Current Student News

Midori Samson, 2019-2020 Concerto Competition Winner, Bassoon

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Education: BM from The Juilliard School, MM from the University of Texas at Austin. Currently pursuing a DMA in bassoon and social welfare at UW as a Collins Fellow.

When I found out I was a winner, my first thought was of my dear parents, who would be so thrilled to get to visit Madison to hear the performance. My second thought was of excitement to collaborate with Maestro Sans on Berwald’s Concert piece. My third thought was of dread that I’ll need to start shopping for a princess gown to perform in!

Sarah Brailey, 2019-2020 Concerto Competition Winner, Voice

Hometown: La Crosse, Wisconsin

Education: Masters and DMA at UW-Madison

I’m so happy to be back here in Madison. Since I’ve moved back I’ve become the Artistic Director of the Handel Aria Competition and I am one of the co-founders of Just Bach, a monthly concert series at Luther Memorial Church.

I’m excited to sing the Mozart Exultate Jubilate with the orchestra in April. It’s such a beautiful, joyful piece and it’s so much fun to sing. It was originally written for a male soprano but it fits my voice like a glove, which just goes to show you how idiosyncratic voices are!

Mary Mixter, 2019-2020 Concerto Competition Winner, Composition Reading

Hometown: Delta, Colorado

Education: Doctor of Musical Arts at UW-Madison, Master of Arts at University of North Texas, Bachelor in Trombone Performance and Composition at the University of Colorado-Boulder

Hiking, camping, and similar experiences in nature are frequent and important sources of inspiration for me as a composer. My orchestral piece Timpanogos is a musical illustration of the day I spent summiting Mount Timpanogos in Utah in the summer of 2018. The experiences of the day—the distance and altitude traversed, the changes in terrain at different stages, the varying light conditions, and my alternating feelings of anxiety, exhaustion and exhilaration—seemed to demand a large-scale musical treatment. Timpanogos is the first movement of my dissertation and one of the largest pieces I’ve written up to this point in my career, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to hear it performed.

Brett Wagner, 2019-2020 Concerto Competition Winner, Piano

Hometown: Verona, Wisconsin

Education: Double major in Piano Performance and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

I was a violist and pianist throughout Middle and High School and decided to go with piano to study with Christopher Taylor. I found out that I was accepted as a finalist in my living room with friends and we all jumped up and screamed and hugged each other when we received the email! I felt proud and extremely excited about the opportunity to perform as a soloist with the orchestra! I am most excited to perform alongside all of my friends who will be playing in the orchestra behind me and working with Maestro Sans. 

Brian Gnojek, 2019-2020 Concerto Competition Winner, Clarinet

Hometown: Lawrence, Kansas

Education: B.M. at Florida State University, M.M. at the University of Minnesota, and a Professional Studies Certificate at the Manhattan School of Music

I have not had the chance to play with an orchestra since I was in high school and won a local concerto competition in my hometown. This is an opportunity that only happens a few times in a musician’s career, if at all, so I could not be more excited. I had a tough summer, both personally and professionally, but I feel I was able to put all of those emotions into my preparation of this amazing concerto by Carl Maria von Weber. In the past, I have played my clarinet to compete, or to show off, or to ‘win’ something, but this time I truly had something personal to say. This may sound cheesy, but simply put, when I found out the news, it was one of the happiest moments of my career!

Amanda Lauricella
Starring as Tytania, Queen of the Fairies, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Soprano Amanda Lauricella is a current Doctoral of Musical Arts candidate in Voice Performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her Master of Music in Voice Performance from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, while working as the Graduate Teaching Assistant for the university’s voice department. Amanda received her Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York at Potsdam. Previous roles include Mabel (The Pirates of Penzance), Gretel (Hansel and Gretel), Miss Pinkerton (The Old Maid and the Thief), Fortuna (L’incoronazione di Poppea), and the Doctor in the world premiere of The Scarlet Professor. She has also performed with the Berkshire Opera Chorus, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and Washington Master Chorale. Amanda will be performing the role of Tytania in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream  with the UW-Madison Opera this November.

On November 10, 2019, members of UW-Madison’s cNAfME chapter performed a Veterans Day concert for residents at Jefferson Retirement Home in Middleton. Student conductors Bryson Bauer, Jacob Brost, Alaina Dabson, and Patrick Francis led the band in classic patriotic works, the armed forces salutes, and other fan-favorite pieces.

cNAfME, Collegiate National Association for Music Education, is a student organization on campus affiliated with the national arts education organization, NAfME. The local chapter works to create professional development experiences for Music Education majors, and for those interested in teaching music, through attending conferences, collaborating with current and retired teachers, and performing for the community.

