Kyle Knox: The Accidental Conductor

by Katherine Esposito

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. – James Baldwin

It was the path he’d chosen, the direction he’d pursued, and Kyle Knox had finally tasted triumph in 2005, when he won, at age 23, the position of assistant principal clarinet of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

It was a plum trophy in a sometimes punishing profession, realized only after a decade of studious toil in the practice room and on the orchestra stage.

Kyle Knox.
Kyle Knox. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

The young man who’d once won Most Valuable Player in Raritan, New Jersey as a 12-year-old Little Leaguer had bent his competitive edge toward music, and he’d won something akin to MVP there, too. He studied with the great clarinetists – Ricardo Morales and Yehuda Gilad – went on to Juilliard and Tanglewood, and bested hundreds of rivals for the Milwaukee job.

Then, three years later, almost imperceptibly, one neuron at a time, it all started to unravel.

Today, Knox is best known in Madison as a promising young conductor, a graduate student at UW-Madison about to make his Madison Opera debut in its upcoming production of Little Women. In 2014 and 2015, he conducted University Opera’s award-winning Albert Herring and also two concerts with the Middleton Community Orchestra. (He is also the husband of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster, Naha Greenholtz.)

Kyle Knox with his wife, Naha Greenholtz, hiking in Santa Fe, 2009.
Kyle Knox with his wife, Naha Greenholtz, hiking in Santa Fe, 2009. Family photograph.

He has impressed many observers, including Madison Symphony Orchestra conductor John DeMain, who has watched Knox conduct several times, including Albert Herring, in which DeMain’s daughter Jennifer was cast. “[Kyle] worked uncompromisingly to achieve as close to perfection as possible,” says DeMain.

Until a few years ago, however, Kyle had never considered becoming a conductor leading an orchestra. He was exhilarated to be playing in one.

His emergence as a conductor has almost been an accident, one that may now be resolving in his favor. But he faced many bleak days before he got there.


 

It was almost imperceptible at first, just odd coordination problems with his right hand. It was the spring of 2009. “I remember I was playing principal on Peter and the Wolf, and there’s this one passage with fast 16th notes and C-major arpeggios, and I remember having a hard time with this particular passage, repeating 16th notes, a very specific sequence of finger motions, and thinking, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ It was very strange” Kyle says.

For that concert, he wound up transposing it into a different key, and playing on an A clarinet instead of the usual one. “I didn’t think anything of it at the time,” he continues. “I just thought, oh, for some reason, my pointer finger is a little slow.”

“But maybe a month later, I was playing E-flat clarinet on Shostakovich’s 6th Symphony, and there’s a huge E-flat solo in the beginning of the second movement, very fast, and it had a very similar sequence of fingerings in the middle of the solo, and I practiced it obsessively, and I recorded it at home, and drove my wife crazy. But no matter how much I practiced, I never felt comfortable with the fingerwork.”

Classical orchestral musicians, at the highest levels, achieve mastery through one main thing: practice. It is not enough to be talented and musical; one must constantly revisit passage after passage to precisely engrave notes in the mind. Largely due to this kind of preparation, Kyle had always been assured and confident while performing. But now he began to feel unmoored.

The symphony schedule was intense: much music, many solos, multiple performances. In concert after concert, the strange sensations recurred. At first, Kyle thought it was just a matter of working harder, to fix those notes even more firmly in his brain. “When something’s difficult, you want to feel secure on it. When I do these octaves, I know the distances, [so that] even if I miss the note, I know it was a fluke. It has to feel right in your head,” he says.

But it wasn’t feeling right anymore. He began to lose confidence in his playing. A rigorous orchestra schedule gave him little respite.

His fellow musicians and the symphony patrons did not detect anything awry. But Kyle felt it was getting worse.

After six months he consulted neurological specialists at the Cleveland Clinic and Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, who studied his movements as played his clarinet in their offices. They asked him questions and ruled out a few possibilities. Then they gave him a diagnosis: focal dystonia. He had never heard of it before.

His response was to practice even harder. He describes the chain of events that unfolded. “I started obsessively practicing, to make it feel right. In an effort to make it feel right, you start playing wrong, because you start compensating. You start doing strange things, which eventually start to show in your actual playing, and then you start hearing mistakes, which confirms your initial fear that there was something wrong. And then it becomes a feedback loop.”

For three years, Kyle continued to play with the MSO. He was managing, but the amount of music to learn and crush of performances — 150 per year — became overwhelming. “I just couldn’t rehab in a way that gave me confidence about playing in orchestra full time,” he says. “Wind players can’t hide. Everything you do is a solo, so you feel exposed. It was a really rough time.”

He remembers his final concert, in October 2010, Mozart’s Requiem with conductor Edo de Waart, on which he played the basset horn. “I hadn’t told anyone anything about what I was dealing with,” he says. “I remember thinking about the routines of orchestra life, how accustomed to the whole ritual I had become and reflecting on how some day soon I just wouldn’t be doing it anymore. It was heavy. After that Requiem performance I talked to the personnel manager and started my injury leave. That was it.”


 

Since the age 13, Kyle had known he wanted to work with music. He remembers hearing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on the radio, and watching a documentary about Leonard Bernstein and the music of Gustav Mahler. “I was mesmerized,” he says. “I was interested innately. I had to figure out a way to access it, and access came through the clarinet.”

Now, that access was cut short. He was adrift. He immediately dove into conducting after cobbling together a volunteer orchestra in Milwaukee, trying out conducting studies at Northwestern University, and ultimately attending graduate school at UW-Madison.

