Current and former Mead Witter School of Music students are participating in The Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) 2020 National Conference, “Land and Equity: The Art and Politics of Place.” Beginning October 15 and held throughout multiple days, the a2ru conference is an opportunity for practitioners and researchers from across the higher education spectrum to share innovations and perspectives in the arts.

Thea Valmadrid and Mat Rodriguez are presenting Undoing Classical Whiteness: Incorporating Anti-Racism and Social Justice into Classical Music Courses at UW-Madison. Their session begins at 1 pm October 19.

Midori Samson is presenting “In C”: Using Terry Riley’s masterpiece to operationalize a social justice approach to music pedagogy with refugee children. Her session begins at 3 pm October 29. 

Thea and Matt’s session explores a course proposal that demands a required education on the relationship between Western and Non-Western music cultures while maintaining a focus on anti-racism and social justice. They note that at the Mead Witter School of Music, the present curriculum requirements for B.A., B.S., and B.M. degrees have a heavy emphasis on the education of Western music. B.M. degrees require a single Non-Western music course, but this course is a survey of Non-Western music cultures without a primary focus on social justice.

Further, there are two elective courses that address elements of racism in Western music, but they are electives that have only been offered recently and are upper-level courses that are typically only available to upperclassmen during undergraduate years.

The purpose of Thea and Matt’s course is to create visibility of the experiences of POC musicians in the classical music world, educate non-POC musicians on their privilege, and ensure that supportive race discussions are held early into undergraduate studies and in the classical music field.

Midori’s session explores the compositional structure that Terry Riley uses in “In C” is ideal for reconstruction and experimentation when teaching music composition to children. Midori will describe her work using “In C” as a point of entry for composition lessons with refugee students. She will also introduce a new framework for a social justice approach to music pedagogy that motivates these composition lessons.

At the core of Midori’s work is the idea that learning music comes with powerful benefits, including boosting confidence, communication, and teamwork. But music can only guarantee these benefits when students have access to an anti-oppressive classroom. She observes that western music’s pedagogical tradition has harmful tendencies: it can undermine students’ voice and musical ideas, and it largely excludes students who lack training.

It can even perpetuate colonialist ideals of white hegemony through practices like forcing the use of conventional notation, teaching exclusively western instruments, exposing students to music by white male composers only, and emphasizing tradition and discipline over individuality and experimentation.

To urgently respond to these observations, Midori has created a framework that reimagines music pedagogy through a social justice lens. Inspired by related frameworks in the social work literature, she names principles of socially just music pedagogy and explains how teaching artists can exemplify them, particularly when making music with refugee communities.

Thea Valmadrid is a 2020 graduate of UW-Madison.  She received her Bachelor’s of Music in Violin Performance under the direction of Soh-Hyun Altino.  During her time at UW-Madison, Thea was a Writing Fellow, B.A.S.E.S. mentor, and member of the Mead Witter School of Music Symphony Orchestra and chamber music program.  Additionally, she has written an award-winning research paper addressing discrimination that female Asian American writing tutors face at UW-Madison, and currently is pursuing a paralegal degree.

Mat Rodriguez is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Clarinet Performance with plans to graduate in May 2021. At the Mead Witter School of Music, Mat studies clarinet with Alicia Lee and performs in the Wingrito Wind Quintet, Symphony Orchestra, and Wind Ensemble. Outside of music, he is a melanoma oncology student research assistant in the Sondel Research Group and a resource navigator for medically underserved patients at local community health clinics.

Midori is a bassoonist, educator, activist and scholar. She is a doctoral candidate and Collins Fellow in bassoon performance and social welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Lecturer of Bassoon at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and a member of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. As a soloist and orchestral musician, she has performed across North America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Additionally, she is a teaching artist with Artists Striving to End Poverty and is the Founding Artistic Director of Trade Winds Ensemble, an organization that teaches music composition in partnership with social impact organizations around the world. Her research investigates how music pedagogy and social work can integrate to create a more anti-racist and anti-oppressive classical music landscape. She holds degrees from The Juilliard School and the University of Texas at Austin.

