How do you say “thank you” to a professor who has changed your life? Former students of retired Professor James H. Latimer found a way.

Initiated by two anonymous $5,000 gifts, a team of 10 former students and two friends gifted more than the necessary $25,000 required to establish a permanent endowment in Latimer’s name through the UW Foundation to thank the professor who “led by example and was a teacher, mentor and friend.”

The James H. Latimer Excellence in Percussion Fund was established and given final approval on January 8, 2021 by the UW Foundation, the College of Letters and Science, and the Mead Witter School of Music. Funds generated from the endowment will be administered by the School of Music in the form of an annual achievement cash award to a senior or upper-level undergraduate percussion major who meets the criteria as determined by the percussion area leadership.

Due to the pandemic, the surprise announcement of the endowment with Professor Latimer was announced via Zoom with a handful of former students and friends across the country. The first ever achievement (cash) award will be presented to the selected student later in the spring term as determined by School of Music Director Susan C. Cook and current percussion professor Anthony Di Sanza, both of whom participated in the Zoom call.

“We are very excited about this wonderful award in honor of Professor Latimer,” Di Sanza said. “Through his 30 year teaching career at UW-Madison, Professor Latimer touched the lives of countless students, passing on his joyful approach to music and life with every interaction. Now, those very students have come together to recognize all that Professor Latimer has done and support the next generation of percussion excellence at UW-Madison. This is a very exciting time for the UW-Madison percussion program.”

The list of testimonials from students is long, many referring to Latimer’s classic “green ink” and four years of lesson notebooks.

“Actually, I’m quite humbled,” Latimer said. “I was doing my job and that job was to take each student from where he or she was and bring them into reality with themselves, help them become better people, give them direction and show them that you get there by spending uninterrupted hours in the practice room.”

When he arrived at UW-Madison in 1968, Latimer’s assignment  was to build an undergraduate percussion program. The department was built on the strength of each student.

“It’s a math thing,” Latimer, himself a math enthusiast, said. “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”

Latimer recalls students commenting about him “getting up at 5 am and practicing three to four hours every day before arriving to the classroom.”

“That’s what I do!” Latimer said. “I did it then and that’s what I do now. Well, maybe I get up at 6 am now but I do practice six days a week. And I am grateful I can still do this.”

James Latimer with former student Nimesh Nagarsheth, MD, Mt. Sinai Hospital, NYC, author of the book Music and Cancer, a Prescription for Healing, and percussionist with NED (No Evidence of Disease – doctors of gynecological oncology rock band).

Students who initiated the award reached out to other former students and colleagues of Latimer and friends of the UW Percussion Program, inviting them to help grow the fund. The achievement award is designed for the student who spends hours in the practice room, the one who has developed the most or has to work a little harder than most, the one who will undoubtedly be successful, not necessarily the star of the department.

The fund, which was kept secret from Latimer until the Zoom presentation, was initiated by Steven Cornelius, (BA 1975), now a professor in Boston, who said he had “many Madison-based co-conspirators.”

Marcus Bleecker (BA 1992) from New Jersey gave this tribute: “Mr. Latimer had such an enormous impact on this young man from New Jersey who thought he knew everything! A shining example of discipline, commitment, and integrity. His passion and guidance and words of wisdom are still in my back pocket every day!”

Nancy (Kath) Riesch-Flannery (BA1977, MA 1978) said of Latimer: “His energy and drive is inspirational, and his love for music is contagious.”

Nimesh Nagarsheth (BS 1993-Zoology) goes further: “Professor Latimer has been one of the most influential people in my life. He has a unique gift of teaching-not only music but about life. My work with him lasted far beyond my time in college and his mentorship has helped shape my career as cancer surgeon and musician.”

“I wanted the students to learn to love their art, to experience the joy in practicing hours a day and to apply all that they learned to real life,” the still-in-shock Latimer explained.

The former students and friends of the UW Percussion Program found an inspirational and unusual way to show appreciation that will last into perpetuity for a professor who impacted their lives in unique ways through, and beyond, music. Latimer said he is humbled by it all.

“It’s a wonderful gesture for a student of percussion and for the Mead Witter School of Music,” Latimer said. “The University of Wisconsin is a great institution. These students have said it all.”

