuo; Andrew Briggs, cello continuo; Chan Mi Jean and Kangwoo Jin, musical preparation; and Sara Guttenberg, chorus master.

The production will be designed by Dana Fralick, scenery and props; John Frautschy, lighting; Hyewon Park and Sydney Kreiger, costumes; and Jan Ross, wigs.  The production stage manager will be Isabel Karp and the assistant director, Elisheva Pront.  Additional student staff includes Sarah Kunath, master electrician, and Emi Chen, costume assistant.

Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.  Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.

The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact opera@music.wisc.edu. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at www.music.wisc.edu/

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“Brass Fest II” to feature eclectic mix of jazz and folk vocals, solo trumpet, and works for brass quintet

From October 9 to 11, the UW-Madison School of Music will present its second brass music festival, following a spirited event last year that was enthusiastically received by students and the community.

This year, “Brass Fest II” has added a vocalist to the mix: a Norwegian singer who mixes jazz tunes with pop and folk music from the Middle East, Bulgaria, Spain and India. The three-day festival will also features two brass quintets and a solo trumpeter.

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The festivals showcase the energetic, eclectic world of brass music, says festival organizer John Aley, professor of trumpet at UW-Madison and principal trumpeter of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. “We benefited from creative energy last year that continues to impact positively in the School of Music,” says Aley. “The performances will showcase some amazing talent and innovation including the surprising and delightful synergy of brass plus voice.”

On the docket this year:

Friday, October 9: Axiom Brass Quintet, 8 PM, Mills Hall. This lively Chicago quintet features repertoire ranging from jazz and Latin music to string quartet transcriptions, as well as original compositions for brass quintet.  Friday’s concert will offer an Elizabethan suite, “The Art of the Fugue” by J.S. Bach, and brass quintet works by Victor Ewald, David Sampson, and Patrice Caratini.

Axiom Brass is an Ensemble-in-Residence at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and at Chicago’s Rush Hour Concerts. They are winners of the Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition (2012), the Preis der Europa-Stadt Passau in Germany (2012), the 2008 International Chamber Brass Competition and prize-winners of the 2010 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, the Plowman Chamber Music Competition, and the Jeju City International Brass Quintet Competition in South Korea. Axiom Brass is comprised of Dorival Puccini, Jr., trumpet; Jacob DiEdwardo, horn; Kevin Harrison, tuba; Serdar Cizmeci, trombone; and Kris Hammond, trumpet.

Saturday, October 10: Festival Brass Choir with the Axiom Brass Quintet, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, trumpeter Adam Rapa, vocalist Elisabeth Vik, and students/faculty of the School of Music. 8 PM, Mills Hall. Conducted by Scott Teeple, professor of music and wind ensemble conductor. The concert will include works by Astor Piazzolla, James M. Stephenson, Anthony DiLorenzo, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and a Bulgarian vocal work sung by Ms. Vik.

The Norwegian-born vocalist Elisabeth Vik was classically trained by Norwegian opera singer Rolf Nykmark, then moved on to study commercial music and music business at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in England. She received a bachelors degree in pop-music performance, then moved to New York City. She has traveled the world gathering and learning techniques and musical expressions, giving her sound and stylings hints of Indian, Arabic, Spanish, Bulgarian as well as Norwegian flavors, superimposed upon a classical technique and an affinity for jazz.

American Adam Rapa is a dynamic performer, composer, producer and educator known for the excitement, energy and enthusiasm he brings to stages and classrooms around the world. Rapa has been featured as a special guest artist and clinician at trumpet conferences around the globe including the International Trumpet Guild conference, the National Trumpet Competition, and festivals in dozens of countries around the world. Adam performed and/or recorded with Grammy Award winners Nicholas Payton and Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Doc Severinsen, Soulive, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Reed, Jason Moran, Robert Glasper, Cyrus Chestnut, Jorge Pardo, Mnozil Brass, Belgian Brass, Alice in Chains, Academy Award winning film composer A.R. Rahman, and many others. Now living and freelancing in Copenhagen, Rapa plays lead trumpet in the Danish Radio Big Band and also performs with members of the Afro-Cuban All-Stars.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet, formed in 1972, is a faculty ensemble in residence at the UW-Madison. In addition to performing with the WBQ, the players have also been members of the American Brass Quintet, Empire Brass Quintet and Meridian Arts Ensemble. Current members include Tom Curry, tuba; Mark Hetzler, trombone; Daniel Grabois, horn; John Aley, trumpet; and Matthew Onstad, trumpet.

