News

What are your plans after graduation?

During my time at UW, I majored in Music Performance (Percussion), Neurobiology, and Psychology.

After graduating in May, I will continue to pursue a career in neuroscience. I have accepted a position as the Lab Manager for a research group at the UW-Madison Waisman Center that studies the neurological basis of speech production and acoustic processing. Language, sound, and music are all intrinsically linked in the brain, so I feel that working with this research team provides me with a perfect opportunity to bridge between my fascinations in both neuroscience and music.

In the coming year I plan on continuing to teach music. I have a small private piano studio where I currently teach 10 young students. Additionally, I will keep taking gigs that come my way, and will also continue studying and performing Brazilian samba music.

In the future, I plan on pursuing a PhD in Clinical Neuropsychology with an emphasis in pediatrics. I love working with children, and I hope to integrate music into future therapeutic approaches and community building initiatives for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

What will you miss most about the School of Music?

After graduating, the thing I will definitely miss the most is the family-like community of the percussion studio here at UW. Over the past 5 years I have formed so many strong bonds, and I will certainly remain close friends with the people I have met in this program. However, I will miss the comforting routine of spending most of my days with other studio members, making music and making mischief in the basement of Humanities. We could always be seen moving about the SoM as a pack, going on coffee runs together, eating dinner together, studying together, practicing together, relaxing together, celebrating together, and supporting each other.

We have something truly special in the UW-Madison percussion department, and I will always be thankful to have been a part of that community!

Any advice for incoming freshmen? 

I have two pieces of advice for incoming freshman:

As a young player, the only person that you should be comparing yourself to is the past version of yourself. It is not useful to compare yourself to others around you – you only need to focus on your own progress in order to build a strong foundation. I was the only freshman in the percussion department when I began studying here, so I spent a lot of time comparing myself to older students who had far more experience than me. This was not helpful for my confidence! However, at the end of my freshman year I thought back to where I had started and realized that I should be quite proud of all the progress I made.

Secondly, take advantage of the SoM community! Freshman year is a great time to meet lots of new students, especially students who may not play the same instruments as you. The more people you are able to connect with, the more performance opportunities will be available to you over the next four years.

Favorite spot on campus?

My favorite spot on campus is the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. This building is so relaxing, with tons of sunlight and a peaceful atmosphere filled with water features and greenery. This was my favorite spot to study, because it didn’t feel like I was cooped up inside.

Another favorite spot of mine was the Reading Room at the Wisconsin Historical Society. This room is beautiful, and makes you feel like you are at Oxford! It is a great place to be quiet and productive, and enjoy being surrounded by books.

Any humorous SoM stories to share?

One of my favorite memories from the SoM is when we used to have a “Pun Jar” in the percussion studio storage room. That year, we had a couple of students in our studio that could turn almost anything you said into a joke or pun. We responded with exasperated (but good-natured) amusement, and instituted a “pun tax”. Every time someone made a pun in rehearsal or in the vicinity of the percussion rooms, they would be called out by fellow studio members and asked to put 25 or 50 cents in the jar. We did this for a whole semester, collecting contributions from percussion students, professors, and even a visiting guest artist! By the end of the semester we had $120 in the jar, which we used to purchase food for a big studio picnic after our juries.

Joan Wildman, Professor Emeritus of Jazz Studies at the Mead Witter School of Music, passed away April 8, 2020. She was 82 years old.

Born January 1, 1938, Joan grew up on a ranch near Spalding, Nebraska as an only child. She credited her friendship and mutual appreciation of blues and ragtime with the nearby Glaser family (the same Glaser brothers who went on to form Glaser Sound Studios in Nashville) as a major influence on her own career.

A major influence herself on generations of jazz musicians throughout Madison and beyond, Joan played an especially critical role in establishing the current jazz studies program at the school. Known to deftly explore the area between structure and improvisation, Joan was a professor of music at UW from 1978 through 2002 specializing in music theory, jazz improvisation, and jazz piano.

Double bassist Hans Sturm recalls Joan’s “uncompromising” approach to her music. Hans came to UW-Madison in the early ’80s to study with Professor Richard Davis, and eventually started playing in the Joan Wildman Trio.

“She was a big reason why I stayed in Madison for so many years,” Hans said. “Working with Joan really changed a lot of my concepts with music.”

While she was a classically trained pianist, Joan charted new territory and created her own sounds. She was an early adopter of the Yamaha DX 7, a digital synthesizer that allowed her to experiment with true crescendos and sustained attacks. Joan was also an early pioneer of crafting exceedingly long loops on her computer and emulator, often 80 to 90 bars long with 20 bars of silence and a groove the trio would play along with.

“She was fearless in her music,” Hans said. “We would rehearse for hours, and there might have been some intricate plan, but all that would disappear during the gig and the piece would take another shape. It was about where the music would take us. That’s kind of how Joan lived her life.”

Founder of the Madison Music Collective, a nonprofit jazz organization, Joan had a knack for bringing musicians together and promoting their work, a skill Hans said can’t easily be replicated.

Though she performed less later in life, Joan was an active performer both nationally and in the Madison area. She led her trio for over 25 years, producing recordings such as Orphan Folk Music (1987), Under the Silver Globe (1989), and Inside Out (1992).

 

 

One of her more recent releases was the 2015 album Conversations, a live recording with longtime friend and frequent collaborator Joe Fonda during a celebration of Madison Music Collective’s 30th anniversary at the Brink Lounge.

Madison writer Dean Robbins often covered Joan’s work and many of the trio’s performances over the years.

“Joan loved experimentation, but hers was the kind that drew listeners in rather than shutting them out,” Dean said. “No matter how far she strayed from conventional forms, she never lost sight of blue notes, swing rhythms, and other sensual pleasures associated with jazz. She even gave the synthesizer a human warmth, the notes melting under her touch. In this way, Joan’s sounds matched her spirit: big-hearted, soulful, searching. Like her hero Duke Ellington, she made idiomatic American music that perfectly balanced passion and intelligence.”   

Joan was equally adept at creating computer-generated animations, web pages, and computer-generated drawings. Her extensive overview of jazz history and styles formed one of the first web pages in the country, a site that incorporated multi-media animations, sound and static visuals, and hyperlinked text.

 

 

Before coming to Wisconsin in 1977, Joan received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Oregon and had previously taught at Central Michigan University and at the University of Maine, Fort Kent. She is the first and only member of her extended family to have achieved a doctoral-level degree.

“Joan gave so much to the School of Music,” Director Susan Cook said. “She was a path-breaking composer and performer in jazz, and with her colleagues and students, she was a dynamic force in the Madison jazz scene. Personally, she was a mentor to me when I joined the faculty in 1991, and in her retirement she continued to take an active interest in the school and lend her support.”

Like the rest of the world, faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music are adjusting to new routines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Associate Professor of Horn Daniel Grabois talks about a few of the techniques he’s using to stay connected with students during this challenging time.

 

Daniel Grabois

 

 

 

UPDATE: Due to the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s decision to suspend in-person courses, workshops, and conferences for summer term because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Madison Early Music Festival Workshop and Concert Series has been postponed until July 10-17, 2021.