At the School of Music, he studies with orchestra conductor James Smith, an “accidental conductor” himself who also once played clarinet. “Jim is enormously accomplished,” Kyle says. “I’ve been very lucky to play some of America’s greatest orchestras in my career. I’ve played for a lot a famous conductors, and I can legitimately say that Jim is as good as anyone I’ve ever played for.”

Kyle Knox with the UW Symphony Orchestra, 2013.
Kyle Knox with the UW Symphony Orchestra, 2013.
Scott Gendel (MM & DMA, School of Music) and Kyle Knox, preparing Little Women. Gendel is coach & accompanist for the show. Photograph by Steffanie Berg.
Scott Gendel (MM & DMA, School of Music) and Kyle Knox, preparing Little Women. Gendel is coach & accompanist for the show. Photograph by Steffanie Berg.

Madison got to know Kyle three years later, after several notable turns as a promising young conductor. Early on, he caught the eye of John DeMain, who knew about Kyle’s focal dystonia, and who saw real promise, and wanted to give him a chance.

Telling Kyle’s story on paper makes it all sound so simple. One career ended, another one started. He did it the only way he knows, urgently, intently, almost desperately, uncomfortable with any lack of movement in his life. The truth, however, is that he really had very little control over what was happening. And that was the main thing he needed to accept.

“Being a clarinetist was a thing that defined me,” he says. “It was part of my sense of self, and you can’t underestimate that.” He knows better now. “The things that made me able to accomplish anything on the clarinet are intrinsic qualities. The clarinet doesn’t define me. I define myself.”

If he had to enter that valley once more, he’d hope to approach it differently. He’d take time to grieve, to try to discern underlying meaning, to try to figure out the nature of the problem. Rushing doesn’t help anyway, he says.

“Sometimes, in a effort to redefine yourself too quickly, you can slow your process down of ending up where you’re going to end up anyway,” he continues. “Maybe you’ve been pushing too hard, maybe you’re been working too hard. Your body is telling you things, and you need to use it as an opportunity to reflect.”

“You have to be sympathetic with yourself. I think that is hugely important. And to have as much an eye on the long term as possible-that life is long, that your career is long, that there are lots of things in the future that will happen that are potentially good. But you have to let them unfold.”

Ten years ago, he wouldn’t have listened to these words. It wasn’t who he was. But it is who he is now.

“It’s possible to have great aspirations, but also to be patient and to be sane. It is possible to be of both minds. And I think the most successful people are that way.”

Katherine Esposito is the publicist and concert manager at the UW-Madison School of Music

Upcoming Performances with Kyle Knox, Conductor

Madison Opera’s Little Women

February 5 & 7, 2016

http://www.madisonopera.org/

 

University Opera, Transformations

March 11, 13, 15, 2016

http://www.music.wisc.edu/opera/

 

Madison Savoyards, The Gondoliers

July & August, 2016

http://madisonsavoyards.org/

 


About Focal Dystonia

Kyle Knox is only one of many musicians who was diagnosed with focal dystonia, many of them very famous. Glenn Gould, the pianist, and Robert Schumann, the 19th century composer, both are now believed to have suffered from it. Pianist Leon Fleischer used only his left hand for several decades while searching for a solution. A New York Times story in 2012 sheds light on this little-understood and seldom discussed condition. Another Times story recounts the story of pianist Fleischer.

Here’s how Kyle Knox describes it:

“Focal dystonia is far too complicated for me to paraphrase easily. That said, I’ll try: Basically it is a neurological condition where the brain’s ability to rewire itself, called plasticity (normally a good thing as it enables the acquisition of new skills and information), becomes overactive. In the case of musicians, it becomes overactive in a very specific way that involves otherwise familiar gestures that have been long perfected through years of practice. To put it simply, music that was once effortless suddenly starts to ‘feel’ wrong. It doesn’t sound wrong to outside listeners, but the neurological experience of playing, for example, a certain finger combination, becomes distorted in the player’s mind. As my neurologist told me, ‘all initial symptoms of musician’s focal dystonia are imperceptible to the outside observer.'”

A link from the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation provides more information.

Please note: This story was simultaneously published on the website of the UW-Madison School of Music.

Hire a Musician!

Do you seek one or more musicians for your wedding, private party, corporate event, or church service? Our students routinely gig in the community and now there’s an updated place for you to advertise. See this website and send your request to the email listed. Note: All arrangements are made between the students and the employer.


The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

UW-Madison’s Top Musicians to Solo in Annual “Symphony Showcase”

News and Events from the UW-Madison School of Music – January 26, 2016

“Symphony Showcase” brings out the best, literally

They’ve prepared for months and now are ready to show off a bit on the stage of Mills Hall: Our annual Symphony Showcase, a concert featuring the winners of our annual concerto competition in solo performances with the UW Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Smith.  This year’s winners are all graduate students with impressive worldwide resumés; one is a composer whose new work will be premiered by the orchestra. Please join us on Sunday, February 14, at 7:30 PM for our concert and reception in Mills Hall! (Note: Parking is free on Sundays in Grainger Hall.) Concert tickets are $10 but are free for students of all ages. Buy in advance ($4 fee) or in person in Mills lobby.

Concerto winners
L-R:
Kangwoo Jin, piano; Luis Alberto Peña, piano; Garrett Mendelow, percussion; and Paran Amininazari, violin. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.
Yunkyung Hong, composer. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.
Yunkyung Hong, composer. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

Meet the winners and the works they will play, and read full biographies on this webpage.

Violinist Paran Amininazari, doctoral student of Assistant Professor Soh-Hyun Park Altino. Paran is also a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and a founding member of the Willy St. Chamber Players. Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63, one movement.

Yunkyung Hong, a doctoral composer studying with Professors Laura Schwendinger and Stephen Dembski. “Yun” has won many awards and commissions worldwide and is employed by UW-Madison’s MOOCS (massive online courses) program as a sound designer. Her new work is called Transparency.

