The benefits of a double major; Musicians Health Symposium; Brass Fest III recap; November guest artists

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
October 18, 2016

Music + Athletic Training double major a “huge opportunity” for SOM student

Robert Medina is now a graduate, but his UW-Madison legacy will live on in a new video that highlights his choice to major in both jazz trumpet and athletic training. “I saw this huge opportunity,” says Robert Medina. “I’ve been able to switch around the order in which I take classes to accommodate the athletic training program.”  There are jobs for people with such skills, says Andrew P. Winterstein, athletic training program director. “There’s athletic trainers now who work with Cirque du Soleil, with ballet companies, touring Broadway shows.”  Click to watch video.

Musicians Health Symposium will offer insight into common health disorders faced by musicians

On Friday, October 21, the School of Music will present a Musicians Health Symposium featuring a panel of doctors and therapists experienced in many kinds of common ailments faced by musicians. These include performance anxiety, disorders involving hearing, movement, and voice, and much more. Students and faculty are strongly encouraged to attend, and the public is welcome. 3650 Humanities, 12-4:45 PM. Learn more at this link.

Upcoming guest artists at the School of Music in November – Free and Open to the Public

Steven Ebel, a tenor who discovered his vocal talents at UW-Madison and followed them with a successful international singing and composing career, will offer master classes and a concert on November 14, 15 and 16. He’ll teach classes on stage fright and breathing strategies, and offer lessons.

Laurie Smukler, a violinist and teacher at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, and the Conservatory of Music at Bard College, will visit on November 18 and 19 for a series of master classes and a concert with Victor Asuncion, piano and UW-Madison Professor Soh-Hyun Altino, violin. The program will include Prokofiev’s Sonata for two violins, Op. 56; Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending; and Brahms’s Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108.
Smukler’s 2015 master class at Juilliard was a hit.  Read about it here.

Brass Fest III popular with high school students, audience

High school students from twelve area schools were welcomed to the stage of Mills Hall for our third Brass Fest, where they performed a beautiful rendition of Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzon duodecimi toni, written in 1597. The schools represented included Madison West High School; Madison East High School; Middleton High School; Kromrey Middle School; Edgewood  High School; Pewaukee High School; Mount Horeb High School; Clark Street Community School; Sun Prairie High School; St. Ambrose School; Cedarburg High School; Madison Memorial High School; and a homeschooled student.

The two days of Brass Fest III featured the acclaimed Stockholm Chamber Brass (in its first-ever tour of the States), along with the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and advanced college musicians. The first concert featured Stockholm Chamber Brass (read this review by local blogger and critic Greg Hettsmanberger) and the second night offered the full complement of musicians performing works by Brian Balmages, Dmitri Shostakovich, Gustav Mahler, and Anthony Di Lorenzo, among others.

Comments from high schoolers ranged from “it made me more aware of higher level playing” to “it helped us grow as musicians.”

See more photographs from Brass Fest III at this link:

Hear the music of Brass Fest on our SoundCloud site. First up: The Gabrieli. Click here if graphic fails to load.

Limited edition T-shirts still available, only $3.00! Send an email to the editor with your request. frontofshirt

New webpages on our site

Music master classes: a page listing master classes at the School of Music. Master classes are open to the public and provide insight for performers and audience members alike.

Meet our Students
Emily Borley, a senior double majoring in literature and music education, tells about her journey at the School of Music, including an unexpected tragedy early in her final year.

Alumni News:

Christian Elser, William Wielgus

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 or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

University Opera presents Verdi’s Falstaff, re-envisioned in Hollywood, 1930

As part of the worldwide commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, University Opera will present Verdi’s final masterpiece, Falstaff. Based on material from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV, and Henry V, Falstaff is a wild, comic romp. In the UW-Madison production, updated to Hollywood in 1930, Falstaff is a has-been silent movie actor, out of work with the advent of the “talkies,” holding onto his former glory and living beyond his means at the Chateau Marmont. Now a petty criminal, Falstaff puts the make on Alice Ford and Meg Page in an effort to bilk their husbands of money. The ladies, incensed at his audacity, hatch a plot to give Falstaff his comeuppance. But not before Mr. Ford, (a movie studio executive in the UW production) acting on his own ill-founded suspicions, gets involved and complicates matters. At the end, all are reconciled as both men are taught their respective lessons.