Performers included: Bryson Bauer, Jacob Brost, Alaina Dabson, Jordan DeWester, Patrick Francis, Nicholas Hanke, Jenny Heck, Kate Lowry, Jenna McQuade, Declan Mulkerin, Lauren Rault, Kaitlyn Rian, and Abby Ruetten

Jeffrey Larson and Christian Bonner are 2019-2020 recipients of the HexU (Public Humanities Exchange for Undergraduates) grant for this upcoming school year. HexU challenges undergraduate students on campus to “make meaningful connections between their humanities scholarship and the needs of the local community through new models of social engagement.” As future music educators, we have seen the existence of racial and social disparities within music classrooms. Especially in the middle and high school levels, students without knowledge of Western notation or interest in band, orchestra, or choir have been weaned out of the general public music education sphere. We know as a fact that students today are listening to music for, on average, 4 hours a day. Music consumes a large space in students’ lives, yet the typical music that students hear is never played or discussed in school. Project Amplify, through our partnership with Madison Public Library, will provide Madison area students with resources to create music without feeling pressured to adhere to Western ideals of classical music.

Michaela McCabe, a senior double major in communication sciences and disorders and vocal performance, has won a Hilldale Undergraduate Research Award for her research into the overlaps of music and language development. She will complete a thesis on how music can be used to help facilitate word learning in infants.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Michaela McCabe

For the second year, Kyle Johnson received the Outstanding Presentation award at a regional College Music Society conference. On April 8 in Murray, Kentucky, Kyle delivered his lecture entitled “Science-Art/Art-Science: Representations and Dichotomies within Messiaen’s Catalogue d’Oiseaux.” As part of the presentation, he also performed “Le Courlis Cendre,” the final work in Messiaen’s multi-volume set of pieces. Kyle is currently a dissertator in the School of Music, whose dissertation project involves the production of a podcast series devoted to multidisciplinary perspectives on Messiaen’s ornithological and ecological works. For more information, please visit

Kyle Johnson at the 2017 School of Music Graduation & Awards Ceremony at Music Hall. Michael R. Anderson photograph.

Bassoonist Ranveer Vasdev has been awarded the Leo and Jean Besozzi Scholarship, which provides a one-time, $1,500 award to a high achieving senior. In addition to pursuing his music degree, Ranveer is also currently doing research with the Department of Comparative  Bioscience. In early spring 2015 Ranveer was invited to play at an international wind band festival at Carnegie Hall. He also hopes to attain a MD/PhD practicing pediatric pulmonology and researching diaphragmatic and intercostal neuroplasticity.

Saxophonist Rachel Heuer has won the Ann Durra Scholarship from the College of Letters & Sciences. This scholarship provides a one-time, $3,000 award to a high achieving junior or senior pursuing a degree in mathematics, the physical sciences, or the natural sciences. In addition to pursuing her music degree in jazz performance, Rachel is also pursuing a degree in molecular biology. She has played self-composed original pieces at Jazz at Five weekly concerts on Capitol Square. She also works in a lab on campus studying heart disease.

Percussionist Aaron Gochberg has won a Hilldale Undergraduate Research Award for his past and continued research into Cuban music and folklore.

Doctoral trombonist Will Porter, a student of Mark Hetzler, has won a $10,000 dissertation fellowship from the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Porter is one of two UW-Madison doctoral candidates to win the award, and they are two of only ten winners in the United States.

The recipients were selected based on a number of criteria including how the fellowship will contribute to the completion of the dissertation, the significance of original research, and endorsement by the dissertation chair.

Porter’s project is focused on music education in Mozambique. His doctoral research examines the relationship between classical-music education and social development. It focuses on the Xiquitsi (“Shi-keet-see”) Project in Mozambique, an emergent classical-music education and outreach project inspired by the El Sistema orchestral training program in Venezuela.

Established in 2014, the Dissertation Fellowship Program allocates $100,000 annually in support of active Phi Kappa Phi members. In addition to these fellowships, the Society awards $1.4 million each biennium to qualifying students and members through study abroad grants, graduate fellowships, funding for post-baccalaureate development, member and chapter awards, and grants for local, national and international literacy initiatives.

The fellowship supports students in the dissertation writing stage of doctoral study. Awards are for 12 months of dissertation writing. All pre-dissertation requirements should be met by the application deadline, including approval of the dissertation proposal.

Jerod_reetzWisconsin native Jerod Reetz, a doctoral student in composition studying with now-retired professor Stephen Dembski, has received a commission to write a work for low flutes. Low flutes include the following instruments: alto flute, bass flute, contrabass flute, subcontrabass flute, and hyperbass flute.

The $250 commission is the 2017 Peter Sheridan Low Flutes Opportunity Award, awarded by the Madison Flute Club during the Wisconsin Flute Festival in early March.

Jerod has a bachelor’s degree in music composition from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee and a master’s of fine arts in music composition from California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.  An article of his is currently being considered for publication by the Journal of Singing, “Contemporary Perspectives on the Countertenor: Interviews with Kai Wessel, Corinna Herr, Arnold Jacobshagen, and Matthias Echternach.”