The newly established fund is ongoing. Gifts are tax deductible payable to the UW Foundation. For fund designation online ( or in the memo section of a check, enter Latimer Excellence in Percussion Fund # 13260025. Send checks to: US Bank Lockbox, Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807.

As members of the Mead Witter School of Music Equity and Inclusion Committee, we wanted to respond to the violent shootings of eight people, six of whom were of Asian descent and seven women, on Tuesday, March 16 in Atlanta. We mourn for the victims of this attack and we stand in solidarity with our Asian and Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) community members.

We understand that Asian and APIDA members of our community might be processing a great deal of grief and rage. Each member of E&I is available to connect you with resources if you need support during this tragic time.

Additionally, here is a list of campus resources:

•         Dean of Students Office, 608-263-5700

•         UHS Mental Health Services, 608-265-5600 (option 9)

•         Employee Assistance Office, 608-263-2987

•         Resources to Support Our APIDA Community

Should you or anyone you know experience an incident of hate or bias, please file a Bias Incident Report with the Dean of Students Office.

DDEEA holds a monthly affinity group space for faculty and staff members of the campus APIDA community, and we welcome all who identify with the community to join us on April 8 at 2 p.m. To register:

US Department of Justice information about bias and hate crimes

The UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition and members of the Madison community are organizing a march in solidarity with our APIDA community on Thursday, March 18.

In solidarity,

Members of the Mead Witter School of Music Equity and Inclusion Committee:

Holly Anderson, Nadia Chana, David Crook, Teryl Dobbs, Martha Fischer, Mimmi Fulmer, Jess Johnson (chair), Aaron Levine, Jess Mullen, Conor Nelson, Brandon Quarles, Laura Schwendinger, Johannes Wallmann, Johanna Wienholts

The world premiere recording of composer Dame Ethel Smyth’s 1930 masterwork, The Prison, released on Chandos Records, has won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. The recording features soprano and doctoral student Sarah Brailey and bass-baritone Dashon Burton as soloists, and is conducted by James Blachly with his Experiential Orchestra and Chorus. The producer is Blanton Alspaugh and Soundmirror.

Appropriately given Smyth’s role in the Suffragette movement in England, the August 2020 release date coincided with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote in the United States. This is the first-ever Grammy Award for music by the English composer, who lived from 1858-1944, and struggled her entire career to have her music judged on its merits rather than on the basis of her gender.

Brailey, who has been hailed by The New York Times for her “radiant, liquid tone,” “exquisitely phrased,” and “sweetly dazzling singing,” sings the role of “The Soul” on this recording.

“Smyth is an inspiration as a composer, an activist, and a woman,” Brailey said. “It has been such an honor to help bring this incredible piece to the world. I hope listeners enjoy discovering it as much as we have.”

Brailey enjoys a career filled with projects as diverse as soloing in Handel’s Messiah with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, performing with Kanye West and Roomful of Teeth at the Hollywood Bowl, and recording cello and vocal soundscapes for the 2018 Fog x FLO Fujiko Nakaya public art installation in Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system.

Conductor James Blachly’s work on The Prison began in 2015. He is the editor for the new Wise Music Group critical edition of The Prison that not only made this recording possible, but paves the way for a resurrection of the work.

“Dame Ethel Smyth’s music has been undervalued for too long, and this Grammy win is the recognition that she has deserved for decades,” Blachly said. “I’m honored to have been a part of this recording and project, and 90 years after its premiere, I’m excited for this career-culminating masterpiece to finally be heard throughout the world’s great concert halls.”

Ethel Smyth left home at age 19 (against the wishes of her military father) in order to compose music in Leipzig. In the company of Clara Schumann and her teacher Heinrich von Herzogenberg, she met and won the admiration of composers such as Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Dvorak, and Grieg, and became the first woman to have an opera performed at The Metropolitan Opera in New York, in 1903. (The second was not until Kaaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin in 2016).

Her work The Prison is a 64-minute symphony in two parts, “Close on Freedom” and “The Deliverance.” Sometimes called an oratorio or a cantata, it is similar in scale and scope to the vocal symphonies of Mahler. On the title page, Smyth quotes the last words of Greek philosopher Plotinus, “I am striving to release that which is divine within us, and merge it in the universally divine.” The text for the work, drawn from a philosophical work by Henry Bennet Brewster, describes the writing of a man in a solitary cell and his reflections on his past life and his preparations for death.

