After presenting two successful and innovative video productions in 2020-21, University Opera is back on stage with the Wisconsin premiere of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s moving chamber opera, Two Remain (Out of Darkness). This memory piece, full of exquisite and evocative music, tells the stories of Holocaust survivors Krystyna Zywulska and Gad Beck. Many years after the war, both are haunted by the memories of those they lost and what they had to sacrifice in order to survive. The work is based on Zywulska’s and Beck’s memoirs as well as material from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the documentary film Paragraph 175. Three performances will be presented at Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus: November 19 at 7:30pm, November 21 at 2:00pm, and November 23 at 7:30pm. 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.

Krystyna Zywulska was born Sonia Landau, a Jew, in 1914. In 1942, she escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto, took on a Christian identity and started working with the Polish Resistance. She was later arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz as a political prisoner. Secretly composing lyrics to inspire her fellow prisoners, her job in the Camp was to catalogue the personal effects of thousands of women and children before they were murdered in the gas chambers. Many years after the war, she is asked by a journalist to record her stories. Plagued by the ghosts of her past, she struggles to find the words.

Gad Beck’s first true love, Manfred Lewin, was sent to Auschwitz when he was 19 years old and murdered. As an old man, Beck is visited by the image of Manfred as the painful truth of their story emerges. It is estimated that over 100,000 men and women were imprisoned by the Nazis for homosexuality during World War II and many of them were murdered. Even after the war was over, Paragraph 175, the German law prohibiting homosexuality, remained in effect until 1969.

These are only two of thousands and thousands of survivor stories, but they have much to teach us. In thinking about the Holocaust, we tend to focus on the millions who were lost. But Two Remain (Out of Darkness) presents the stories of two survivors as they painfully struggle with “survivor’s guilt.” Years later, they are still haunted by the unspeakable atrocities of the war, the profound losses they suffered, and by the choices they made in order to live. In the finale, the characters from both stories unite to proclaim their survivorship and, perhaps, to find some kind of closure.

The cast features Sachie Ueshima as Krystyna Zywulska and guest artist/actor Joshua Kelly as Gad Beck. Kenneth Hoversten and Kyle Sackett alternate as Beck’s young lover, Manfred and Isabel Celata plays Krysia, Zywulska at a younger age. Completing the cast are Kathryn Flynn and Maria Marsland alternating as Zosia; Lindsey Meekhof and Maria Steigerwald as Edka; and Jerzy Gillon and Emily Quartemont splitting performances as Mariola.

Greg Silver will design both set and lights and Hyewon Park will design costumes. The production stage manager will be Grace Greene. Others on the production staff include Justin Kroll, assistant director; Kyle Sackett, operations manager for University Opera; Ana Gonzalez, master electrician; and assistant stage manager Cecilia League. Kenneth Hoversten and Molly Schumacher will be costume assistants.

After each performance, there will be a talkback with the cast and creative staff.

Tickets are $27 for the general public, $22 for senior citizens and $10 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://artsticketing.wisc.edu/. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office or 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.

Violin Instructor Dawn Dongeun Wohn recently joined Tony Barnfield’s Sunday Supplement show to talk about her album Perspectives, women composers from across the world, and more.

Listen to the album Perspectives
Listen to the Sunday Supplement interview (26:20) >>

Call it a grand re-opening of sorts. After all the fanfare and grand opening celebrations in October 2019, the Hamel Music Center went dark with the rest of the world in March 2020. Performances were canceled; faculty and students were left wondering what came next; nobody was certain when in-person performances would return—all common refrains in the performing arts lately.

But the bright, twinkling lights of the copper chandelier hanging in the Hamel Music Center lobby remained on throughout the pandemic, a symbolic beacon of hope that one day music would return to this space. And to be fair, performances did continue at the School of Music with over 130 live streams programmed over the course of two semesters.

As activities at UW-Madison inch closer and closer to “normal” this fall, music is making a triumphant return to performance halls that many have not experienced yet. In-person activity has resumed on campus, and the School of Music has taken this opportunity to program recitals and concerts by students, faculty, and guest artists, all while following current campus health and safety guidelines.

So while there may be no ribbon cuttings or ceremonies this time around, having the chance to re-open and experience music in a state-of-the-art performance space will always feel “grand” in a certain way.

Visit music.wisc.edu/events to learn more.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of the Arts (presenter) welcomes Arun Luthra as the fall 2021 interdisciplinary artist-in-residence. Saxophonist, composer and konnakol artist Arun Luthra is an American musician of Indian heritage who fuses Black American Music with elements of Indian classical music, especially konnakol (South Indian classical music vocal percussion). He connects a wide range of modern and classic musical influences to create a vibrant new sound and style.

For the semester, Luthra is teaching “The Universal Language of Rhythm: Explorations Through Konnakol and Black American Music,” a 3-credit course. This course is an introduction to konnakol – the Carnatic (South Indian classical music) art form of vocalizing rhythms, as well as an exploration of the blending of konnakol with other musical traditions – particularly Black American music, and a survey of the concept of rhythm as a universal phenomenon which defines our world. Students will present works that incorporate konnakol concepts into creative projects ranging from music to poetry, prose, dance, and beyond. Watch this short video for more information about the course and residency along with viewing the residency website at go.wisc.edu/luthra.

