Susan C. Cook sums it up perfectly: “You can take the professor out of the classroom, but not the classroom out of the professor.” After a decade as director of the Mead Witter School of Music, Cook will step down at the end of this year. But this isn’t the grand finale of Cook’s career; it’s just the beginning of a new movement.

Having worked 15 years without a sabbatical, Cook is looking forward to taking some time off. Then, she’ll be back to doing what she loves: teaching music history.

“My area of interest has always been contemporary music,” Cook says, “which used to mean the 20th century, but now it’s the 21st century as well. The world keeps changing around us and we have to change with it. I think it’s always important for faculty to be continuing to think about what it is our students need now and to be not teaching just the way we were taught, or just the way we used to teach even 10 or 15 years ago.”

That adaptability and forward thinking have been the cornerstones of Cook’s term as director. They served her well when things looked precarious for the school.

“I came into the role in somewhat of a challenging time,” she recalls. “The previous director had stepped down a couple years early, so it was a transition that we weren’t expecting.”

The school was experiencing budget cuts and limited hiring and had been struggling to move ahead with a new building project. Then, there came a new chancellor, provost, and dean in quick succession — all starting around the same time that Cook assumed her new role. The future was uncertain. However, following campuswide discussions, Chancellor Rebecca Blank quickly decided to move ahead with plans for a new music building, which would become the Hamel Music Center.

“That decision proved to be a really smart one,” Cook remembers, because it was the vote of confidence that signaled to the Mead Witter Foundation that the university was invested in the future of the school, and “that there was a real critical need here.” The foundation made a major gift that allowed the ambitious building project to proceed and attracted even more support.

“One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about this job was working with the incredibly generous philanthropic individuals who have helped make this building a reality and have continued to support our students, again, through scholarships and support of all kinds,” Cook says. She beams as she talks about the “larger culture of philanthropy and support” that has sprung up around the school. “We have wonderful fans that come and write students notes (after performances) and tell them how terrific they sounded and that has just been something really unexpectedly wonderful to be a part of.”

The Hamel Music Center opened its doors in fall 2019, glistening like a jewel at the heart of campus. Then came the blow that nobody expected: COVID-19. But as it turned out, even though the center wasn’t designed with a pandemic in mind, it met the needs of the moment perfectly.

“Had we not had this building, the pandemic would have been so much worse for all of us,” Cook says. “Because we did have the technology and the extra spaces in this building that allowed us to do things safely to continue to connect with each other and to connect with audiences, even if we couldn’t be in person. I know there were people who felt like the building was closed and empty, and I kept saying, ‘It’s not. There’s still life going on there.’ I would drive by, and I would see the lights on in the lobby. To me, it was a beacon of hope and a reminder that we would be back together and that the building was helping keep us connected even then.”

Looking ahead, Cook hopes that the school will continue to build on what the Hamel Music Center started, continuing to be “inventive in our programming, inventive in our use of the space.” She also hopes to get the additional rehearsal spaces and financial assistance that students need, though that is a quest that will pass to the school’s next director — and to the new Humanities building project, which is in development.

“This clearly is a big job, a challenging job,” Cook says. “Sometimes people have asked me what have been the rewards? And I would say that the rewards have been in the music.”

She says it’s like “being in this wonderful garden” and not knowing what’s going to spring up and blossom. “You’re doing a lot of digging and a lot of heavy labor at times, but then (you’re) rewarded with this kind of beauty that you couldn’t have imagined.”

 

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Albert Herring, Benjamin Britten’s intricate and witty opera, will open the 2022-23 University Opera season at UW–Madison following the success of last season’s Two Remain (Out of Darkness) by Jake Heggie and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.  One of Britten’s few comedic operas, Albert Herring explores the themes of lost innocence, social stratification, Victorian morality, and the coming of age. Three performances will be presented at Music Hall on the UW–Madison campus: November 18 at 7:30 pm, November 20 at 2 pm, and November 22 at 7:30 pm. The Mead Witter School of Music’s Director of Orchestral Activities, Oriol Sans, will conduct a chamber ensemble comprised of members of the UW–Madison Symphony, and Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera, David Ronis, will direct the production.

Britten’s score for Albert Herring is equally as complex and beautiful as his most serious operas and the libretto by Eric Crozier inspires some of his most sensitive musical writing. The piece displays a good measure of levity as it tells a story as old as time, contrasting the values of older and younger generations.  With the town’s May Day Festival approaching, Lady Billows is scandalized and shocked by the lack of moral virtue in the young women of East Suffolk and is left with no choice but to appoint a King of the May rather than a May Queen.  Her committee of advisors suggests the young Albert whom they don’t view as particularly bright but is perceived as virtuous and a good son.  Albert, put upon by his strong-willed mother, is forced to accept this appointment. But, in a bold move of self-actualization fueled by a bit of alcohol, he breaks free from small town conventions and uses his prize money to pursue the life experiences he so desperately desires. This all too familiar story of the conflict between generations ignites Britten’s hilarious opera and is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face regardless generational affiliation.

The cast features Ryan Nash in the title role and Eloise Williamson as Lady Billows. Madison Barrett and Kathryn Flynn will share the role of Nancy while William Volmar will appear as Sid, Alexxis McDade as Mum, Noah Strube as Mayor Upfold, Grady Hayden as Vicar Gedge and Augustine Ahn as Superintendent Budd. Isabel Celata and Minseon Lee will split the performances as Miss Wordsworth, Jing Zhang and guest artist Chloe Agostino as Florence Pike, Katie Eggers and Danielle Bullock as Emmie, and May Kohler and Riley Brutto as Cis. Liam Kleckner and John Palenik, both members of the Madison Youth Choir program, will share the role of Harry.

Greg Silver will design both scenery and lighting and Hyewon Park will design costumes. The production stage manager will be Grace Greene. Others on the production staff include Luis Orozco, assistant director; Evan Mitchell, operations manager for University Opera; Elizabeth Cantwell, assistant stage manager; and Kenneth Hoversten, Katie Eggers, and Madeline Walaszek, costume assistants.