Pianist and Collins Fellow Kangwoo Jin, doctoral student of Professors Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson. Kangwoo is a winner of many competitions and received his master’s degree from Indiana University. He is also a teacher in the school’s Community Music Lessons program. Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor Op. 18, third movement.

Garrett Mendelow, doctoral percussionist and Collins Fellow studying with Professor Anthony Di Sanza. In 2012, Mendelow won second place in the biennial Tromp Percussion Competition in The Netherlands, and in 2014, he was a semifinalist at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich, Germany. Arena Concerto, by Swedish composer Tobias Broström.

Luis Alberto Peña, a doctoral piano student of Professor Christopher Taylor.  Luis has soloed with many orchestras and won awards in Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela and the USA. Richard Strauss’s Burleske in D Minor for Piano and Orchestra.


The Wisconsin Idea at Its Most Audible

Did you know that the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, the Wingra Wood Quintet and the Pro Arte Quartet are our contribution to the Wisconsin Idea? Over decades, the three ensembles have logged thousands of miles giving concerts and master classes in high schools, concert halls and colleges all over Wisconsin. And we want to visit your town!

We’ve given it a new name: the “Music Engagement & Outreach Program,” and we have a new coordinator, Beth Larson,  a violinist who graduated from UW-Madison in 2011 and performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and the Willy Street Chamber Players.  With Beth’s help, the three groups have begun an exciting new partnership with Milwaukee’s High School of the Arts, working not only with bands and orchestra but with literature and science classes as well. Contact Beth to learn more.

ThreeEnsembles-Web2015-16

Find the ensembles in your corner of Wisconsin! Upcoming concerts include:

Pro Arte Quartet (please note: due to injury, the Pro Arte concert for Feb. 3 in Mills Hall has been canceled)
2/23/16 5:30 PM Concert & Clinic | Wisconsin Philharmonic | Waukesha, WI
2/28/16 2:00 PM Concert | Marcus Center for the Performing Arts | Milwaukee, WI
4/5/16 7:00 PM Concert | University of Wisconsin – Platteville | Platteville, WI
4/7/16 7:00 PM Concert | Oakwood Village – University Woods | Madison, WI
4/11/16 7:30 PM Concert | Three Lakes Arts Association | Three Lakes, WI
5/14/16 7:30 PM Concert | Midsummer’s Music | Sister Bay, WI
Wisconsin Brass Quintet
3/4/16 7:30 PM Concert | Concordia University | Mequon, WI
Wingra Wind Quintet
2/11/16 3:30 PM Concert | Coventry Village | Madison, WI
2/18/16 10:00 AM Educational Concert | Edgewood High School | Madison, WI
2/26/16 7:30 PM Concert | Nicolet Live @ Nicolet College | Rhinelander, WI


Music reviewer Greg Hettsmanberger gets his own TV blog

Blogger Greg Hettsmanberger has been writing about classical music for Madison Magazine for several years now, and has now begun a stint on TV as well and started a new personal blog, “What Greg Says,” mostly about music. You can catch his TV segment on occasional Wednesday mornings just after 6:30 AM on WISC-TV/Ch. 3. In his debut appearance, he included our upcoming Schubertiade as one of his recommendations.

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Meanwhile, another faithful classical music critic, Jake Stockinger, just passed the 1.4 million mark in hits to his blog, The Well-Tempered Ear, in continuous publication since 2009. Congratulations, Jake!


Want to burnish those rusty piano or trombone skills? UW-Madison’s Community Music Lessons can help

The CML program was founded in 1968 and is still busy offering lessons to students young and old(er) in our community. Our teachers are graduate students recommended by their major professors, and are available in the areas of instrumental, voice, and even composition. Registration for the spring semester just opened; click here to learn more.
Read biographies of our current teachers.


Faculty News: Laura Schwendinger, Uri Vardi & David Perry.

Alumni News: Violist Elias Goldstein.


Hire a Musician!

Do you seek one or more musicians for your wedding, private party, corporate event, or church service? Our students routinely gig in the community and now there’s an updated place for you to advertise. See this website and send your request to the email listed. Note: All arrangements are made between the students and the employer.


The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


Personalize your calendar view! Click on the “view as” link on the right of our calendar page.
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You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

UW Opera Wins National Award; 3rd “Schubertiade” coming on Jan. 30

Happy New Year from the UW-Madison School of Music!

University Opera’s Albert Herring wins award from the National Opera Association

Albert Herring, an opera composed by Benjamin Britten and produced by University Opera in October, 2014 at Music Hall, has won third place in Division III of the National Opera Association‘s annual opera production competition. The opera was directed by interim director David Ronis and conducted by Kyle Knox, a graduate student studying conducting with professor James Smith.

It is the first NOA award for UW-Madison and the fourth for Ronis, whose previous wins came while he taught at Queens College in New York City.

All photographs by Michael R. Anderson

This past weekend, Ronis collected the award at the association’s yearly meeting in Indianapolis. “When I arrived in Madison, I felt that the quality of the work being done by University Opera was of a very high caliber, certainly of the level of other college and university opera departments that I had seen win awards,” Ronis said in an email. “So I thought, ‘Why not? We’ve got nothing to lose.’ So I submitted both last year’s productions of Albert Herring and The Magic Flute and I guess it paid off.”

“Good opera has been produced by UW-Madison for years. It’s just very gratifying to have the recognition of a national organization,” he continued.

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.

Congratulations to University Opera!

