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

What has your involvement been with The Crossing?

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

What does the Grammy nomination mean for you personally?

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

What does the nomination mean for the group?

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

Any watch party plans?

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

The Mead Witter School of Music Distinguished Alumni Award Committee has selected Paul Boylan, Emeritus Professor of Music Theory and Dean Emeritus of the School of Music, Theater and Dance at the University of Michigan, as the 2021 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Boylan graduated from the School of Music with a bachelor’s degree in piano performance in 1961, and a master’s degree in music theory in 1962. He subsequently completed a Ph.D. in 1968 at the University of Michigan in historical musicology with a dissertation on the songs of Hugo Wolf. Boylan then joined the U-M faculty in 1969 as an assistant professor and continued to serve that institution with considerable distinction until his retirement.

As an undergraduate piano major, Boylan worked closely with artist-in-residence Gunnar Johansen, who not only provided Boylan with piano instruction, but expanded his perspectives on the importance of music and musical study both at a public university campus and in the culture at large.

“While a student at UW-Madison, I especially valued my studies with Gunnar Johansen and Rudolf Kolisch, founder of the Pro Arte String Quartet,” Boylan said. “I also came under the influence of the harpsichordist Alice Ehlers who was a distinguished Visiting Professor during my student days. Possibly to the detriment of serious piano studies, I was also very active in campus politics, and was pleased to be elected to both Mace and Iron Cross.”

Boylan has given more than one hundred performances as pianist in solo and chamber music repertory, including many broadcasts on National Public Radio. He has performed concerts with Ralph Herbert, Paul Makanowitzky, Elizabeth Mosher, Angel Reyes, George Shirley, and many others. He is the author of articles published by and papers delivered for the American Musicological Society, Music Teachers National Association, Music Educators National Conference, and others.

Boylan’s administrative skill was apparent through his four-year term as director of the National Music Camp at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Following his promotion to associate professor in 1972, he became associate dean for academic affairs, and then Dean of the School of Music in 1979 and continued in that office until 2000. During his tenure, Boylan secured the future wellbeing and stature of the U-M School of Music as an institution on par with any other school—public or private—in the United States and beyond.

He oversaw the administrative consolidation of arts entities on the U-M campus (bringing dance and theatre together with music), brought on the American Music Institute, and oversaw the creation and expansion of new music degrees including the B.F.A. in musical theater, the B.F.A. in Jazz and Improvisation studies, and the B.S. in media technology. He expanded the library holdings through the important acquisition of a major collection of works by women composers, increased the school’s endowment significantly (the music school endowment was less than $1 million when Boylan began his deanship and totaled more $50 million when he retired), and oversaw major building projects that expanded and enhanced the school’s campus on the north side of Ann Arbor.

He led two successful capital campaigns, including a $2o million campaign to renovate the university’s historic Hill Auditorium, and he helped lead the university’s billion dollar Campaign for Michigan. Through all of this, he continued to perform as a piano soloist and chamber musician.

Boylan also served on a number of  university-wide committees and councils, including the Academic Affairs Advisory Council, the Academic Policy Group, the Budget Priorities Committee, the Center for Continuing Education for Women executive committee, the Task Force on University Events, the Institute for the Humanities executive committee, and the Michigan Alumnae Council Athena Award Committee.

He has also served on the boards of directors of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, the Ann Arbor Chamber Orchestra, and Ars Musica; the board of trustees and executive committee of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival; and he was a member of the St. Joseph’s Hospital Benefit Committee, among others.

More importantly, Boylan identifies UW-Madison as the institution that made it possible for him to become the visionary musician and arts leader he is today.

“My time in Madison was simply magical to a young man from Portage hungry for art and the life of the mind, and I’ve often gratefully credited the University of Wisconsin for feeding that hunger,” Boylan said. “In those days, UW-Madison rewarded its most distinguished professors in all fields for introducing undergraduates to their disciplines—opportunities of which I took liberal advantage then and benefit from to this day.”

The School of Music plans to celebrate Boylan’s award on December 9, 2022.

The Mead Witter School of Music Distinguished Alumni 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. Learn more at

A panel of judges unanimously selected Heidi Keener as winner of the 2022 Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition based on her performance of Frank Ticheli’s concerto Silver Lining. She will perform her concerto with the Wind Ensemble at the Hamel Music Center on February 27, 2022.