Sunday, October 11: Duo recital with trumpet soloist Adam Rapa, vocalist Elisabeth Vik, and musicians from the School of Music. 7:30 PM, Mills Hall.  Based in Denmark, the duo offers a creative blend of classical and jazz, melding traditional and modern repertoire with a Latin sizzle. Works will include the Carmen Suite by George Bizet, Så Skimrande Var Aldrig Havet by Evert Taube, arranged by Rapa & Vik, Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla arranged by Rapa, and Anitras Dance by Edvard Grieg, arranged by Vik & Rapa.

Tickets for the Friday and Saturday concerts are $15 for adults, free for students and children. Sunday’s concert is free to all.

Buy tickets to both concerts and save!

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Q&A with new faculty violinist Prof. Soh-Hyun Park Altino

In September, the UW-Madison School of Music will welcome violinist Soh-Hyun Park-Altino to its roster of full-time faculty. Prof. Altino hails most recently from Memphis, where she served on the faculty for 14 years.

Read Prof. Altino’s biography here.

Save the Date: Prof. Altino will make her concert debut in Madison with pianist Martha Fischer on November 13, 8 PM in Mills Hall. Tickets $12, and available at the Memorial Union Box Office or day of show at Mills Hall. Student admission is free.

Soh-Hyun Park Altino.

Soh-Hyun Park Altino. Photograph by Caroline Bittencourt.

What motivated you to seek the position here at UW?
I first heard about the UW-Madison School of Music and its fantastic string faculty when I was attending the Cleveland Institute of Music as a graduate student. Later while I taught at the University of Memphis, I often encouraged my students to consider UW-Madison for further schooling because of the reputation of the faculty. So I was excited to find out about the violin position last fall, and I am honored to be joining such an excellent community of musicians and scholars here at UW-Madison.

What gives you the greatest pleasure as a teacher of young students?
My greatest joy as a teacher is the up-close witness of the journey that each student takes throughout the course of his or her study. As we discuss and explore countless ways to communicate a story through the sound of a violin, sooner or later students face challenges that would push them beyond the familiar and the manageable. I love seeing my students grow to the point of taking steps of courage and giving generously from their hearts in spite of the difficulties presented in their pieces. The confidence gained by these experiences remains with them for the long haul.

Do you have special qualities, strengths, skills that you’ve honed over the years?
I believe, in order to be able to truly help my students grow as individual violinists and artists, I need to first get to know and understand how each one hears music. Different people will hear different things in the same performance. My role is to help them become aware of other things that are going on in the music and to assist them in acquiring necessary tools to express these ideas. My students often tell me that I am very patient during lessons; that always sounds funny to me because I think of myself as a impatient person in general. Working out long-standing and unhelpful physical habits in my students’ playing energizes me as I hear and see the freedom in their music just around the corner.

Do you enjoy performing any particular musical styles/time periods?
I enjoy learning and performing all good music, from the Baroque to the contemporary. While I love chamber music of all kinds, my favorite genre is works for violin and piano. It feels like an intimate conversation between two close friends that are inherently very different from each other.

Where have some of your students gone after study with you?
It’s extremely important for me to guide each of my students toward a career path that would make use of their individual gifts and strengths. Many of my students have gone on to study at major conservatories and universities and after schooling, they secured professional positions in various places. Some are teaching at colleges, in school string programs, and in Suzuki schools while some are performing in professional orchestras. And some others have found their calling in musicology and arts administration. I truly believe that, for us musicians, our satisfaction in what we do depends largely on the sense of continual growth.

You will bring your husband, a cellist. Have you collaborated?
My husband, Leo, and I met playing and teaching together at a festival, and we have performed concertos, duos, piano trios and beyond ever since. We love to play with and for each other and value each other’s honest commentaries; over the years we have become each other’s teacher. We are just beginning to get to know the area and are very excited about our new adventure in the musically dynamic city of Madison.

Had you been to Madison before?
My first time in Madison was for the interview and audition for this position in April, and I didn’t know a lot about the city, but since accepting the position, everyone around me has given me nothing but enthusiastic reports about Madison. My family and I moved to Madison in late July, and I have to agree with my friends’ opinions about the city.

Do you have an inkling of your concert program?
I am so looking forward to working with Martha Fischer and presenting a recital with her in November. The program includes the C major solo sonata by Bach, the second sonata by Brahms, and Charles Ives’s sonata no. 2.