To supplement the course and residency, Luthra is hosting guest artists in the course virtually. They include B.C. Manjunath, Camille Thurman and Selvaganesh Vinayakram.

EVENTS

In addition, there will be multiple events during the fall, including:

Fri., September 10 | 7:30 p.m.

Arun Luthra’s Konnakol Jazz Project

Memorial Union, Play Circle | 800 Langdon St., Madison, WI 53706
Tickets

Saxophonist, composer and konnakol artist Arun Luthra combines South Indian vocal percussion with Black American Music. He will be joined by Art Hirahara (piano), Noriko Ueda (bass), Jonathan Barber (drums) and Rohan Krishnamurthy (Carnatic percussion). Arun Luthra is the Division of the Arts fall 2021 interdisciplinary artist-in-residence and this concert is hosted by the Wisconsin Union Theater.

ABOUT

The fall 2021 Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence Teaching Program is presented by the UW–Madison Division of the Arts and hosted by the Mead Witter School of Music with Professor Johannes Wallmann as lead faculty. Wallmann is also the Director of Jazz Studies. Co-sponsors include the Center for South Asia, the Department of Anthropology and the Wisconsin Union Theater along with the Arts + Literature Laboratory and the Wisconsin Science Festival.

The UW–Madison Division of the Arts has hosted world-class artists-in-residence since 1995 and formally launched the Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program (IARP) in 1999. This program brings innovative artists to UW–Madison to teach semester-long, interdisciplinary courses and to publicly present their work for campus and community audiences. The program recently changed its name to the Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence Teaching (IART) Program. IART is made possible by funding from the university’s Office of the Provost.

Michael Dolan, a May 2021 graduate of the DMA Orchestral Conducting program, has accepted a position at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania this fall.

Michael is Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Allegheny College, serving as Music Director of the Allegheny College Civic Symphony, String Area Coordinator, and teaching courses in the music curriculum. He earned is DMA in Orchestral Conducting at the Mead Witter School of Music under Dr. Oriol Sans and Dr. Chad Hutchinson. He was a teaching assistant in both the School of Music and Department of Communication Arts, founding Music Director of the Medical Sciences Orchestra of UWM, and conducted a professional recording of new compositions for jazz quintet and string orchestra by Johannes Wallmann.

His Master’s in Orchestral Conducting was earned under Gerardo Edelstein at the Pennsylvania State University School of Music. There he conducted his first professional recording: new compositions for viola ensemble by Scott Slapin. His undergraduate work was completed at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where he received conducting instruction, both in the wind and choral departments, from Dr. William Jon Gray, Dr. Michael Schwartzkopf, and Dr. Paul Popiel.  He also studied voice with James King, Alice Hopper, and Dr. Michael Gordon.

Michael has attended workshops led by noted conducting instructors Kenneth Kielser, Donald Schleicher, and Diane Wittry with performances in New Hampshire, Los Angeles, and San Diego. He has held professional positions as Co-Conductor of the Spring Valley Concert Band in Schaumburg, IL, Director of Music at St. Cornelius Catholic Church in Chicago, IL, and Choir Director of Faith United Church of Christ in State College, PA. His musical and research interests include the promotion of American composers and works.

Director of Jazz Studies & Associate Professor of Music Johannes Wallmann is releasing a new album on Shifting Paradigm Records on June 25, 2021.

Elegy for an Undiscovered Species is the Wisconsin-based German-Canadian pianist’s ninth album as a leader and his most ambitious effort to date: a full-length album of new compositions for jazz quintet and string orchestra. The album is the centerpiece of the work Wallmann did with his Emily Mead Baldwin award from the Division of the Arts.

The 19-piece ensemble is fronted by two New Yorkers, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen (member of jazz super group ARTEMIS, first-choice soloist for the bands of Maria Schneider and Darcy James Argue, bandleader, and Director of Jazz Arts at Manhattan School of Music) and tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens (winner, “Rising Star—Tenor Saxophone,” DownBeat Critics Poll). Both have been long-time key contributors to previous Wallmann albums. Jensen and Wallmann share musical roots on Vancouver Island, and Wallmann first met Stephens when he moved from New York to Oakland just as the saxophonist was making his move in the opposite direction. Throughout Elegy, the stars are given plenty of room to blow.

The ensemble is powered by a rhythm tandem of Madison bassist Nick Moran, a fulcrum of Wisconsin’s thriving jazz scene, and New York drummer Allison Miller.

Wallmann recounts: “As this project was taking shape, I knew I wanted a drummer with a deep pocket first of all, and also someone who would light a fire under the band. But I was writing intricate contrapuntal string parts, and drums could easily overwhelm that, so the drum chair was crucial and required a very special player. I love Allison’s records as a band leader, and when I saw her tour with her band Parlour Game and heard how deeply grooving and also sensitively she played with [violinist and co-leader] Jenny Scheinman, I instantly knew that I wanted her to be part of my album! As a bandleader and composer, Allison brings the perfect sensibility to my writing.”

