Learn more and register

Badger Precollege is excited to introduce the 2021 virtual Summer Music Clinic (SMC) experience. This year, SMC will run a series of 3-day intensives designed to help students grow as musicians and build authentic community connections.

Students may select from an array of performance-based classes and electives in band, orchestra, choir, musical theater and more. New this year, we’re also pleased to introduce a new selection of non-performance intensives. These new intensives will allow all students, regardless of their level of music experience, to learn about music and the world around us. Our intensive model uses best practices in music education and will allow students to learn virtually in a format that facilitates the growth of the whole person.

Full and partial scholarships based on financial need are granted each year. In addition, some community service organizations, such as local Kiwanis or Rotary chapters, may offer scholarship opportunities for their local students. School music boosters or other support organizations within your school district may also have funding available. Be sure to check for local resources in your community.

Visit the SMC website to learn more about course topics and to register. Questions? Contact smc@wisc.edu


Summer Music Clinic 2021

Junior Intensive Sessions (completed grades 6‑8): June 21–23, June 24–26
Senior Intensive Sessions (completed grades 9‑12): June 28–30, July 1–3



Three-dimensional rendering of a shelving concept against a navy blue background

Unique iterative shelving concept for the Kohler Art Library by Anders Nienstaedt, recipient of a Graduate Student Creative Arts Award

By DotA staff

A two-year long photographic essay project by Darcy Padilla (Art Department) examining the profound economic and social disparities experienced by Americans caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A contemporary art exhibition by Roberto Torres Mata (Art Department) at the Chazen Museum of Art spotlighting the complex issues of migration from both human and animal perspectives. A premiere of a new choral work by Lawren Brianna Ware (Mead Witter School of Music) on the life and death of Elijah McClain (1996-2019), who fell victim to police brutality. The creation of a functional shelving system by Anders Nienstaedt (Art Department) to showcase curated library collections, while serving as beautiful and interactive public art in the Kohler Art Library.

These are just some of the people and their projects who were recently awarded funding through the University of Wisconsin–Madison Creative Arts Awards.

Each year, the Division of the Arts provides significant research support to faculty, staff, and students in the arts. Seven awards are available including one offered bi-annually. The 2021 Creative Arts Awards selection committee was comprised of Susan Zaeske (chair), Division of the Arts; Jennifer Angus, Design Studies; Anna Campbell, Gender and Women’s Studies; Anthony Di Sanza, Mead Witter School of Music; David Furumoto, Theatre and Drama; Florence Hsia, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE); and Leslie Smith III, Art Department.

The grants are divided into three categories: Faculty Arts Research, Staff and Faculty Arts Outreach, and Student Arts Research and Achievement.

“While the pandemic and national reckoning stress our health, economy, and wellbeing, the human drive to engage in creative expression perseveres. This was clearly demonstrated by the high caliber submissions to the 2021 Creative Arts Awards competition,” stated Susan Zaeske, Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities, College of Letters & Science and Interim Director of the Division of the Arts. “Each honoree demonstrated in a unique way the power of the arts to respond to these unprecedented times through song, film, dance, theater, architecture, photography, and other forms of art. We are honored to recognize and support each of the honorees within their specific discipline and look forward to their on-going contributions to artistic knowledge, excellence, and research at UW­–Madison and the world. While we regret that this year we are unable to celebrate the recipients in person, we encourage faculty, staff, students, and the community to join us in a virtual award ceremony on May 4, 2021.”

For Ava Shadmani, a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) student in violin performance, the award will “support my research project, ‘Unheard Voices of Iran,’ to foster, through music, an understanding of two cultures seemingly impossibly divided, East to West, Ancient to Modern.” She will use the David and Edith Sinaiko Frank Graduate Fellowship for a Woman in the Arts to record five new folk-inspired compositions by Iranian composers and present them to new audiences.

While some awards support future projects, others are given based on an individual’s contributions to their field. Jen Plants, for example, a faculty associate in the English Department, received a Joyce J. and Gerald A. Bartell Award in the Arts for her work in theater and performance as a means to address social, racial and economic injustice. “Plants is a prolific and powerful force in the study and practice of performance as a means for social awareness and change at UW. Her commitment to racial and economic equity is present throughout her work—in the topics it covers and the audiences it reaches,” notes her nominee, Michael Peterson, Professor of Art and Director of Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies.