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



This fall, University Opera presents its first project of 2020-21 in video format as it turns to the music of Marc Blitzstein (1905-1964). I WISH IT SO: MARC BLITZSTEIN – THE MAN IN HIS MUSIC will be released on the Mead Witter School of Music YouTube channel on October 23 at 8 pm. Director of University Opera David Ronis will direct and Thomas Kasdorf will be the musical director.

Marc Blitzstein’s life story parallels some of the most important cultural currents in American history of the mid-20th-century. Known for his musicals (most notably The Cradle Will Rock – 1937), his opera Regina (1948), and his translation of Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, Blitzstein was an outspoken proponent of socially engaged art and, like many artists of his time, he joined the American Communist Party. But he also enthusiastically served in the US Army during World War II.

Nevertheless, in 1958, long after he had given up his Communist Party membership, Blitzstein was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities where he “named no names.” An extremely gifted yet underappreciated composer, he was a close friend of and mentor to Leonard Bernstein and traveled in a close circle of composers including David Diamond and Aaron Copland. Although openly gay, he married Eva Goldbeck in 1933. Sadly, she died three years later from complications due to anorexia. Blitzstein’s own death was likewise tragic. In 1964, while in Martinique working on an opera about the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, a commission from the Metropolitan Opera, he was robbed and badly beaten by three Portuguese sailors who he had picked up at a bar. He died the next day of internal injuries.

Although throughout his life and afterwards, Blitzstein’s work was championed by Bernstein and others, many claim that neither the composer nor his stunning music and beautiful lyrics ever received quite the attention they deserved. Thus, University Opera is proud to present this show celebrating his life and his works.

I WISH IT SO: MARC BLITZSTEIN – THE MAN IN HIS MUSIC is a unique production put together by David Ronis. A biographical pastiche, it tells the story of Blitzstein’s life by recontextualizing 23 songs and ensembles from his shows, juxtaposing them with spoken excerpts from his working notes and letters, and tying it all together with a narration. The result is a dramatic, evocative, and enjoyable portrait of Blitzstein’s life and his art. Research on the project was completed at the Wisconsin Historical Society, where Blitzstein’s archives are housed. University Opera gratefully acknowledges the help of both Mary Huelsbeck of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Television Research, and the Kurt Weill Foundation for their assistance with this project.

The show features five accomplished UW-Madison graduate students: Sarah Brailey, Kenneth Hoversten, Justin Kroll, Lindsey Meekhof, and Steffen Silvis. The video design will be done by Dave Alcorn with costumes by Hyewon Park. Others on the production staff include Will Preston, rehearsal pianist; Elisheva Pront, research assistant and assistant director; Dylan Thoren, production stage manager; Alec Hansen, assistant stage manager; Teresa Sarkela, storyboard creator; and Greg Silver, technical director.

The video will be accessible for 23 hours starting at 8:00 pm on October 23, 2020. Although there will be no admission price for access, donations will be gratefully accepted. A link for donations will be posted with the video.

University Opera, a cultural service of the Mead Witter School of Music, provides comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, email

Pro Arte Quartet

The Pro Arte Quartet continues its yearlong retrospective of Beethoven’s quartets in celebration of the 250th anniversary of his birth with a live stream concert on Friday, October 2 at 7:30 pm.

The concert will stream live at from the Mead Witter Foundation Hall at the Hamel Music Center. No audience will be in attendance at the hall. Professor Charles Dill will give a pre-concert lecture at 7:30 pm.

Featuring David Perry and Suzanne Beia (violin), Sally Chisholm (viola), and Parry Karp (cello), the Pro Arte Quartet is one of the world’s most distinguished string quartets. Founded by conservatory students in Brussels in 1912, it became one of the most celebrated ensembles in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century and was named Court Quartet to the Queen of Belgium.

Its world reputation blossomed in 1919 when the quartet began the first of many tours that enticed notable composers such as Milhaud, Honegger, Martin, and Casella to write new works for the ensemble. The Pro Arte Quartet performs throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia and continues to champion both standard repertoire and new music.