Mark your calendars now for University Opera’s spring show, Transformations, Conrad Susa’s thought-provoking opera from 1973. Susa’s chamber opera for eight singers and eight players is an adult re-telling of ten classic fairy tales (among them, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretel) as seen through the eyes of poet Anne Sexton. Sexton’s struggle with mental illness frames the darkly humorous and audaciously recounted tales, filled with mid-twentieth-century references, both literary and musical. Performance dates are March 11-15, 2016. Buy tickets here.


Third “Schubertiade” coming January 30 to Mills Hall!

(Please note ticketing and parking tips below!)

In homage to a beloved composer, the UW-Madison School of Music will present its third annual Schubertiade, an evening of songs, piano duets and chamber music by Franz Schubert, one day before the composer’s 219th birthday.

All photographs by Michael R. Anderson

The concert will take place on Saturday evening, January 30 at 8 p.m. in Mills Concert Hall. The concert is hosted by pianist Martha Fischer, who is professor of collaborative piano and piano at the School of Music, and her pianist husband Bill Lutes, emeritus artist-in-residence. Alumna soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine, who has sung with many major opera companies including Wolftrap in Washington, D.C., the Santa Fe Opera, the Minnesota Opera, as well as Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera and Madison Opera, will be a guest soloist. Guarrine now teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The program will include a major work for piano duet, the Allegro in A minor, known as “Lebensstürme” or Life’s Storms, performed by Fischer and Lutes. Guarrine will sing one of Schubert’s final works, the delightful “Shepherd on the Rock,” along with Fischer and clarinet faculty Wesley Warnhoff.

Additional guests will include UW-Madison voice faculty Mimmi Fulmer and Paul Rowe; current University Opera director David Ronis; alumni singers Daniel O’Dea and Benjamin Schultz; current DMA candidate Sara Guttenberg; soprano Marie McManama; UW-Madison horn faculty Daniel Grabois; UW-Madison faculty violinist Soh-hyun Park Altino; UW-Madison faculty violist Sally Chisholm; adjunct professor of clarinet Wesley Warnhoff; alumnus cellist Ben Ferris; and Leo Altino, cellist, the husband of Park Altino.

Read more here.

Tickets are $15.00 for adults. Students of all ages are free.

Tickets are available through the Union Theater Box Office. Patrons may buy online ($4 fee) or save the fee and buy in person at Memorial Union or in Mills lobby day of show.

Please note: We recommend that patrons arrive early, both to secure a parking spot and to buy a ticket (if you haven’t already). Parking will be tight due to UW hockey, but parking passes may be ordered two weeks in advance to guarantee a space.

To buy a parking spot, complete this online request form or call the Special Events Office at (608) 262-8683. Please allow two weeks for processing. In the box for “special instructions,” please indicate “Schubertiade.” [Note: This form may be used for any concert.]


Meanwhile, Martha Fischer has won “Musician of the Year” from local blogger and former Capital Times arts editor Jake Stockinger.

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He writes: “Fischer is a first-rate collaborator who performs and records regularly with other faculty instrumentalists and singers. They include UW trombonist Mark Hetzler, trumpeter John Aley and singers, baritone Paul Rowe and soprano Julia Faulkner, who has since moved on to the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

“A model of the Wisconsin Idea in action, Fischer also serves as a juror for piano competitions, gives talks around the state and helps recruit talented students.

“As a researcher, Fischer – who trained at the Juilliard School, Oberlin College and the New England Conservatory of Music — traveled to England and interviewed famous collaborative pianists about playing Schubert’s art songs.”  Thanks, Jake! Read his full post here.


And one more: UW-Madison’s classical side was lauded in Isthmus’s “Best of 2015” list, via concert reviewer and emeritus history professor John Barker. Among his favorites were last year’s “Schubertiade” concert in January with pianist Martha Fischer, Bill Lutes and many friends; pianist Christopher Taylor at the Madison Symphony in Feb; David Ronis, James Smith and University Opera’s Marriage of Figaro in Sept; David Ronis and Marc Vallon with Madison Bach Musicians; and many alumni who performed with the brand-new Willy Street Chamber Players over the summer. Meanwhile, jazz studies prof Johannes Wallmann was complimented by writer Marc Eisen. “A jazz scene plus,” Eisen writes.

Christopher Taylor
Christopher Taylor

Mark your calendar! Pianist Christopher Taylor will perform solo at the School of Music on February 26. On the program: the French Suite No.1 in D minor, BWV 812 of Johann Sebastian Bach; 12 Etudes, Op.8   of Aleksandr Scriabin; and Piano Sonata No.1, Op.1 of Johannes Brahms. Read more here.

Buy tickets in advance.

NEXT ISSUE: We’ll announce the winners of our annual Concerto Competition and invite you to hear them perform solo at Symphony Showcase, Feb. 14.


 

Alumni News: Nathaniel Wolkstein, Jonathan Posthuma.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/alumni-news/


Hire a Musician!

Do you seek one or more musicians for your wedding, private party, corporate event, or church service? Our students routinely gig in the community and now there’s an updated place for you to advertise. See this website and send your request to the email listed. Note: All arrangements are made between the students and the employer.


The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


Personalize your calendar view! Click on the “view as” link on the right of our calendar page.
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You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

Breaking News: Mead Witter Foundation gives $25 million to School of Music

(A lot of) News and Events from the UW-Madison School of Music – December 4, 2015
Gift spurs re-naming of the music school

“Though none of our family studied music at the UW, a fondness for music unites us,” says George W. Mead II, chairman of the foundation. “Everyone needs music. It is an inspiration point for all areas of creativity and learning. This is a way to recognize the connection we’ve enjoyed with the UW and to project that connection into the future.”

The gift will provide major funding for the UW School of Music’s new performance building, sited at the corner of University Avenue and Lake Street and scheduled to begin construction in late 2016. In appreciation of the gift, UW-Madison will name 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.