While the pandemic has rendered it impossible to gather in person to attend artistic performances, the Edna Wiechers Arts in Wisconsin Award recipient Aaron Granat (videographer, cinematographer, and instructor in the Department of Communication Arts) will use his award to catalyze his vision to build a virtual platform from which artists may share their work to appreciators around the state. Leveraging the capacity of an online platform to share content limitlessly, Aaron plans to stream a regular series of multi-media virtual performances in music, dance, video arts, architecture, sculpture, and other mediums to the community that has lost the traditional opportunity to experience the arts.

With support from the Anonymous Fund, the Division of the Arts established a new Graduate Student Creative Arts Award. For graduate students whose public productions, exhibits, or performances were halted due to COVID-19, the award is particularly timely. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of our performance opportunities that would normally fund our recordings have been canceled. This Graduate Students Creative Arts Award will allow us the opportunity to record and release this music and to allow Golpe Tierra to grow professionally and deliver our message of social change,” says award recipient Nick Moran who is pursuing his graduate degree in Double Bass Performance.

“Creative Arts Award is a vehicle to propel my graduate work further in practice and in future endeavors. I will be able to maximize the investment in my practice and accomplish my goals beyond the project needs that will lead to greater impacts in the community,” says Roberto Torres Mata, whose exhibition about migration, In the Routes We Take, is slated for display at the Chazen Museum of Art in summer 2021.

Quanda Johnson, a PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, was also one of the six recipients of the Graduate Student Creative Arts Award. She stated that she is excited to “lift scholarship and give voice to an area of research in the field of Interdisciplinary Performance that is often unconsidered and underserved.” On how the impact of the award will benefit her career, she expressed that the award will “have broad impacts with Interdisciplinary Performance as the vehicle on activism and social justice.” In Trauerspiel: Subject into Nonbeing, Johnson will explore four performative vignettes on the violence against Black bodies, psyches, and the resulting generational trauma using projection art, spoken word, dance, visual art, and poetic reading.

The awardees will be honored during a virtual reception on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.

Below is the full list of 2021 Creative Arts Award recipients. View full recipient bios online.


  • Darcy Padilla, Associate Professor, Art Department


  • Daniel Grabois, Associate Professor of Horn, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Mark Hetzler, Professor of Trombone, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Michael Peterson, Professor, Art Department; Director, Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies


  • Jen Plants, Faculty Associate, English Department
  • Ben Reiser, Wisconsin Film Festival Director of Operations, Department of Communication Arts


  • Aaron Granat, Associate Lecturer, Department of Communication Arts


  • Ava Shadmani, DMA Candidate, Violin Performance, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Lawren Brianna Ware, DMA Candidate, Musical Composition, Mead Witter School of Music


  • Sarah Brailey, DMA Candidate, Vocal Performance, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Timothy Yip, DMA Candidate, Violin Performance, Mead Witter School of Music    


  • Quanda Johnson, PhD Candidate, Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies (ITS)
  • Nick Moran, MM Candidate, Double Bass Performance, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Anders Nienstaedt, MFA Candidate, Art Department
  • Chris Rottmayer, DMA Candidate, Piano Performance, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Midori Samson, DMA Candidate, Bassoon Performance, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Roberto Torres Mata, MFA Candidate, Art Department

We are saddened to learn that Professor Jeanette Ross died Dec. 21, 2020. Professor Ross earned music degrees from Northwestern University School of Music and the American Conservatory of Music before joining the music faculty at Monticello College in 1946.

She would later join the School of Music faculty in 1957, where she played an important role in redeveloping the Class Piano Program. Professor Ross retired from the School of Music in 1990.

A full obituary for Professor Ross is available here.



The Hamel Music Center was featured in the January 2021 issue of Structure magazine.

“A balance between the structural, acoustic, and architectural designs resulted in a world-class music facility right on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus. Little does the musician or event-goer know that, to achieve acoustic perfection, three separate buildings were designed – and that these three separate buildings had to fit within a whole other, larger structure.”

Read the full article


For the 8th consecutive year, the Mead Witter School of Music will present its annual Schubertiade, a special concert celebrating the music of Franz Schubert. Traditionally these concerts have been held around the composer’s birthday. This year’s concert will in fact occur on his birthday: Sunday, January 31 at 3 pm at youtube.com/meadwitterschoolofmusic.com.

As in past years, Martha Fischer, professor of piano and head of the collaborative piano program at UW-Madison, and her husband Bill Lutes, an independent piano teacher, and UW Emeritus Artist-in-Residence, will host the program.