The group is an ensemble in residence at the Mead Witter School of Music and resident quartet of the Chazen Museum of Art. The quartet has performed at the White House and, during the centennial celebration, played for the King’s Counselor in Belgium.

Recent projects include the complete quartets of Bartók and Shostakovich and, in collaboration with the Orion and Emerson String Quartets, the complete quartets of Beethoven. Regular chamber music collaborators that perform with Pro Arte include Samuel Rhodes, viola; Bonnie Hampton, cello; and Leon Fleischer and Christopher Taylor, piano. Together since 1995, the quartet have recorded works of Mendelssohn, Dvořák, Rhodes, Shapey, Sessions, Fennelly, Diesendruck, and the centennial commissions.

Beethoven String Quartet Cycle, Program III

String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18 No. 5 (1798-1800) Ludwig van Beethoven

Andante cantabile

String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132 (1825) Ludwig van Beethoven

Assai sostenuto-Allegro
Allegro ma non tanto
Molto adagio (Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lidischen Tonart)
Alla marcia, assai vivace-piu allegro-presto-
Allegro appassionato-Presto

Ji Hyun (Jenny) Yim is the winner of The American Prize in Conducting, 2020, in the community orchestra division. Jenny was selected from applications reviewed recently from all across the United States. The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts is the nation’s most comprehensive series of non-profit competitions in the musical and theater arts, unique in scope and structure, designed to recognize and reward the best performing artists, ensembles and composers in the United States based on submitted recordings.

A native of Busan, Korea, Jenny developed a love and passion for music at a young age which led and continues to lead her through multitudes of challenges, achievements, and accolades.

Jenny is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in orchestral conducting at the UW–Madison Mead Witter School of Music, where she serves as music director of the Medical Orchestra of University of Wisconsin and assistant conductor for the UW–Madison Symphony Orchestra and University Opera.

The American Prize was founded in 2009 and is awarded annually in many areas of the performing arts.

Official announcement

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.”


Music 105
Storytelling on Stage: Introduction to Musical Theater and Opera

In the now-famous words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

Ranging from modern hits like Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Wicked, and Chicago, to works of early opera, Music 105 explores questions of genre, identity, and representation on opera and musical theater stages in the past and the present. How are stories told on stage? Who tells them, to whom, and what do they mean? Did you know Shakespeare wrote some of his most famous works while in quarantine? How are today’s artists and performers adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic? How have composers in the past pushed boundaries, musically, dramatically, and culturally? We will explore these and many other questions.

Topics include the histories and formations of musical theater and operatic genres and their relationships to culture and society. Through a study of video excerpts of staged and filmed productions and other materials, we will examine how composers have confronted controversial topics of their time: issues of the 19th-century’s working class, capital punishment, sexual identity, ethnicity, racially-motivated violence, madness, and other topics. And we’ll look at how entertainment and comedy works, focusing on song, dance, staging, and spectacle, and how they come together to keep us laughing.

This is an introductory course for the general student; no reading knowledge of music is required. In Fall 2020 the course will be taught online with some face-to-face meetings for students who enroll in WC sections. Contact the instructor, Prof. Margaret Butler, at with any questions.


Due to COVID-19, this Fall at UW-Madison will look vastly different than previous semesters. Badger Support Network (BSN), a registered student organization sponsored by University Health Services, is stepping in to offer peer-to-peer support groups and stress-busting events that raise awareness towards mental health and well-being.

Sign-ups to get involved with BSN for Fall 2020 have opened here.

“As a club which aims to destigmatize mental health, BSN understands how impactful self-isolation can be for college students,” BSN Director and UW-Madison junior Gaby Svec said. “BSN allows for students to have meaningful conversations, make new friends, and grow their network, something every student needs in times like today. We hope our club provides relief to students who are eager to have as normal of a semester as possible.”


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

Video submissions are replacing live auditions for Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, and Symphony Orchestra for Fall 2020. Students wishing to audition may submit pre-recorded videos via the online audition forms at Students will be notified of their placements the first week of classes.