The ensemble is rounded out by a 14-piece string orchestra of School of Music musicians, conducted by Michael Dolan. String orchestra musicians include Kaleigh Acord (concert master), Maynie Bradley, Mercedes Cullen (principal), Glen Kuenzi, Chang-En Lu, Anna Luebke, Richard Silvers, Mary Shin, violins; Emma Cifrino, Pedro Oviedo, Rachel Riese (principal), violas; Hannah Kasun, Cole Randolph (principal), Ben Therrell, cellos.

The album was recorded over two days at the Hamel Music Center in Madison directly following a live concert in late February 2020 and just weeks prior to the Covid shutdown.

“I was sweating bullets,” Wallmann recounts. “China and Italy were already on lockdown, international travel shutdowns were increasing, and the virus was knocking on our door as well. We got very lucky to be able to have this one last opportunity to make music with joyful abandon before this awful year of no live music.”

Two years in the making, the album’s six long-form compositions showcase Wallmann’s arranging and orchestration skills. He weaves catchy but idiosyncratic melodies that are playful with a tinge of melancholy through the peaks and valleys of extended solos, shimmering orchestral textures and harmonic and orchestral transformations.

Yet, groove is at the center of each piece: the title track is a musical protest against the Anthropocene Extinction with an urgent melody set over a driving bass ostinato, while Stephens, Wallmann and Jensen are all featured on extended solos. The cheekily titled waltz “In Three,” with Stephens switching to the EWI, reveals its meter only gradually. “Expeditor” is grounded by a swirling 15/4 groove, where Miller, Moran on electric bass, soloists and string orchestra all get the chance to get funky.

The wistful “Longing” is a rare Bossa Nova in 3/4 meter. Wallmann recounts, “‘Longing’ is one of three pieces on the album that began life as small-group compositions. Whenever I brought it into a rehearsal or to gig, players would ask, ‘What’s a Bossa Nova in 3?’ And I would play for them [Antonio Carlos] Jobim’s ‘Luiza’ and they would say ‘Ah-huh!’ and they would get it.”

Building on his early classical music background and extensive study of orchestral scores, Wallmann integrates the string orchestra as an equal melodic voice throughout the album. Far from being just traditional “sweeteners,” the orchestra becomes another player in the group as it swaps melody features and supporting responsibilities with the horns, provides rhythmic counterpoint, contributes extended soli passages on “Expeditor” and “Longing,” and is featured in an a cappella role on “The Greater Fool.”

“Greater Fool,” travels over ten minutes from rubato ballad to frantic drum solo as a musical reflection on humanity’s destructive habit of bidding up increasingly worthless investments, such as coastal floodplain real estate developments, making the calculus that well before a crash, the investment can be profitably sold to an even “greater fool” who will get stuck with the loss. The ultimate losers of such shortsighted thinking are, of course, our society and planet.

Beyond protest, the album also features plenty of joy. “Two Ears Old” is a birthday celebration for Wallmann’s daughter: “A lot of this music was written during a sabbatical from my teaching job in 2019 when my daughter turned two. We had been practicing with her how to tell people her age, but she misheard us, so whenever someone asked her how old she was, she would point at her right ear, then her left ear, and count them, ‘one… two…two ears old!’ It’s one of those many fraught but beautiful moments of children trying to figure out how the world works, and I didn’t want to ever forget it, so I sat down and wrote a piece about it.”

At its core, Elegy for an Undiscovered Species demonstrates the power of connection, blending east coast and midwest, jazz quintet and string orchestra, into a cohesive and powerful ensemble. It suggests that perhaps we as a collective can come together and overcome the challenges that we face.

When not building Lego towers with his daughter, Wallmann leads the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s jazz program as the inaugural holder of the Peterson Chair in Jazz Studies. Prior to moving to Madison in 2012, he spent five years teaching at the California State University East Bay near Oakland. Wallmann studied jazz piano and composition at Berklee College of Music and at New York University. His formative professional years were his twenties and early thirties in New York City, where he made his living playing jazz in bars, clubs, department stores and concert halls. He has toured extensively throughout North America, Europe, and Asia performing with many notable artists including Ralph Alessi, Seamus Blake, Gilad Hekselman, Matt Penman and Kevin Mahogany.

Wallmann has previously recorded eight critically acclaimed albums as a leader, including The Johannes Wallman Quartet (1997), Alphabeticity (2003), Minor Prophets (2007), The Coasts (2010) and Always Something (2015). His 2015 quintet album, The Town Musicians, was named an Editors’ Pick by DownBeat Magazine, which called Wallmann “a remarkable pianist and composer…his evocative compositions are brimming with melodic cogency and rhythmic pull.”