 

Madison Early Music Festival 2020 Concert Series

Designed by Grant Herreid and J. Michael Allsen for MEMF, this program samples the musical heritage of the Valois Dukes of Burgundy, including musical works associated with or influenced by the Burgundian court. Music associated with the 1454 Feast of the Pheasant features pieces by Gilles Binchois and Jean Morton, and Guillaume Du Fay’s emotional lament for the fall of Constantinople. Anchoring the program are mass movements from the L’homme armé tradition, from the Burgundian ducal chapel and beyond.

Oh, the Games Lovers Play! Love, fidelity, partner swapping, and morality collide in Mozart’s topsy-turvy COSÌ FAN TUTTE

Contact: David Ronis, Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, ronis@wisc.edu, 608-263-1932

 

Following this fall’s sold-out run of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, University Opera continues to explore the vicissitudes of love with Mozart’s beloved Così fan tutte. Blending rollicking humor with keen insight and barely concealed cynicism, Così features some of the most ravishing music Mozart ever wrote.

Three performances of this masterpiece will be presented at the Music Hall on the UW–Madison campus on February 28 at 7:30p.m., March 1 at 2:00p.m., and March 3 at 7:30p.m.  The Mead Witter School of Music’s new Director of Orchestral Activities, Oriol Sans, will conduct the UW–Madison Symphony and Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera, David Ronis, will direct the production.

The story of Così is relatively straightforward. On a dare from Don Alfonso, Ferrando and Guglielmo don disguises to test the faithfulness of their fiancées by wooing each other’s betrothed. Much comedy ensues. The women – goaded by their maid, Despina, who is on the take from Alfonso – at first resist, but eventually give in and fall in love with the “wrong” men.  In the end, all is revealed and ostensibly resolved.

But beneath the surface, things aren’t so simple. As the plot develops, the characters are drawn into murky psychological and emotional territory and troubling questions emerge. Is love really so fleeting? When the women fall for the “wrong” men, do the men’s affections also shift to their new partners? And what about Don Alfonso, the instigator of the whole affair? And Despina, the ladies’ maid, who is also complicit. What’s in it for them? When all is said and done, what kind of toll does this partner-swapping take on everyone involved? For all its hilarity, Così fan tutte ends up being a complex psychological study of human nature that addresses serious questions about love and attachment.

The UW-Madison production places Così in 1920, a time in which the early women’s rights movement was gaining momentum.  Against this backdrop, this story of male manipulation takes on greater dimensionality and nuance.  When Despina encourages the ladies to have affairs with the “strangers,” she embodies the kind of free spirit emblematic of the roaring 20s. Likewise, Don Alfonso, written as an eighteenth-century libertine, becomes a true bon vivant in this milieu – another example of the spirit of the times. What’s more, the choices that the four lovers face can easily be seen to mirror the shifting social landscape of the post-World War I era.

The cast features Rachel Love and Cayla Rosché alternating as Fiordiligi, and Chloe Agostino and Julia Urbank splitting the performances as Dorabella. Carly Ochoa, Anja Pustaver, and Kelsey Wang will all sing the role of Despina. On the men’s side, Benjamin Hopkins will sing Ferrando, Kevin Green will play Guglielmo, and James Harrington will be Don Alfonso.

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

University Opera is a cultural service of the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin–Madison 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. Or visit the School of Music’s website at music.wisc.edu.

Venue: Music Hall, 925 Bascom Hall
The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in the Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

Tickets: $25 general public/$20 senior citizens/$10 UW–Madison students

Online:
Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”).

In-person:
Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theater performance evenings.

Day-of:
Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.

Parking: https://www.music.wisc.edu/about-us/parking/

More information: https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/university-opera-mozarts-cosi-fan-tutte/all/

Shakespearian Opera with Pop Art and Go-go boots!

University Opera’s outside-of-the-box production of Benjamin Britten’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM evokes the 1960s world of Andy Warhol

This fall, University Opera steps outside the proverbial box, setting Benjamin Britten’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Factory, Andy Warhol’s famous (or perhaps infamous) studio, in the mid-1960s.  Three performances of Britten’s evocative, colorful opera will be presented at the Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus on November 15 at 7:30pm, November 17 at 2:00pm, and November 19 at 7:30pm.  The Mead Witter School of Music’s new Director of Orchestral Activities, Oriol Sans, will conduct the UW-Madison Symphony and Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera, David Ronis, will direct the production.

The magical plot of Midsummer revolves around the adventures of four lovers and six “rustics,” or “rude mechanicals,” all manipulated by a group of fairies.  It features the machinations of Oberon, King of the Fairies, trying to get even with his queen, Tytania, with whom he is at odds.  While the rustics prepare to perform at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, Oberon also attempts to influence the love interests of four young people.  Mistakes are made, and the lovers’ allegiances are thrown into confusion.  But in the end, all is resolved as those assembled for the wedding enjoy the rustics’ performance of the hilarious “Pyramus and Thisby” play.

Britten and his partner, Peter Pears, masterfully crafted the libretto for A Midsummer Night’s Dream from Shakespeare’s iconic play, trimming the text and re-ordering some scenes.  The result is a beautifully balanced, atmospheric yet playful musical version of Shakespeare’s play that regularly delights audiences.

The UW-Madison production imagines Oberon as a kind of Andy Warhol character, and his kingdom as Warhol’s workspace/playspace, The Factory.  Some of the other characters are loosely modeled on those who were active in Warhol’s world.  Tytania is inspired by Edie Sedgwick, Puck resembles Ondine, one of the Warhol Superstars, and the lovers are artists employed at The Factory.  The “mechanicals” are depicted as a hodgepodge group of misfit blue collar workers, Warhol wannabes, who come together as an avant-garde theater troupe.  The stories of the fairies, lovers, and mechanicals converge at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta who, in this setting, are arts philanthropists whose wedding takes place at, naturally, The Factory.

The large cast features countertenor Thomas Aláan as Oberon and Amanda Lauricella alternating with Kelsey Wang as Tytania.  Puck will be played by Michael Kelley and the Boy, “Damon,” by Tanner Zocher.  Of the four lovers, the role of Helena will be split between Jing Liu and Rachel Love; Chloe Agostino and Julia Urbank will alternate as Hermia; Benjamin Liupaogo and DaSean Stokes will take on Lysander; and Kevin Green will appear in all the performances as Demetrius.  The “mechanicals” will be played by James Harrington (Bottom), Jake Elfner (Quince), Thore Dosdall (Flute), Jack Innes (Starveling), Jeffrey Larson (Snout), and Benjamin Galvin (Snug).  The ensemble of fairies will include Miranda Kettlewell (Cobweb), Lauren Shafer (Mustardseed), Madelaine Trewin (Moth), and Brooke Wahlstrom (Peaseblossom) as well as Chloé Flesch, Angela Fraioli, Maria Marsland, and Maria Steigerwald. Hippolyta will be played by Lindsey Meekhof and UW-Madison Professor of Voice, Paul Rowe, will sing the role of Theseus.