Falstaff will be presented in Italian with English supertitles for three performances, November 11 at 7:30 pm, November 13 at 3:00 pm, and November 15 at 7:30 pm in Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus. Directed by David Ronis with James Smith conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra, the production will involve over 90 UW singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew. This production opens just one week after the national traveling exhibit of Shakespeare’s First Folio arrives at the Chazen Museum of Art.

Buy tickets here.

Following the success of the panel discussion before University Opera’s production of Transformations last spring, Ronis will again be assembling a panel of colleagues to discuss Falstaff on Friday, November 11 at 6:00pm in the Music Hall, admission free. Featured panelists include:

Joshua Calhoun, Assistant Professor of English, UW-Madison

Cabell Gathman, Lecturer, Dept. of Gender and Women’s Studies, UW-Madison

Steffen Silvis, Dramaturg and Doctoral Candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, UW-Madison

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

Susan Cook, Pamela O. Hamel/Music Board of Advisors Director of the Mead Witter School of Music, Moderator

Paul Rowe, Professor of Voice at UW-Madison, will sing the title role amidst a cast featuring current students and a couple of guest alums. The principal ladies’ roles will be filled by Yanzelmalee Rivera and Sarah Kendall (Alice Ford), Courtney Kayser and Talia Engstrom (Meg Page), Emily Weaver and Claire Powling (Nannetta), Rebecca Buechel and Jessica Kasinski (Quickly). The men in the cast will be alum Brian Schnieder and guest artist Richard Schonberg (Ford), José Muñiz (Fenton), Wesley Dunnagan (Dr. Caius), Jiabao Zhang (Bardolfo) and alum Benjamin Schultz (Pistola). Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor, with musical preparation by new professor of opera and vocal coaching, Dr. Daniel Fung, Chan Mi Jean, and chorus master, Christopher Boveroux.

The physical production will be designed by Greg Silver. Costume design is by Sydney Krieger, and Hyewon Park, lighting design by Kenneth Ferencek, props design by David Heuer, and the production stage manager will be Alec Brown. The production staff include Erin Bryan, operations manager for University Opera; Jimmy Dewhurst and Daniel Lewis, master electricians; and Ethan White, lighting board operator.

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

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact Or visit the School of Music’s web site at


A Groundbreaking Weekend for the School of Music; Pro Arte announces a date with pianist Leon Fleisher

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
September 27, 2016

It will be a weekend of many firsts.

  • Here’s the “first first”: On October 28 from 4 to 5:30 PM, at the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue, the School of Music will officially break ground on the new Hamel Music Center that will contain two performance halls, a rehearsal room, and state-of-the-art technology.  Long considered a pressing need, the Hamel Center is being financed entirely by private funds from Pamela and George Hamel, the Mead Witter Foundation of Wisconsin Rapids, Paul Collins, and many other donors.  We welcome continued support! To read about the Hamel Center and learn more, see this link.

“We’re excited about wonderful opportunities these new spaces will provides for all our students as well as the larger Madison and Wisconsin community,” says Susan C. Cook, director of the school of music.  “It’s an exciting time for all of us and we’re grateful for the support of our generous donors .”


Live music and refreshments will be served. The entire community is welcome to join the festivities!

  • The second “first” will be a concert that evening (Friday, Oct. 28) by UW-Madison’s Christopher Taylor, introducing his groundbreaking new piano, the “Hyperpiano.”  It will start in Mills Hall at 8 PM, and Taylor will be available afterwards for conversation with patrons. Read our news release about this piano; buy your tickets here.

Click here to see images of the “Hyperpiano” in development.

  • And for our third first, faculty bassoonist Marc Vallon has planned a special concert of groundbreaking new works of music from the 17th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
    breaking-ground-poster-goodWrites Prof. Vallon: “Composers of all periods have continually explored new musical territories, looked for new paths, and tried, through groundbreaking works, to launch new courses of musical expression. This program offers the public pieces that have, in their time, provided a starting point to new musical routes, just as the first stroke of a shovel is the birth of a new building and a new era.” The concert will include music by Michelangelo Rossi, Alexander Scriabin, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, Helmut Lachenmann, and Morton Feldman.

The free concert is set for 7 PM on Saturday, October 29, in Mills Hall.