Wallmann’s work embraces advocacy for human and environmental rights, and the Wisconsin Gazette called his 2018 album Love Wins “one of the most interesting and accomplished jazz albums to come out in recent years. Love Wins has taken the uniquely American art form to the next step of its creative journey.” The album was named a “Best Albums of 2018” by Something Else! And the UK’s Jazz Journal wrote, “Wallmann makes a septet sound like something much larger, as big as his subject, maybe. Love Wins is as musically challenging as it is socially, and deserves to be heard on both counts.” In 2018, Wallmann released Day and Night, his debut album on Shifting Paradigm Records, which DownBeat described as “confident, muscular and elegant.”

Brian Frumkin established the Brian and Louise Frumkin Chamber Music Scholarship Fund as a way to support chamber music on campus. The scholarship will directly support undergraduate chamber music students.

As a student at UW-Madison in the 1970s, Brian Frumkin’s love for chamber music was initially sparked by hearing the Pro Arte Quartet and the Karp family concerts. Fast forward to the spring of 2021, and Brian and Louise Frumkin wanted to find a way to support chamber music on campus. In response, the couple established the Brian and Louise Frumkin Chamber Music Scholarship Fund. The scholarship will directly support and encourage undergraduate School of Music students who show exceptional promise and commitment to the study and performance of chamber music.

“Although I didn’t pursue music as a profession, exploring the great wealth of chamber music at UW-Madison with friends, both as performer and listener, has brought great joy and fulfillment to my life,” Brian Frumkin said. “My goal in establishing this scholarship is to help make chamber music a more integral part of the music curriculum and to enrich the musical lives of students now and into the the future.”

Funds will be used to award a two-year scholarship to one or more students enrolled, or planning to enroll, in chamber music based on a qualifying audition performed at the end of the student’s freshman year. Scholarship recipients are selected by the School of Music Scholarship Committee in consultation with the faculty of the chamber music program and with approval from the School of Music director.

The scholarship committee awarded sophomore Jasmin Xitlali Bolanos-Merlos (horn) and sophomore Amanda Stezenski (clarinet) $2,500 each for next year. The School of Music will celebrate the new scholarship fund and the student’s achievements at an awards ceremony this fall at the Hamel Music Center.

“We are deeply grateful for Brian and Louise Frumkin’s generosity,” Rebekah Sherman, senior development director for the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, said. “Our alumni deeply understand the impact of an excellent education at the University of Wisconsin and consistently pay it forward to ensure ongoing success for our students.”

Visit supportuw.org/giveto/chambermusic to directly support the Brian and Louise Frumkin Chamber Music Scholarship Fund (#132620026). The fund is also searchable on supportuw.org under the terms Frumkin, chamber, music, and chamber music.

By Teddy Larson

Magdalena Sas and Midori Samson are two of three recipients of the first Sherry Wagner-Henry Scholarship in the Creative Arts and Entrepreneurship. The scholarship honors Sherry Wagner-Henry, who was the director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration in the Wisconsin School of Business from 2012 to 2020. Wagner-Henry passed away in May 2020.

Sas is currently completing her doctoral studies at UW-Madison, and is co-founder and executive director of Third Coast Chamber Collective (TCCC), a group of emerging musicians from diverse backgrounds devoted to promoting the transformative power of chamber music through inspiring performances, residencies and workshops. She will use her $750 award money for TCCC programming and operations.

“Sherry Wagner-Henry was one of my first mentors at the Wisconsin School of Business and her suggestions and advice helped me find confidence in bringing my project to life,” Sas said. “I feel incredibly honored to be one of the recipients of this unique and meaningful award and beyond grateful for everything I learned from prof. Wagner-Henry that helped me grow as an entrepreneur in the arts.”

Samson is finishing her doctoral degree as a Collins Fellow at UW-Madison studying bassoon and social welfare. Her dissertation suggests how musicians can operationalize social work principles to create a more anti-oppressive classical music landscape. She brings this philosophy to her role as the artistic director of Trade Winds Ensemble, a group of teaching artists that host composition workshops in partnership with social impact organizations in Nairobi, Chicago, and Detroit.

“Since receiving this award, I’ve heard from numerous colleagues of Sherry Wagner-Henry,” Samson said. “In their messages to me, everyone speaks to her friendship, kindness, and commitment to students’ success. While I never got to meet her, I have benefited greatly from projects she oversaw. So, it is an honor to be a small part of her legacy.”

Samson will use her $1,000 scholarship to support her work with Trade Winds Ensemble.

The Sherry Wagner-Henry Scholarship is sponsored by Max Fergus, a 2018 graduate of the Wisconsin School of Business. In 2019, Fergus founded LÜM, a social music streaming platform, and credits Wagner-Henry and the staff of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship for preparing him for his career in arts entrepreneurship.

The scholarship is open to any currently enrolled full-time student in good academic standing at UW-Madison.

By Teddy Larson

Les Thimmig never planned on spending his career in Madison. Born in Santa Maria, California and originally from Chicago, Thimmig first visited Madison when he was four. Driving down State Street with his family, he was in awe when he saw the lit-up capitol.