These concerts have been presented in the sprit of the first Schubertiades that took place during the composer’s lifetime (1797-1828) in the homes of his friends and fellow artists, poets, and fans. These were social as well as musical occasions with Schubert himself presiding at the piano, giving his audience a chance to hear his latest songs, piano duets and chamber music, as well as pieces that had already become favorites.

This year’s Schubertiade will be rather different, in response to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It will be an online look back—or Rückblick—at past concerts, with songs chosen from performances that have been preserved in our audio and video archive. The featured performers will include faculty, students and alumni from the Mead Witter School of Music, along with special guests. In addition pianists Fischer and Lutes will give a “new” performance recorded for this occasion of the great Fantasie in F-minor for piano duet.

The songs have been chosen to reflect themes that were not only relevant to Schubert and his circle, but also to all of us in the midst of this challenging time: hope for a brighter future, the need for connection with others, remembrance of happier times, and the consolation to be found in nature.

Schubert left us a vast and precious legacy of beauty—an enormous output of music that he composed in his short lifetime. In a sense, each time his music is performed and heard, it is a journey from the past to our own time, the sounds speaking to us today as vividly and consolingly as they did when they were created 200 years ago.



Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes, pianists


Jamie-Rose Guarrine, soprano

Emily Birsan, soprano

Michael Roemer, baritone

Jennifer D’Agostino, soprano

Daniel O’Dea, tenor

Wesley Dunnagan, tenor

Sarah Brailey (alumna and current DMA student)

Sara Guttenberg


Marie McManama, soprano

Cheryl Bensman-Rowe, mezzo soprano


Mimmi Fulmer, soprano

Paul Rowe, baritone

Julia Rottmayer, soprano


David Alcorn, Videographer, editor, etc.

Katrin Talbot, Images for audio only tracks

American conductor Kenneth Woods has been selected as recipient of the 2020 UW-Madison Mead Witter School of Music Distinguished Alumni Award. Woods was nominated for the award by James Smith, with additional letters of support from John DeMain, Parry Karp, and Cyrena Pondrom.

The School of Music established a Distinguished Alumni Award to recognize alumni who are making outstanding contributions to the music profession in service and in artistic impact. The award in particular recognizes exceptional skills and credentials as a music professional as well as significant influence on the profession.

Hailed by Gramophone Magazine as “a symphonic conductor of stature,” Woods was appointed Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra in 2013. He was also recently appointed Artistic Director of both the Colorado MahlerFest–the only US organization other than the New York Philharmonic to receive the International Gustav Mahler Society’s Gold Medal–and the Elgar Festival in Worcester.

“Equally at home as a conductor, recitalist, chamber musician, and writer, Kenneth is a credit to the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” retired Director of Orchestras James Smith said. “His artistic accomplishments and the numerous ways he has contributed to the music profession, and his outstanding career as a multi-talented professional musician, make him an excellent nominee for this award.”

As a guest, Woods has conducted ensembles including the National Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia and the English Chamber Orchestra.

“This past season, Kenneth made his conducting debut with the Madison Symphony Orchestra,” MSO Music Director John DeMain said. “His work drew raves from the musicians, audience and critics. Indeed, his performance of Haydn was revelatory, and Strauss’ extraordinarily difficult ‘Ein Heldenieben’ came off flawlessly.”

Under his leadership, the English Symphony Orchestra has gained widespread recognition as one of the most innovative and influential orchestras in the UK. In 2016, Woods and the ESO launched their “21st Century Symphony Project,” an ambitious multi-year effort to commission, premiere and record nine new symphonies by leading composers, with Philip Sawyers’ Third Symphony.

Woods earned his MM in Cello as a student of Parry Karp at the School of Music from 1991-1993. He remains active as a cellist, and his debut recordings with the string trio Ensemble Epomeo and the Briggs Piano Trio were both recipients of the Gramophone Editor’s Choice.

“The breadth and quantity of Kenneth’s work as a musician is awe-inspiring, and the consistent high quality of his artistic work is spectacular,” Professor of Chamber Music and Cello Parry Karp said. “While conducting has become the biggest part of his life as a musician, he has stayed very active as a cellist, musical writer, educator, composer and arranger. In all of these areas he is highly original, challenging and inspires the musicians around him to new heights. He is a great role model for young musicians of today, many of whom have to wear many hats to be successful.”  