Music_building

The music performance center had its beginnings in 2007 when Pam & George Hamel of California pledged $15 million toward Phase I of the project, and in 2014, the UW announced it would name the new building the Hamel Music Center. Read full news release here.


Holiday Notes: Concert Tickets make great gifts! Scroll down to view a list of upcoming concerts, ranging from Fischer & Lutes in January (our third Schubertiade) to a week’s worth of jazz with LA-based saxophonist Bob Sheppard in April.


Student News: Meet Kyle Price, UW-Madison cellist with a grand idea for his boyhood summer home
Kyle Price
Kyle Price

It all started with an idea for summer fun, in the midst of a verdant paradise, at a family home he’d visited every year since he was a wee toddler. Now he was a 19-year-old cellist who wanted his college friends to hang out and play music at his grandma’s lake house. They could play string quartets practically in their sleep. Why not invite a few neighbors to hear them?

Want to read the full story? Click here to read on the School of Music website.


Raves for debut concert of new violin professor, Soh-Hyun Park Altino

“If a perfect debut concert exists, new UW-Madison faculty violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino gave it last Friday night,” wrote local writer Jake Stockinger in his blog, The Well-Tempered Ear. 

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On Nov. 13, Altino teamed with faculty pianist Martha Fischer to present a concert of Bach, Brahms, Ives and Beach. It was on the same night as the Paris attacks, and Altino dedicated a movement of Bach to the residents of Paris. “Let’s start by saying that Park Altino is a complete violinist and has everything: pitch, tone, speed, depth and stage presence. But hers is the quiet and self-effacing kind of virtuosity. There were no show-off works by Paganini or Sarasate on the program,” Stockinger continued.  “It must be also be said that Park Altino had the perfect partner in Martha Fischer, who heads the collaborative piano program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.”

You can read Jake’s full post here.

And you can hear Altino and Fischer perform a Brahms sonata here.


 

‘Tis the season for student ensemble concerts!

ChoralUnion_InsideUW_12.15
This weekend and next week: Upcoming concerts include the UW-Madison/Madison Schools Jazz Fest (Sat. Dec. 5); Winter Choral Concerts, UW Concert Band & University Bands, and UW Chamber Orchestra, (Sun. Dec 6); Western Percussion Ensemble (Mon Dec 7); UW Wind Ensemble featuring clarinetist Wes Warnhoff, (Fri. Dec. 11); World Percussion Ensemble & UW Choral Union with the UW Symphony; and the UW Horn Choir  (Sat. Dec. 12). Meanwhile, the Wingra Wind Quintet performs on Thurs. Dec. 10. Check our calendar for details.

 

Alumni, Students & Faculty sing in Milwaukee Thanksgiving Concert

On Nov. 22, the Milwaukee ensemble Present Music held its annual Thanksgiving concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, featuring numerous singers from UW-Madison including Chelsie Propst (doctoral student, musicology; MM, voice); Christina Kay (MM, voice); Dan O’Day (DMA, voice), Lee Stovall (BM, music ed/voice) plus voice professor Paul Rowe and Cheryl Bensman-Rowe of the Madison Early Music Festival. “The solo voice of Chelsie Propst, a member of the PM vocal ensemble Hearing Voices, was the highlight of Robert Honstein’s O Lucidissima Apostolorum Turba, a reimagined setting of a 12th-century chant by Hildegard Von Bingen,” the reviewer wrote.

Read the review in Milwaukee Magazine.


Happy Holidays from Us to You!

Holiday-Emails-2-600x402

May we offer suggestions for holiday gifts: Tickets to concerts at the School of Music! Are you a fan of jazz, of Schubert, of classical piano, or perhaps of world music? Here’s our list of upcoming ticketed concerts. Remember: all students and children are free to these concerts!

Buy tickets through the Union Theater Box Office; click here for a general link.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12, MILLS HALL. 8 PM. Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra. Presenting “Gloria” of Francis Poulenc and “Symphony of Psalms” by Igor Stravinsky. Tickets: $15 general public, $8 students and seniors.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 30, MILLS HALL. 8 PM. Our 3rd “Schubertiade,” with Prof. Martha Fischer & husband Bill Lutes on piano, alumna soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine, and friends & students. Tickets $15. Reception to follow.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14, MILLS HALL, 7:30 PM. “Symphony Showcase,” a joyous annual concert featuring winners of our concerto competition, soloing with the UW Symphony Orchestra. Tickets $10. Reception to follow.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26, MILLS HALL, 8 PM. Pianist Christopher Taylor in solo recital. Tickets $15.

MONDAY, MARCH 14, 7:30 PM, MORPHY HALL: duoJalal brings its mix of classical, Middle Eastern, jazz and Klezmer music to Madison. With Kathryn Lockwood on viola and Yousif Sheronick on percussion. Tickets $15.

FRIDAY-TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 13, 15, MUSIC HALL. University Opera stages Transformations (Conrad Susa/Anne Sexton). Tickets $25/$20/$10.

APRIL 26-29, MILLS & MORPHY HALLS: UW Jazz Festival with Bob Sheppard, LA-based multi-woodwind performer, recording artist, and jazz musician. Adult Tickets: $15 single show/$25 both Thursday and Friday shows.


Alumni News:

Filippo Santoro, Sean Greene. Read about them here.


The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


Personalize your calendar view! Click on the “view as” link on the right of our calendar page.

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You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

A summer lark that led to something bigger: Meet UW-Madison cellist Kyle Price

By Katherine Esposito

It all started with an idea for summer fun, in the midst of a verdant paradise, at a family home he’d visited every year since he was a wee toddler. Now he was a 19-year-old cellist who wanted his college friends to hang out and play music at his grandma’s lake house. They could play string quartets practically in their sleep. Why not invite a few neighbors to hear them?