Tickets are $30 for the general public, $25 for senior citizens, and $10 for UW–Madison students, available in advance online through Campus Arts Ticketing or by calling (608) 265-ARTS. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 am-5:30 pm, and Saturdays, 12 pm-5 pm. Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance. The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street in Madison.

From L to R, Amy Lewis (Music Education), Michael Weinstein-Reiman (Music Theory), and Lindsay Flowers (Oboe) joined the School of Music faculty this fall.

The School of Music is excited to welcome three new faculty members this fall: Amy Lewis (Music Education), Michael Weinstein-Reiman (Music Theory), and Lindsay Flowers (Oboe).

Dr. Amy Lewis is the daughter of Jayne McShann Lewis and Bennie Lewis and is the granddaughter of Frances McShann Shelton and jazz pianist Jay McShann. Dr. Lewis is a research associate as an Anna Julia Cooper Fellow in the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Her research is focused on systemic oppression, equity, and racism in music education. As a public music teacher, she taught K-1, 6-8 general music, beginning band, middle school choir, and jazz band in the Chicagoland suburbs. She received the 2022 Compass Visionary Award, the 2019 Black Faculty, Staff, and Administrators Association Emerging Leader Award, and was also named the 2015 Illinois Education Association Teacher of the Year.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be named an Anna Julia Cooper Fellow at the UW–Madison,” Lewis said. “I look forward to working with incredible colleagues in the Mead Witter School of Music and contributing to such a rich history of research in music education.”

Michael Weinstein-Reiman is a historian of music theory. His work seeks to elucidate music theory’s role in the history of ideas over the longue durée. His related research interests include eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European philosophy, music pedagogy, literature, gender and sexuality, and disability studies.

In 2021, he received the Ph.D. in Music Theory from Columbia University, where he wrote a dissertation on the changing understanding of touch—considered as an action, a sense, and as a metaphor for music’s effect on the psyche—across the span of two centuries of French intellectual history. Research for the dissertation was supported by Columbia’s Dean’s Fellowship, a Georges Lurcy Fellowship, an honorary Chateaubriand Fellowship from the French Embassy, and several travel grants. He holds degrees in music from The University of Oregon, Mannes College, and Brandeis University.

“It is a real honor to join the community of musicians and scholars at UW–Madison,” Weinstein-Reiman said. “I am excited about working with the School of Music’s top-notch and diverse performers. As I embark on my own research projects, I cannot wait to see our students flourish and forge their own paths.”

Dr. Lindsay Flowers is the Assistant Professor of Oboe at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music where she is a member of the Wingra Wind Quintet and guides student-generated community engagement projects. She received a Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music under the tutelage of Linda Strommen and Roger Roe. Her background in athletics distinguishes her pedagogical approach in her emphasis on performance visualization, disciplined commitment, and supportive teamwork.

Lindsay is an Oboist and English Hornist with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and Quad Cities Symphony Orchestra. She previously was a member of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, New Mexico Philharmonic, and Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Lindsay was a founding member of the Arundo Donax Reed Quintet, Bronze Medal Winners of the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and recorded a duo album with Dr. Andrew Parker to be released in 2023. She has performed with the Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, Utah, and Nashville Symphony Orchestras and during recent summers with the Santa Fe Opera, Grant Park, Midsummer’s, Lakes Area, Apollo, Lake George, Castleton, Aspen, and Banff Music Festivals.

Dr. Mariana Farah, director of Choral Activities, and incoming DMA choral conducting student Liz Olson are presenting as part of a panel session at the National Conference of the American Choral Directors Association. This session will feature five active women conductors and a first-year doctoral student in a candid discussion about past, present, and future challenges for women in choral music. The presenters will offer strategies on how young and experienced conductors can fight new and longstanding matters involving gender bias in the choral field. Members will learn to:

a) identify instances of gender disparity in the choral profession;
b) fight challenges related to gender bias;
c) support students and colleagues who experience gender discrimination;
d) advocate for themselves and others;
e) promote change to help create more equitable spaces for women conductors

The conference will be held February 22-25, 2023 in Cincinnati, OH.

Professor Margaret Butler has received the IAML Vladimir Fédorov Award for her article “Opening a Celebrity’s Closet: Cecilia Davies and the De Bellis Collection,” Fontes Artis Musicae 68/4 (2021): 288–314. The award honors the best article published in the journal during a given volume year.

The Publications Awards Subcommittee commented that “this article could well stand as a model description of uncatalogued collections: it provides historical background of both the collection and collector; description of the content together with the extensive research required to compile the listing; further reading and research suggestions, and a tantalising problem that set our detective pulses racing: there are still some unidentified pieces in the collection.”

Summer Band participants will perform in the Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall, pictured here during a University Bands concert this spring.

Summer Band is returning for 2022! Join musicians from UW-Madison and the surrounding area in an experience making music at the Hamel Music Center. Details and a link to register are listed below.

Summer University Band (Music 43)
Conductor: Prof. Scott Teeple
Open to UW–Madison students and members of the community

Schedule:
Dates: Mondays & Thursdays, June 20-July 14, 7 pm-9 pm
Rehearsals: Lee/Kaufman Rehearsal Hall, Hamel Music Center, 740 University Ave
Final Concert: Thursday, July 14 at 7 pm, Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall, Hamel Music Center

Registration:
Registration fee: $75
Registration deadline: Tuesday, June 21, 2022
UW students: Enroll through the course catalog for Summer Term 2022

Community members: CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Additional information:
UW-Madison COVID Response: covidresponse.wisc.edu
Instruments: Community members are expected to provide their own instrument for ensemble participation. The Mead Witter School of Music may be able to provide certain instruments for rental, but due to limited availability, cannot guarantee instruments for community member participation.

Questions about course content can be directed to: scott.teeple@wisc.edu

Alejandro Oñate is one of three seniors graduating from the College of Letters & Science to have been selected by Dean Eric M. Wilcots for the Dean’s Prize, one of the College’s highest academic honors. Candidates for this award completed a minimum of 24 Honors Program credits, made significant contributions to UW–Madison and the local community, completed an undergraduate thesis or major research project, and excelled in their classes.