School of Music adds professors of violin and clarinet to its roster

The 2015 fall semester at the School of Music will be marked by the addition of a new tenure-track professor of violin, Soh-Hyun Park Altino, and adjunct professor of clarinet, Wesley Warnhoff.

Park Altino replaces Felicia Moye, a tenured violin professor who decamped to McGill University in the summer of 2014 and was replaced for 2014-2015 by Leslie Shank. Warnhoff replaces Linda Bartley, a tenured professor of clarinet who has retired. Below are their official biographies.

Violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino is highly regarded as a gifted teacher and a versatile performer of solo and chamber music. Her concert engagements have taken her to Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Korea, Venezuela, and throughout the United States. Praised for her “poise and precision,” she has appeared as soloist with the Memphis Symphony, Jackson Symphony, Peabody Concert Orchestra, Masterworks Festival Orchestra, Sinfonica de Campinas in Campos do Jordão, Festival Virtuosi Orquestra in Recife, and Suwon Philharmonic in Seoul among others.

Soh-Hyun Park Altino.

Soh-Hyun Park Altino. Photograph by Caroline Bittencourt.

She has collaborated with renowned artists such as Monique Duphil, Oleh Krysa, Suren Bagratuni, Daniel Shapiro, and Jasper de Waal in festivals such as Duxbury Music Festival, Masterworks Festival, the Academy y Festival Nuevo Mundo in Venezuela, and in the Memphis Chamber Music Society concert series.

Prior to her joining the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music in 2015, Soh-Hyun served on the faculty at the University of Memphis for fourteen years. During her tenure at Memphis, she frequently performed with pianist Victor Asunción and cellist Leonardo Altino in the Dúnamis Trio, and as a member of the resident ensemble, Ceruti Quartet, she presented recitals and educational programs throughout the U.S. as well as at the National Assembly in Seoul, Korea and Teatro Santa Isabel in Recife, Brazil. The quartet’s recording of the Debussy Quartet released in 2013 was hailed by Gramophone for its “physically emotional power.” As an enthusiastic supporter of new music, she has enjoyed working closely with composers such as Steven Mackey, Margaret Brouwer, James Mobberley, and Kamran Ince, and in 2014 she premiered a commissioned work, En Voyage for violin and cello, by Paul Desenne.

As a dedicated teacher, Soh-Hyun directed the String Intensive Study Program at Masterworks Festival for eleven summers, taught through projects such as Fabrica de Musica and eMasterclass in Brazil and Festival y Escuela Internacional de Musica in Colombia, and presented violin master classes at universities nationally and internationally. Her experiences and insights gained from overuse injuries as a student have served as one of the major factors that inspire her passion and inquisitiveness for teaching, and she has become an advocate of continuing education for performers and teachers. To this end, she has regularly presented professional development sessions and held forums and clinics for violin teachers and their younger students. While her former students are national competition prizewinners and members of professional orchestras, a great many of them are devoted teachers at colleges and string programs across the country.

A native of Korea, Soh-Hyun grew up in a musical family and studied with Young-Mi Cho. At age sixteen, she came to the U.S. and studied with Violaine Melançon at the Peabody Institute where she was also given intensive training in chamber music and music theory, and she was a participant at Yellow Barn, Kneisel Hall, Tanglewood, Aspen, and Sarasota Music Festival. Her major chamber music coaches include Anne Epperson and the members of the Peabody Trio and the Juilliard, Concord, Cavani, and Cleveland Quartets. Soh-Hyun received her bachelor’s, master’s and the doctor of musical arts degrees in violin performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she was a student and teaching assistant to Donald Weilerstein.

Wesley Warnhoff

Wesley Warnhoff

American clarinetist Wesley Warnhoff’s thoughtful and intense performance style has gained him international acclaim as a soloist, orchestral, and chamber musician. Dr. Warnhoff’s research into contemporary techniques has helped him to develop a unique pedagogical approach that provides a new perspective on creating the ideal embouchure and sound concept, and it is this dedication to the art of teaching that makes Dr. Warnhoff a sought after clinician throughout the United States.

As a champion of new music he has given many premiere performances including the world-premiere of Murray Gross’ Rhapsody for Clarinet, I Surrender. Along with performing new music, Dr. Warnhoff has also added to the performing repertoire, most notably with his transcription for clarinet, voice, and piano of “La Vita e Inferno” from Verdi’s La Forza del Destino.