But in his early career, he thought New York would be his musical home. When a call about a composition position at UW-Madison reached him in 1971, he made a decision, and never looked back. Now 50 years later, Thimmig has a storied career at the university and no intentions of leaving any time soon.

Born in 1943, Thimmig had an extremely musical childhood. Starting on the clarinet at six and the saxophone at nine, he first began writing music soon after. By the age of 13 he was a member of the Musician’s Union and playing with professional groups. The period Thimmig grew up in had plenty of opportunities to learn about music.

“It was a very healthy musical environment I came from, because the culture, just what’s in the air, would urge you to get involved with music,” Thimmig said.

Thimmig was a music composition major throughout his college career. Earning an undergraduate degree at the Eastman School of Music and then graduate degrees at Yale, he was also active as a freelance musician in New York. After his time at Yale, he accepted a composition position at the University of Victoria, a new school at the time, leading their composition and music theory department. In 1971, he was offered a position at UW-Madison to direct the composition program, and the rest is history.

In 1980 a saxophone position opened at UW-Madison, to which Thimmig was recommended. While unconventional at the time, Thimmig was thrilled to have the opportunity to not only diversify his teachings but to hopefully expand each program he was involved in.

“All of a sudden, in 1980, my job was very different,” Thimmig said. “My activities in composition were of a minor variety and there I was developing a saxophone program, with another minor area being jazz studies.”

In the jazz field, Thimmig’s role at the university has evolved over the years. When he first arrived, he was involved with the UW Jazz Ensemble for a short period of time. Then he helped teach classes for a jazz major that was first developed in 1979, even though the major was short lived. From 1982 to 1988, Thimmig helmed the UW Jazz Ensemble again. While never the sole focus, jazz has stayed an important part of Thimmig’s career.

Thimmig and a few colleagues such as Professor Richard Davis were the driving force of the limited jazz program for decades. But in 2012, the university finally created a full jazz department after hiring Johannes Wallmann to direct the program. Thimmig took a step back to let Wallmann find his vision for the department.

Thimmig currently runs the Jazz Composers Group, one of the many jazz ensembles at the university. Sometimes called a “laboratory,” it’s a place where jazz students are able to experiment more under Thimmig’s tutelage. With a foundation library of Thimmig’s work, the group slowly becomes centered on student writing each semester.

Over the years, Thimmig has also spent a lot of time doing extracurricular projects outside of the university. He has spent time as a soloist in places such as New England Conservatory Chamber Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, as a jazz performer with the orchestras of musicians like Duke Ellington and Woody Herman, and as a teacher across the world.

“Performing, teaching, recording…I stayed busy,” Thimmig said.

For Thimmig, the story has always been a balance between woodwind performance, composition, and jazz studies.

“I thrive on variety,” Thimmig said. “Sometimes people ask, ‘how can you be giving a composition lesson and then sixty seconds later showing someone fingerings for the high notes on a saxophone?’ I said, ‘it just all blends together.’”

For Thimmig, there is no such thing as a singular directive—the combination of these fields is what has driven him and continues to drive him today.

With 50 years of teaching at the university, he has no plans of stopping yet.

“Call me up in 10 years and we’ll celebrate 60,” Thimmig said smiling. “This is what I do! I like hanging around with all these energetic young people doing things and solving these different problems, seeing all these other musicians whose work I admire, and everything else.”

Whether it be through performance, jazz, or composition, Thimmig has left his mark on UW-Madison.

What good is a ghost story if it doesn’t make you question a few things in life? Professor of Trumpet Jean Laurenz’s abstract ghost story DESCENDED takes viewers on a journey through writer Lafcadio Hearn’s themes of haunting supernaturality, marginalization, and the macabre. Inspired by the 19th-century writer’s spiritual themes, DESCENDED weaves music, narrative, and a meditation on life’s deepest questions. 

“I always grew up hearing Lafcadio’s name in my family, but I didn’t start reading his content until a few years ago,” Laurenz, who is Hearn’s great-great-grand niece, said. “The more I read, the more beautiful it became. He inserted himself and his traumas into folk stories in a vivid way. I also felt a connection to him as a young artist who moved every year or so.” 

DESCENDED combines thematic materials, quotes, and metamorphic vignettes from Hearn’s haunted life and morbid imagination, highlighting his fascination with Buddhist inflected ghost stories and symbols. The film pulls inspiration from all corners of Hearn’s writings, but there are five particular pieces which galvanized its narrative content and musical compositions: A Drop of Dew; Of Moon-Desire; Nightmare-Touch; Mujina; and At Hakata.

Hearn (1850-1904) was an eclectic writer and nomad who never found his grounding in a permanent home or literary genre. He wrote about racial inequities and police brutality, while also documenting Voodoo folk songs, Japanese ghost stories, and global folk traditions. His documentation of underrepresented American and global cultures along with their endangered spirit worlds make him a preservationist worth remembering. 

In his day, Hearn stood with literary giants like Poe, Stevenson and Whitman, but his name only remains prominent in small pockets outside of Japan. Traumatized in boyhood, Hearn blends his unique, fear-inspired perspective into metaphysical literature, uniting cognitive existence with paranormal spaces. 