The production will be designed by Greg Silver (also the Technical Director) with lighting by Kenneth Ferencek.  Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park will be the costume designers; Jennifer Childers, the props designer; Lindsey Meekhof, the assistant director; and the production stage manager will be Sarah Luedtke.  Others on the production staff include Benjamin Hopkins, operations manager for University Opera; Alice Combs, master electrician; assistant electrician Rachael Wasson; assistant stage managers Grace Greene and Cecilia League; and Ashley Haggard and Kelsey Wang, costume assistants.

The public is invited to a pre-performance panel discussion which will take place:

November 17, 2019
12:30 – 1:20pm
Music Hall
Free Admission

On the panel will be:
Joshua Calhoun – Associate Professor of English, UW-Madison
Steffen Silvis – Ph.D. Candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, UW-Madison
Douglas Rosenberg – Professor of Art, UW-Madison

David Ronis – Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera, UW-Madison

Susan Cook, Director of the Mead Witter School of Music, Moderator

Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). Tickets may also be purchased in person (at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings) or at the door beginning one hour before the performance.  The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in the Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison 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. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.

UW-Madison alumni form 3/4 of new quartet in Door County

Executive director also an alumna

By Katherine Esposito


The first time UW-Madison’s Hunt Quartet played in Door County for Midsummer’s Music, a Door County summer chamber music festival, it was in response to an emergency.

The renowned Pro Arte Quartet had long been booked to play, but the quartet had to cancel. Midsummer’s artistic director James Berkenstock scrambled to fill the void.

David Perry, violinist with the Pro Arte, had a solution: Hire the Hunt, the graduate string quartet at UW-Madison. “David said that this particular configuration of the Hunt Quartet was superb,” says Berkenstock. “He said they already had a program and would do a great job.”

Subbing for the famous, seasoned quartet created undeniable pressure, recalled former Hunt violinist Vinicius (Vini) Sant’Ana. “The audience expected a world-class performance,” he said. “We were aware of that. So we tried our best, and it was one of our best performances.”

The Griffon String Quartet. L-R: Roy Meyer, Ryan Louie, “Vini” Sant’Ana, and Blakeley Menghini. Photograph by Ben Menghini.

The audience at Sturgeon Bay’s United Methodist Church was thrilled, and so were Berkenstock and MSM’s executive director, Allyson Fleck, who received her doctorate at UW-Madison in viola. It was the musicians’ youth, their vivacity, their clear rapport with each other, that snagged attention. It was something that felt new and special.  Following one more Hunt performance in Door County, Berkenstock and Fleck had an idea: why not see if the quartet would like to remain together after graduating to become a permanent presence in Door County?

They began to brainstorm. They teamed up with Green Bay’s East High School Fine Arts Institute and De Pere’s St. Norbert College to mull over the idea of a three-year string quartet residency. They started making the rounds to meet with community leaders, foundations, and interested individuals to develop plans and seek funding.  “The alignment with programs already in progress or being planned at the Fine Arts Institute and at St. Norbert seemed so perfect and propitious,” said Berkenstock. Only two of the Hunt Quartet members were able to make the commitment (violinist Sant’Ana and violist Blakeley Menghini), as former Hunt cellist Kyle Price leads a different arts enterprise, and violinist Chang-En Lu had not yet finished his degree program at UW-Madison.  So they tapped Roy Meyer, an alumnus violinist who studied with David Perry and Ryan Louie, a cellist who earned a master’s degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Now named the Griffon Quartet to honor a three-century-old Great Lakes shipwreck legend, the four regularly venture around the Door Peninsula and Brown County, beguiling audiences with classical quartet music designed to charm adults and kids alike. All fall, the quartet played a host of venues ranging from libraries to senior centers, to churches, at the local YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club, and in businesses and restaurants.  In December, so many people attended a holiday concert at the Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor that even after adding dozens of chairs to the hall, at least 40 people stood to hear the music spilling over into the lobby.

But entertainment is only a partial goal: the Griffon Quartet is also designed to bridge a void in Door and Brown counties left when the century-old Green Bay Symphony folded and the public schools all but eliminated strings education. For this, the Hunt Quartet helped provide a model.

At the Mead Witter School of Music, the on-going Hunt Quartet, supported by longtime donor Dr. Kato Perlman, the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the School of Music, is tasked with visiting elementary school children to inspire a love of music. Six schools participate in the Up Close and Musical program, and the quartet visits each school four times, showing children the basics of melody, rhythm, and expression. In Door County, the mission of the Griffon Quartet will be similar, but enlarged to include lessons, concerts, classroom presentations, involvement with seniors in a memory-oriented program called “B Double Sharp,” and impromptu appearances wherever appropriate and needed.

“The whole thing grew and expanded,” said Berkenstock. “The more we worked on it, the more we realized how potent this could be in northeast Wisconsin. There’s a lot missing, from a cultural standpoint.”

Fundraising “is now ramping up,” he adds.

Allyson Fleck

Fleck is optimistic about the future of the Midsummer’s string residency program. “There are so many opportunities out there,” she says. “I know our project is worthy.”

For violist Blakeley Menghini, who discovered her calling as a teacher after two years in the Hunt Quartet, it’s a dream come true. “While earning my graduate degrees, I fell in love with teaching,” she writes. “And during my two years in the Hunt Quartet, it grew difficult to imagine my life without the string quartet. Thanks to Midsummer’s Music, we are not only able to imagine that life, but are living it.”


Learn more about the Griffon String Quartet, including full biographies and spring schedule.

https://www.midsummersmusic.com/the-griffon-string-quartet/

About Midsummer’s Music Festival

Midsummer’s Music Festival is a chamber music ensemble featuring world-class musicians from organizations such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Pro Arte Quartet, Aspen Music Festival, and faculty of quality universities throughout the Midwest. Midsummer’s Music performs in intimate and casual settings throughout Door County, including art galleries, resorts, museums, churches, and private homes. The Festival was co-founded in 1990 by Jim and Jean Berkenstock, long-time Door County summer residents and principal orchestral players with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Their summer festival runs from mid-June to mid-July, with six additional events during the Labor Day holiday. In addition, we sponsor programs such as the Pro Arte Quartet, the Chicago Early Music Consort with “A Renaissance Christmas,”​ and our exceptional string quartet with Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words”​ around Easter.

 

The 2019-2020 Hunt Quartet will perform on April 18, 2019 at 6:30 PM in Morphy Hall.

Current members are Chang-En Lu, violin; Ava Shadmani, violin; Fabio Saggin, viola; and Alex Chambers-Ozasky, cello. Repertoire will be posted soon.

https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/the-hunt-quartet/

 

 

August 25, 2018

By Jay Rath

 

Michael Leckrone, longtime director of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Marching Band, announced today that he will step down at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

He made the announcement to the band following rehearsal. Students were visibly moved, linking arms and joining with him to sing “Varsity.”

This is Leckrone’s 50th year leading “The Badger Band.” He made his decision a few weeks ago but delayed sharing it publicly until he could meet with students. “I wanted the band to know first,” he says. “Any other talk, any other planning — that came second.”