Dr. Warnhoff is currently on the music faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he leads the clarinet studio and performs with the renowned Wingra Woodwind Quintet. He is a founding member of the VCP International Trio, a violin, clarinet, piano trio that advocates new music performance, and he is also the principal clarinet of the Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra in Michigan, a post he has held for 5 years.

Dr. Warnhoff holds degrees from Michigan State University and Missouri State University. His primary teachers are Dr. Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, Dr. Allison Storochuk, and Dr. Jack Scheurer.

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Morgridge Fund and Private Opera Bequests combine to secure permanent endowment for University Opera

Cancer claims Karen Bishop, but husband carries out her wishes

by Katherine Esposito

It takes a big heart to pour oneself into a operatic solo, in front of a live audience, roles always edged with varying shades of emotion, all guaranteed to be intense.

For Karen K. Bishop, who returned to school at UW-Madison in her late 40s to gain master’s and doctoral degrees in opera, those emotions were only too real.

Karen Krieger Bishop

Karen Krieger Bishop

Bishop received a music degree in 1981 from Wheaton Conservatory of Music in Illinois, but decided to pursue her entrepreneurial interests, founding Rainbow Play Systems of South Central Wisconsin, retailers of playground equipment. In 1987, she married Charlie Bishop, who completed a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry at UW-Madison in the early 1980s. They had two children. Bishop sold the business in 2003 and turned her thoughts again to music.

She enrolled at the UW-Madison School of Music and became friends with much-younger Benjamin Schultz, then gaining his doctoral degree in opera. With Schultz, now assistant director of the school, the two talked and laughed and studied opera together.  She was singing and researching lost art songs of Ernst Bacon and John Duke. He was writing a book on Polish diction. They bought coffee on State Street and co-starred in a show. “She was hungry for knowledge,” Schultz said. “She followed her heart.”

What Schultz didn’t know is the reason why Bishop had sold her thriving business and entered the opera program. She had breast cancer, which was diagnosed in the mid-1990s and, in January, finally claimed her life. She was 54.

Very few people knew. That’s as she wished.  Now, her husband, Charlie, has acceded to another wish of Karen’s: to support the University Opera program.  He has joined community supporters and the local support group, UW Opera Props, to further a fund-raising campaign to “Go All In” to secure an endowed directorship for University Opera by pledging $500,000 to establish the Karen K. Bishop Fund for the Director of University Opera. That role has been temporarily filled by visiting opera director David Ronis. Ronis replaced William Farlow, who retired in 2014.

Bishop’s donation will be coupled with several hundred thousand dollars recently raised by local supporters of the opera program, including several individual member donations and a joint board donation from Opera Props, and a bequest from the estate of Margaret Winston, another longtime benefactor who died last September. With Bishop’s pledge, the fund has secured a dollar-for-dollar matching grant from the John and Tashia Morgridge Foundation, creating an endowed professorship and a lasting footing for the popular and successful program, which offers one of the few opera master’s degrees in the nation. Graduates have included current Broadway star Nathaniel Stampley; Gregory Schmidt, now with the Metropolitan Opera; Jamie-Rose Guarrine, who will join the faculty of University of Massachusets-Amherst this fall; James Kyrshak, who recently joined the Vienna State Opera; and Emily Birsan, currently performing with the Ryan Center of Chicago’s Lyric Opera.

It’s hard to overstate the value of the donations to the School of Music. The new Bishop Fund represents a “transformative opportunity,” said Prof. Mimmi Fulmer, with whom both Bishop and Schultz studied.  “University Opera will, for the first time, be able to plan for the future with a solid financial foundation,” she added.

Reached at his office in Miami, Florida, Charlie Bishop said that Karen was firm about her wishes. “We spoke of her desires,” he said. “She wanted to support University Opera and the School of Music. So, I made a commitment to make sure that that happened. It would make Karen happy to know that she had a positive impact on the School of Music that she admired so much.”

Bishop added that he hopes the new fund will raise the profile of University Opera and UW-Madison more generally.

“I often wonder if people in Madison realize how remarkable an achievement it is for students to mount two full opera productions every year,” he said. “It’s tremendously difficult. Professional organizations struggle.  But UW does it masterfully.”

“[The program] offers unsurpassed opportunities for vocal performance and to study operatic compositions by leading composers.”


Save the Date!

Sunday, September 27: Special Fundraising Concert with Brenda Rae, a rising opera star and alumna of the UW-Madison School of Music and The Juilliard School. Brenda will sing the Glière Concerto for Coloratura Soprano, op. 82, with the UW Symphony Orchestra. 7:30 p.m., Mills Hall. Tickets $25, on sale July 15 at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office.