He looked beyond the fleeting facade of human emotion and into the depths of its phantom grip. His examinations of race, marginalized spiritual communities, and the beautiful strangeness of humankind ring true to this day.

Music is a central, guiding component of the film. Performed by Laurenz and friends, the music forms a narrative engine as the artists uncover Hearn’s philosophies on eternal memory, infinite wisdom, and supernatural interference. 

“The project began as a concept to create a cross between a visual album and a film,” Laurenz said. “In film, the soundtrack is usually created to attach to the narrative arch, but I wanted the music itself to be the narrative arch. I was very inspired by Beyonce’s Lemonade and Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America,’ but I also wanted to move beyond lip syncing for the screen or holding my trumpet in a way that could distract from the backbone of the work, which is the life and work of Lafcadio Hearn.” 

Laurenz co-directed the film with Four/Ten Media and is also featured as both an actor and a musician. She plays the journeyer and encounters what could be her heritage, her past, her karma, or her infinity

Laurenz collaborated with soundscape artist Maria Finkelmeier of MFDynamics on the film’s soundtrack, with Finkelmeir writing the music and Laurenz providing vocals and trumpet. Because of the pandemic, each piece had to be tracked separately in different rooms with the musicians almost never playing together while recording, a feat Laurenz called a “scary hurdle to jump.”  

“Four/Ten and I created a script based off of their visual concepts and my knowledge of Hearn’s writings,” Laurenz said. “Maria and I then built a sonic plan and soundscape that would layer on top of the pre-recorded music.” 

DESCENDED has received several recognitions and invitations this season from festivals such as the Toronto International Women Film Festival, Munich Music Video Awards, and the Wisconsin Film Festival, to name a few. 

Research support for the project was provided by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the UW-Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education. 

There is also a multimedia performance art piece that is a sister project of the film. This work is part theater, part chamber music, part visual projection art that weaves some of the concepts found in the film together into a 50-minute light and sound show. Laurenz hopes to one day present the film and the performance piece together.

Awards/Recognitions

International Music Video Awards, Award Winner
AWARD: Best Musical Film, February edition

Music Video Underground, International Music Video Competition, Award winner
AWARD: Best Short Film, February edition

Toronto Film Channel Awards
AWARD: Best Art Film, monthly
AWARD: Best Directing of the month 

Toronto International Women Film Festival, Award Winner
AWARD: Best Female Composer, February Edition                                                   

International Short Film Awards
AWARD: Best Experimental Music Video  

Munich Music Video Awards, Nomination
Official Selection                                                         

Wisconsin Film Festival
Official Selection

Hollywood International Golden Age Festival, 2021
Official Selection

Marvin Rabin String Quartet

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). 

 

 

Nominations for the 2020 Mead Witter School of Music Distinguished Alumni Award are now open. This award recognizes an alumnus or alumna who is making, or has made, an outstanding contribution to the Music profession in service or in artistic impact. In addition to the award, the award recipient will receive recognition on the school’s website with a profile in any publication related to the award.

Nominations are due October 15, 2020. Learn more about the nomination process and eligibility requirements: Distinguished Alumni Award

For the purpose of judging nominations, an outstanding contribution should include evidence of one or more of the following:

• Artistic Award: Exceptional skills and credentials as a music professional.

• Service Award: Noteworthy contributions in music to society at large including significant influence on the candidate’s place of employment, community, and/or profession.

Alumna JoAnn Krause was the recipient of the 2019 award. JoAnn received a Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1961, and went on to enjoy a career as a public school general music teacher, a studio piano instructor, a church music director, an accompanist for WSMA competitions, and more.

JoAnne has served in a variety of leadership roles on multiple boards including the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra League, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Association of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestras, the Volunteer Council of the American Symphony Orchestra League, PianoArts of Wisconsin, and is a dedicated member of the UW School of Music Board of Advisors.

In 2006, JoAnn and her husband Don established a scholarship in the Mead Witter School of Music that presents two annual scholarships to a junior or senior majoring in Music Education.  As a member of the School’s Board of Advisors, JoAnne, along with Don, pledged early support for the Hamel Music Center.

The first Grace Presents virtual concert, filmed in the resonant nave of Grace Church, will feature cellist Cole Randolph, performing selections for solo cello by J. S. Bach, Bright Sheng, and George Crumb. Cole, a class of 2020 graduate and a Posse Foundation Leadership Scholar, received his Bachelor of Science Degree this spring with majors in Mathematics, Economics, and Music/Cello Performance.

A student of Uri Vardi, Cole served as cellist of the Mead Witter School of Music Perlman Piano Trio and principal cellist of the UW Symphony Orchestra. Looking forward, Cole will serve as an incoming African American Orchestral Fellow for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra beginning in the fall of 2020.

Grace Presents will host a Zoom meet-n-greet with our guest artist following the performance. If you’d like to attend this virtual gathering, please RSVP to Grace Presents Program Coordinator James Waldo (togracepresents@gmail.com) for more information.