Kyle Price. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.
Kyle Price. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

Paradise was tiny Caroga Lake, New York, a 54-square mile town in the lower Adirondacks that is home to 1,200 permanent residents and booms to 4,000 every summer.  In 2012, the cellist, Kyle Price, asked a group of friends from undergrad at the Cleveland Institute of Music to join him, and they wound up performing Bach and Mendelssohn as an opener for the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Lake Performing Arts Center as well as at two other venues. Not bad for a first stab at a music party.

Kyle dubbed the event the Caroga Lake Music Festival, and an annual tradition was born. In 2015, in its fourth year, the Caroga Lake Music Festival offered four weeks of free concerts at venues ranging from Fulton-­‐Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, the Canada Lake Marina (on floating barges), several churches, a nursing home, on a farm and in New York City.

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Kyle, now a master’s student and Collins Fellow at UW-Madison, studying with professor Uri Vardi, plans a fifth festival for 2016 and has even bigger ideas: he is cultivating support to evolve it into a year-round arts center located on the site of Sherman’s, a long-shuttered amusement park. He’s created an official nonprofit, the Caroga Arts Collective, and established a board of directors sprinkled with names from big companies like L.L. Bean, Borden Dairy and two law firms – all people with summer homes in the area.

Somehow he’s doing this around a full-time schedule as a music student. “It’s tough,” he says, with a laugh. “Recently, I’ve been needing to go back there to present things, meaning I miss class here, but the teachers have been great.” His classes mostly include performance-based classes such as chamber orchestra with conductor James Smith and chamber ensembles with professor Parry Karp, but he’s also enrolled in Jazz Improvisation with saxophone professor Les Thimmig.

It was the Internet that got him hooked on Madison.

Price, who is originally from Columbus, Ohio, knew nothing about the university until he watched a YouTube video about the National Summer Cello Institute, an intensive week-long camp for cellists organized by professor of cello. The camp has been held at UW-Madison since 2010 and offers classes that explore connections between body awareness, musical expression, and injury prevention.  “I was literally sitting with my cello in front of my computer in a practice room, and I came across a video that linked to the NSCI,” he says. “There was this funky word, Feldenkrais, and  a video of Uri explaining Feldenkrais and how it relates to performance. And I decided, I totally have to go to this. It was my main priority, cello-wise, for the summer.” (Feldenkrais is a technique that helps people to increase ease and range of motion.)

By the time he graduated, he also had decided that he wanted to apply for a master’s degree at the UW-Madison School of Music, a behemoth compared to the 350-student Cleveland Institute of Music. “I didn’t know much more about the school, but Uri was someone I wanted to study with.” He’s been impressed with the city and the university. “It was amazing, meeting all these undergrads – some are double or triple majors. Everyone is so smart and the faculty is amazing.”

Of Vardi, Kyle says: “It’s been fantastic. He’s pretty brilliant. He tries to get you out of your habits, so you have options to work with, then you can expand your palette. His teaching goes way beyond the cello in a lot of ways. It made a big impact on my life, and on playing the cello.”

Prof. Vardi has similar praise for Kyle. “He’s a mensch,” he says, with a twinkle in his eye. “He has a good heart and appreciates beauty. He wants to improve life for society. And he’s one of the most musical students I’ve ever worked with.”

All of these, he said, are why Vardi nominated Kyle for the Collins Fellowship, a full graduate scholarship funded by longtime School of Music supporter Paul Collins.

His intuition was accurate.  In 2015, Kyle was a winner in the Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition and a finalist in the G. Gershwin International Music Competition. After graduation next spring, he plans to devote himself full-time to growing the Caroga festival, plus freelancing and composing music.

Kyle has high hopes for the future of the festival, now an annual tradition that has captivated those who live in the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys of central New York state. It may have begun as a lark, but it’s brought deep pleasure to the small community. “We have a mix of audience: the experienced ones who’ve been to Saratoga and New York City, and people who are completely brand new and who are experiencing classical, jazz, even alternative music for the very first time,” he says.

People like Jim Hinkle, from Johnstown,  who in 2014 penned a letter to editors of the Leader Herald, a local newspaper.  Wrote Hinkle: “My knowledge of music is extremely limited. But now I am hooked on this concert series. It took some time for me to figure out whom they they talking about when they correctly pronounced Debussy. It’s not De Bu Sea like I had been taught. There are still play dates left. I urge you to not watch television but go to the free concert, sit in back and if the music is not right for you, leave during the applause. It’s OK. Please give it a chance, as I did.”

Violinist debut this Friday; Alumni composers return, in photos; An All-Holiday holiday concert

News and Events from the UW-Madison School of Music – November 9, 2015
Soh-Hyun Park Altino, new faculty violinist, performs first Madison concert Nov. 13

Hearing solo Bach in concert is a rare treat, and next Friday, at 8 PM in Mills Hall, Madison will get a chance to do just that when our new assistant professor of violin, Soh-Hyun Park Altino, performs for the first time in town.  Her full program includes J.S. Bach’s Sonata No. 3 in C major for solo violin, Brahm’s second violin sonata, the Romance by Amy Beach, and the Sonata No. 2 by Charles Ives, accompanied by Martha Fischer, professor of piano. While she is a stellar violinist, Prof. Altino is a dedicated teacher, deeply committed to her students. “My greatest joy as a teacher is the up-close witness of the journey that each student takes throughout the course of his or her study,” she said in an interview last summer. “As we discuss and explore countless ways to communicate a story through the sound of a violin, sooner or later students face challenges that would push them beyond the familiar and the manageable. I love seeing my students grow to the point of taking steps of courage and giving generously from their hearts in spite of the difficulties presented in their pieces. The confidence gained by these experiences remains with them for the long haul.”