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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.”

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University Opera’s Spring Show: The Magic Flute

From March 13 to 17, University Opera will present Mozart’s beloved masterpiece of fantasy, The Magic Flute, in a family-friendly, exotic East-West staging.  In a departure, the opera will run for four performances instead of the usual three, adding a Saturday evening that will allow lead roles will be split evenly among singers. The show will involve over 80 university singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew. The show dates are Friday, March 13, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 15, 3:00 p.m.; and Tuesday, March 17, 7:30 p.m.

Buy tickets online or in person at the Memorial Union Box Office.


The Magic Flute will mark interim opera director David Ronis’s second production at UW-Madison.  Ronis recently earned distinction when his 2014 production of Dialogues of the Carmelites at Queens College in New York was awarded third prize in the National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competition.  He will be joined at the helm by James Smith, conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra.

Full of surprises and delights, The Magic Flute is a treat for both seasoned opera lovers and those new to opera.  The familiar plot centers on Prince Tamino, sent by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from the Sorcerer, Sarastro.  As the opera unfolds, Tamino’s quest for love evolves into one in which self-actualization becomes equally important.  Along for the ride are Papageno, his comic sidekick, searching for his own soul mate; the Queen’s Three Ladies; Three Spirits who serve as guides; and an assortment of other memorable characters.

Ronis comments about his concept for The Magic Flute: “When planning the production, I kept seeing Sarastro and his Masonic principles as being related to those of Eastern philosophy.  So, in order to create the polarity between the opposing forces of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night, I characterized Sarastro as coming from the East vs. the Queen of the Night, coming from the cultural West.  Thus, the Queen and her Ladies wear Victorian bustle dresses, while the basic costume for Sarastro’s followers is the shalwar kameez, the traditional garment of South and Central Asia.  To complement this, the scenic design combines pan-Asian, Victorian, and surreal elements with a few contemporary comedic references thrown in.  This works nicely, framing the story as well as creating an exotic environment in which the fantasy can take place.”

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

The large cast of The Magic Flute includes Thomas Leighton and William Ottow, who will split the performances as Tamino, Nicole Heinen and Anna Whiteway as Pamina, and Joel Rathmann and Brian Schneider as Papageno.  The Queen of the Night will be played by Sarah Richardson and alumna Olivia Pogodzinski, and the role of Sarastro will be taken by alumnus Thomas Weis.  The six singers playing the Three Ladies will be Susanna Beerheide, Tia Cleveland, Jessica Kasinski, Kirsten Larson, Heather Richardson, and Sheila Wilhelmi.  Rounding out the cast will be Alaina Carlson, Eileen Peterson, and Emily Weaver as the Three Spirits; Emi Chen and Gaby Klugman as Papagena; Nathaniel Greenhill and Michael Hoke as Monostatos; alumnus Benjamin Li as the Speaker; Mikko Utevsky as the Second Priest; and Evan Esslinger and Fabian Qamar as the Armored Men.  Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor; Seungwha Baek and Chan Mi Jean, musical preparation; and Dennis Gotkowski, chorus master.

The physical production will be based on designs by Charles “Jen” Trieloff II and realized by Joseph Varga, Greg Silver, and Liz Rathke.  Costume design is by Sydney Krieger, Hyewon Park and Sam Fleming, lighting design by Rob Stepek, props design by Dana Fralick, and the production stage manager will be Erin McDermott.  Student staff include Emi Chen, costume assistant; Fabian Qamar, props assistant; Emily Hake and Melanie Treuhaft, scenic painters; Briana Miller, master electrician; and Kyle Baldauf, assistant carpenter.

This production of The Magic Flute is dedicated to the memories of Karen K. Bishop and Charles Jennings Trieloff II.  Ms. Bishop was an UW-Madison alumnus who performed in a number of University Opera productions between 2007 and 2011. Mr. Trieloff was the original set designer for the production.

Tickets are $22.00 for the general public, $18.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/location.html. Tickets  may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.  Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.  The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community.

For more information, please contact opera@music.wisc.edu.