Alexander Gonzalez

After the completion of a national search, the Mead Witter School of Music is pleased to announce the hiring of Alexander Gonzalez as the new assistant director of bands. Gonzalez will conduct the Tuesday Night University Band, assist the University of Wisconsin Marching Band, direct the Men’s Hockey Band, and teach courses in conducting.

He comes to Wisconsin after studying conducting at The Ohio State University as a Doctorate of Musical Arts candidate, where he worked with all concert ensembles and the marching band. Alongside his studies, he was the Director of the Professional School Orchestra and taught conducting at Capital University’s Conservatory of Music.

“We are thrilled to welcome Alexander and his wife Haley to the University of Wisconsin Marching Band family,” Associate Director of Bands Corey Pompey said. “Alexander is a supremely gifted musician and pedagogue whose role is integral to the success of our band program. He is thoughtful, engaging, and direct. Our students will benefit in immeasurable ways from what he has to offer.”

Prior to his studies in Ohio, Gonzalez was a public school educator in Colorado and Florida where he taught an array of courses at the middle and high school levels. While participating in his Master’s degree in Wind Conducting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he was the director of the Middleton Symphony Orchestra’s Wind Octet and worked in education and community outreach with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

“I am beyond excited to return to a place I consider home,” Gonzalez said. “The bands at UW-Madison were integral in forming the educator I am today and I am equally excited to create a musical environment where present and future students can feel as loved, challenged, and respected as I did.”

Gonzalez holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Florida and is an active member in the National Association for Music Education, the College Band Directors National Association, the National Band Association, Phi Mu Alpha, Kappa Kappa Psi, and Tau Beta Sigma.

“Professor Gonzalez brings with him a wealth of knowledge from his background in teaching music at the public school and college levels,” Director of Bands Scott Teeple said. “He is an extraordinary musician, pedagogue, and individual. Alexander’s contributions to the UW Band program and the Mead Witter School of Music will deepen the musical experiences of our students. We consider ourselves fortunate to have him as a member of our team.”

A Mead Witter School of Music research project by professors Martha Fischer and John Stowe is one of 17 projects funded by the Research Core Revitalization Program. The program will strengthen campus research core capacities by supporting the upgrade, replacement or duplication of heavily used shared research resources.

The mission of “Replacement of Workhorse Musical Keyboard Instruments for Research and Performance” is to provide faculty and graduate students with a diverse range of healthy, high-quality keyboard instruments. The collection includes historical keyboards (harpsichords, organs) and modern pianos, such as alternatively sized keyboard actions, and the unique double-manual Steinway concert grand. These instruments allow soloists, collaborative artists and scholars to engage in cutting-edge research, exploring innovative performance practices and applications.

This initiative provides funds for the purchase of replacement pianos in faculty studios and practice rooms, and also includes the acquisition of a portative organ, used heavily in historically informed choral, chamber music, and opera of the 18th and early 19th centuries and before. The current piano and harpsichord inventory dates back mostly to the 1970s and is wearing out due to overuse.

This step toward improving the health of the keyboard inventory will have a lasting impact on current students and faculty alike, and will positively influence the Mead Witter School of Music’s ability to recruit the best keyboard artists of the future.

The pilot Research Core Revitalization Program is supported by an investment from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Awards range from $20,000 to $300,000.

Cores provide specialized equipment and expertise that benefit many individual research labs. These shared resources allow the university to support many investigators at once by maintaining and upgrading high-end instrumentation that would be cost-prohibitive for any single lab.  Each core supports dozens to hundreds of research programs.

“These resources play a critical role in UW’s research enterprise,” says Vice Chancellor Steve Ackerman. “The Research Core Revitalization Program continues our investment in improving these critical tools and capabilities, enabling progress and catalyzing collaboration in basic and translational sciences.”

The Office of Campus Research Cores has developed a Research Cores Directory for shared equipment and services on campus, including data for about 170 core units, 700 shared instruments and resources, and 450 professional services. The directory is publicly available.

Isabelle Girard, co-director of the Office of Campus Research Cores, explains that these resources have a limited lifespan. Although the cores  are essential and highly used, they may not be eligible or competitive for federal and other external grant programs targeting new capabilities and technologies. Cores typically recover all or a portion of their costs through user fees, although some subsidized core services may be accessible without direct charge to the user.