Oñate will continue researching immune therapies to combat cancer in the lab of Dr. Zachary Morris in the Carbone Cancer Center, while making plans for earning an MD-PhD degree and becoming a physician scientist. Oñate has been praised for his development as both a team member and leader, combining thoughtful communication skills, scientific curiosity, and critical thinking on his path through both the Biochemistry and Music (violin performance) majors, with a certificate in biology core curriculum (Biocore). Oñate is also a Mercile J. Lee Scholar.

“He embodies empathy and humility in our weekly violin studio class where he is always eager to give positive and insightful comments to his colleagues and then in turn, to receive others’ suggestions humbly and with gratitude,” says Eugene Purdue, adjunct professor of strings.

Among many community service activities, Oñate brought his music and science passions together when, as a Biocore Outreach Ambassador, he developed an elementary-school program exploring the physics of stringed instruments. He has also played violin and coordinated other School of Music students to perform for patients and staff of the UW Hospital and Clinics.

Read the full story

Four Music students were among the 149 recipients honored at the 2022 Chancellor’s Undergraduate Awards Ceremony on May 2, where students were recognized for their academic excellence, public service, and undergraduate research. The 149 award-winners will take on research in areas ranging from biochemistry and neurobiology to psychology and music.

Read more about the students and their accomplishments.

Sophomore Research Fellowship
Niharika Patankar (Biochemistry, Music): Investigating the Role of Metabolism on iNKT Cell Cytokine Production

Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowships
Daniel Laws (Music, Physics): Characterizing the Roles of KLC4 Interactor Proteins MSTO1 and TRAK2 in Mitochondrial Transport and Function During Neuronal Development

Allyson Mills (Music): A Revolutionary Composer: Analyzing the Songs and Letters of Anne-Louise Brillon de Jouy

Hanna Noughani (Music, Neurobiology): Obesity and Brain Health: The Association Between Body Fat and Entorhinal Cortex Microstructure

Professor Anthony Di Sanza recently premiered “Ancient Echoes,” a new concerto by Michael Udow commissioned by the Longmont Symphony Orchestra. In addition to a modern lithophone and percussion instruments from around the world, Professor Di Sanza played on a set of 6,000-year-old lithophones discovered by Longmont archaeologist Marilyn Martorano.

Read more –> “Ancient Echoes”: A Review

Women have always been at the core of every major development in music history, with historical and contemporary composers such as Hildegard of Bingen, Amy Beach, Clara Schumann, Eleanor Daley, Andrea Ramsey, Elaine Hagenberg, Dale Trumbore, and Ingrid Stolzel leading the way for generations to follow.

However, a major lack of documentation often leads to important contributions by women composers going overlooked, an issue Director of Choral Studies Mariana Farah sees as an educational opportunity. Farah is committed to programming more music by women composers.

“A lot of music by women composers has been neglected for a long time, and some music remains unpublished and unknown,” Farah said. “I know that programming music by women composers will help our students better understand the role of women in music history and it will also empower our female students to come forward with their own contributions.”

Through performances, Farah and her colleagues can educate students and audiences about the lack of representation and the importance of furthering our perspective on how women have contributed to the canon of literature throughout history.

A student in Women’s Chorus describes the impact the programming decision has had. In a conversation with her mother (who was also in Women’s Chorus during her college years), the student noted that her ensemble was working on pieces by women composers that were both beautiful and meaningful. The student’s mother was pleasantly surprised, as she remembered Women’s Chorus mostly consisting of love songs and lesser pieces written by men.

Her comment got the student thinking.

“I didn’t realize how much I was affected by sexism in classical music culture,” the student said. “I never considered creating music, because women are just supposed to sing what they are given. Women aren’t talented enough to compose. We’re better as passive vessels for the artistry of the opposite gender. I’ve never heard female composers because men just have a special gift. I didn’t realize the above were my subconscious thoughts until being accepted into Women’s Chorus. Experiencing the excellence of Andrea Ramsey’s work has made me feel empowered.”

Farah conducts the UW-Madison Concert Choir, Advanced Treble Choir, and Choral Union. She also teaches courses in graduate choral conducting and oversees all aspects of a comprehensive choral program. Prior to her appointment at UW-Madison, she served as the Associate Director of Choral Activities at the University of Kansas.

Liz Root, Brian Heller, Anne Brutosky, Eric Murtaugh, and Chancellor Rebecca Blank during the Administrative Improvement Awards ceremony on March 8, 2022.

The UW–Madison Administrative Improvement Awards celebrated their 10th year of recognizing process redesign, process development and customer service innovations that resulted in improved efficiency, revenue, cost savings or service delivery. More than 20 individuals and teams were nominated this year, and five projects were selected to receive the award, including the School of Music production team.

“The number of nominations says a lot about the commitment of thousands of employees across campus to finding better, more efficient and effective ways to do their work,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said at a recognition ceremony for nominees and recipients on March 8.

“I love the team aspect of this award,” Blank said. “We have five winning projects and 35 people involved, and that type of collaboration is exactly how you get things done.”

Rob Cramer, interim vice chancellor for finance and administration and executive sponsor for the awards, noted that administrative work supports the core missions of UW–Madison. “The Administrative Improvement Awards shine a light on the really impactful work that goes on behind the scenes to improve service and move UW–Madison forward,” Cramer said.

The 2022 Administrative Improvement Award recipients are:

Live stream Production Workflow and Database Team (Mead Witter School of Music)
Anne Brutosky, Brain Heller, Lance Ketterer, Lindsey Meekhof, Max Mindorff, Eric Murtaugh, Liz Root, Oriol Sans, Greg Silver, Ana Tinder

During the pandemic, this team from the School of Music had to quickly figure out how to provide access to musical performances and recitals when audiences were told to stay home. Up to that point, the School of Music had no streaming experience, even though the new Hamel Music Center was equipped to support it. The production team streamed the first public live stream in September 2020.  By the end of Spring 2021, the production team streamed more than 130 performances with 56,700 views worldwide.