The university will conduct a national search for a new director.

Leckrone, 82, has not decided on future plans and says there is no significance to the timing. “I wanted to go before somebody told me to go,” he quips. “No, really, it was going to happen sooner or later, and I didn’t want to stay on too long.”

Read full story here.

Watch Mike’s announcement to the band, and view images and read stories on the Badger Band website.

Mike Leckrone, August 27, 2018, after his announcement to the marching band members.

News release
March 13, 2018
Contact:
Katherine Esposito  608.263.5615

 

Celebrating a milestone with students, faculty and special guest, trumpeter Marquis Hill

 

This April, UW-Madison’s annual Jazz Week will celebrate the 50th anniversary season of the UW Jazz Orchestra, the first jazz ensemble at UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music.

Jazz Week 2018 will feature performances by the UW Jazz Orchestra, the UW Jazz Composers Group, the UW Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, the UW High School Honors Jazz Band, and a faculty jazz quartet, all to be joined by special guest trumpet soloist Marquis Hill, the winner of the 2014 Thelonious Monk Competition.

 

Hill is a Chicago native who now makes his home in New York City. “His music crystallizes the hard-hitting, hard-swinging spirit of Chicago jazz,” writes Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune. “Hill commands a nimble technique, a fluid way of improvising and a pervasively lyrical manner.”

 

Marquis Hill

UW’s Jazz Week 2018 features three concerts:

  • Tuesday, April 24: Marquis Hill with the UW Jazz Composers Group and the UW Contemporary Jazz Ensemble. Morphy Hall, 7:30 PM. Free concert.
  • Thursday, April 26: Marquis Hill with a faculty jazz quartet led by pianist and Director of Jazz Studies Johannes Wallmann with Les Thimmig, saxophones; Nick Moran, bass; and Matt Endres, drums. Morphy Hall, 8:00 PM. Ticketed concert: $15 adults, $5 non-music majors.
  • Friday, April 27: Marquis Hill with the UW Jazz Orchestra and the UW High School Honors Jazz Band. Music Hall, 8:00 PM. Ticketed concert: $15 adults, $5 non-music majors.

The UW High School Honors Jazz Band is an auditioned 18-member big band for high school students from about a dozen Madison-region schools who are looking for an additional opportunity to perform advanced jazz repertoire.

To buy online, click this link.

You may also purchase in person or at the door. For more information about ticketing and parking options, click here.


“We don’t want THAT word uttered in OUR school”: Listen to our audio stories about the history of jazz at UW-Madison and at American colleges. With university saxophonist and professor Les Thimmig, who arrived at UW-Madison in 1971, just as the jazz program was getting off the ground.

Episode 1 focuses on the origin of the UW Jazz Orchestra; Episode 2, how jazz got started in American colleges; Episode 3, jazz over the years at UW-Madison; Episode 4, descriptions of the six UW Jazz Ensembles. Episode 5 includes Prof. Thimmig describing his early career in Chicago and New York City; Episode 6, what it was like to gig in the 1960s.

Jazz at American colleges has a unique and colorful history, with UW-Madison no exception. In 1968, the music school created an informal swing band, a “Big Band,” that played dance music of the 1930s and 1940s. When composer and saxophonist Les Thimmig arrived in 1971, he changed it to a jazzier big band playing music more akin to the new Duke Ellington style.

Our 2016 Jazz Week with the High School Honors Jazz Band, the UW Jazz Orchestra, professor Johannes Wallmann, and guest Bob Sheppard on saxophone.

Through the decades that followed, the band survived in one form or another, through staff transitions and musical tastes. Following the arrival of jazz studies professor Johannes Wallmann in 2012, the UW Jazz Orchestra became a core component of the expanded jazz ensemble offerings in the School of Music’s new jazz studies major. The orchestra now performs eight to ten times a year, playing classic and contemporary big band repertoire, often with visiting guest artists.

We invite you to join us for one or more of our Jazz Fest concerts!
https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/annual-jazz-fest-with-trumpeter-marquis-hill-final-concert/

Les Thimmig. Image by Amelia John.

We thank the Vilas Trust, the Anonymous Fund, and our many donors for supporting these concerts and other activities at the School of Music.

About Marquis Hill – Chicago Tribune

Marquis Hill review – Chicago Tribune

http://www.wisconsinjazz.org/

Podcasts produced by Kyle Johnson and narrated by Katherine Esposito. Many thanks to Les Thimmig for his thoughtful insights.

During his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, alumnus J. Griffith Rollefson embarked on several international research trips while writing his dissertation, “European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality.” Throughout Europe, he frequented hip hop shows, clubs, record shops, and open mic nights to observe and interview the people who consider this artform among the most politically conscious of all. Hip hop studies was then an emerging field in the United States, with institutions such as McNally Smith College in St. Paul, the University of Arizona, and Wellesley College in Massachusetts, offering coursework on the subject.

J. Griffith Rollefson. Image by Kathleen Karn.

After graduating in 2009 with his PhD in historical musicology, Rollefson began writing Flip the Script, a book based on his dissertation, examining how the children of immigrants from the former colonies of Europe imagine hip hop as a way to both understand and voice their relationship to society. Flip the Script (which Rollefson defines as “to upend a situation and/or rap a text”) was recently published by the University of Chicago Press and is now available for purchase. 

Rollefson is currently an associate professor of popular music studies at the University College Cork, National University of Ireland. The Mead Witter School of Music is pleased to feature the following Q&A with Rollefson about his increasingly relevant work in hip hop culture, a wide-ranging field that encompasses the studies of race, class, gender, nationality, and politics.  

Interview conducted by Kyle D. Johnson, a dissertator in piano performance.


You write that hip hop studies should “engage more directly and systematically with the tools of postcolonial theory.” What is postcolonial theory and why is it important to hip hop studies?

Postcolonial studies involves understanding how the past resonates in the present.  How the past is never past. In short, if the “colonial period” started when Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” over 500 years ago and ended a little over 50 years ago, we need to imagine how that period might have had some lasting impact.  And of course, we then need to think about what we should do if that impact is a negative one, as is overwhelmingly the case.  The resonances are profound and very real.  In the US, for instance, colonial processes have resulted in the world-changing beauty of the spirituals, jazz, rock and roll, and hip hop, but they have also resulted in the seemingly endless systemic marginalization of the very people who created those most American of musics – marginalization “from the plantation to the penitentiary,” as Wynton Marsalis put it.

Hip hop is unique both in its directness and in the depth of its contradictions. We simultaneously laud hip hop as the ultimate politically conscious music and decry it as the most vapid commercial expression of materialism, sexism, homophobia, and violence.  Something’s gotta give with this contradiction – and I think I offer some good, and potentially illuminating answers in the book.