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The School of Music rallies behind stricken student

Concert to Benefit UW-Madison Trombonist Brittany Sperberg

On Wednesday, March 18, the School of Music’s brassiest ensembles will join forces in a concert to benefit Brittany Sperberg, a formerly highly visible and energetic trombonist now stricken with an undiagnosed ailment. This semester, Brittany reluctantly withdrew from school to attend to her medical needs and her performing future is in doubt. She will also have to miss next month’s Carnegie Hall debut of the UW Wind Ensemble.

Brittany Sperberg

Brittany Sperberg

Brittany, a Shawano native, is a senior majoring in music education, now being treated full time at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Her symptoms began last August with a painful infection in her nasal cavity, and despite numerous tests, medications, surgeries, scans and biopsies, the cause and precise treatment remain a mystery. She was hospitalized on Christmas Eve, and while her family is insured, the out-of-pocket expenses–including travel, hotel, food and loss of employment from her mother who is at her side– are mounting.

Groups to perform at the benefit will include the UW Wind Ensemble, directed by Prof. Scott Teeple; the UW Jazz Orchestra, directed by Prof. Johannes Wallmann; the Low Brass Ensemble, directed by Prof. Mark Hetzler; Dat Brass, a funk horn band founded by Sperberg; and the Badger Brass, featuring her fellow students. Brittany performed in all of these ensembles, and more: she also played her trombone with the Latin Jazz Ensemble and even sang with the Twisted Metal Horn Choir, directed by Prof. Daniel Grabois.

“If you’ve spent any time with Brittany Sperberg, you know her as a person with energy, love and creativity, in amounts that go beyond the norm,” says her teacher, trombone professor Mark Hetzler. “Her heart is bigger than what should be possible, her mind is open to amazing ideas and her spirit always seems to soar. Even in the midst of this horrible illness, with her music career and trombone future up in the air, Brittany continues to keep a positive attitude and an incredibly upbeat sense of humor. She has been a true warrior in the face of this adversity.”

In November 2013, Brittany wrote an account of her experiences at the School of Music that remains one of the school’s all-time most popular posts.

Read it here: https://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/sperberg/

The benefit concert will be held in Mills Hall on Wednesday, March 18, 7:30 PM. A suggested donation is $10.00, and more is welcome.

Online donations can be made at this website:

Checks may also be mailed to Mark Hetzler, 5326 Russett Rd., Madison, WI 53711. Please make checks out to “Brittany Sperberg.”
For more information or an interview, please contact
• Mark Hetzler at (608) 628-5026 or hetzler@wisc.edu.
• Katherine Esposito (608) 263-5615 or kesposito@wisc.edu

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Meet John Wunderlin: No limits on age when it comes to studying music

At the School of Music’s “Horn Choir” concert at the Chazen Museum of Art last month, one could easily discern John Wunderlin from the swarm of horn players on the stage.

He was the only one with gray hair.


UW’s Horn Choir at a recent concert, at the Chazen Museum. Wunderlin is second from right. Daniel Grabois, conductor.

That’s because he’s 50 years old. It’s safe to say that most of the other performers were about the ages of his two kids, 23 and 19. And yes, he is a student.

After a full life as a business owner, husband and dad, Wunderlin returned to school this fall for a master’s degree in horn. He first studied the instrument in college (way back when) and played as much as possible over the years. But after he met Dan Grabois, assistant professor of horn at UW-Madison, he finally took the leap and applied for the program at UW. He says he likes Dan’s teaching style. “[Dan] offers a lot of concrete suggestions, as opposed to someone who says, ‘it’s my way or the highway,’ ” Wunderlin says.

We asked John to tell us a bit about his unusual career path.

What made you want to come back to school for a masters degree?
“It was always a long-term goal of mine to come back to school. My undergraduate degree was computer science with a music minor from UW-Platteville. As an undergrad, I made a conscious decision to earn a degree that would allow me to make a good living, but music was always my passion. With a long career in computers and both my children grown, it seemed like the right time to focus on music.

John Wunderlin. Photo by Katherine Esposito.

John Wunderlin. Photo by Katherine Esposito.

What was your previous career, and how did the horn fit in?
“I spent 27 years working as a computer programmer. First for several large corporations, then as an independent contractor, and for the last 14 years I ran my own software business with my wife Nancy. After college, I didn’t stop playing the horn. I was always looking for gigs, but did try to balance my rehearsal schedule with my home life- we have two children. In 1999, I came across a summer camp called the Kendall Betts Horn Camp in New Hampshire. This is a camp for horn players of all ages from high school to seniors with world-class horn faculty. It was a week-long opportunity to immerse in music that I have taken advantage of nearly every year since. I credit KBHC with improving my playing significantly to the point that I won my first regional orchestra audition with the Beloit-Janesville Symphony (now called the Rock River Philharmonic). I’ve been a member there for the last six seasons.