Jerod also is involved in historical musicology, has a minor in music theory, and teaches composition at James Madison Memorial High School and elsewhere. He is also a harpist, countertenor/bass/baritone, and collaborative pianist.

Zijin Yao, a piano doctoral student studying with Professors Jessica Johnson and Martha Fischer, is a winner of the 2015 Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self–Financed Students Abroad. There are 166 recipients in the US. Zijin was the only representative in humanities and arts among 33 recipients in the Chicago Consular District and one of the five recipients from UW-Madison. Read a news release here.

Zijin Yao with the Chinese Consul General in Chicago, Hong Lei.

Zijin Yao with the Chinese Consul General in Chicago, Hong Lei.

Student of Jessica Johnson and Martha Fischer

Freshman tubist Hayden Victor has been selected as one of six Semi-Finalists in the student division of the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival solo competition. Hayden will travel to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lakes, Michigan to perform and compete in the competition in August.

The Falcone competition is widely recognized as one of the most prestigious tuba and euphonium solo competitions in the world. Semi-Finalists are selected to attend after advancing through a recorded round which draws entries from around the world. In addition to participating in the competition, Hayden will have the opportunity to attend master classes and performances by this year’s guest artist, Italian tuba virtuoso Alessandro Fossi.

Student of Tom Curry

Sophomore voice major Claire Powling, a British native, won honorable mention in April at the Schubert Club Competition in Minneapolis, advancing to the national level in the National Association of Teachers of Singing online competition in May.  “The competition has us send in videos of each of our pieces until they narrow down each age group division to 14 performers, who are invited to the national competition in Boston; it should really be called a YouTube competition!” she says.

This summer, she will attend SongFest in Los Angeles, California, a summer program exclusively focused on art song. At the Schubert Club, Claire sang “Deh Vieni, Non Tardar” from the Marriage of Figaro and “Du Bist Die Ruh” by Schubert. Claire says: “I moved from England after my dad got a job transfer and we’ve been in the States since then. I was raised in Appleton and I decided to come to Madison after attending UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic. Here, I’m pursuing a B.A. double major in history and vocal performance with a certificate in leadership. In addition to my majors, I also work at the Morgridge Center for Public Service, as a Writing Fellow, and as a literacy researcher for the UW English Department; however, I consider music my truest passion and I love being a part of our school of music, especially as a chorus member in UW-Opera productions.”

Student of Mimmi Fulmer

UW-Madison freshman and Oshkosh native Grace Subat, in partnership with the Oshkosh Community Players, has been awarded a 2016 Wisconsin Open Education Community Fellowship to bring the works and inspiration of Shakespeare to local students in Oshkosh, WI, this summer.

The project was one of four selected for the second-annual Wisconsin Open Education Community Fellowships (WOECF), a summer program designed to support community-based project across the state.

The WOECF challenges undergraduate students at UW-Madison to work with community partners outside of the university to develop a community project in a Wisconsin town that the student has a connection to. This summer, the four selected projects will address climate change, youth sustainability education, literature education and sustainable transportation in three different Wisconsin communities: Oshkosh, Milwaukee and Monona.

Projects must be designed around the content provided in one of six massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered by the UW-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies during the 2015-16 academic year. Each fellow will receive a $3,000 stipend and up to $1,000 for project expenses.

Throughout the duration of the fellowship, each student will work to implement their project with a UW-Madison faculty mentor and a community partner organization. Fellows were required to work with both their community partner and faculty mentor from the beginning of the project design, although for most fellows, they have known and been working with both their mentor and their community partner for much longer.

Community partners will also receive $1,000 for participating in the fellowship, with UW-Madison faculty/staff mentors receiving $1,000 as well. The WOECF is a collaboration of the Division of Continuing Studies, Educational Innovation, and the Morgridge Center for Public Service at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Grace, a freshman majoring in history and vocal performance studying with Professor Mimmi Fulmer, will work with the Oshkosh Community Players and the Oshkosh Area School District to encourage local students to read, discuss, and perform the works of William Shakespeare. Motivated by the joint recognition of funding challenges facing many arts programs in the state and her own positive experience with theater as a high school student in the area, Grace’s project will create a weekly workshop in which students can experience Shakespeare’s work in multiple ways. Participation in the workshops will be open to all students in the area, with slots filled on a first come, first serve basis.

During each session students will read, discuss, and perform for one another prominent selections from corners of the Bard’s canon that students may not have previously encountered, including Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello. Grace and members of the Oshkosh Community Players will encourage students to consider how the themes in each play apply to their own lives. Students will also be encouraged to make dramatic theater an important part of their lives. The workshops will culminate with a public performance of some of the scenes the students had rehearsed. The performances will be used as both a fundraiser for local arts programs as well as a statement about the importance of supporting theater efforts in local schools.

Student of Mimmi Fulmer