Postcolonial theory helps us assess and address historical impact by focusing on the continuities between slavery and commercial exploitation, from Georgia cotton, Jamaican sugar, and Honduran bananas to South African diamonds, Indian textiles, and Iraqi oil.  Of course, these theories also help us account for cultural fields like music.  The idea of “the forest and the school” is a good starting place to describe how processes of colonization remove “the forest” – that is, the natural resources (including, let’s remember, people) – and leaves “the school” – be it a missionary school or a grammar school, both of which are training grounds for assimilation into Euro-American ideologies.  There’s a famous quip attributed to Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of independent Kenya, that goes: “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible.  They taught how to pray with our eyes closed.  When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”

How have current events in Europe, such as the refugee crisis, affected the state of modern-day hip hop in Europe?

Rappers will be the first to tell you that the “refugee crisis” is manufactured; they believe that Western Europe is slowly dying and needs immigration, but refuses to adapt for purely bigoted reasons.  Sound familiar?  I’ve talked to artists who’ve made this exact point – the Turkish German, Chefket and the Black Brit, Juice Aleem, for instance, who recognize foreign labor as a historical constant that gets conveniently forgotten in times of cultural navel gazing.  Syria had been in crisis for years before it got widespread European attention as families began fleeing for their lives en masse.  And notably, a quick look into the instability in Syria reveals deep and unresolved histories of colonization by France and the UK.  This is why I say we need to listen to these voices.  They really are on the front lines of history.

How is American hip hop related to European hip hop?

Through studying European hip hop we can see that “double consciousness”—the African-American feeling of “unreconciled” two-ness—is a particular American form of what is really a global postcolonial experience. This argument suggests that postcoloniality explains why hip hop was born in the South Bronx in the collaboration of African American, Puerto Rican, and other Caribbean communities.  In my class, Planet Rap: Global Hip Hop and Postcolonial Perspectives, I look not only at African-American artists, but at Puerto Ricans, Filipino Americans, Chicanos, and Native Americans to understand how the United States is a postcolonial nation – the first postcolonial nation, really.  And to underscore another point I make to my students – the “post” in postcolonial doesn’t mean that the colonial resonances are over.  In most cases, they’re just coming to the fore.  Germany, for instance, is just now beginning to own up to its colonial history.  And France and the UK are doing their darnedest to explain away, forget, or Brexit their way out of their colonial complicities.

 

You’ve asserted that hip hop artists have a better perspective on the conditions of their society, over governments or geopolitical authorities. What makes hip hop unique in its ability to offer that “frontline” perspective?

In the consensus view of the artists I interviewed, it’s political “consciousness” that attracted them to hip hop in the first place.  Something resonated with them – the music “spoke to them.”  Again and again, I heard rappers describe the artform as a “vehicle,” “channel,” or “opportunity” to grab the microphone and finally be able to say something to their own societies – societies that usually don’t want to listen. Hip hop is unique both in its directness and in the depth of its contradictions. We simultaneously laud hip hop as the ultimate politically conscious music and decry it as the most vapid commercial expression of materialism, sexism, homophobia, and violence.  Something’s gotta give with this contradiction – and I think I offer some good, and potentially illuminating answers in the book.  These artists are indeed humans and have all the complexities we all have.  They might play to stereotypes, but in doing so they force us to interrogate our own misconceptions.

If someone wanted to explore the current world of European hip hop, which artists would you recommend?

I’d recommend starting with some of the classics, like MC Solaar (France), Roots Manuva (UK), Advanced Chemistry (Germany), and Scary Éire (Ireland).  My current playlist includes more recent artists like Stromae, Les Nubians, Sidi-O, and Oxmo Puccino (France/Belgium); Juice Aleem, Lowkey, and Lady Leshurr (UK), Amewu, Chefket, and Samy Deluxe (Germany), and Lethal Dialect and Rusangano Family (Ireland).  FauxSounds.com has actually just invited me to annotate a “Flip the Script European Hip Hop” playlist for their website.  Check that out for a nice sampling and some brief background details: http://www.fauxsounds.com/faux-sounds/2017/10/18/professor-j-griffith-rollefson-flip-the-script-european-hip-hop

Now, for some background on you. How did you go from dissertation to Flip the Script? Why did the University of Chicago take an interest in your work?

Well, if you consider that I wrote my first seminar papers on European hip hop for UW-Madison Professors Susan Cook and Pamela Potter in 2003-2004, then we could say it took well over a decade.  Back then word was that Turkey would become an EU member any day.  Needless to say, a bit has changed since I started the research. At that time, the EU was providing an inspiring model of what an international community of the future might look like, and now we’re on the slippery slope to ethno-nationalism on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 2006, after my coursework, I started a yearlong fieldwork project funded by the Berlin Program for German and European Studies.  That trip was centered in Berlin, but included multi-month trips to Paris and London where I worked with hip hop communities: going to shows, clubs, record shops, open mic nights, community centers, observing and doing interviews in any place where hip hop community happened. In 2008, I returned there with funding from the German Academic Exchange Service, known as DAAD, and then embarked on shorter trips until I moved to the UK and Ireland with my family in 2013.  In fact, although Flip the Script centers on Berlin, Paris, and London, the book concludes with a look at what I call the “postcolonial whiteness” of Ireland’s brilliant hip hop critiques about their colonial past and neocolonial present.  What’s interesting in this case is that it gets us thinking about race and colonialism together.  As you may know, racial difference was a centerpiece in the logic of British domination of Ireland.

Elizabeth Branch Dyson at the University of Chicago Press showed interest in the manuscript early on and then held my hand throughout, encouraging me to get the book exactly right over the last five years or so.  I suppose the lesson there is patience.  I’ve had the privilege of being able to be patient, and it has paid off.

Outside of your work on Flip the Script, give us an update on what you’ve been up to since earning your PhD.

I’ve become a dad, served as a church choir director and an adjunct professor in Southern California, won an ACLS New Faculty Fellowship (which was, essentially, the “Great Recession Stimulus Plan for Young Scholars”) which took me to UC Berkeley, held a lectureship at the University of Cambridge and, finally, landed a tenure-track job at University College Cork, National University of Ireland.  I should also say that spending the last four years as a European resident really helped me finish the research and added a level of personal understanding of the fragile realities of displacement and immigration.

Where can people go to get more information on you, Flip the Script, and possibly future projects you’re involved with?

The book’s companion website – EuropeanHipHop.org – is quickly becoming a clearinghouse for all sorts of links, syllabi, podcasts, and news.

September 27, 2017

Contact:

Katherine Esposito 263-5615

David Ronis


University Opera turns to music and theater of the mid-20th century with A KURT WEILL CABARET

 This fall, University Opera takes a short break from strictly operatic offerings as it turns to the music of Kurt Weill (1900-1950).  A KURT WEILL CABARET, a pastiche of 21 solos and ensembles from Weill’s many diverse works, will be presented at Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus on October 27 at 7:30pm, October 29 at 3:00pm and October 31 at 7:30pm.  University Opera Director David Ronis will direct the show.  Chad Hutchinson, adjunct professor of orchestras, will conduct.  Musical preparation will be by UW-Madison vocal coach, Daniel Fung.