But the text is poetic and reflective, with layers of meaning and metaphor. Thus the “prison” is both an actual jail, and a philosophical representation of the “shackles of self,” as Brewster describes them. This was Smyth’s last work and her only symphony–she was 72 when she completed it in 1930. She stopped composing shortly after, due to advancing deafness.

“This piece is an immortal dedication to those who fight for freedom,” Burton, who sings the role of “The Prisoner,” said. “Working with James, Sarah, and all the amazing musicians on this album has been a dream, and I hope it awakens all our spirits as much as it has awakened mine.”

A 2016 MEMF workshop. MEMF is moving its administrative home to the Mead Witter School of Music as of February 2021.

The Madison Early Music Festival (MEMF) is moving from its administrative home in the UW-Madison Division of the Arts to a new administrative home in the Mead Witter School of Music as of February 2021. The festival will be known as the Madison Early Music Festival, a program of the Mead Witter School of Music. 

The partnership gives MEMF and the School of Music the opportunity to integrate and connect with existing curriculum, faculty, and students. The move also allows for increased access to acclaimed early music artists and increased resources available to program early music performances. 

MEMF Co-Artistic Directors Cheryl Bensman-Rowe and Paul Rowe will remain on staff with the festival through the spring 2022 semester.  

“MEMF is looking forward to having a more integral role at the Mead Witter School of Music, with opportunities during the academic year for students to study with guest musicians who specialize in historically informed performance,” Bensman-Rowe said. “Historical Performance is a growing field and we hope to entice students into exploring another career path in music.” 

MEMF was created in 2000 to provide an opportunity for musicians, scholars, teachers, students, and music enthusiasts to study Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music in its social, cultural, and political contexts, and to present concerts by acclaimed artists who specialize in historically informed performance of early music. 

“We refer to our MEMF community as family and would like to thank them for all of their enthusiasm,” Bensman-Rowe said. “MEMF has flourished because of them, and Madison became a recognized center for studying early music in the summer. We are extremely grateful for all of the support over the past 21 years.”

In spring 2022, a special finale event will mark the end of the MEMF as an annual summer festival to celebrate the beginning of its status as a fund to support early music initiatives. The event will also recognize the retirement of Bensman-Rowe and Rowe from MEMF, and is expected to consist of a concert featuring School of Music students and faculty, a guest ensemble, and participants from the MEMF community.

The original goal of the festival was to bring an intense experience of early music to increase sustained understanding, appreciation, and performing skills to the university and the community. Festivals lasted a week and featured a concert series, five days of workshop classes, lectures, student performances, and special events such as community dances. The 21st season of MEMF was offered as a free virtual performance series due to COVID-19.

Visit for the latest updates.

Several Voice & Opera students placed in the semifinalist or finalist category well at the 2020 Wisconsin NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) annual auditions. Here are the results:

Semifinalists (all students of Professor Jim Doing)

Summer Kleppek, Lower College Musical Theatre Women
Emily Quartemont, Sophomore Women
Maria Steigerwald, Junior Women

Finalists, and all winning first place awards in their divisions

Maria Marsland Lower College Musical Theatre Women (student of Professor Jim Doing)
Noah Strube  Lower College Musical Theatre Men (student of Professor Mimmi Fulmer)
DaSean Stokes College Age and Graduate Age American Negro Spiritual (student of Professor Mimmi Fulmer)

“We couldn’t have done this without the steady artistic support of our collaborative pianist program, including Will Preston and Aubrie Jacobson,” Professor Fulmer said.

Wisconsin NATS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging the highest standards of singing through excellence in teaching and promotion of vocal education and research. Wisconsin NATS members include private-studio teachers, college and university faculty members, and other educators who are involved and interested in healthy and artistic use of the human voice. NATS events and activities are designed to cover interests across this broad spectrum, and all members are encouraged to participate.

Jun & Sandy Lee

Active arts philanthropists and Mead Witter School of Music supporters Jun and Sandy Lee were named Outstanding Individual Philanthropist by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Madison Chapter during the annual National Philanthropy Day celebration.