“Researchers across campus depend on the shared workhorse resources managed by cores, and reinvestment in these capabilities ensures continuity and productivity,” Girard says.

Industry partners also consult with and hire many UW–Madison cores. Core facilities help these businesses stay on budget, provide access to new software tools, data storage and computing capacity, and help biotech and pharmaceutical companies bridge the gap in the early phases between academic and translational research. Along with access to equipment, industry partners benefit from the expertise of the campus staff who operate that equipment.

“Many of our research accomplishments would not be possible without cores support that includes specific technologies and expertise. Core facilities enable researchers to design their studies using technologies and instruments that they otherwise could not afford or manage on their own,” says Cynthia Czajkowski, associate vice chancellor for research in the biological sciences. “Our facilities help foster the collaborative research environment that is crucial for competitive interdisciplinary science.”

Learn more about the Research Core Revitalization Program and read the project descriptions.

Extraordinary members of the University of Wisconsin–Madison faculty have been honored during the last year with awards supported by the estate of professor, U.S. senator and UW Regent William F. Vilas (1840-1908).

Tony Di Sanza

Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professorships

Professor of Percussion Anthony Di Sanza is one of seven professors named to Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professorships, an award recognizing distinguished scholarship as well as standout efforts in teaching and service. The professorship provides five years of flexible funding — two-thirds of which is provided by the Office of the Provost through the generosity of the Vilas trustees and one-third provided by the school or college whose dean nominated the winner.

The recipients are:

Marah Curtis, Social Work
Anthony Di Sanza, Music
Thaddeus Golos, Comparative Biosciences
Adena Rissman, Forest and Wildlife Ecology
Brad Singer, Geoscience
Vikas Singh, Biostatistics and Medical Informatics
Michael Titelbaum, Philosophy

Vilas Faculty Mid-Career Investigator Awards

Eleven professors received Vilas Faculty Mid-Career Investigator Awards, recognizing research and teaching excellence. The award provides flexible research funding for three years.

The recipients are:

Andrew Bent, Plant Pathology
Mark Burkard, Medicine
Baron Chanda, Neuroscience
John Eason, Sociology
Nancy Kendall, Educational Policy Studies
Paul Mitchell, Agricultural & Applied Economics
Sarah Moore, Geography
Avtar Roopra, Neuroscience
Rupa Sridharan, Cell and Regenerative Biology
Susannah Tahk, Law School
Chad Vezina, Comparative Biosciences

Vilas Faculty Early Career Investigator Awards

Six professors received Vilas Faculty Early Career Investigator Awards, recognizing research and teaching excellence in faculty who are relatively early in their careers. The award provides flexible research funding for three years.

The recipients are:

Amaya Atucha, Horticulture
Jeffrey Endelman, Horticulture
Dudley Lamming, Medicine
Peter Lewis, Biomolecular Chemistry
John Pool, Genetics
Monica White, Community & Environmental Sociology

Professor of Composition Laura Schwendinger joined an Aspen Music Festival roundtable discussion focusing on the history and currency of the realities facing women composers. Chaired by Julia Wolfe, the intergenerational participants reflected on their shared heritage as female composers—a lineage in which they are defining members. Participating composers included Tania León, Missy Mazzoli, and Laura Schwendinger, with Joseph Pfender moderating.

Watch the recording on demand at

The College Music Society
July 24, 2020
11:00 am CDT

Moderated by Teryl Dobbs (CMS National Board Member for Music Education, Professor and Chair, Music Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison), the panel will discuss current issues in music education with focus on the pandemic and anti-racism initiatives.

Panelists will include Janet Barrett (Marilyn Pflederer Zimmerman Endowed Chair in Music Education, University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign), Christian Bonner (2020 graduate in Music Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Music Educator), Constance McKoy (Marion Stedman Covington Distinguished Professor, Music Education, University of North Carolina-Greensboro), Amanda Soto (Associate Professor of Music Education, Texas State University), Tony White (Coordinator, Music and Entertainment Education – Los Angeles Unified School District-Beyond the Bell Branch), and JaQuan Wiley (Assistant Director of Bands, Asheville High School, North Carolina).