A widely read writer and frequent broadcaster, Woods’ blog, A View from the Podium, is one of the 25 most popular classical blogs in the world. He has spoken on Mahler on NPR’s All Things Considered and is a regular guest on BBC radio programs. Since 2014, he has been Honorary Patron of the Hans Gál Society.

Mead Witter School of Music Distinguished Alumni Award candidates are reviewed each year by the Distinguished Music Alumni Award Committee. This committee consists of faculty emeriti, current faculty, the president of the School of Music Alumni Association, and the director of the Mead Witter School of Music.

Professor Laura Schwendinger is one of 14 composers selected to receive a 2020 Fromm commission from the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University. The award marks Professor Schwendinger’s second Fromm commission.

According to the foundation, these commissions represent one of the principal ways that the foundation seeks to strengthen composition and to bring contemporary concert music closer to the public. In addition to the commissioning award, a subsidy is available for the ensemble performing the premiere of the commissioned work.

The Fromm Music Foundation was founded by the late Paul Fromm in 1952. Since 1972, it  has been located at Harvard University where it has operated in partnership with the Harvard University Music Department. Over the course of its existence, the Fromm Foundation has commissioned over 400 new compositions and their performances. The Fromm Foundation has also sponsored hundreds of new music concerts and concert series, among them Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music, American Composers Orchestra, and the Fromm Concert Series at Harvard University. The foundation  has also supported a Fromm Visiting Professorship for established composers in the Department of Music, and the Paul Fromm Composer-in-Residence program at the American Academy in Rome.

Professors Rachel Brenner and Teryl Dobbs are presenting papers at the Association for Jewish Studies 52nd Annual Conference as part of the panel Uses and Abuses of Art in Representations of Holocaust Violence.

The panel is on Dec. 15 from 11:30 am-12:45 pm CST, and is one of several selected by AJS to be lived streamed to the public, free of charge, by AJS TV via Facebook Live.

“This is a first for AJS, and Rachel and I are thrilled that our panel was selected,” Professor Dobbs said.

Uses and Abuses of Art in Representations of Holocaust Violence

The adage “when the guns roar, the muses fall silent” does not reflect adequately the reality of the Holocaust violence which was not limited the physical annihilation of the Jewish victims. The scheme of the Final Solution aimed also at the dehumanization of the victims; it intended to destroy the victims’ dignity, beliefs, and identity. Distorted forms of art were called on to disfigure the victims, disparage their cultural heritage, and reaffirm their moral repulsiveness. Such use of art in the process of dehumanization violated not only the victims’ sense of humanity; it violated art itself, stripping it from its humanistic value. This panel shows the diverse role of visual arts, music, and literature in a) the documentation of the abuse, b) the contribution to the process of dehumanization, and c) the production of the story of continuing degradation.

Presentations include “Literary Responses to the Holocaust: The Continuing Polish Hostility toward Jews” by Rachel Feldhay Brenner, “Violated! Jewish Women during the Holocaust in Visual Arts” by Batya Brutin, and “Music as Violence: The Musical Experience of Dachau” by Teryl L Dobbs. Discussant: Michlean Amir, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

By Doug Erickson
University Communications

UW–Madison will confer nearly 3,000 degrees this Sunday at its winter 2020 commencement ceremony, to be held virtually due to the ongoing pandemic. The virtual ceremony will be released at wisc.edu/commencement beginning at 11 a.m. central time on Dec. 13.

The ceremony will be prerecorded, not live, and will be available to the public. No password is needed. The video will remain available on the website so that people can watch the ceremony at a time most convenient to them.

“As we did in the spring, we will honor our graduates and their accomplishments with a virtual ceremony,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “Later, we will find an opportunity for these graduates to celebrate in person with family and friends.”

Preliminary estimates show 2,932 degrees will be conferred Sunday (2,117 undergraduate, 526 master’s and 289 doctoral). The virtual commencement ceremony will include remarks from several people, including Chancellor Blank, soccer standout and UW–Madison alumna Rose Lavelle, and alumni speaker John Felder, an organizer and spokesman for the 1969 Black Student Strike.

Student speaker Sven Kleinhans will give remarks on behalf of his fellow graduates. A few of the notable winter graduates can be found in this roundup.

Additionally, honorary doctorates will be awarded to cancer researcher V. Craig Jordan and distance learning pioneer Michael G. Moore, both of whom did groundbreaking work early in their careers at UW–Madison.

Tony Award-winning Broadway star and UW–Madison alumnus André De Shields will close the ceremony with a special rendition of “Varsity.”