Born in Germany, Weill achieved early fame through works created in partnership with the playwright Berthold Brecht, most notably, Die Dreigroschen Oper (The Threepenny Opera) and Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny).  Forced into exile by the rise of Hitler in 1933, Weill spent a few years in Paris before eventually moving to New York.  In the United States, he found success on Broadway through collaborations with such lyricists as Ira Gershwin, Langston Hughes, and Ogden Nash on such shows as Lady in the Dark, One Touch of Venus, and the opera Street Scene.  Several roles in these productions were premiered by his wife, Lotte Lenya, the singing actress who championed his works even after their divorce and his death.

Kurt Weill image courtesy German Federal Archive.

A KURT WEILL CABARET is a unique production, assembled by Ronis, that contains no one dramatic through-line.  Instead, the pieces that comprise the evening, taken out of their usual context, are juxtaposed so as to create multiple mini-narratives.  There are no set characters; relationships develop and dissolve as the evening progresses.  The show is organized into three sections, each highlighting themes of Weill’s oeuvre. The first of these works its way through a series of dysfunctional yet comic relationships between men and women.  The metaphor of travel underscores the second section, which explores themes of longing, disappointment, and finally hope.  The characters involved are tough and world weary – their hopes and aspirations often dashed by swift doses of reality.  Nevertheless, there is a sense that all is not lost and redemption is possible.  The third and final portion of the show returns to lighter fare that affirms that true love and happiness is possible, especially when there’s ice cream involved!

The musical numbers of A KURT WEILL CABARET, sung in English, German, and French, include “The Saga of Jenny,” “Surabaya Johnny,” I’m a Stranger Here Myself,” “Whiskey Bar/Alabama Song,” “J’attends un navire,” “Foolish Heart,” “Youkali,” “Denn wie man sich bettet,” “A Rhyme for Angela,” “It Never Was You,” and “My Ship.”

The cast features one guest artist, Alec Brown, and twelve UW-Madison students: Matthew Chastain, Jake Elfner, Tim Emery, Talia Engstrom, Eliav Goldman, Courtney Kayser, Sarah Kendall, Miranda Kettlewell, Jeffrey Larson, Lauren Shafer, Emily Vandenberg, and Emily Weaver.

The production will be designed by Greg Silver with lighting by Aimee Hanyzewski.  Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park will be the costume designers, Laura Meinders the props designer, and the production stage manager will be Shelly Sarauer.  Others on the production staff include Thomas Kasdorf, rehearsal pianist; Courtney Kayser, operations manager for University Opera; and Ethan White, lighting board operator.

Following each performance of A KURT WEILL CABARET, audience members will be given the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the performance during talk-back sessions with the cast and members of the artistic staff.

Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at the UW box office. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.

Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.  The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in the Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

Click here for parking information.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison 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. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact: Jay Rath
(608) 438-0127

Phyllis Bechtold Leckrone, 81, wife of longtime UW Marching Band director Mike Leckrone, passed away early this morning following a long illness. She was surrounded by family.

A native of North Manchester, Ind., she and her husband met in junior high school and became childhood sweethearts. They were married 62 years.

A dedicated educator in her own right, Phyllis Leckrone taught with the Middleton-Cross Plains school district for more than 25 years.

Mike Leckrone joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1969. Since then, Phyllis has served as “band mom” to thousands of marching band students. Though behind-the-scenes, her care, dedication and support touched generations of Badger Band members.

Mike and Phyllis Leckrone married in 1955. She is survived by five children, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements will be announced soon. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be made to her favorite charity, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

www.stjude.org/donate

The Carillon returns!

May 26, 2017

For more information: kesposito@wisc.edu

We are happy to report that the UW-Madison Memorial Carillon concerts will resume on Sunday, May 28, 2017, at 3 pm, with Sunday afternoon concerts on the second and fourth Sundays of the month at least through the end of the summer (August). Lyle Anderson, carillonneur, will return after having retired from state employment in August 2016. Since that time, several safety, security and environmental issues in the 80-year-old tower have been addressed. The process is ongoing, so public access to the interior of the tower is not currently possible, but the carillon is best listened to in the area near the tower, on Observatory Drive across from Bascom Hall.

The History of the UW-Madison Memorial Carillon

Bells have been called man’s most universal musical instrument. The UW Memorial Carillon Tower and its bells have been a symbol of the Madison campus for over 80 years. Early in the 20th century, thought was given to provide the dome then atop Bascom Hall with a chime of bells (about a dozen bells that would play melodies). After the dome burned in 1916, ten years of graduating classes, from 1917 through 1926, contributed their senior gifts, called Class Memorials, to this purpose. By 1932 it was clear the dome was never going to be rebuilt, but the fund had accrued enough interest to consider building a free-standing tower and furnishing it with a 36-bell carillon, an instrument with a long history in the area of present-day Belgium, northern France and the Netherlands, where it had reached a high degree of perfection in the 17th century. But by the late 19th century, even the art of making a well-tuned bell was completely lost, to be rediscovered in England in 1899. The firm of Gillett and Johnston, of Croydon, England, became a leading bell foundry and began installing carillons in North America in the 1920s, providing a set of 25 bells in 1936 for the University of Wisconsin tower. The tower had been completed nearly a year previous, at a cost of about $30,000.

Although five additional small bells were added in 1937, by the late 1950s, four octaves of about 49 bells had become desirable to play most carillon music, so the carillon was expanded in 1963 to 51 bells, the additional bells cast by the French firm of Paccard, but with a keyboard that would accommodate 56 bells, paid for entirely by funds raised among Wisconsin alumni. The largest of the original bells cast in England weighs about 3,000 pounds, but it was always anticipated that eventually the carillon would be anchored by a bell weighing nearly 7,000 pounds. This was achieved in 1973 with the addition of five large bells made by the Royal Eijsbouts foundry of Asten, the Netherlands, who incidentally also replaced all of the French bells installed ten years earlier.

All the bells in the carillon are stationary, being rung by clappers inside each bell that are connected to a fairly simple, completely mechanical mechanism of wires and bars to a keyboard in the room just below the belfry. This is arranged much like a piano keyboard except that the keys are rounded wooden batons played with the ends of a closed hand instead of with fingers. The lowest 18 bells can also be played with the feet, to expand the instrument’s musical versatility. Since the instrument cannot ever be played in any sort of privacy, learning and practicing are accomplished by having a second keyboard with the same dimensions as the “real” one, but striking only small metal bars that are the same pitch as the bells.

Norris Wentworth ’24 led the committee that planned the tower’s construction and became the first “player of the bells,” serving until 1941. Then the carillon was played mostly on a voluntary basis by a series of students in the School of Music. In 1960 Professor John Wright Harvey became the first faculty appointed carillonneur, retiring in 1984, followed by Lyle Anderson in 1986, in a part-time academic staff position, until 2016.