In developing the live stream capabilities, the production team also created a workflow and database to streamline its processes and improve real-time communication and coordination. The team has since expanded the use of the shared database beyond live streaming to traditional performances at the Hamel Music Center. This fall, the team connected the database and workflows to ticketing and creating concert programs. Team members continue to respond to the changing needs of music performance, sharing the gift of music with supporters around the world.

Dorothy Stepp, MS (Department of Surgery)

Stepp implemented an automated process to increase and track the number of faculty volunteers in critical medical student education activities. Since the project was implemented, 9 out of 11 divisions fully met required medical student education hours. In the 2021–22 school year, the percentage of faculty volunteers increased from 42% to 87%. This has not only been a win for Stepp and her team, but for the faculty involved — and, of course, the students who reap the benefits of these activities.

Nathaniel Haack (Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Funding – Graduate School)

In his first year as the fellowship officer for campus, Haack noticed a gap in resources and services for students to pursue external fellowships. He created a database of external fellowships, delivered a series of preparation workshops and seminars for external fellowship applicants, and personally provided almost 50 individual consultations with applicants. Nathaniel collaborated with a handful of stakeholders on campus to launch the database in late January 2021. The number of students who received external fellowships will be reported later this year. In the meantime, Haack and his team have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students.

Streamlining and Automating the Emergency Request Process Team (Office of Student Financial Aid)
Karie Cunningham, Eric Gentz, Doug Jorewicz (OSFA/DoIT), Lo Klink, Martha Kowalski, Chris Lopac, Shane Maloney, Kristen McRoberts, Justin Mumford, Maggie Nowicki, Stevi Parmentier, Nicole Schumacher, Karla Weber Wandel, Katy Weisenburger, Alex White

The Office of Student Financial Aid team improved student access to the Emergency Request Application during the pandemic. They implemented an eForm application that streamlined the back-end processing for financial aid requests, cutting the processing time for HEERF requests in half between the first and second rounds of funding. By the end of December 2021, more than 9,000 students had received HEERF II funding. The current HEERF III form will be repurposed to an emergency request application where institutional aid will be provided to students experiencing financial crises unrelated to the pandemic.

Modernization of the Undergraduate Academic Standing Process Team (Office of the Registrar)
Katie Block, Corey Campbell, Ellen Clark, Joe Goss, Scott Krause, Diana Maki (Office of the Registrar and Office of Undergraduate Advising), Debbie Moy, Jim Vogel, Beth Warner

Academic standing reflects a student’s progress towards their degree and can indicate if a student is experiencing academic difficulties and needs additional support. Academic governance approved changes to the undergraduate academic standing process a few years ago. In response, the Registrar’s Office prioritized and funded a project to completely update the Student Information System academic standing processes. The team collaborated with more than 20 partners from schools, colleges and divisions at UW–Madison. Team members successfully applied the “Good Standing” label to almost 398,000 students dating back to 1979, providing better service to students when their transcripts are reviewed by graduate school admission committees and potential employers. The modernized process resulted in improved efficiency and cost and time savings, freeing up more time to serve students.

From March 4 though March 8, University Opera, in partnership with the Wisconsin Union Theater, will present a special production of Stephen Sondheim’s popular musical Sweeney ToddThe Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

The cast of Sweeney Todd shared thoughts on Stephen Sondheim’s legacy, what it means to be performing his work following his recent death, and more.

……

Kathryn Flynn
Vocal Performance (1st year Master’s)
Role: Beggar Woman

Have you ever performed a work of Sondheim’s before, prior to this production?
No. 

Do you have a favorite work of Sondheim? If so, what is it and why is it a favorite?
Sweeney Todd, hands down! I’ve never been a gigantic Sondheim fan, but there’s something all-encompassing about this particular work that favors and caters to many different types of both musical and opera lovers alike.

Is there something that you feel makes learning, performing, or listening to Sondheim unique?
The speak-sing qualities/aspects of singing Sondheim. Many roles he composed are heavily-characterized, versus heavily-sung. Having the freedom and permission to “have fun” with creating and forming those vocal and character choices (especially for a role like Beggar Woman!) has created an entirely-new dimension of musical interpretation for me.

Do you have any thoughts on what it means to be performing his work now, following his recent death?
Without a doubt, Sondheim is one of the most influential and long-lasting composers of all time in the world of Musical Theatre. Performing a work as recognizable and loved as “Sweeney Todd” definitely presents its points of anxiety, hoping to “live up to the standard” that Sondheim would have wanted his work to represent. However, performing this work amongst other actors and singers who have an equal love, admiration and desire to perform at their peak ability is bringing a dimension and color to this piece never experience before.

……

Charles Hancin
Music No Option, Bachelors, Fifth Year
Role: Ensemble/Fogg

Have you ever performed a work of Sondheim’s before, prior to this production?
No.

Do you have a favorite work of Sondheim? If so, what is it and why is it a favorite?
It’s a tossup between Sweeney and Company, mostly for their adult themes, storytelling, and their capacity to be enjoyed by a wide range of audiences. These works better align with operettas than musicals in my opinion, and as such, command somewhat more respectability. That is not to say that other modern musicals are unrespectable, it’s just that there is more austerity to Sondheim’s works.

Is there something that you feel makes learning, performing, or listening to Sondheim unique?
His compositional voice is certainly distinct. In terms of scholarship, there is much that can be said about his ability to write lyrics and music for varied emotions, events, and characters. The way harmony or rhythm works with his writing is tightly controlled, but it is precisely this control that allows for so much more personal expression in the performance of the players in his works. Sweeney Todd is no exception, in fact, I would hazard that this is one of his most cohesive works save for perhaps that tooth-pulling competition, I can see why pretty much every production skips it.

That is not to say that his lyrics play little part in the success of his musicals. He is certainly a strong poet with a penchant for perfect rhymes. His wit is on full display in many of the numbers in Sweeney, but nowhere is it more exemplified than in A Little Priest. Much has already been said on the duet, so I won’t bore you with my frankly underqualified opinion, but I would be remiss not to mention that it’s downright awesome. Besides that, between Sondheim’s word choice and striking imagery, I don’t know which contributes more to the grimy and dank atmosphere of Sweeney Todd.