The Mead Witter School of Music is immensely saddened by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Tony Robinson and countless others. Though we are saddened, we cannot claim shock: this country’s history is laced with anti-Black violence.

We feel that it is a matter of human dignity and duty to express our outrage and stand with our Black community members including students, faculty, and staff. We also stand in solidarity with those who are protesting anti-Black injustice in all its forms: not only the most blatant forms like police murders, but also disproportionate rates of incarceration, disparities in healthcare and education, and myriad other structural inequities.

We offer our sympathy in anger and grief, our love for those who wish to accept it, and our ears and shoulders for those who may need them. Especially, we affirm our commitment to dismantling the structures that perpetuate racial disparities both inside and outside the School of Music. Please feel free to reach out to the undersigned with thoughts, feelings, and suggestions. We do not all experience the world in the same way, as these police murders make clear, but we do share it, and we wish to share it well.

Susan C. Cook, Director of the Mead Witter School of Music
director@music.wisc.edu

David Crook, Diversity Advocate for the Mead Witter School of Music
dcrook@wisc.edu

Trombonist Cole Bartels and composer Brian Mark’s work “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” was selected as a winner of the MOZAIK Philanthropy’s “Future Art Awards” competition. The work was one of 10 winners selected from an applicant pool of 1,100+ submissions.

At the onset of the national pandemic, MOZAIK Philanthropy “put a call out to artists across the nation to capture this unprecedented moment in human history from a diversity of lived experiences and creative perspectives.”

Cole Bartels

“Recognizing the healing power of the arts to evoke empathy, awaken critical consciousness, and rally communities to action, we asked both professional and amateur artists from all walks of life to help us all – as one human family – imagine what could come next— a future, reimagined,” MOZAIK Philanthropy wrote.

Cole is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in trombone performance at the Mead Witter School of Music. He studies with Prof. Mark Hetzler and is the Graduate Teaching Assistant for the trombone studio. He also currently serves as principal trombone in the University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra.

From composer Brian Mark’s program notes: 

“Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” is a solo work for trombone and digital delay processing pedal that was written for Madison, WI based trombonist Cole Bartels and was created as a direct result of COVID-19. The title is a verse taken from Emma Lazarus’s iconic 1883 poem “The New Colossus,” which was a tribute to the symbolism of Lady Liberty and was written to raise funds for the statue’s pedestal.

I can view the Statue of Liberty from my Brooklyn apartment, and it was during this time that the whole situation regarding the pandemic came full circle as I was gazing out the window. I was immediately struck by the 11th verse of this poem, since there is a cruel twist of irony that is currently taking place in America. We are a nation of immigrants, yet it’s shocking that the current administration has placed very strict laws on immigration since 2017, including the recent temporary suspension from April of 2020.

The landscape of New York citizens wearing masks in public, let alone those across the United States, is now also a stark contrast from Lazarus’s plea to “breathe free.” Although the masks are required to prevent the infection of this respiratory disease, I feel that we could be entering a new dystopian age where the freedom to breathe and prosper will be suppressed by major forces beyond our control. The mood on the streets in New York City feels very grim and ominous, yet at times hopeful, as these new “social distancing” laws have put its citizens through fear and uncertainty.

“Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” depicts the current atmosphere felt by many concerned Americans, as it feels that our society is in fact “yearning to breathe free” from a socio-economic, physical and psychological perspective. This piece was constructed as a ternary musical form with a duration of ten minutes, due to the inclusion of the delay pedal loops. I experimented with various techniques and textural ranges of this instrument, as the material contracting and expanding throughout the work symbolizes the poet’s metaphor from this particular verse.

This piece also employs the use of music quotation, as the opening melodic material from America’s national anthem is echoed throughout as a warning to the masses. “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” also metaphorically alludes to a possible apocalyptic type scenario of our current environment, as this particular brass instrument subtly implies the trumpets from the Book of Revelation (though both the trombone and trumpet are part of the brass family). “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” was recorded and mixed on May 7, 2020.

This particular abstract video installation accompanies the surreal mood of the music composition. It is comprised of actual news and media footages from various American cities during this current pandemic, and was specifically created for the Mozaik Philanthropy’s “Future Art Awards” Competition.

Dr. Michael Alexander, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, has been named the University’s seventh chancellor. Alexander began his new role May 1, 2020.

Michael Alexander
Michael Alexander named UW-Green Bay Chancellor

“I am honored and humbled to work for the dedicated and talented students, faculty and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay,” Alexander said. “While my position as chancellor may be new at the University, my passion and dedication for the people of this community are stronger than ever and my family is proud to call Green Bay our home. With a growing academic portfolio, deep connections to the community and presence in the region, UW-Green Bay will continue to expand its impact on the population it serves.”

Alexander has served as provost and vice chancellor at UW-Green Bay since July 2019. As the University’s second highest administrative officer and senior academic officer, he oversees programming and leadership of the four academic colleges; the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts, the Division of Continuing Education and Community Engagement, the UW-Green Bay Libraries, the Office of Admissions, and leads the four UW-Green Bay campuses including those in Marinette, Manitowoc and Sheboygan. As provost, he consults with the chancellor on all aspects of the University and speaks for the University in the chancellor’s absence.