January 31, 2017

Contacts:
David Ronis ronis@wisc.edu
Katherine Esposito kesposito@wisc.edu

 

Fresh from winning two major awards in the 2015-16 National Opera Association Competition, University Opera will present Benjamin Britten’s gothic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, to round out its season.  In this, Britten’s last chamber opera, based on the Henry James novella of the same title, terror takes unexpected forms.  Premiered in 1954, The Turn of the Screw tells of a young governess who is hired to care for two children in an isolated country house in late 19th century England.  She soon realizes that the children are haunted by secrets and spirits that harm them in very real ways and she takes it upon herself to defend them.  In so doing, she is forced to confront the demons she perceives as threats, as well as her own internal ones.

Benjamin Britten in the mid-1960s (photograph by Hans Wild).

Benjamin Britten in the mid-1960s (photograph by Hans Wild).

The Turn of the Screw will be presented in English for three performances, all with projected supertitles.  March 3 at 7:30 PM, March 5 at 3:00 PM, and March 7 at 7:30 PM at Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus.  David Ronis, inaugural Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, will direct and graduate conducting assistant Kyle Knox will conduct the 13-member chamber orchestra.  Musical preparation will be by University Opera’s new vocal coach, Daniel Fung.

Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online here.

Just as James’s novella is particularly notable for the ambiguity of its story, so is Britten’s opera.  Are the ghosts real?  Or are they creations of the Governess’s delusional mind?  Are the children as innocent as they originally appear, or are they part of a larger, scheme of evil?  What of Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, who reveals some information, but not enough to form a coherent backstory?  And the ghosts themselves – Peter Quint and Miss Jessel – what motivates them?  What do they have at stake?  All these questions hover as this compelling psychological thriller unfolds.

Following each performance of The Turn of the Screw, there will be a talkback session with the cast and members of the artistic staff. Audience members will be given the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the issues raised by this opera.

Leading the cast and alternating the role of the Governess will be Katie Anderson and Erin Bryan.  Alec Brown will play the roles of the Prologue/Peter Quint, Anna Polum will be Miss Jessel and Cayla Rosché will be Mrs. Grose.  Elisheva Pront and Emily Vandenberg will alternate as Flora and guest artists Simon Johnson and Amitabha Shatdal will share the role of Miles.

The production will be designed by Frank Schneeberger with lighting design by John Frautschy.  Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park will design costumes, Meg Huskin will be the assistant director, Holly Berkowitz the dramaturg, and the production stage manager will be Meghan Stecker.  Other staff include Chan Mi Jean and Satoko Hayami, rehearsal pianists; Erin Bryan, operations manager for University Opera; Teresa Sarkela, scenic charge; and Ethan White, lighting board operator.

Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online here.

Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.  Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended.

If unsold tickets remain, they may 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.

University Opera is a cultural service of the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 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. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.

January 26, 2017

CONTACT:

Beth Larson, beth.larson@wisc.edu
Katherine Esposito kesposito@wisc.edu

UW-Madison Musicians to present “Thank You” concert to Mead Witter Foundation

The University of Wisconsin Mead Witter School of Music will bring two quintet ensembles to the Performing Arts Center in Wisconsin Rapids for a free concert on Thursday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m.  The concert celebrates the Mead Witter Foundation’s $25 million gift to the University of Wisconsin for construction of a new performance center in Madison. The PAC is located at 1801 16th St. South, Wisconsin Rapids.

Following an afternoon of clinic sessions with local students, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, the Wingra Wind Quintet, and Scott Teeple, UW-Madison conducting professor, along with the Lincoln High School Wind Ensemble will present the free public concert designed to educate as well as entertain.  The February 9 concert is open to the public free of charge.  Besides thanking the Foundation for its support, the concert furthers the UW mission of public service through spreading the “Wisconsin Idea.”  About 50 music students from area high schools are expected to attend the afternoon clinic sessions and evening concert.

In the fall of 2015, the Mead Witter Foundation commemorated a century-long relationship between the Witter and Mead families with the University of Wisconsin by providing major funding that enabled the UW-Madison to construct its new music performance building in one phase, rather than in multiple phases over time.  In appreciation of the gift, UW-Madison named its music school the Mead Witter School of Music, and the large concert hall within the performance building will be known as the Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall. The new performance building will be sited at the corner of University Avenue and Lake Street adjacent to the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison.

Interior of Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall. Image courtesy of Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture and Strang Architects.

Interior of Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall. Image courtesy of Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture and Strang Architects.

Wisconsin Brass Quintet

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 (WBQ) has maintained a position at the forefront of brass chamber music since the group’s founding in 1972. WBQ is one of three faculty chamber ensembles in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. In addition to its regular concert series on the campus, the Quintet performs extensively throughout the Midwest and nationally, including appearances in New York at Weill Recital Hall and Merkin Concert Hall. Current members of WBQ are John Aley and Matthew Onstad, trumpets; Daniel Grabois, horn; Mark Hetzler, trombone; and Tom Curry, tuba.

Wingra Wind Quintet

Since its formation in 1965, the Wingra Wind Quintet at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music has established a tradition of artistic and teaching excellence.  The ensemble has been featured in performance at national conferences such as MENC (Miami), MTNA (Kansas City), and the International Double Reed Society (Minneapolis). In addition to its extensive home state touring, the quintet has been invited to perform at numerous college campuses, including the universities of Alaska-Fairbanks, Northwestern, Chicago, Nebraska, Western Michigan, Florida State, Cornell, the Interlochen Arts Academy, and the Paris Conservatoire, where quintet members offered master classes. New York Times critic Peter Davis, in reviewing the ensemble’s Carnegie Hall appearance, stated “The performances were consistently sophisticated, sensitive, and thoroughly vital. Current members of Wingra Wind Quintet are Stephanie Jutt, flute; Aaron Hill, oboe; Marc Vallon, bassoon; Joanna Schulz, horn; and Amy McCann, clarinet.

 

University Opera scores again with national recognition

Awards for two shows in 2015-2016

UW-Madison’s University Opera is on a roll. Both shows from last year, Transformations and Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, have won awards in the National Opera Association’s (NOA) Opera Production Competition for 2015-2016. It is the second year in a row that UW-Madison has garnered an award from NOA, and the first time that each production was separately recognized. University Opera produces only two operas each year.

October 2015’s Le nozze di Figaro, with orchestra conducted by James Smith, placed second in Division IV, and March 2016’s Transformations, conducted by graduate assistant conductor Kyle Knox, garnered a first place award in Division III.

Dress rehearsal for "Transformations." With Brian Schneider as Iron Hans (Cayla Rosche and Michael Hoke, background). David Ronis, opera director. Image by Michael R. Anderson.

Dress rehearsal for “Transformations.” With Brian Schneider as Iron Hans (Cayla Rosche and Michael Hoke, background). David Ronis, opera director. Image by Michael R. Anderson.

Both productions were directed by David Ronis, inaugural Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera, who is now a six-time winner of the competition. His previous awards occurred while he worked at Queens College in New York.

The two winning UW-Madison productions carried casts and crew of different sizes and strengths and were produced at different budgetary levels, hence their separation into distinct categories.

In 2014-15, University Opera won third prize in NOA’s Division III for Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring.