Anyway, I don’t see this level of quality in a lot of modern musicals, save for Bernstein, who had worked with Sondheim, probably imparting a fair amount of influence during their time together. I’d say this adherence to quality makes Sondheim’s works unique.

Do you have any thoughts on what it means to be performing his work now, following his recent death?
Not particularly as I’m somewhat an advocate of the unfortunately named ‘Death of the Author’ concept. That is not to say that I have no regard for Sondheim himself, I just see Sweeney Todd as a sort of timeless work that stands on its own merit without the desire to exalt it through the composer’s recent passing. I guess mentioning that would be a nice draw for audiences in terms of advertising, but I would personally steer away from that sort of stuff out of respect. Despite that, I’d have to be blind to miss the irony in doing the work that has the highest concentration of death, so why not go all the way?

Do you have any other thoughts to provide on the legacy of Sondheim, personal connections to the artist and his work, or something else in general?
Not particularly, though I guess I really liked Bernstein’s Mass for which I believe Sondheim was a lyricist. I bought the vocal score for it in high school and brought it over to America so that I can pore over it every once in a while. Those formative years were rather nice, but otherwise, my connection to Sondheim is relatively superficial.

……

Luis Orozco
DMA 1st year
Role: Sweeney Todd

Have you ever performed a work of Sondheim’s before, prior to this production?
No.

Do you have a favorite work of Sondheim? If so, what is it and why is it a favorite?
A little night music. Musically and dramatically brilliant! Sondheim has a gift for taking some of the most flawed characters and making them relatable and humanizing them.

Is there something that you feel makes learning, performing, or listening to Sondheim unique?
It’s extremely lyric centered, and finding a way to sing it while being as clear with the text as possible is always the challenge.

Do you have any thoughts on what it means to be performing his work now, following his recent death?
We are lucky to have the catalog from such a giant! We’re privileged to be performing his works.

Do you have any other thoughts to provide on the legacy of Sondheim, personal connections to the artist and his work, or something else in general?
Just grateful for his music and his words. “Witches can be right, giants can be good. You decide what’s right, You decide what’s good. Just remember Someone is on your side. No one is alone. You are not alone”

……

Lindsey Meekhof
DMA
Role: Mrs. Lovett

Have you ever performed a work of Sondheim’s before, prior to this production?
Yes. Into the Woods (Baker’s wife).

Do you have a favorite work of Sondheim? If so, what is it and why is it a favorite?
Into the Woods will always be my favorite since it was my first introduction to Sondheim. I loved that the characters are not all bad or good, they are people trying to figure it out as they go. “No One Is Alone” is one of my favorite pieces of musical theater of all time. He was masterful at delivering messages that everyone makes mistakes and there is always a community to identify with.

Is there something that you feel makes learning, performing, or listening to Sondheim unique?
The complexity of these characters and how complicated the label of villain can be.

Do you have any thoughts on what it means to be performing his work now, following his recent death?
His legacy will live on through his work and us continuing to share these messages of how important having community support is. It is also very meaningful to be performing for audiences after the isolation of the pandemic. This show will bring out many Sondheim fans that can share in the performance together.

Do you have any other thoughts to provide on the legacy of Sondheim, personal connections to the artist and his work, or something else in general?
Sweeney is a figure who was isolated and abandoned by his community then commits horrific crimes in his obsession for vengeance. Many of the characters in Sweeney Todd are left behind and isolated individuals. They crave connection as we all do. It is difficult in this story to label a true villain when so many bad things are happening. I would love to hear audience perspective on the characters, especially when Sondheim provides lighter and comic moments in the story.

……

Justin Kroll
DMA
Role: Beadle Bamford

Have you ever performed a work of Sondheim’s before, prior to this production?
Yes. Pirelli, Sweeney Todd (Waco Civic Theatre). 

Do you have a favorite work of Sondheim? If so, what is it and why is it a favorite?
Sweeney Todd.

Is there something that you feel makes learning, performing, or listening to Sondheim unique?
The complex, intentional detail in every aspect of his works.

……

Noah Strube
Music Performance BA, Third Year
Role: Toby

Have you ever performed a work of Sondheim’s before, prior to this production?
Yes. I’ve never been in a full show of his work, but I have done Giants in the Sky from Into the Woods for Solo and Ensemble, and I did a character study on Bobby from Company for opera workshop.

Do you have a favorite work of Sondheim? If so, what is it and why is it a favorite?
I love Sunday in the Park with George. Its theme about the conflict involved in the pursuit of art is among the most relatable in all of musical theatre, and especially among Sondheim’s shows. Not to mention the score, balancing rhythmic complexity of the title song, as well as the sweeping glory of ‘Sunday’, one of my absolute favorite songs in a show.

Is there something that you feel makes learning, performing, or listening to Sondheim unique?
It is difficult, likely the most difficult repertoire in musical theatre as far as the well known repertoire goes, but working on it is never unsatisfying. Every time you open the score, you will learn or discover something new about it.

Do you have any thoughts on what it means to be performing his work now, following his recent death?
It shows that a man that brilliant whose work is so beloved will live on as long as there are people performing musical theatre. Few names carry the weight that his does in this community. I feel like he will be looked back on with the same reverent eyes we view the great composers of centuries ago now.

……

Jude Balthazar
Voice and Opera Performance, DMA, 1st year
Role: Anthony

Have you ever performed a work of Sondheim’s before, prior to this production?
No.

Do you have a favorite work of Sondheim? If so, what is it and why is it a favorite?
Since “Sweeney Todd” is my first performance work of Sondheim, I would say it’s a pleasure to discover the marvelous storyteller he is. The libretto is so alive and the music is to me an extension of the unspoken ideas/thoughts/feelings/emotions that carries the singing or that keeps going when there is no singing.