In an article in Isthmus, Prof. Altino’s former teachers commented on her teaching style. Read it here.

Freshman violinist Lydia Schweitzer in a lesson with Soh-Hyun Park Altino, assistant professor of violin. Photograph by Michael. R. Anderson.
Freshman violinist Lydia Schweitzer in a lesson with Soh-Hyun Park Altino, assistant professor of violin. Photograph by Michael. R. Anderson.

Adult tickets are $12; students of all ages are free. You can buy ahead of time or at the door the night of the show.

Violinist Soh-Hyun Altino rehearses with pianist Martha Fischer at a recent "Music in Performance" class, held every Weds & Fri in Mills Hall.
Violinist Soh-Hyun Altino rehearses with pianist Martha Fischer at a recent “Music in Performance” class, held every Weds & Fri in Mills Hall. “MIP” is a one-credit class that introduces non-majors to classical, jazz, percussion and all kinds of contemporary music. Many older attendees enjoy the class as well.


A “family reunion” feel to Alumni Composers Celebration, Nov. 5-6

Last week’s two-day Alumni Composers Celebration shined a light of our long-standing composition program, reuniting alumni who hadn’t seen each other in decades. It also gave our audience a taste of their unique compositional styles and introduced a lot of contemporary music. Not only did alumni meet with current composition students, they also met with high school students at Memorial and East in Madison.  Separate sessions on marketing and publishing music were held by an alumnus, Bill Rhoads, who is now the vice president of marketing and communications at the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York City.

The Thursday concert featured alumna Paula Matthusen‘s of whole movements and migrations, a work for oboe, percussion, clarinet, piano, and computer that was premiered in 2013 by the Glass Farm Ensemble at Symphony Space in New York City. Paula writes: “of whole movements and migrations explores the resonance of instruments and how they may be manipulated to create variances in the perception of an acoustic space. Two tam-tams located at the front of stage create reverberations of the acoustical sounds, which are then amplified and fed back into the piano.”

“Numina” by alumnus Kevin Ernste also featured electronics, with flute, viola and harp, and “is an allegory for the authoritative abuses of Rome’s current divine authority, the Vatican,” Ernste writes. Nothing Personal was a premiere, a five-movement work of duos paying homage to composer Bill Rhoads‘ mentors at UW-Madison and elsewhere. In the Zone is a two-movement  work, written by alumnus Andrew Rindfleisch, for brass quintet that recalls Renaissance counterpoint, imitation, and polyphony found in early canzones. Lastly, Enticements (Canons), by alumnus Jeff Stadelman, is a “pre-atonal song for voice and piano from Arnold Schoenberg’s decadent period, featuring a cartoonish cat-and-mouse tale.”

Musicians included the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and many faculty, friends and students. A second concert of new music took place on Friday night with the UW Wind Ensemble.

A “Musical Homecoming” – Review in Isthmus

New music is best heard in person, to more fully appreciate the unusual pairings of instruments and creative sounds emanating from them. In a review of the first night’s concert for the weekly paper Isthmus, Jay Rath wrote: “Music — live music — is always performance art. That’s why we go to concerts, after all. The performers’ movements, their manners —in many ways they satisfy as much as the music. When we go to concerts, we bring our eyes as well as our ears. The UW’s professor Stephen Dembski should be congratulated for helping to organize the composers’ visits. Hopefully, we can look forward to similar events in the future.” Read the review here.

Says Bill Rhoads, of his experience last week: “Returning to Madison… gave me an opportunity to reflect on individuals here at the University who played an important role in my personal and professional development, and who helped chart my trajectory over the past two decades through their support, teaching, and inspiration. Equally inspiring was experiencing the compelling, beautiful, and extremely diverse work of fellow alumni, working with the current music students and faculty at UW, and sharing my music with kids at Memorial High School. It was an experience I will cherish and I hope my presence and contributions during my residency in some small way allowed me to give back to those individuals who were (and are still) responsible in many ways for defining who I am and how I view the world around me.”
Photographs by Katherine Esposito.


Upcoming “Light in the Piazza” play peppered with School of Music student/alumni performers and artistic staff

Alumna Sarah Marty writes: “Four Seasons Theatre is excited to collaborate with Director David Ronis (our visiting opera director, who recently directed UW-Madison’s Marriage of Figaro) on our upcoming production of The Light in the Piazza at The Playhouse at Overture. The show runs from Dec. 4-13.

“Featured in the cast are current UW-Madison School of Music voice students Kenneth Lyons (Fabrizio Naccarelli) and Dennis Gotkowski (ensemble), voice professor Paul Rowe & Cheryl Bensman Rowe (co-artistic directors of the Madison Early Music Festival), and School of Music graduates Tamara Brognano (Margaret Johnson) and Christina Kay (ensemble). School of Music alums Sarah Marty (Producer, FST Producing Artistic Director) and Thomas Kasdorf (Music Director) join David Ronis in leading the production.”


‘Tis the Season for Student Recitals!

Cello, trombone, piano, saxophone, percussion, horn, and many more. Please check our calendar for times and dates. Free concerts.


“It’s a Jolly Holiday” Concert ushers in an-all holiday spirit
Bruce Gladstone and choir.
Bruce Gladstone and choir. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

On November 21, at 8 PM in Mills Hall, the UW Chorale will present a concert of holiday music. All kinds!  They’ll celebrate President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Earth Day and so on, with a variety of great music that will leave you wondering why you only think about hearing a choir sing at Christmas. Free concert. Read more.