Just announced: Pianist Leon Fleisher to perform at Mills Hall with the Pro Arte Quartet

The Pro Arte Quartet was presented with an offer it could not refuse: Legendary pianist Leon Fleisher was available to perform with them this fall. Were they interested?

Leon Fleisher
Leon Fleisher

The answer was yes. On Thursday, October 6 at noon in Mills Hall, Fleisher will perform Brahms’ F minor Piano Quintet with the Pro Arte Quartet. The concert is free.

“You can’t see music as it passes through the air.  You can’t grasp it and hold on to it.  You can’t smell it. You can’t taste it.  But it has a most powerful effect on most people.  And that is a wondrous thing to contemplate.”

As a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007, pianist Leon Fleisher was recognized as a “consummate musician whose career is a testament to the life-affirming power of art.” Read his full biography.

Wondering what else is going on in the arts?

The Arts Institute’s fabulous website summarizes and promotes everything arts-related on the UW-Madison Campus. It offers a link to buy tickets and even offers a special ticketing deal called the “campus arts card.” We often don’t admit it, but there is more to see and hear than just music! There’s dance, theater, art, academic research and discussions, film… Check it out!











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 or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

Christopher Taylor to Debut New Piano

From the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
September 13, 2016

In a marriage of the Baroque and the modern, celebrated UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor will debut his much-anticipated new electronic double-keyboard piano this October 28, performing J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.”

The “Variations” is an 80-minute work once dubbed a “Rubik’s Cube of invention and architecture” that Bach wrote for a double-keyboard harpsichord.

Not by coincidence, Taylor will play Bach’s “Rubik’s cube” on a brand-new piano that could be described in much the same way.

Named the “Hyperpiano” by Taylor, it is actually three instruments – two of them ordinary concert grands, the third a special double-keyboard console designed by Taylor – connected by a riot of sensors and wires, with a mechanism that feels nearly normal for the performer but offers sonic possibilities that are unique.

Click here to view images of the “Hyperpiano” in development at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery “fab lab”

Taylor developed the piano over several years in a laboratory at the Morgridge Institutes for Research, assisted by many faculty and technicians who trained him to machine new parts using computers and guided him as he designed 60-odd circuit boards that make the instrument run. In addition, Taylor wrote several thousand lines of computer code that manage sensing and communications. In 2014, Taylor received United States patent # 8,664,497 B2 for the “Hyperpiano.”

Taylor entering the "fab lab" at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.
Taylor entering the “fab lab” at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

His inspiration to develop it came from another unusual instrument that he inherited shortly after coming to UW-Madison in 2000, a double-keyboard piano made by Steinway in 1929.

Johann Sebastian Bach was known as a composer who welcomed new concepts in musical instruments. Accordingly, Taylor says, Bach designed the Goldberg Variations for the most deluxe instrument of his day, a double-keyboard harpsichord with a four-and-a-half octave range. Today, musicians often perform the work on a regular piano, but must generally “resort to tricks, compromises, fudging or outright studio chicanery to play all the notes as Bach wrote them,” as writer Tom Huizenga wrote in his blog, “Deceptive Cadence.”

The Hyperpiano will allow Taylor to overcome those obstacles. “I can recreate effects more like what Bach imagined, even while producing at the same time completely novel musical results,” Taylor says.

Taylor was a bronze medal winner in the 1993 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, at which he performed the Goldberg Variations, among other works, on a standard single-keyboard Steinway. He also holds a degree in mathematics from Harvard University.

The concert will take place on Friday, October 28, at 8 PM in Mills Hall, Humanities, 455 North Park Street. There will be one intermission.

Tickets for adults are $18; for students, $5. They may be purchased at Campus Arts Ticketing or in person at the Memorial Union Box Office.

Patrons are advised to arrive early. Seating is general admission.

Mills Hall seats 700, of which 100 seats will be reserved on a first-call basis for music students, staff and faculty.

Christopher Taylor’s “Hyperpiano” Creates New Musical Possibilities

By Michael Muckian

“I would never be content as a pianist to play the same half-dozen pieces the same way year in and year out,” Taylor explained. “In piano literature, we have a vast array of great compositions, but we are always questing for new variety.”

Christopher Taylor grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where his father taught physics at the University of Colorado and his mother was a high school English instructor. The family owned a piano and Taylor initially was taught to play by a neighbor down the street.

The casual lessons didn’t last long; by age 10, the young pianist was playing Beethoven. By high school he was composing music.