The Trade Winds Ensemble recently received a 2020 Baldwin Funded Seed Project Grant. The ensemble, led by Midori Samson, is a group of six teaching artists interested in the emergence of music education and social justice.

The Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment is a competitive grant program that fosters public engagement and the advancement of the Wisconsin Idea, the notion that the knowledge and solutions generated at UW-Madison will benefit the people of Wisconsin, the nation, and the world.

Proposals are encouraged for new outreach and public engagement activities that partner with community and off-campus organizations to extend and apply our research, education and practice-based knowledge to help solve problems or take advantage of opportunities. Learn more about the 2020 Baldwin Funded Seed Project grants.

Midori is a bassoonist, educator, and activist whose goal is that antiracism and anti-oppression permeate every aspect of her musicianship. In addition to her role as Trade Winds Ensemble’s Artistic Director, she is the newly appointed Lecturer of Bassoon at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She also holds the positions of 2nd Bassoon in the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and Principal Bassoon in the Beloit-Janesville Symphony.

Midori holds an undergraduate degree from The Juilliard School and a master’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in bassoon and social welfare at UW-Madison where she is a Collins Fellow, the School of Music’s highest honor. Her dissertation—which is in progress—will discuss the integration of music education and social work and will focus on Trade Winds.

Midori writes in the project description: 

I currently serve as Co-Founding Artistic Director of Trade Winds Ensemble. We have developed a two-week music composition curriculum for children who have never taken music classes before. Since our founding in 2013 we have implemented this curriculum in Kenya, Tanzania, Haiti, Chicago, and Detroit. Beginning in summer 2020, we will complete a program evaluation of our curriculum by implementing it again in Kenya, Tanzania, and Detroit. Receiving a Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Seed Project Grant would make this program evaluation possible.

We anticipate that at the end of each two-week workshop, students will have composed and performed their own original pieces of music, they will have learned about teamwork, confidence, individuality, problem solving, and identity, and they will leave feeling like musicians. This curriculum, as well as observations about the implementation of it in three cities, will be published in my doctoral project paper in Spring 2021. The paper will introduce Trade Winds Ensemble’s curriculum as a new method of teaching music with a social justice lens. We will pull from social work literature and research to implement and evaluate our curriculum, which has been created in consideration of our student-community’s history of colonization and oppression.

Cellist Magdalena Sas is performing virtually in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw Thursday, July 9, at 12 pm CDT. Magdalena is currently a doctoral student studying with professor Uri Vardi, and is a 2018 recipient of the Paul Collins Wisconsin Distinguished Fellowship. The concert will be streamed live via the U.S. Embassy’s Facebook page.

Magdalena is a graduate of the Krakow Music Academy and the Royal Music Conservatory in Brussels. As a member of the Vistula String Quartet, she completed a post-graduate chamber music course at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna and was also a member of the prestigious European Chamber Music Academy in Austria. In 2014, as a recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship, she studied with Eric Kim at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in the United States.

As an orchestral musician, Magdalena had the opportunity to collaborate with ensembles such as the Australian World Orchestra, the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, and was a guest member of the Sinfonietta Cracovia, the Beethoven Academy Orchestra in Poland, YES Camerata and Hulencourt Soloists in Belgium, and SFK Orchester in Austria. She participated in many international Chamber Music festivals including Consonances Chamber Music festival in France, Mozartiade in Germany, Ad-Libitum in Poland, Paschim Rang in India, performing alongside musicians such as Ivry Gitlis, Philippe Graffin, Gary Hoffman, and Raphael Wallfisch. During her stay in India she regularly participated in projects of world-famous Indian musicians: Zakir Hussain, Rakesh Chaurasia and Sabir Khan, and appeared as a soloist at the opening concert of the Royal Opera House in Mumbai.

In 2019/2020, she will represent Poland as a member of the international Global Leaders Program, where she will receive training from prestigious institutions, such as Harvard University, Duke University, John Hopkins University, and McGill University.