Ronis accepted the awards at the NOA convention in Santa Barbara last weekend. “Needless to say, I’m very proud,” he said. “While last year’s award put University Opera on the national map in a very public way, these two wins firmly establish us among the premier collegiate opera producing organizations in the country,”

The competition is blind, meaning that performing companies are not identified to judges. Those eligible include small professional opera companies and opera training programs from academic institutions, music conservatories, summer opera training programs, and opera outreach programs. Entries are separated into seven divisions by the judges; the criteria include the size and scope of institution’s music and opera program and the level of vocal training of the singers in the cast.

Though judging is always subjective, Ronis says he isn’t surprised that both shows won awards. “I was very proud of Figaro – the production was elegant, the storytelling clear, and it was well-sung, well-played, and well-conducted,” he says. “Transformations was definitely more of a challenge artistically, but very rewarding to produce.  The students involved became quite personally engaged with telling Anne Sexton’s fairy tale settings, and the result was a wonderfully creative, funny, yet moving production which packed a deep emotional punch.”

Although both winning productions received praise in the local press, Transformations, a dark yet humorous opera based on Grimm’s fairy tales as re-imagined by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton, was singled out as being particularly imaginative.

“Ronis’s direction (he also serves as visiting director of the opera program) is richly inventive, with snippets of choreography throughout, including a conga line and a parody of the Supremes. The staging is delightful, using the full height of the set to frame and reframe action. This entire production would easily compare well to any professional opera company,” wrote author Jay Rath in Isthmus.

University Opera’s next production will be The Turn of the Screw, Benjamin Britten’s operatic setting of Henry James’s novella.  Premiered in 1954, the composer’s final chamber opera tells of a young governess who is hired to care for two children in an isolated country house in mid-19th century England. She soon realizes that the children are haunted by secrets and spirits that harm them in very real ways. University Opera’s telling of Britten’s gothic horror opera chillingly challenges audiences to consider the very existence of ghosts.

The production will be directed by Ronis and conducted by Kyle Knox, with musical preparation by Daniel Fung, assistant adjunct professor of vocal coaching.  Members of the cast will include Erin Bryan and Katie Anderson, who will split the role of the Governess, Alec Brown (Prologue and Quint), Cayla Rosché (Mrs. Grose), and Anna Polum (Miss Jessel).  The roles of the children in the opera will be played by Elisheva Pront and Emily Vandenberg (Flora) and Simon Johnson and Amitabha Shatdal (Miles).  Set design will be by Frank Schneeberger; lighting by John Frautschy, and costumes by Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park.  Additional staff include Greg Silver, technical director; Meg Huskin, assistant director, and Meghan Stecker, stage manager.

Performance dates are March 3-7, 2017.  Buy tickets online or at the Memorial Union box office.

 

 

 

ALSO IN JANUARY: Violinist Soh-Hyun Altino and pianist Christopher Taylor team up for an afternoon of exquisite sonatas from Fauré and Corigliano. Sunday, January 22, 4 PM. Learn more here.


Join pianists Martha Fischer, Bill Lutes, and friends on the stage and seats

of Mills Hall for January’s “Schubertiade,” an intimate homage to the music,

loves and life of Romantic composer Franz Schubert.

The concert will take place Sunday, January 29, at a new time, 3:00 PM.

Fischer is a UW-Madison professor of collaborative piano and piano and Bill Lutes is emeritus artist-in-residence.

Martha Fischer & Bill Lutes. Image by Katrin Talbot.

Martha Fischer & Bill Lutes. Image by Katrin Talbot.

The concert will be followed by a reception (included in the ticket cost) at the University Club. Tickets are $15 per adult and $5 for students. The concert is sponsored by Madison resident Ann Boyer, an admirer of Franz Schubert’s music and the musical talents of Fischer and Lutes.

Tickets may be purchased online, at the Memorial Union Box Office or in Mills Hall, one hour before the concert.

The evening will include a special guest, the much-acclaimed soprano and UW-Madison alumna, Emily Birsan. Among other works, she will sing Schubert’s Epistle to Josef von Spaun, D. 749 – a brilliant and humorous send-up of the Italian operatic style that was all the rage in Vienna during Schubert’s lifetime.

Emily Birsan.

Emily Birsan.

Other performers will include Mead-Witter School of Music faculty Mimmi Fulmer, soprano and Paul Rowe, baritone; School of Music alumni Daniel O’ Dea, tenor and Benjamin Schultz, baritone; and current graduate students Anna Polum, soprano, Rebecca Bechtel and Jessica Kasinski, mezzo sopranos, and Wesley Dunnagan, tenor.

Schubert was born on January 31, 1797, and lived only 31 years. In his day, his music was cherished, but mostly by his personal circle. UW-Madison’s “Schubertiade” extends that circle to include the entire seating chart in Mills Hall.

The theme for this year’s Schubertiade is “Circle of Friends,” says co-organizer Lutes.

He writes: “Moritz von Schwind, a important German painter of the 19th century, was a young man when he became part of the group that was present at the first Schubertiade — those social gatherings given over to charades, poetry reading, dancing and imbibing – but most particularly to the performance of Schubert’s music, often with the composer himself at the piano.

“These almost legendary occasions were immortalized by Schwind in his famous painting ‘A Schubert Evening at Josef von Spaun’s,’ created in 1868, when these glorious moments had become distant and cherished memories. Schubert is indeed at the piano, with the great baritone Johann Michael Vogel seated to the composer’s right. Depicted are many of the poets, artists, lawyers and civil servants, and close friends who first heard Schubert’s music. In some cases, they are individuals with whom Schubert collaborated in the creation of songs, and our program will include a many settings of poetry by Schubert’s friends: Schober, Mayrhofer, Spaun, Schlechta and others.

A Schubert Evening at the Home of Josef von Spaun on December 15, 1826. Sepia drawing by Moritz von Schwind (1804-1871), 1868.

A Schubert Evening at the Home of Josef von Spaun on December 15, 1826. Sepia drawing by Moritz von Schwind (1804-1871), 1868.

“In addition we will include a group of songs that Schubert assembled in 1816 and presented to Theresa Grob, a young soprano whom he had hoped to marry. Other highlights will be a Cantata written for the birthday of Vogl, for soprano, tenor, baritone and piano and a great piano duet composition, the Theme and Variations in A-flat major, D. 814.

“Emily Birsan will perform the ‘flower-ballad’ Viola, D. 786, and two Italian canzonas, D. 688 and the previously mentioned Epistle to Josef von Spaun. She will conclude the program with one of Schubert’s best-loved songs, Ellen’s 3rd Song from Scott’s The Lady of the Lake….also known as Ave Maria.”

“The concert will close with an audience singalong of ‘An die Musik.’

“We offer this program of musical collaboration in a spirit of camaraderie, good will, and love for Schubert and his music, in celebration of the composer’s 220th birthday on January 31. From Schubert’s Circle of Friends we reach out to our own Circle of Friends, including the sponsor of these Schubertiades: Ann Boyer.”

Tickets may be purchased online, at the Memorial Union Box Office or in Mills Hall, one hour before the concert.

Read this news story about our Schubertiade in 2015.

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