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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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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.

Figaro

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.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”1″ gal_title=”Brass”]

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.

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Mayrent Institute now home to oldest surviving recordings of Yiddish music

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
7/8/2015

CONTACT: Henry Sapoznik, sapoznik@wisc.edu, 608-890-4818; Scott Carter, scott.carter@wisc.edu, 608-890-4818

MAYRENT INSTITUTE NOW HOME TO OLDEST SURVIVING RECORDINGS OF YIDDISH MUSIC

MADISON – The Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture has acquired the twelve earliest known cylinder recordings of Yiddish music, released c.1901 by the one-time Chicago-based Thomas Lambert Company. The recordings enhance the Institute’s offerings in combination with the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings, a repository of over 9,000 78rpm recordings of Yiddish and Jewish music, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mills Music Library.

These rarest of earliest American recordings trace Yiddish theater’s journey from its European provenance to its reinvention as a major American venue. “Rozhinkes mit Mandlen” (“Raisins and Almonds”), the evergreen lullaby composed in 1880s Romania by the father of the Yiddish theater, Abraham Goldfaden, and recorded six years before his death in the New World, echoes continuity, while others of the two-minute recordings clue us in to the diversity of the Yiddish stage’s pioneer participants.

The remarkable sound quality of the recordings is due to the transfer skills of the historian/sound engineer/collector David Giovannoni (UW-Madison, 1980), who made the collection available. It is also thanks to the pristine condition of their original celluloid surface, and to its inventor.

In 1900, Thomas Lambert began recording on celluloid, an early form of plastic that produced superior sound and resiliency. Unlike Thomas Edison’s 1877 invention — metal followed by wax cylinders that could be played only a handful of times before wearing out — Lambert’s cylinders were labeled “Indestructible.” He, unfortunately, was not; frivolous patent infringement lawsuits initiated by Edison drove Lambert out of business by 1906.

In the end the Thomas Lambert Company’s 1008-song catalog came to reflect mainstream popular music. Yet half its first releases — some forty in all — were Yiddish. The extant dozen has found its rightful home. The Institute is cooperating with Grammy Award-winning Archeophone Records, which will reissue the recordings later this year under the title Attractive Hebrews: The Thomas Lambert Yiddish Cylinders 1901-1904.

Archeophone Records principal Richard Martin says, “We are profoundly grateful to the Mayrent Institute for inviting us to publish these precious recordings. Their leadership in preserving Yiddish heritage pairs brilliantly with our skill in the reissue market of ancient audio. The result will be a top-flight production that looks and sounds great and puts the recordings in their proper context.”