Ben Barson and Gizelxanath Rodriguez, the spring 2020 University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of the ArtsInterdisciplinary Artists-in-Residence, guest artists and students will premiere the culminating work of the residency during a virtual event on Tuesday, June 30 at 7:30 p.m. on Facebook on the UW-Madison Arts on Campus page: After the event there will be a Q&A. Both Barson and Rodriguez are musicians, artivists (artists and activists), environmentalists and co-founders of the Afro Yaqui Music Collective.

Barson team-taught the MWSoM’s Contemporary Jazz Ensemble for the spring semester with Dr. Johannes Wallman, the director of jazz studies. The video premiereing on June 30 features the MWSoM’s Contemporary Jazz Ensemble performing music composed by jazz studies majors Nick Berkhout, Maggie Cousin, Lily Finnegan, and Henry Ptacek, as well as other IARP students.


Contested Homes: Migrant Liberation Movement Suite” is a free jazz opera that combines jazz, hip-hop, spoken word, dance and visual art animated and illustrated by students and guest artists. Barson and Rodriguez created the piece together with students from their “Artivism: Intercultural Solidarity & Decolonizing Performance” course. The new piece reflects themes of police violence, migrant justice, systematic racism, climate change and visions of a new world (longer description below).

This new work is student-driven with mentorship provided by Barson, Rodriguez and Peggy Choy (lead faculty), as well as guest artists Nejma Nefertiti, Charlotte Hill O’Neal aka Mama C, Rodrigo Carapia, Lacouir Yancey and Adam Cooper-Terán. The music of the piece was performed and recorded by UW’s Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, directed by Johannes Wallmann. The choreography was organized by Peggy Choy. Visual art was created by Kim Inthavong and Carapia and animated by Cooper-Terán.

Per Barson and Rodriguez, “This work is rooted in a profound sense of purpose, place and passion for justice and revolutionary change. We are so proud of the students who have created something magnificent, a suite of music, dance, poetry and visual arts that captures the age and brings our attention to what is to be done. It speaks dimensions of the current struggle for Black lives, the dismantling of both ecosystems and social safety nets and of solidarities between Latin American, Asian American and African American communities. The quality of the art is mind-blowing and we simply cannot say more about it. It is hard to argue that we were the “teachers” here, it is, rather, that we were all students of the struggle and that study is what is heard and felt in these evocative pieces.”


Barson and Rodriguez taught the spring 2020 course “Artivism: Intercultural Solidarity & Decolonizing Performance.” Students investigated the theory, practice, multidisciplinary and intercultural concepts connected with their recent jazz opera, “Mirror Butterfly: The Migrant Liberation Movement Suite.”  Barson and Rodriguez guided and inspired students to participate in the construction of a new multi-media jazz opera.

Barson and Rodriguez felt that “This semester-long residency was a soul-changing and practice-expanding experience, especially in the context of a global pandemic. History is not something we study to learn about the past or the outcome of the future; it is to understand who we are, with its traumas, its visions of other possibilities, its moments of soul-crushing brutality and its infinitely small but momentous acts of solidarity. Especially in the U.S., questions of settler-colonialism, slavery and ecocide all take on especially personal and lived dimensions among our students and ourselves. As James Baldwin said of white America, “they are in effect still trapped in a history which they do not understand and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.” We thus had two aspects to our class: tracing the historical conditions that have shaped our society and understanding how contemporary and past traditions of artistic practice contested, responded to and transformed these histories and conditions.”

Students in the Artivism course were: Nick Berkhout (music and electrical engineering), Maggie Cousin (music), Erik Franze (political science and environmental studies), Lily Finnegan (music and sociology), Mauricio Garcia (First Wave Scholar, communication arts: radio, TV, and film, certificates in business and also Chican@ and Latin@ studies), Kim Inthavong (computer science), Jackson Neal (First Wave Scholar, creative writing, certificate in dance), Henry Ptacek (music), Jack Schaefer (chemical engineering) and Qiandai Wang (exchange student from France, political science, sociology and economics) along with Zach Pulse (project assistant, DMA in Oboe, third year).