Since joining the University, Alexander led the expansion of the University’s Continuing Education and Community Engagement efforts to build connections to high school students, increase non-credit offerings, and provide educational services to regional businesses; created academic affairs strategic priorities to drive the university’s strategic mission and vision; initiated new, international relationships with universities in Thailand; created an Office of Sustainability to improve efficiencies and increase the profile of UW-Green Bay as a campus traditionally engaged with environmental study; and restructured Graduate Studies and the Office of Grants and Research, setting the stage for the University’s growing research efforts.

“Anyone who has had the opportunity to work closely with Mike Alexander knows what a tremendous asset he is to UW-Green Bay and our region,” said Interim Chancellor Sheryl Van Gruensven. “I have been immensely impressed with his vast knowledge of higher education and his vision for the future that aligns with UW-Green Bay’s mission. Mike has exceptional analytical skills and the ability to quickly put into action the necessary steps to move the university forward. He has quickly gained the respect of cabinet members, colleagues in the UW System and, more importantly, faculty and staff campus wide. His comprehensive understanding of university operations, with a relentless focus on student success, make him an ideal leader for UW-Green Bay at this moment in time.”

Prior to his role at UW-Green Bay, Alexander served as director of the School of Music at the University of Northern Colorado. He has also served as the interim director of the School of Music at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Alexander holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from UW-Madison. He earned his master’s degree in Instrumental Conducting from UW-Milwaukee, and a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Georgia. The Grand Island, New York native lived in Wisconsin from 1995 to 2004.

“I know the work of the University will increasingly be a driver in the educational, economic, cultural and civic life of Green Bay, Manitowoc, Marinette and Sheboygan. Our mission and vision is for a university that fearlessly meets challenges, solves problems, embraces diversity, cares about our region and provides access to education for all who want it honors the innovative spirit of the founders of the University and moves us forward. The potential for the future of this institution is immense. My belief in that future has been reaffirmed daily from the moment I arrived in Green Bay and first set foot on the campus.”

Alexander will be the UW-Green Bay’s seventh chancellor, succeeding Gary L. Miller, who left the University in September 2019 to serve as president at the University of Akron. Miller served as the university’s top administrator since August 2014.

“During Michael’s tenure at Green Bay he has demonstrated keen listening and engagement skills,” said UW System President Ray Cross. “His experience as a conductor has clearly enriched and influenced his ability to lead individual experts and professionals.”

Michael Draney, chair of UW-Green Bay’s Department of Natural & Applied Science and vice chair of the Chancellor Search and Screen Committee, said Alexander is “widely respected and admired by the faculty, staff, and students at UW-Green Bay, and his vision and leadership abilities are real assets to this institution.”

Alexander reflected on the announcement during this unprecedented time in the history of the University and the world: “I am incredibly proud of how our University has reacted to the challenges we currently face,” he shared. “We support one another, build each other up and always uphold our commitment to educating students.  Led by Chancellor Van Gruensven, we have continued to show that we are a resilient and devoted community of teachers, researchers, scholars, artists and students. This community’s courage gives me strength. I am eager to build our future together.”

UW is carefully planning for a return to campus, writes Chancellor Blank. 

The next academic year is likely to have elements of virtual delivery of instruction, coupled with other changes to promote community health and safety.

Details: https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/blanks-slate-planning-for-a-safe-return-to-campus/

What are your plans after graduation?

Next fall I will be heading to the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music to begin pursuing a master’s degree in percussion performance.

What will you miss most about the School of Music?

I will definitely miss the people from the School of Music the most. I have made lifelong friends and collaborated with many incredible musicians. All the faculty I had the pleasure to learn from have given me knowledge and skills I will cherish for the rest of my musical career.

Any advice for incoming freshmen? 

I would say do more than what you are required to and work with as many people as you can! I love playing with percussionists and always will, but I have also learned a lot from working with wind, brass, and string players. Different instrumentalists bring different perspectives and I feel like I learned a lot from people outside my area.

Favorite spot on campus?

There are so many incredible restaurants down State Street, but some of my favorites include Conrad’s, Mooyah, and HopCat.

Any humorous SoM stories to share?

One of the most memorable concerts I played was a percussion ensemble concert my freshman year. All I did that concert was run around Mills with a metronome and dog toy, tap-dance with shoes on my hands, and play electric guitar (with no guitar training).

What are your plans after graduation?

I am going to be teaching in Philadelphia for the next school year, as part of the ArtistYear Americorps program.

What will you miss most about the School of Music?

I’m going to miss the people I got to share music with. There was so much compelling music being made, it was truly inspiring.

Any advice for incoming freshmen?

Be relentlessly you. Never let yourself take away from it.

Favorite spot on campus?

I don’t mean to be super corny but my favorite spot is the tuba room. Seeing so much tuba/euph history in one place is very humbling. To be allowed in that space is wonderful but being able to add something to it was an absolute honor.