Why UW-Madison?
“I’ve played a lot of gigs in the Madison area and my wife and I both love the town. We lived in Mineral Point for the last 21 years. This was a good opportunity (and a good excuse) to move to Madison. I considered a few other universities, but after working with Dan Grabois and considering my options, it was really an easy choice.

What is it like being having student colleagues in their 20s and even late teens?
“The other students in the horn studio have been absolutely terrific! From day one they treated me like just another student. I’m amazed at the sense of camaraderie and lack of competitiveness within our studio. I feel like everyone’s goal is to support and help each other become the best musicians we can all be.

Have you had any trouble adapting or fitting in?
“Very little. I’m not the only non-traditional student in the music department. There are a range of ages, though I’m probably a bit above the median.

What do you hope to gain from the degree and the experience here at UW?
“My primary short-term goal is full musical immersion for the next two years. Beyond that, I’m interested in winning a larger orchestra job and/or teaching at a college or university.

Any advice for people thinking of going back to school for a performance degree?
“The field of music performance is an extremely competitive area with many, many more musicians than available jobs. My first recommendation would be to save a lot of money before starting to give yourself some time to find a job and consider other options if things don’t work out. My second recommendation is to jump in with both feet. It’s a lot of hard work, but also very rewarding. When I’m performing with a great group of musicians and in ‘the zone,’ there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. Personal problems, politics, bad thoughts all melt away and are replaced with a musical connection with my talented colleagues that transcends words.”


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New Music Performance Center Named in Honor of the Hamel Family

The University of Wisconsin announced Friday, December 5, 2014, that the new music performance center at the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue will be named in honor of UW-Madison alumnus George Hamel (BA’80, Communication Arts) and his wife Pamela Hamel.

The new recital hall in the soon-to-be-constructed Hamel Music Center.

The new recital hall in the soon-to-be-constructed Hamel Music Center.

The Hamel Music Center, whose name was approved Friday by the UW System Board of Regents, honors the Hamels who provided the $15 million lead gift to construct the new facility.

The center will include a 315-seat recital hall, large rehearsal room and spacious lobby while anchoring a highly visible corner of campus in the university’s East Campus Gateway, which includes the now-completed Chazen Museum of Art expansion, the Memorial Union renovation, the Library Mall reconstruction and the planned Alumni Park on Lake Mendota. Construction on the new center is set to begin in late 2015.

The Hamels’ lead contribution to the $22 million project comes as the university prepares for an upcoming comprehensive campaign, which is currently in the planning phase. In addition to their service on advisory boards across campus, George and Pam are members of the campaign planning committee.

“We are thrilled and humbled by George and Pam’s generosity. The new center will be a jewel for the campus and a hub for music performance, education and outreach for our students, faculty, performers, instructors and the greater community,” said John Karl Scholz, Dean of the College of Letters & Science. “The Hamels are loyal supporters and I could not be more excited to honor their legacy and leadership as we prepare for the comprehensive campaign.”

Pamela and George Hamel

Pamela and George Hamel

The Hamel Family, which includes three generations of UW-Madison alumni, has supported the university through gifts to athletics, scholarships, facilities and faculty support. George is a founder of ValueAct Capital, an investment management firm in San Francisco, and the family owns and operates Hamel Family Winery in Sonoma, Calif., whose badger logo honors their family’s UW-Madison roots.

“Music has always had an important place in our family,” said Pamela Hamel. “We feel privileged to be able to help provide the university’s musical students and fellow lovers of music a world-class facility in which to learn, practice, perform, and enjoy music. It’s exciting for George and me to imagine just how many students will be able to benefit from and delight in the Music Center for years to come.”

The center will include a glass-walled lobby, clerestory windows in the recital hall, along with a dramatic glassed-in corner of the rehearsal hall that will allow passersby to see the on-going rehearsals. Such extended transparency will help create educational and social connections between working musicians and the public, a key priority for the School of Music.

“This new space promises to be an exciting—and beautiful—example of the power of private philanthropy,” said Susan C. Cook, director of the School of Music. “The Hamel Music Center is an investment in the School of Music’s student-focused, mentor-driven educational mission and its embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea.”