Is there something that you feel makes learning, performing, or listening to Sondheim unique?
I do. The uniqueness is how I ended up valuing the lyric/text/words first in order to genuinely be the character. For instance, in Sweeney Todd, it is imperative , at least for me, that you are seen and heard will performing as natural as possible on stage, and I feel this won’t happened without eating the text out and digesting it fully.

Do you have any thoughts on what it means to be performing his work now, following his recent death?
Sondheim grew up to become this impeccably renowned national and international musical figure. To sing his work today is telling me as an international student in the United States that I am called to follow his footstep to the best of my abilities. His music made history, and I have to keep living his legacy by sharing to the future generation who he was and his messages through his music.

Do you have any other thoughts to provide on the legacy of Sondheim, personal connections to the artist and his work, or something else in general?
I have always heard of him since I transferred to the state for my undergrad. I have been told how special his music is and I have witnessed the performances of his song by many of my peers that moved me; but his death had me think more of him and what he wanted to communicate to the world. I am glad to be in a such position to explore his world of thinking in Sweeney Todd.

 

By Ila Schrecker

For her dissertation, Lindsey Meekhof, a graduate student in musical arts, is directing and recording a rendition of Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni.”

But not just any version: Meekhof’s version will highlight and comment on how the opera’s premise perpetuates violence against women and rape culture more broadly.

Meekhof will collaborate with pianist Aubrie Jacobson to stage and record one of Mozart’s most well-known operas.

“Don Giovanni” tells the story of the lead “seducer” Don Giovanni and his “conquests” of women.

Meekhof got the idea for her project from a class assignment in her first year of graduate school to devise an interpretation of a production. She selected “Don Giovanni.”

“There are moments in the show that I didn’t like and that didn’t sit well with me. I thought there could be better ways to go about presenting it,” she said. “I [wanted to] start a bigger conversation about the #MeToo movement and opera; how to make opera an overall safer environment, especially because [opera] feels behind other industries.”

For her dissertation, Meekhof focuses on the role of women in three main scenes.

“In reviews, really negative words are used to describe the women,” Meekhof said, “they are described as ‘willing participants,’ or tragic, or that they didn’t object to what’s happening… this promotes rape culture.”

In the original production, the audience is supposed to believe that Zerlina, one of the female leads, was instantly charmed by Don Giovanni.

“That just doesn’t sit well with me,” Meekhof said, “I think there’s room for an interpretation where Zerlina doesn’t have the power [to say no] because she is a lower position… she’s described as a peasant.”

This, Meekhof said, calls into question power dynamics between Zerlina and Don Giovanni:

“When the power dynamic is off it calls into question consent,” Meekhof said, “and if [Zerlina] could even consent in this situation.”

Meekhof hopes the audience will walk away with a new perspective. “I hope it starts a conversation about how we interpret these stories and how we talk about women and female-identifying people, but especially sexual violence,” she said.

This is particularly important on college campuses, she said. “People are usually first introduced to Mozart and these operas when they’re in college… it’s [important] to think about what message we’re sending, and how we’re talking about safety, and that rape culture isn’t promoted on college campuses.”

Aubrie Jacobson, the pianist working on the production, added: “Putting a spin on these older operas also brings a sense of relevance that might interest a wider audience… it’s also supporting the work of young female directors, which is another cool aspect of this project.”

For her interpretation, Meekhof is loosely basing the Don Giovanni character on the Joker from DC comics. “I think Gotham City and that kind of comic book world is a great way to show that [Don Giovanni] is a villain,” she said, “but people love villains and I think there will still be people that will be charmed by him.”

Meekhof also hopes that her interpretation will impact the way audiences start to consider and think about other operas. “I hope it inspires people to look at other productions, and [talk] about different ways we can interpret opera.”.

The performance will take place at noon on March 27 in the Collins Recital Hall in the Hamel Music Center. The performance will also be streamed live on YouTube. The performance is free and tickets are not required.

Luis Orozco, baritone (Don Giovanni, Leporello, and Masetto)
Amanda Lauricella, soprano (Zerlina)
Aubrie Jacobson, piano
Lindsey Meekhof, director
Dave Alcorn, videographer
Hyewon Park, costume designer

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education has announced that Professor of Trombone Mark Hetzler is one of 26 faculty winners of the Vilas Associates Competition. The competition recognizes “new and ongoing research of the highest quality and significance.” The award is funded by the William F. Vilas Estate Trust.

“I am proud to have received this award,” Hetzler said. “The project is called Pulcinella Reimagined and it feels pretty ambitious. Essentially, I plan to use a classic ballet as the inspiration to produce a contemporary performance piece in various formats.”

In a collaboration with members of Hetzler’s band Mr. Chair and LA-based producers Amy Ryerson and Selena Moshell, the goal is to reimagine Igor Stravinsky’s ballet score Pulcinella and the commedia dell’arte stock characters on which the ballet is based to produce an audio recording, a short film, and a live concert production.

In reimagining the musical aspects of Stravinsky’s musical score to Pulcinella, Hetzler and collaborators inspired to consider ways to use the commedia dell’arte stock characters featured in Pulcinella as vehicles to tell a contemporary story. Commedia dell’arte stock characters fit into four categories (servants/clowns, wealthy masters, lovers, and braggarts) and are meant to be easily adaptable to local events, specific regions, and current situations.

In collaborating with producers Ryerson and Moshell, they pitched a plan to lead a creative team in which one guest artist per segment of music (for a total of five guests), in any medium they choose (dance, song, acting, animation, etc.), will tell a unique story that adheres to the overall theme of Pulcinella in modern times. These productions will feature a reimagined version of Pulcinella that focuses on social issues relevant in today’s world and features underrepresented voices and perspectives.

In the words of Moshell, this production will be “a series of five vignettes of Pulcinella through modern lenses—how this archaic and archetypal character would exist in the current society today. Ideally, we are seeing this trope in new lights—as a person who identifies as a woman, through a new racial perspective (being Black in America, etc.), as a character navigating issues that the historical Pulcinella never had to experience. What would this mischievous character look like, perform like, act like, what would they have to say in 2021?”