While music was his first love, Taylor also proved gifted in mathematics, a field that seemed to offer a more stable career path. The young pianist chose to follow that thread, graduating summa cum laude in mathematics from Harvard University in 1992.

During those same years, Taylor also studied piano under Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he began to attract the attention of the East Coast classical music community. In 1990, at the end of his sophomore year, Taylor won the University of Maryland’s William Kapell International Piano Competition, and later that same year made his performance debut in Alice Tully Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

However, Taylor’s watershed moment came in 1993 at the age of 23, when he earned a bronze medal at the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, for his performances of works by Beethoven, Boulez and Brahms, as well as Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” now a standard part of his repertoire. For the young mathematician-slash-pianist, the competition win sealed his fate.

Christopher Taylor performing in Mills Hall, Feb. 2015. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.
Christopher Taylor performing in Mills Hall, Feb. 2015. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

“I had sat on the fence between music and mathematics for many years, but the bronze medal made the decision for me,” Taylor said. But while his musical career had become ascendant, he kept up his math and computer studies. “I didn’t want to put the other parts of my brain on ice.”

The newly minted concert pianist, who would go on to earn critical accolades such as “frighteningly talented” (The New York Times) and “a great pianist” (The Los Angeles Times), knew that his mathematics training went far to inform and support his music.

Both disciplines draw on similar mental skill sets, Taylor explained, noting that hours of piano practice can provide the necessary rigor to solve a complex mathematical proof.

“Music performance is more visceral than math, but when I’m performing I am definitely using the logical part of my brain,” he added. “Mentally understanding a piece of music is essential to surviving a performance.”

Following the Van Cliburn competition win, Taylor became a touring musician. His new wife wanted to pursue her doctorate in musicology at the University of Michigan, so the couple moved to Ann Arbor while Taylor spent weeks on the road playing several dozen concerts per year across the U.S. and in Europe.

Life on the road proved strenuous for the young pianist, who became known for his intense, sweat-soaked, highly physical performances. Eventually, Taylor decided he might want to teach. When the University of Wisconsin offered Taylor a faculty position in 2000, his family moved to Madison.

At UW-Madison, Taylor came across a prototype that would prove the foundation for his new invention. And he can credit a little known Hungarian composer for the introduction.

Emánuel Moór, who during his life composed five operas, eight symphonies and other orchestral works, is best remembered today as the inventor of the Moór Pianoforte, a double-keyboard instrument that attempted to replicate the benefits of the harpsichord and organ in the piano format. It boasted a two-tiered keyboard, but space within the cabinet allowed for only 76 keys on the top tier instead of the usual 88. The layout of the 164 keys allowed one hand to stretch across a range of over two octaves at once, creating a richer and fuller sound.

Watch a video of Taylor describing his plan for a new piano.

Moór was a professional colleague of composer Maurice Ravel and cellist Pablo Casals, both of whom championed his work, including his pianoforte. Despite such celebrity support, many musicians considered Moór’s instrument more of a novelty and found it difficult, if not impossible, to play.

European manufacturers produced about 60 pianofortes during the 1920s, including one made in 1929 in Hamburg, Germany, by Steinway. Until very recently, that particular instrument occupied a corner of Taylor’s cramped office in the Mosse Humanities Building.

The Moór pianoforte found its way to UW-Madison after Danish pianist Gunnar Johansen became the university’s artist in residence in 1939. Enthralled with the strange instrument, Johansen lobbied university donors until they broke down and bought it for him on the condition that its ownership revert to the university upon the pianist’s death.

By the time Johansen died in 1991, interest in the pianoforte had waned. It lay in storage for 14 years until Taylor rediscovered it in 2005. He performed on the pianoforte in dozens of concerts across the country, eventually getting a feel for the instrument and gaining notoriety for his performances. In 2007, the New York Times interviewed Taylor and created a video about the piano. In 2010, while he was in Washington, D.C. for a performance, the Kennedy Center created its own version.

“It’s clever as a musical contrivance, but it’s a little unwieldy and feels strange under your fingers,” Taylor said, noting that corresponding keys on both keyboards end up striking the same string. “You have to work very hard to play the keys because of the Rube Goldberg mechanism that connects them with the hammers.”