Hosted by AFP Greater Madison, the 33rd Annual National Philanthropy Day took place as a virtual event on November 13, 2020. The event honored the people and organizations “whose financial and volunteer efforts make Madison and Dane County a wonderful place to live.”

The Lees were nominated for the award by the Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

Major supporters of the Hamel Music Center building project, the Sing Man & Florence Lee/Annette Kaufman Rehearsal Hall honors the Lee’s match to a gift from the estate of Annette Kaufman. The rehearsal hall provides space for large ensembles, and can accommodate pre-and post-concert educational talks, events, and receptions. The Lees named the hall in honor of Jun’s parents, Sing Man and Florence Lee, who share their love of music.

Jun and Sandy are also frequent supporters of the University Opera program, and sit on the Mead Witter School of Music advisory board.

The Mead Witter of Music graduate string quartet has been named in honor of Dr. Marvin J. Rabin. An internationally acclaimed music educator and Emeritus Professor of Music at UW-Madison, Dr. Rabin (1916-2013) influenced generations of students throughout his life. 

Professor of Cello Parry Karp, who will oversee the quartet this fall, was a strong advocate for honoring Dr. Rabin.

“Marvin Rabin is the father of the youth orchestra movement in the United States and his devoted inspired work positively affected thousands of young musicians during his lifetime and that effect continues to this day,” Karp said. “As one of the legendary string educators, we are very excited to name our graduate string quartet at the Mead Witter School of Music in his distinguished memory.”

Dr. Rabin’s work was recognized worldwide. As the founder of youth orchestras in Wisconsin and in Massachusetts, many universities and workshops still use his continuing education programs for string teachers and conductors as a model for their own programs.  

“For our graduate string quartet to bear his name is an honor for them but also honors a Madison legend,” Professor of Viola Sally Chisholm said. “Marvin  inspired thousands of string educators nationwide for decades, and he was innovative, expert and charismatic as an educator. No horizon was impossible for him to challenge for something better.”

The Marvin Rabin String Quartet performs its first recital of the fall semester on November 6 at 6:30 pm. The concert will stream live at

Current quartet members include Ava Shadmani (Violin DMA 3rd year); Rachel Reese-Kollmeyer (Violin DMA 2nd year); Fabio Saggin (Viola DMA 3rd year); and Ben Therrell (Cello DMA 2nd year). 

Marvin Rabin Quartet



On September 7, Chancellor Blank sent out a message regarding a two-week emphasis on health and safety protocols:

Effectively immediately, in-person activities by the UW Marching Band are suspended as directed by the administration of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This action is necessary as part of the overall campus response to the rapid growth of COVID-19 cases in our student population, as communicated by the Chancellor to all students. In-person rehearsals and instruction will not resume until we have been granted permission to do so. We, also, respectfully request that you not gather in outside groups to rehearse on University facilities.

We will contact members of the Marching Band in the coming days regarding how we will shift our focus to online instruction for everyone until we receive clearance to return to in-person cohort groups. 

Last week, campus leaders at UW-Madison responded to the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha. Mead Witter School of Music supports this statement, and we continue to affirm our commitment to dismantling the structures that perpetuate racial disparities both inside and outside the School of Music.

Read the full statement from campus leaders here.

Read the Mead Witter School of Music statement of solidarity in response to George Floyd’s murder here.

Excerpt of campus statement:

“Like many of you, we are deeply concerned by the shooting of Jacob Blake of Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday, and are waiting with hope as he recovers from gunshot wounds inflicted by police.

We all await and expect a full and complete investigation and accountability for all those involved. We know the list of Black victims of police violence in our nation’s history has grown unconscionably long.

We want you to know that whatever you’re personally feeling right now — whether it’s sadness or anger, frustration or bitterness, determination or numbness — those feelings are valid, and you have every right to feel them.

We want you to know that whatever you’re personally feeling right now — whether it’s sadness or anger, frustration or bitterness, determination or numbness — those feelings are valid, and you have every right to feel them.”


Faculty and staff at the Mead Witter School of Music prepared a list of FAQs at that should offer more guidance on operations specifically related to the department during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plans may change in response to current community health conditions, so please check this page often for updates. Questions related to the School of Music can be sent to