Keener is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in flute performance at the School of Music as a Collins Fellowship recipient. She actively performs with the University Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Flute Ensemble, and various chamber ensembles.

The title of Ticheli’s concerto—Silver Lining—suggests three layers of meaning, Keener said. The color silver has clear connections to the flute and its tone, while the idea of a silver lining describes the relationship of the flute to the ensemble.

“As a metaphor, Silver Lining speaks to the human need to search for hope, beauty, meaning, connection, and joy in response to tragedy and situations that are difficult to accept,” Keener said. “The concerto was commissioned by Peter Warshaw in memory of his wife, Lara Barnett. Ticheli honors her life in the middle movement, To the Girl with the Flaxen Hair, featuring a gorgeous and compelling musical setting of the poem, ‘A Little While,’ by Sara Teasdale. The overall form of the piece is also referenced in the title as the heart of the concerto is bookended by two lively, fast-paced movements.”

In the first movement, Game, Ticheli creates an exciting playground through a variety of colorful interactions and extended techniques, including percussive effects, jet whistles, flutter tonguing, and vocalization. Playful exchanges between the soloist and ensemble imitate the different levels of a video game. The final movement, Silver Lining, is lighthearted and energetic. Dance-like sections alternate with lyrical passages. After an extensive cadenza, the entire ensemble returns for a celebratory ending.

Many of the contemporary wind ensemble concertos have not been transcribed for piano due to complexity, impracticality, and other factors. It is a major challenge to give a convincing concerto performance in a competition setting without an ensemble or pianist as the soloist only represents a small part of the overall picture, Keener said.

“As much as I enjoyed preparing for the competition through listening, score study, and imagining the sounds and colors of the ensemble, I am definitely looking forward to the shared inspiration and energy that will come from collaborating with the talented members of the Wind Ensemble and Dr. Scott Teeple,” Keener said. “I chose this piece because I believed it would be equally rewarding for the ensemble, and I hope they will enjoy working on it as much as I have. It is an incredible honor to be selected for this opportunity, and I hope my family will be able to make the trip to Madison for the performance in February.”

The concerto competition consisted of nine extremely talented students who each gave a compelling performance of their selected concerto, Professor of Music and Director of Bands Scott Teeple said.

“Heidi preforms with energy, passion, and an unparalleled commitment,” he said. “It will be a thrill to collaborate with her and the ensemble on this performance.”

Though Ticheli’s composition is relatively new, the work has received numerous performances, including a premiere in Minnesota by renowned flutist Jim Walker.

For what will be her second such residency, Professor Laura Schwendinger is one of nine composers to receive the prestigious 2021 Copland House Fellowship. The nine composers are awarded all-expenses paid stays for three to eight weeks in Aaron Copland’s National Historic Landmark home near New York City, where they can focus uninterruptedly on their creative work. As Residents, they also become eligible for a wide variety of post-residency performance, recording, and commissioning opportunities.

“These highly-accomplished, richly imaginative outstanding artists were selected from the largest group of applicants that we have ever received–221 composers from 33 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and four countries,” Copland House Artistic and Executive Director Michael Boriskin said. “Ranging in age from 25 to 73, they come from widely-varied backgrounds, and work across the creative spectrum, from concert, symphonic, and chamber music to jazz, electronics, and theater compositions.”

The composers were chosen by a large, diverse jury of eminent composers comprised of Karim Al-Zand, Chen Yi, Sebastian Currier, Pierre Jalbert, Laura Kaminsky, Carman Moore, Shawn Okpebholo, Dan Visconti, and Zhou Long.

A 2007 Copland House Resident, Schwendinger’s music has been heard at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Berlin Philharmonic, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Carnegie Hall, and the Tanglewood, Aspen, and Ojai Music Festivals, and championed by such renowned artists as soprano Dawn Upshaw, the Arditti and JACK Quartets, violinists Jennifer Koh and Janine Jansen, cellist Matt Haimovitz, International Contemporary Ensemble, Eighth Blackbird, New Juilliard Ensemble, American Composers Orchestra, Liszt Chamber Orchestra, and Trinity Wall Street.