Around 2009, having studied the levers, rods, and platforms lurking inside the Moór piano, Taylor decided there might be a better way, a way that would take advantage of 21st-century technology. He began to draw up blueprints, discussed his ideas with a number of experts, and eventually received a grant from the UW Arts Institute to pursue them further. In early 2012 he approached George Petry, a prototyping manager at the Morgridge Institute for Research, to talk about his idea, an idea that much later would be named the “Hyperpiano.” Petry thought Taylor was nuts.

“I thought Chris was crazy because I knew this was going to be so much work,” Petry said. “I have a lot of students coming in who have never built anything before who say they want to build a space shuttle. I thought this was Chris’s space shuttle.”

But Petry gave Taylor the benefit of the doubt, and also a corner in the Morgridge Institute’s Advanced Fabrication Laboratory – better known as the “fab lab” — inside the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery building on University Avenue, a home where engineers and inventors collaborate to build prototypes of their ideas. And Petry started to teach Taylor how to use all the computer-operated machines.

Another important teacher was Giri Venkataramanan, a professor in the UW-Madison Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who served as a high-level consultant to the project. “His motivation was sky-high and it sounded like he knew what he was doing,” Venkataramanan said.

At first blush, the Hyperpiano’s double-keyboard console – what Taylor calls the “input device” – looks like a contemporary upright piano that is thicker in girth than normal. It features a two-tiered keyboard with 176 keys total along with five pedals. Hidden inside the cabinet, behind the keys, are two sets of standard mass-produced piano hammers.

But that is where similarities to a regular piano end. There are no strings for these hammers to strike, and Taylor admits that their only function is to mimic the feel of playing a normal single-keyboard piano. In fact, in the absence of strings Taylor had to create special foam bars for the hammers to strike, designed to replicate an ordinary instrument’s behavior but create as little “banging” noise as possible.

“Even building a conventional piano that works is a very difficult process in itself,” says Robert Hohf, a professional piano technician who aided Taylor. “The keyboard orientation and the alignment of parts is unbelievably complicated.”

And with the Hyperpiano, the complications only increased.

Designing an instrument that contains twice the normal number of keys and twice as many hammers, aligning everything inside a single wooden frame, took a massive amount of re-engineering, Taylor says. Each of the 176 keys in the Hyperpiano has a unique shape that had to be specially carved by a router, which got its directions from multiple computer programs written by Taylor.

To actually make music, the double-keyboard console contains electronic sensors that read the movement of the keys during each stroke, then send coded electronic impulses via wires to two player-piano mechanisms called “Vorsetzers.” (First developed in the early twentieth century, Vorsetzers were mechanical key-pressing contraptions that could be attached to the keyboards of ordinary pianos.) The Vorsetzers are affixed to any pair of pianos one has handy, which, in theory, could be some distance away. Thus the motions of the pianist’s fingers on one part of the stage are transmitted instantaneously to produce music emanating from two other parts of the stage.

Taylor plays Prokofiev

Timing everything so that the music would sound like music—not a jangle of disparate noises – was another hurdle Taylor had to surmount. Taylor’s new technology solves that problem: it senses a fraction of a millimeter of motion as soon as a key is pressed. The sensors immediately send the data to the Vorsetzers, which move the corresponding key the same amount at exactly the same time.

“It involved a lot of software jujitsu to make this happen,” he said. But in the end, “everything is choreographed to deliver the final notes in real time,” he explained.

The Hyperpiano could afford some novel performance opportunities, says Taylor: “For starters, it will be capable of everything the Moór piano can produce: far-flung chords beyond the grasp of ordinary human hands on ordinary pianos, intricate counterpoint where the hands mingle in the same register (effects that would cause impossible traffic jams on a single keyboard), and, with the aid of an extra fourth pedal, sonorities reinforced by extra tones one octave higher than the keys the pianist is actually pressing.

“But it will offer customized behaviors beyond these,” he continues. “The ability to reinforce the pianist’s keypresses with any number of additional notes, so that the motion of a single finger produces an elaborate harmony; novel hybrid sonorities obtained by combining different pedaling patterns on the two subsidiary pianos; repeated notes faster than what ordinary pianos permit; and the interesting spatial effects that will result when the two subsidiary pianos get rolled to different parts of the stage.”

Taylor is eager to produce new arrangements and compositions that take advantage of these musical novelties. “I’m in discussions with a number of composers about the possibility of their contributing to a new chapter in the piano literature,” he says.