As a special gift, any graduate renting or purchasing a cap and gown is receiving a free celebration kit: a UW-branded face covering, a confetti popper and a refrigerator pennant magnet.

Those watching can comment on the commencement proceedings on YouTube Premiere, as well as on social media with the hashtag #UWGrad. For more information on commencement, please see wisc.edu/commencement.

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.

The Hamel Music Center has been named the Midwest’s Best Cultural Project 2020 by the Engineering News-Record.

From the Engineering News-Record release:

Built on a heavily trafficked and often noisy corner of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Hamel Music Center’s design was driven by acoustic considerations. The 75,000-sq-ft performance, instruction, recording and practice space consolidates smaller facilities across campus and includes a 660-seat main concert hall, a 320-seat recital hall and a rehearsal room that can accommodate a full orchestra. Although enclosed within the same building, the three performance spaces were built as separate structures to help isolate them acoustically. An acoustic joint further isolates each music hall from vibrations conducted by the building’s hard surfaces.

Unusual and highly precise concrete forms were required in the main hall to create circular openings at specific locations in the 70-ft-high cast-in-place walls. The openings connect to large chambers on each side of the hall to provide reverberance.

Mechanical systems are routed through corridors and back-of-house spaces to keep any noise or vibration from transferring to the structures surrounding the three music halls. Pipes are wrapped with additional insulation to absorb sound. To eliminate air noise while maintaining comfortable circulation in the concert hall, air is diffused from underneath the seats on the main floor and from the back of balcony seating instead of through large vents.

The accordion-like exterior envelops 16-in.-thick double walls that shield each hall from outside noise. The roof is made of 50,000 lb. of placed concrete to further reduce noise.

Concrete work presented numerous challenges throughout the project. Extra rebar install time caused the high wall crew to lose schedule time. As a result, the team developed rebar lift drawings to help crews pre-tie all mats prior to the inside forms being set. This included the locations of acoustical coffers, box-outs, dowels and add-bar. By enabling the concrete contractor to tie ahead of the wall crew, the team could save as much as a full day on corner pours. There was no room on site for the rebar contractor to pre-tie their mats on the ground, so the team built an elevated pre-tie deck. Finished rebar mats were then picked by the tower crane and set into place.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to build something like this,” says Tim Bizjak, senior project manager at JP Cullen. “Not many people can say they’ve built a performance arts center, not to mention one with this level of finishes.”

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.

University Opera has been awarded 2nd place in the 2019-2020 National Opera Association Production Competition (Division V) for last winter’s production of Cosi fan tutte.

The goal of the NOA Opera Production Competition is to further the organization’s mission by encouraging and rewarding creative, high quality opera productions at academic institutions and music conservatories. The Opera Production Competition is divided into multiple divisions so that competitors are fairly judged against similarly cast and budgeted productions.

Learn more here.

University Opera explored the vicissitudes of love with Mozart’s beloved Cosi fan tutte. Blending rollicking humor with keen insight and barely concealed cynicism, Cosi features some of the most ravishing music Mozart ever wrote.

The University Opera production placed Cosi in 1920, a time in which the early women’s rights movement was gaining momentum. Against this backdrop, this story of male manipulation takes on greater dimensionality and nuance.

The cast featured Rachel Love and Cayla Rosché alternating as Fiordiligi, and Chloe Agostino and Julia Urbank splitting the performances as Dorabella. Carly Ochoa, Anja Pustaver, and Kelsey Wang all sing the role of Despina. Benjamin Hopkins sang Ferrando, Kevin Green played Guglielmo, and James Harrington was Don Alfonso.

The production was designed by Joseph Varga with lighting by Zak Stowe. Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park were the costume designers; Lydia Berggruen, the props designer; Jan Ross, hair and wig designer, and the production stage manager was Dylan Thoren. Others on the production staff included Benjamin Hopkins, operations manager for University Opera; Alice Combs, master electrician; assistant stage managers Grace Greene and Cecilia League; and Ashley Haggard and Kelsey Wang, costume assistants.

Cosi fan tutte, by W.A. Mozart, libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
David A Ronis, Director
Oriol Sans, Conductor
Joseph Varga, Scenic Designer
Thomas Kasdorf, Vocal Coach

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 youtu.be/ObJMMA220Jw

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 opera@music.wisc.edu.

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 youtu.be/Mf-Mpt3EyNk 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.”