Pulcinella Reimagined involves the creation of a studio recording of Hetzler’s band’s arrangement of Pulcinella, and the development of this recording into a live concert production and film. Hetzler will be recording the music with Mr. Chair and a collective of nationally recognized vocalists and instrumentalists at a recording studio in Madison, WI.

“What excites me about this project is the collaborative aspect,” Hetzler said. “My band Mr. Chair lives for collaborating with all kinds of people: musicians, dancers, actors, artists, film makers, educators, you name it. The subject of Pulcinella seems like a fantastic vehicle for opening doors and inviting in ideas, influences, and inspiration from all kinds of people.”

Recipients of the Vilas Associates Competition are chosen competitively by the divisional research committees on the basis of a detailed proposal. Winners receive up to two-ninths of research salary support (including the associated fringe costs) for the summers of 2022 and 2023, as well as a $12,500 flexible research fund in each of the two fiscal years.

“I am very motivated to get things going and beyond grateful to UW-Madison for the support of research endeavors such as this,” Hetzler said.

From March 4 though March 8, University Opera, in partnership with the Wisconsin Union Theater, will present a special production of Stephen Sondheim’s popular musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Directed by Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera David Ronis, and conducted by Director of Orchestral Activities Oriol Sans, the production will feature student performers from the School of Music, accompanied by the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Stephen Sondheim, a true giant of American musical theatre, was lost just months ago in November of 2021. University Opera is privileged to honor the legacy of Mr. Sondheim in performing Sweeney Todd, one of the beloved works in his extensive oeuvre. The wry humor of Hugh Wheeler’s book, paired with Sondheim’s memorable tunes and haunting lyrics, complete with riveting orchestrations make for a memorable evening of musical theatre.

This dark, Tony Award-Winning musical features razor sharp wit, and tells the tale of Sweeney Todd, an exiled 19th-century barber who was framed by a corrupt judge to take advantage of Todd’s wife. Upon his return to London, Todd teams up with his new landlord, Mrs. Lovett, a floundering pie shop owner. Together, the team splits open a new way to peddle profitable pies, whilst Sweeney seeks his vengeance in the barbershop upstairs, waiting for Judge Turpin to get a trim.

This large production will involve over 70 UW-Madison students–singer-actors, instrumentalists, technicians, and stage crew–spanning a wide age range, from freshmen to doctoral students. The title role will be performed by Luis Orozco; his partner in business (and crime), Mrs. Lovett, will be played by Lindsey Meekhof; the ingenue role of Johanna will be doubled by Isabel Celata and Molly Schumacher and her suitor, Anothony Hope, will be performed by Jude Balthazar and Kenneth Hoversten. Madison Barrett and Kathryn Flynn will perform as the Beggar Woman; Judge Turpin will be sung by James Harrington with Justin Kroll as The Beadle; Tobias Rigg will be played by Noah Strube; Even Mitchell will play Pirelli and Charles Hancin will sing Jonas Fogg. The outstanding ensemble of singers lead by DMA student and chorus master Andrew Voth includes Christian Brenny, Riley Brutto, Michael Chiaverini, Katie Eggers, Ben Gagliardi, Grace Greene, Charles Hancin, Alec Hansen, Jonathan Henreckson, Corey Lallo, Krista Laszewski, Minseon Lee, Daniel Levy, Allyson Mills, Abageal Phelan, Emily Quartemont, Princess Vaulx, William Volmar, and Eloise Williamson. Besides Maestro Sans, the musical team will consist of UW-Madison vocal coach Thomas Kasdorf (musical preparation), and William Preston (rehearsal pianist). Graduate student Alison Norris will serve as assistant conductor and conduct one performance.

The production will be designed by Joseph Varga with lighting by Kenneth Ferencek, costumes by Hyewon Park, wigs by Jan Ross, and sound by Kyle Spradling. Scenery, Props, and Supertitles are courtesy of Madison Opera. Greg Silver will be the technical director and the production stage manager will be Sarah Marty. Others on the production staff include Teresa Sarkela, props coordinator; Kyle Sackett, operations manager for University Opera; Kelsey Wang, assistant costume designer; Isabel Coff, sound assistant; and assistant stage managers Meghan Stecker, Zak Wolff, Mckayla Murphy and Kaya Sarajian.

Ticket prices range from $45-$22 and are available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at artsticketing.wisc.edu. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 am-5:30 pm and Saturdays, 12-5 pm. Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.

Sweeney Todd is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.

University Opera is a cultural service of the Mead Witter School of Music whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact opera@music.wisc.edu.

Current members of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet include, from L to R, Gilson Da Silva, Mark Hetzler, Jean Laurenz, guest Matthew Endres, Tom Curry, and Daniel Grabois.

After a long hiatus due to the pandemic, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet is back on tour beginning February 14, with scheduled stops in several locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin. School of Music faculty ensembles—Wisconsin Brass Quintet, Pro Arte Quartet, and Wingra Wind Quintet—routinely travel to regional high schools, colleges, and concert halls, working with young musicians and performing for local concert series patrons.

The upcoming Wisconsin Brass Quintet tour includes stops at several high schools in and around Minneapolis, as well as performances at Nicolet College, the Westby Area Performing Arts Center, and the Prairie du Chien Arts Center. 

“This tour presents an incredible opportunity to connect with hundreds of music students,” Music Engagement & Outreach Coordinator Dann Petersen said. “The Wisconsin Brass Quintet will help each of them to establish a lifelong love for music through their genuine energy and passion for the art.”

Regarded as one of the “superb brass ensembles in the USA” (Musicweb International) and praised for “remarkable musicianship and versatility” (International Trumpet Guild Journal), the widely acclaimed Wisconsin Brass Quintet has maintained a position at the forefront of brass chamber music since the group’s founding in 1972.

In addition to its regular concert series on the UW-Madison campus, the quintet performs extensively throughout the Midwest and nationally, including appearances in New York at Weill Recital Hall and Merkin Concert Hall. WBQ players have been members of the Seraph Brass, Empire Brass Quintet, and Meridian Arts Ensemble.