 

Faculty News

James H. Latimer, Emeritus Professor of Music (1968-1999) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be granted the distinction of honorary doctor of Humane Letters from Florida A & M University, to be awarded at their December 11, 2015 fall commencement. Read more here.

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


Personalize your calendar view! Click on the “view as” link on the right of our calendar page.

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You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

On tap next two weeks: “Marriage of Figaro”; Alumni Composers Return; Symphony Strings; student recitals

News and Events from the UW-Madison School of Music – October 20, 2015

Greetings all!
This is what our calendar looks like right now.

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We hope you will join us for all of them.
Not possible? Well, take your pick!

University Opera: The Marriage of Figaro, Oct. 23/24/25/27.

A well-loved opera with a double cast, directed by David Ronis, music conducted by James Smith and assistance by many more. Read our entire announcement.  Our cast includes Joel Rathmann and alumnus Benjamin Schultz, who will split performances as Figaro; Erin Bryan and Anna Whiteway as Susanna; Brian Schneider and Gavin Waid as Count Almaviva; and Anna Polum and Yanzelmalee Rivera as the Countess. The role of Cherubino will be split between Alaina Carlson and Kirsten Larson. In supporting roles, the production will feature Tia Cleveland and Meghan Hilker as Marcellina, alum Thomas Weis as Bartolo, Dennis Gotkowski and Fabian Qamar as Basilio, Kyle Connors and Mikko Utevsky as Antonio, Emi Chen and Emily Weaver as Barbarina, Todd Keller and Jiabao Zhang as Don Curzio. Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students. Buy tickets here.


Welcoming Five Alumni Composers back to campus for two concerts of their music

In early November, the UW-Madison School of Music will welcome back five graduates of the composition studio who have developed creative,  multi-dimensional careers in a range of fields: acoustic and electronic composition, musicology, theory, audio production, conducting, education, concert management and administration, performance, and other fields as well. The two-day event on Nov. 5 & 6 will feature concerts of chamber music and Wind Ensemble music.

The composers include Jeffrey Stadelman (BM, 1983; MM, 1985), now associate professor of music composition at the University at Buffalo;  Paula Matthusen (BM, 2001), assistant professor of music at Wesleyan University; William Rhoads (BM, 1996), vice president of marketing & communications for Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York City; Andrew Rindfleisch (BM, 1987), professor of composition at Cleveland State University; and Kevin Ernste (BM, 1997), professor of composition at Cornell University.

Music will be performed by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet, the UW Wind Ensemble, and other faculty and students. The works being performed by both faculty and students range from standard instrumentations (woodwind and brass quintets) to unusual combinations (piano, percussion, clarinet, and oboe) to solo works performed by some of our most accomplished students.

Thursday, Nov. 5, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall, free concert. 

Friday, Nov. 6, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall, free concert.

All five composers grew up in Wisconsin or Minnesota, and they provide a variety of career models, in both industry and academia, in both live and electronic music, for our student composers and performers. This may be the first time that a university music school has brought together the alumni of an academic composition program, from a period of several decades, for concerts of their music, workshops with current students, and public informational events.

Click here for biographies of these composers. 


SoundCloudBrenda Rae & UW Symphony now on SoundCloud

Our SoundCloud channel contains tracks from many of our ensembles, soloists, and faculty, and now the UW Symphony Concert with Brenda Rae. It was a spectacular concert; if you missed it, here’s your chance! https://soundcloud.com/uw-madisonsom

At the reception following Brenda's concert on Sept. 27: L-R: Voice professor Mimmi Fulmer; Charles Bishop, founder of the Karen K. Bishop Fund for Voice & Opera; Brenda Rae, soprano; and Susan C. Cook, director of the School of Music. Photo by Jim Klinkert.
At the reception following Brenda’s concert on Sept. 27: L-R: Voice professor Mimmi Fulmer; Charles Bishop, founder of the Karen K. Bishop Fund for Voice & Opera; Brenda Rae, soprano; and Susan C. Cook, director of the School of Music. Photo by Jim Klinkert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Student Recitals are on our Calendar

We’ve modernized our workflow so that all student recitals taking place in our halls are now always listed (and obvious!) on our website. They include performances on all instruments and in many different genres. We encourage you to support our talented singers, composers and musicians. Check the calendar here.


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SoundWaves: The Roaring 20s
Upcoming Concerts

Upcoming concerts include the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, Oct. 22; SoundWaves: The Roaring 20s, Oct. 24; Symphony Strings with graduate conductor Kyle Knox, Oct. 28; Blue Note & Jazz Standards Ensemble, Oct. 29; Cellist Parry Karp & pianist Eli Kalman, Oct. 30.


Trombonist Mark Hetzler brings his electronic sound to Mills Hall, Nov. 3

UW-Madison professor of trombone Mark Hetzler continues his forward movement in the electronic music department with premieres of four new works, one by alumnus Ben Davis entitled $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, for quartet and electronics. With Anthony DiSanza, drums/percussion; Vincent Fuh, piano; Ben Ferris, bass; Tom Ross, percussion; and Garrett Mendelow, percussion. Mills Hall, Nov. 3, 7:30 PM.   Read the program here.

Video: Mark Hetzler performs instrumental music with electronics. With Vincent Fuh, piano; Nick Moran, acoustic and electric bass; and Todd Hammes, drums/percussion.


Faculty News

News from Susan C. Cook, Anthony Di Sanza and more.  Click here to read.

Alumni News

Bass-baritone Benjamin Schultz, DMA 2012, has published a book on Polish Diction. Ben serves as the Assistant Director of the School of Music.  Click here to read.

Benjamin Schultz
Benjamin Schultz

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.

Personalize your calendar view! Click on the “view as” link on the right of our calendar page.

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You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

 

 

News and Events from the UW-Madison School of Music

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