In addition to providing a professional space for budding musicians to practice and learn, state-of-the-art audio-video technologies in the recital hall will allow for live-stream concerts and high-quality recordings. The new building is designed by Holzman Moss Bottino Architects of New York City, in partnership with Strang Architects of Madison. Acoustic design is by Richard Talaske/Sound Thinking of Oak Park, Ill., with theatrical design by Fisher Dachs Associates of New York City.

Ingrid Jensen in Brooklyn, NY. June 2005photo by Angela Jimenez
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Jazz Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen to headline MMSD-UW Jazz Festival

On December 4-6, 2014, the UW School of Music will host the 4th Annual UW/MMSD Jazz Festival, an educational jazz festival featuring workshops and performances by high school big bands from Madison and Middleton, the UW Jazz Orchestra and UW Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, UW jazz faculty, and New York trumpet star Ingrid Jensen.

Ingrid Jensen in Brooklyn, NY. June 2005photo by Angela Jimenez

Ingrid Jensen

This 4th annual edition of the UW/MMSD Jazz Festival represents the expansion of the festival into a multi-day event featuring an internationally recognized guest artist and also marks the first time that UW Madison will be the host campus. In its new venue, the festival will continue its original mission of bringing together participating schools in a non-competitive festival environment to focus on students’ peer learning and the exchange of information, developing idiomatic jazz and improvisation skills, building a community of young jazz musicians and connecting them with working professionals, and inspiring student performers to deepen their involvement with the jazz idiom.

Watch the Ingrid Jensen Jazz Quintet perform “At Sea,” at the Berklee College of Music, April 2012

The festival’s expansion and its move to UW Madison as its host campus coincide with a major expansion of UW-Madison’s jazz studies program. Spearheaded by jazz pianist Dr. Johannes Wallmann who joined the School of Music faculty in 2012, the jazz program has added five new jazz ensembles, several new academic jazz courses, and a high school Honors jazz band. In the fall of 2014, the jazz program welcomed new instructors of jazz drums and jazz trombone along with its first cohort of students in the newly re-launched undergraduate jazz major.

2014 UW/MMSD Jazz Festival featured artist Ingrid Jensen has been a major figure on the international jazz scene for over 20 years. Her three CDs for the ENJA label and her latest CD, “At Sea,” won her nominations from the Canadian Juno Awards, including an award in 1995 for Vernal Fields. In addition to her work as a leader of the quartet Project O and the quintet Nordic Connect, Jensen is a featured soloist with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, with whom she recorded four albums, including the Grammy Award-winning “Concert in the Garden” and “Sky Blue,” the former of which was also named Jazz Album of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. She regularly places in Downbeat magazines Critics’ and Readers’ polls.

Ingrid Jensen recently made her Madison debut as a member of Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project. She is also a member of Darcy James Argue’s Grammy-nominated Secret Society; the Juno-award winning Christine Jensen Orchestra; has been featured on Gil Evans’ Porgy and Bess at the San Francisco Jazz Festival under the direction of Maria Schneider; and has appeared as a guest in the festival’s “Tribute to Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard,” alongside Terence Blanchard, Eddie Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson and Kenny Garrett. Other musicians Jensen has performed and or recorded with include Madelaine Peyroux, Ron Carter, Mullgrew Miller, Steve Wilson, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Dr.Lonnie Smith, Marc Copland, Bob Berg, Gary Thomas, Gary Bartz, Jeff Hamilton, Bill Stewart, Terri-Lynn Carrington, Geri Allen, Geoffrey Keezer, Billy Hart, George Garzone, Chris Connor, Victor Lewis, Clark Terry, Frank Wess, Badal Roy, Mike Clark, Jason Miles and Global Noize, Dr. Billy Taylor and the DIVA Big Band. Her performances as a leader and as a featured soloist have taken her around the world from Canada to Japan, Australia, South America, South Africa, the Caribbean and to almost every country in Europe and Scandinavia.


Schedule of events:

Thursday, Dec. 4: Trumpet master class with Ingrid Jensen. 1:30 PM, Music Hall.

Thursday, Dec. 4: Small-group jazz improvisation masterclass with Ingrid Jensen and the UW Contemporary Jazz Ensemble. 7:30 PM, Music Hall.

Friday, Dec. 5: Concert with Ingrid Jensen and the Johannes Wallmann Group. 8PM, Morphy Hall.

Saturday, Dec. 6: Headline concert featuring bands from Madison’s East, West and Memorial High School, Middleton High School, the UW Jazz Orchestra, and Ingrid Jensen. 6 PM, Music Hall.