School of Music faculty ensembles continue to expand its involvement with regional communities by providing mentoring, educational leadership, and training opportunities to students of all ages and backgrounds. Faculty ensembles are available for chamber ensemble coaching, collaborative performances, community recitals, open rehearsals, and performance classes.

Contact Dann Petersen at meo@music.wisc.edu to learn more.

Wisconsin Brass Quintet February 2022 Tour 

February 14
Concert at Nicolet College, Rhinelander, WI

February 15
Performance class at Minneapolis South High School, Minneapolis, MN
Performance class at Thomas Edison High School, Minneapolis, MN
Performance class at Irondale High School, Minneapolis, MN

February 16
Performance class at Mankato West High School, Mankato, MN
Performance class at Farmington High School, Farmington, MN

February 17
Performance class at Onalaska High School, La Crosse, WI
Performance class at Mayo High School, Rochester, MN
Concert at Westby Area Performing Arts Center, Westby, WI

February 18
Performance class at La Crosse Central High School, La Crosse, WI
Clinic at Prairie du Chien High School, Prairie du Chien, WI
Concert at Prairie du Chien Arts Center, Prairie du Chien, WI

Professor Martha Fischer is one of twelve faculty members on campus to receive a UW-Madison Distinguished Teaching Award this year, an honor given out since 1953 to recognize the university’s finest educators.  An in-person ceremony is planned for 5 pm April 19 at the Pyle Center. The event is open to the public, and anyone wishing to join can contact the Office of the Secretary of the Faculty at admin@secfac.wisc.edu for information on how to attend.

See the full list of recipients.

 

Sachie Ueshima (voice), Shuguang Gong (piano), and Joshua Biere (tuba) are the winners of the 2021 Mead Witter School of Music Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition. The winners will perform with the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra during the 2022 Spring or Fall semesters.

“Performing on stage as soloist with an orchestra is an experience that the Mead Witter School of Music is proud to offer our students,” Director of Orchestral Activities Oriol Sans said. “Sachie, Shuguang, and Joshua excelled in their performance at the final round. The works they will be playing in concert are very interesting and eclectic: Landskap (Landscape), a piece for tuba and string orchestra by Swedish composer Trobjörn Ludquist; Alban Berg’s Seben Frühe Lieder (Seven Early Songs) for soprano and orchestra; and Frederic Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor.”

Ludquist’s work Landskap includes no other brass, woodwinds, or percussion, and its melodic harmonic material stretches the expressive capacity of the instrument, Biere said.

“Lundquist was often inspired by nature, and the piece itself is a little off the beaten path as far as tuba concertos go,” Biere said. “It has moments that are gorgeous cascades of sound, and others that are visceral and guttural, almost angry sounding, so it has a very diverse color palette that Lundqust draws from. I’ve performed Landskap before with piano, but I’ve never heard it done live before with strings, so I’m excited what the sustaining power of a string section will bring to the table. I’m very much looking forward to playing it with my colleagues,  as it will be a unique and thrilling musical experience.”

Compared to his late works, which are always complicated, Chopin’s second concerto is more like a direct expression of the characters and emotions of a young man, Gong said. Gong is looking forward to showing the romantic and classical sides of Chopin, and exploring his music more deeply with the orchestra.

“It’s difficult to capture the essence of Chopin’s music, to express his music in a genuine way, and I’m still on my way trying to do that, trying to get closer to his heart and feel what he felt,” Gong said. “I’m excited and really looking forward to collaborating with Professor Sans and our excellent orchestra. From my perspective, this concerto contains a lot of intimacy as well as magnificence, so it would be challenging to cooperate well and accomplish all these elements with a large orchestra.”

Assistant Professor of Clarinet Alicia Lee releases Conversations With Myself, a collection of works for solo clarinet with and without electronics, chronicling a year of artistic activity in isolation.

Works by Pierre Boulez, Dai Fujikura, Isang Yun, Unsuk Chin, and Hideaki Aomori make for a program that highlights music by composers of Asian descent and Boulez’ iconic work exploring the dichotomy between live performance and pre-recorded material.

Releases January 28, 2022

DMA student Kyle Sackett (Voice Performance) was recently nominated as an ensemble member with The Crossing for a GRAMMY award in the category of Best Choral Performance. Learn about the compilation album here.

What has your involvement been with The Crossing?

KS: I have been singing with The Crossing since 2015. It was during my master’s program that I met and sang for the conductor of The Crossing, Donald Nally, who also leads the Northwestern University choirs. I had long admired the mission of The Crossing and the level of choral music they were putting out into the world. I hoped an opportunity would present itself to sing with them, and eventually it did. In the years that followed, I joined them for a few concerts and recordings each year before becoming a regular member of the ensemble, for which I feel incredibly lucky. Each time we get together the work is the most meaningful and impactful music making I can imagine.

What does the Grammy nomination mean for you personally?

KS: The nomination, while a great honor, does not mean a great deal to me individually. We are an ensemble, so my individual efforts to help get to this point are merely a contribution to the greater whole. Still, I appreciate how friends and family seem to perk up when they hear that I sing with a GRAMMY-winning choir! And it is special to be a part of that recognition by our colleagues in the recording academy.

What does the nomination mean for the group?

KS: The group has been on a bit of a role with these nominations (seven nominations in six consecutive years), and I like to think it speaks to the level of passion and dedication Donald Nally and the whole team put behind our work. While I have not been a contributor to each of the individual albums that have been nominated and won over the last six years, it is exciting to know that people are listening. Choral music—particularly music such as ours, which is always newly commissioned, often risk-taking, and strong in its social commentary—does not always receive the global recognition I wish it would. These nominations illuminate the work we are doing and care so much about. I’ll also add that it is thrilling to see the construction of the choral category this year, with several American chamber choirs being represented. It feels like we are entering a choral “golden age” in this country!

Any watch party plans?

KS: I imagine we will do a Zoom call of some kind to watch the ceremony. In years past, we have often been in a rehearsal or performance together during the GRAMMY ceremony, so we miss the live announcement! Hopefully that won’t be the case this year.