With the end of the project in sight, the pianist says he’s pleased with the outcome of his years of work, even as he adjusts to new variations in sound and performance.

“I’m delighted to find that the final product is matching my initial vision pretty closely,” Taylor says. “There is still some tweaking that needs to take place — software refinements mostly — in order to ensure that as a pianist I have the level of musical control that I need. This work may prove challenging, but as in the past I am very determined to overcome the remaining obstacles.”

Venkataramanan agrees and also is thinking ahead to the piano’s next iteration.

Scientists, unfortunately, are never satisfied.

“As a problem-solving exercise, this has been pretty impressive,” the engineering professor says. “But he still runs wires between his keyboards. The next phase would be to do this on a wireless basis and using Cloud technology.”


Mr. Taylor is eager to acknowledge the invaluable help he received from a large number of collaborators over the past five years. Apart from piano technician Robert Hohf, machinist George Petry, and EE Professor Giri Venkataramanan, these individuals include: Rock Mackie and Kevin Eliceiri, the former and current directors of the Morgridge Institute for Research, who were amazingly welcoming hosts during his four-plus years in the Fab Lab; UW-Madison piano technician Baoli Liu; Justin Anderson at WARF and Callie Bell of Bell Manning LLC, who shepherded the patent application process; Kevin Earley, who built the wooden housing for the input console; Convenience Electronics of Madison (in particular Betsy Vanden Wymelenberg), who custom assembled the instrument’s many wires and cables; Calvin Cherry, Nate Hess, Brian Urso, and Ryan Solberg, whom Taylor employed to solder together circuit boards and who contributed greatly to his EE education; UW-Madison’s Bill Sethares, along with Terence O’Laughlin and Alberto Rodriguez of Madison College, who put Taylor in contact with the aforementioned companies and employees; and the UW Arts Institute, former chancellor John Wiley, and Paul Collins, who provided moral as well as financial support.


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 or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

38th Karp Family Concert; Music Hall shines with new paint; Brass Fest 3 opens up to area high schools

Scroll down to read about our 38th Karp Family Concert, Brass Fest 3 including audio of the Stockholm Chamber Brass, new pages on our website, and alumni news!
For a full calendar of events, see
August 30, 2016
Welcome to the beginning of a new year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music, and our first issue of A Tempo!
Over the summer, the interior of Music Hall was spruced up with fresh paint. What a welcome improvement! The hall is used by University Opera as well as percussion and jazz groups. Many thanks to UW-Madison painters!












Here’s what happened over the summer:

  • Music Hall, the home of University Opera and many percussion and jazz concerts, was repainted. It looks terrific.
  • Our school was renamed, thanks to the Mead Witter Foundation of Wisconsin Rapids, who contributed $25 million to the new concert hall.
  • We remodeled the display cases in Mills Hall lobby. They now  contain stunning images of our students, taken by photographers Michael R. Anderson and Bryce Richter.

We bade farewell to faculty members Richard Davis, Stephen Dembski, and Janet Jensen. And we added faculty. Please help us welcome Leo Altino, classical bass instructor; Nick Moran, jazz bass instructor; Louka Patenaude, jazz guitar instructor; Eric Siereveld, jazz trumpet instructor; Aaron Hill, oboe;  Amy McCann, clarinet; Gino Deluca, Wisconsin Singers artistic director; Daniel Fung, vocal coach; Jeanette Thompson, voice; and Matthew Richardson, musicology. Learn about them on our faculty page.

On tap for early fall….

The 38th Annual Karp Family Labor Day concert Monday, Sept. 5, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall.  This annual treat will feature a tribute to the late UW-Madison pianist Howard Karp, commissioned from composer Joel Hoffman by Howard’s son, Christopher. Free concert.

Brass Fest3 Poster2016_HO

BRASS FEST III with Stockholm Chamber Brass, making their first United States tour. One of Europe’s greatest quintets, SCB will perform a solo concert on Friday, Sept. 30 and will be joined on Saturday, Oct. 1 by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and selected college and area high school students in a “Festival Brass Concert.”  Both concerts will begin at 8 PM and are ticketed. Our third BRASS FEST will also feature displays from Wisconsin vendors of musical instruments and sheet music , T-shirts featuring our brand new logo, and a reception!