Neal states, “Ben and Gizel have reminded me how important it is to create a revolution with joy. As a class we are constantly celebrating each other and the works that we’ve collectively harvested. This is not only a place to mourn the grief our planet accumulates, but a realm to imagine what light we see for the future. I’ve moved through these past few months in awe, working with this class of revelers and revolutionaries. Meeting activists such as Nejma Nefertiti and Mario Luna Romero, I’m reminded that the revolution is now. We must hold each other and continue to make in the face of fear. Ben and Gizel remind us how radical it is to create, how alive and dangerous our love can be.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barson and Rodriguez, their students and guest artists participated in many public events including at Bayview Community Center for “Art Equals Politics: From the streets to social justice,” Tandem Press Friday Jazz Series, UW–Madison Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies’ Lunchtime Lecture Series, a fundraiser for Radio Namakasía at Café Coda, Just Bust! First Wave Open Mic at August and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies conference “Environmental Justice in Multispecies Worlds: Land, Water, Food.” More events were scheduled in April but needed to be canceled. Photos of the events are located here:

The spring 2020 Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program is presented by the UW–Madison Division of the Arts and hosted by the Asian American Studies Program with Associate Professor Peggy Choy as lead faculty. Co-sponsors include the Dance Department, the Mead Witter School of Music and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Some of the residency events were also part of the Nelson Institute’s Earth Day@50 – Arts Initiative.

The UW–Madison Division of the Arts’ Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program (IARP) brings innovative artists to campus to teach semester-long, interdepartmental courses and to publicly present their work for campus and community audiences and is funded through the university’s Office of the Provost.


The piece opens with an interrogation of our current fossil fuel dependence and extractive relationship to nature using the point of a view of a dinosaur whose remains are used as fuel to power a “death economy.” This is connected to other oppressive dimensions of American society, including racism, militarized borders and ecological destruction. From this starting point, resistance is communicated in pan-Indigenous and pan-African themes, informed by guest collaborators from the Yaqui nation Mario Luna and Anahi Ochoa.

The music is entirely composed by the Artivism students and is creative, high-energy, and ambitious with jazz, funk, hip-hop, experimental rhythms and poetry. Lily Finnegan, Henry Ptaeck, Maggie Cousin and Nick Berkhout composed the dynamic score. Jackson Neal’s poetry gives voice to the silenced and Mauricio Garcia performs bilingual Spanish-English Hip-Hop verses that expresses the traumatic experiences of Latin American migrants as well as their freedom dreams.

Former Black Panther Mama C expresses a pan-African perspective on blues and soul with her vocal contributions on “Police Chase,” – a tribute to the Black Panther Party and a remembrance of those lives lost to police brutality. Qiandia Wang composes lyrics and vocal melodies that connect land dispossession and forced migration, with Gizelxanath Rodriguez contributing vocals. Jack Schaefer and Erik Franze depict resistance and oppression with a variety of experimental and staged movement techniques, with the assistance of Peggy Choy and important contributions from Madison-based artist Lacouir “Spirit” Yancey.


Dr. Darin Olson will join Kent State University’s Glauser School of Music as the director of athletic bands and associate director of bands, where he’ll lead the Marching Golden Flashes, Flasher Brass and Symphony Band along with teaching courses. Since 2013, Olson has served as the assistant director of bands at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Mead Witter School of Music.

Darin Olson, assistant director of bands, and the UW Marching Band perform “On Wisconsin!” during the Hamel Music Center groundbreaking ceremony.

His primary responsibilities at UW-Madison included serving as Assistant Director of the Marching Band, conducting the University Band, directing the Varsity Band at athletic events, and teaching courses within the Mead Witter School of Music. Prior to his appointment at UW-Madison, Olson held teaching engagements in Texas, Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Under his leadership, ensembles have performed in London, England and throughout the United States.

Darin, as many of you know, has been critical to our marching band program over the past 7+ years and especially during this past year of transition,” MWSoM Director Susan Cook said. “I am delighted that he will now have the opportunity to run his own athletic band program and contribute his leadership expertise to another music program. Please join me in thanking him for his years of service to the department.”