She has also had fellowships from the Guggenheim, Fromm, and Koussevitzky Foundations, Radcliffe Institute, and Harvard Musical Association, and residencies at Copland House, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Bellagio, and Bogliasco. She is the first winner of the Berlin Prize in Music, and has also been recognized by the American Academy of Arts & Letters.

An award-winning creative center for American music, Copland House has, for over 20 years, championed and collaborated with musical explorers and innovators, who, like Copland, change the way we interact with the world around us. The only composer’s home in the U.S. devoted to nurturing and renewing America’s vibrant musical legacy, Copland House’s broad range of programs singularly embrace the entire artistic process, from creation and development to performance and preservation.

Praised by The New York Times for “all the richness of its offerings,” Copland House’s activities resonate far beyond its walls, and are built upon multi-faceted composer support, live and recorded performances, and educational and community engagement. For more information, visit

In 2018, a new street in the Darbo-Worthington Neighborhood on Madison’s east side was created in honor of the legacy of Richard Davis, a Madison jazz legend and Professor Emeritus of Bass at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he taught for nearly four decades. Now, after a fundraising effort throughout the pandemic, Davis’ former student and mentee, Wilder Deitz, has honored the man who inspired him and so many others with a commemorative plaque to accompany the street sign on Richard Davis Lane.

Read the full story >>

Nathaniel Stampley has performed on Broadway, toured with national shows, collaborated with orchestras around the country, and sang at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. He has appeared on hit TV shows, and he was a voice artist on the animated series NFL Rush Zone. On November 22, he returns to UW-Madison to explore how time, circumstance, and a dream shapes an individual.

A 2008 Mead Witter School of Music graduate, Stampley’s debut performance at the Hamel Music Center reflects on experiences, family, philosophers, musicians, and world leaders who influenced and guided his life and career.

“I am delighted to return to Madison and the UW-Madison campus,” Stampley said. “I’m from Milwaukee, but Madison is my second musical home. Our event on November 22 is the culmination of my personal and professional experiences.”


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Stampley will be joined by pianists and longtime Madison residents Jamie Schmidt (also a School of Music graduate) and Leotha Stanley, with directing by Malkia Stampley, Nathaniel’s sister.

Malkia Stampley attended Marquette University for Theater Arts with additional training at Skylight Music Theatre and Milwaukee Repertory Theater. She recently joined Goodman Theatre in Chicago as Producer.

“I grew up traveling from Milwaukee to Madison with my family to attend Nate’s choir concerts and recitals, so UW-Madison holds a special place in my childhood memories,” Malkia Stampley said. “It is a pleasure to return to Madison, directing my brother for the first time and working with Leotha and Jamie, amazing artists who have contributed greatly to the Madison area. This concert was birthed from a place of admiration and appreciation of Nate’s journey as an artist with UW-Madison being at the core of his foundation.”

As the former Assistant to the Director of Community Relations in the Office of the Chancellor at UW-Madison, Leotha Stanley worked with many schools in Madison and the surrounding area promoting education, graduation, and a college education for all.

“As a longtime Madisonian, I’ve had the pleasure of being on stage with many performers,” Stanley said. “I must say that this is a unique way of telling a personal story while sharing a talent. I hope that everyone hears the influences and understands the inspirations that made Nate Stampley the artist he is today. I’m looking forward to this intersection as we continue our musical journeys.”

Jamie Schmidt’s eclectic career has taken him from his hometown of Madison to over 100 cities across North America: as music director of the national tour of The Lion King; music director of the first national arena tour of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular; and conductor for Liza Minnelli, who handpicked him to conduct her symphonic tour with the St. Louis, Atlanta, San Diego, Indianapolis, Roanoke, and Dallas Symphony Orchestras.

“As a born and bred Madisonian, I am always thrilled for any chance to return home,” Schmidt said. “Returning to again perform with Nate, and the opportunity to play the Hamel Center, is the best possible reason. I am looking forward to reconnecting with my family and so many lifelong friends. Having toured the country with Lion King for eight years, playing nearly 100 cities, there is simply no better place than Madison.”

Learn more and purchase tickets at

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 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 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

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.


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

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.


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.

Dolan 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.

Dolan 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 to directly support the Brian and Louise Frumkin Chamber Music Scholarship Fund (#132620026). The fund is also searchable on 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.


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

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 ( for more information.