Concert, Fri,  Sept. 30, 8 PM, Mills Hall: The Stockholm Chamber Brass. Ticketed: $20 adults; $5 students & children.    Buy tickets here.

Concert Sat, Oct. 1, 8 PM, Mills Hall: Festival Concert with the Stockholm Chamber Brass, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and college/high school students. Meet the musicians at a free reception following the concert. Ticketed: $15 adults; $5 students & children. Buy tickets here.

Hear Stockholm Chamber Brass perform one of the works to be played on September 30: Malcolm Arnold’s “Brass Quintet”:

Introducing our “Meet the Students” webpage

Here’s where newcomers to the School of Music can learn about the varied and fascinating people who call themselves students in our school. It’s not a page for awards (find that here) nor a page for graduates (that is here) but a place where ongoing students describe who they are and why they have chosen to study music. Let them tell us in their own words!

On Sept. 25, doctoral candidate Sarah Richardson will premiere a song cycle of letters from Nellie Kedzie Jones, a Wisconsin farm woman. Click the image to learn more.

Bookmark it!

Alumni News: 

William Rhoads, Kimberly Dunn Adams, Merrin Guice, Christina Kay, Paul Bhasin, Matthew Mireles, Claire Hellweg.


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 or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

Third UW-Madison Brass Fest to feature renowned Stockholm Chamber Brass – Sept. 30 & Oct. 1

BRASS, BRASS AND MORE BRASS – With No. 3, UW-Madison cements a tradition as a Brass Hub of the Midwest

On September 30 and October 1, the newly renamed Mead Witter School of Music will welcome the internationally acclaimed Stockholm Chamber Brass to campus for a third annual Brass Fest.  The quintet’s tour of upstate New York, Michigan and Wisconsin will be their first-ever appearances in the United States.

The Stockholm Chamber Brass. Credit: Beatrice Winter.
The Stockholm Chamber Brass. Credit: Beatrice Winter.

Brass Fest III will also mark the first time that high school students will play an active role, attending master classes and performing on stage in a final Festival Brass Concert. Area high schools planning to attend include Middleton, Madison East, Madison West, Edgewood, and Memorial.

A number of major instrument makers and music companies, many located in Wisconsin, will also be on hand to display their wares.

The events will include a concert with Stockholm Chamber Brass on Friday, September, 30, at 8 PM, and a second concert on October 1, with the Stockholm Chamber Brass, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, UW-Madison student performers and selected high school students.


Tickets: $20 for Friday’s concert ($5.00 non-music students); $15 for Saturday’s concert ($5.00 non-music students). Buy tickets here or at the door.

“We are expanding the festival because our mission is to perform and to teach,” says Daniel Grabois, assistant professor of horn and member of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet. “We are motivated by the Wisconsin Idea, and we are making every effort to bring what we do to the population of the state. There are many students in the state who play brass instruments, and we want to include them in our educational mission. We also want to build on the successes of the past two years – many people enthusiastically attended the festival, and we want to make it better, more exciting, and more inclusive.”

Buy a commemorative limited edition t-shirt, and support the School of Music! For more information, send an email to t-shirt sales.

Stockholm Chamber Brass, formed in 1985, consists of some of Scandinavia’s leading brass musicians. Its five members are all prize winners at major international solo competitions, including the ARD-Wettbewerb, CIEM Geneve, Markneukrichen and Toulon. Their international breakthrough came in 1988 when Stockholm Chamber Brass won 1st Prize at “Ville de Narbonne,” the most prestigious international competition for brass quintets.

Stockholm Chamber Brass has performed at Bad Kissingen Sommer, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Niedesächsische Musiktage, International de Musique Sion Valais, the Prague Spring Music Festival, the Budapest International Music Festival, Festival Internacional de Santander, the Soundstream Festival in Toronto, the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, the Umeå International Chamber Music Festival and the Stockholm New Music Festival. The ensemble has also performed at various brass festivals, including the Lieksa Brass Week, the International Trombone Festival in Helsinki, the Melbourne International Festival of Brass, Epsival Limoge and the Blekinge International Brass Academy.

Stockholm Chamber Brass has received glowing reviews for its CDs. A reviewer at American Record Guide writes, “I cannot imagine that a better brass quintet has ever existed.”

