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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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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.

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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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