The ensemble’s repertoire consists mostly of original compositions and their own arrangements of older and contemporary music. Their interest in new music has resulted in over thirty compositions written specifically for the ensemble. Stockholm Chamber Brass has worked with a long list of leading composers, including Anders Hillborg, Sven-David Sandström, Pär Mårtensson, Britta Byström, Henrik Strindberg Piers Hellawell and Eino Tamberg. The ensemble has also collaborated with leading brass soloists Håkan Hardenberger and Christian Lindberg.

The current members of the Stockholm Chamber Brass are Urban Agnas, trumpet; Tom Poulson, trumpet; Jonas Bylund, trombone; Annamia Larsson, horn; and Sami Al Fakir, tuba.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet, formed in 1972,  is one of three faculty chamber ensembles in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music. Deeply committed to the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, the group travels widely to offer its concerts and educational services to students and the public in all corners of the state.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.
The Wisconsin Brass Quintet. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet includes John Aley, trumpet; Matthew Onstad, trumpet; Mark Hetzler, trombone; Tom Curry, tuba; and Daniel Grabois, horn.







A New Name for the School of Music

Good afternoon,

We are pleased to present a  mid-summer update from Susan C. Cook, Pamela O. Hamel/Music Board of Advisors Director of the Mead Witter School of Music

As many of you may remember, last summer the Mead Witter Foundation of Wisconsin Rapids made a gift to the School of Music that allowed us to move forward with simultaneous construction of both our recital hall and our new concert hall.  No longer did we need to construct the building in two phases! So, our architects made revisions to accommodate the new timeframe, and we plan to break ground this fall.

As of July 1, the UW-Madison School of Music was no more.

We are now the Mead Witter School of Music. Our website — — already reflects this change.

16-028 Concert Mast Head-Fnl-Hi-ResThe Mead Witter gift was combined with a previous major gift from Pamela O. and George Hamel, longtime friends of the University and School of Music.

In recognition of the Hamel’s gift, this new performance building will be named the Hamel Music Center.   The large concert hall will also be designated the Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall.   It joins the Collins Recital Hall, named for longtime friend and contributor to the building project, Paul Collins and his wife, Carol.

The Mead Witter Foundation has touched the lives of Wisconsinites since 1894, when the company known as Consolidated Water Power Company first began. Current Mead Witter Foundation chairman George Mead II was the fourth-generation leader of the corporation that his great-grandfather J.D. Witter founded, and his grandfather George W. Mead I continued to lead to become a world renowned in coated papermaking. The company and foundation have had ties to the UW-Madison from the 1920s, when George Mead I was a university regent, and have supported scholarships, professorships and the Chazen Museum.

Pamela and George Hamel own Hamel Family Wines of Sonoma, California, and have strong ties to UW-Madison. Pamela is on the School of Music’s board of advisors, and George received his bachelor’s degree in communications arts at UW-Madison.  Paul Collins also serves on the board of advisors and graduated from the Business School; his mother, Adele Stoppenbach Collins, received her degree from the School of Music.  In 2001, Paul and Carol Collins endowed graduate fellowships and subsequently made a major gift to the new building project as well.

Director Susan C. Cook, seated in a chair intended for the new concert hall. This fall, the School of Music will unveil a new chair-naming campaign to complete fundraising for the new Hamel Music Center. For more information, contact Rebekah Sherman at 608-572-2077. Photograph by Hannah Olson.

Ground-breaking for the Hamel Music Center is planned for this fall with an expected completion within 24 months, and a year’s celebration of events beginning in Fall 2018.

There will be a chance for you to play a naming role. In order to support our students who will make these new performance spaces come alive, we will provide opportunities to name a chair in one of our new performance spaces.  You’ll hear more about that in the coming months.

On behalf of the Mead Witter School of Music, many thanks to all who support our students, programs and mission.  We are most grateful.

Susan C. Cook, Pamela O. Hamel/Music Board of Advisors Director of the Mead Witter School of Music

Gifts from alumni, friends, corporations, and community members help support the School’s goal and mission to provide a student-centered education that promotes the highest levels of professional development while challenging students to achieve their greatest potential.

Please consider making a gift payable to the UW Foundation:

UW Foundation , U.S. Bank Lockbox
P.O. Box 78807
Milwaukee, Wi 53278-0807

For help making a gift, or to discuss other giving opportunities, please contact Rebekah Sherman, Director of Development, University of Wisconsin Foundation


For more information about how your gifts benefit the school, please see:


News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music

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