Wallmann & Jazz Studies featured in Downbeat; Di Sanza eats kimchi and plays drums in South Korea

It’s a good time for jazz in Madison! The School of Music’s revitalized Jazz Studies program received a major boost this summer after Chicago-based Downbeat Magazine chose to feature it in their annual “Where to Study Jazz” issue, available in bookstores September 17.

Downbeat Magazine
Downbeat Magazine, Oct. 2013.
Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

Writer Aaron Cohen visited UW this summer to interview Jazz Studies director and assistant professor Johannes Wallmann, who says he is “absolutely thrilled” with the story. Says Frank Alkyer, the publisher of Downbeat:  “We were thrilled to publish it. Susan Lipp, the chairman of Full Compass Systems (and also a board member of the UW-Madison School of Music), is a dear friend in the industry. She invited me up last fall for ‘Jazz Junction,’ a community event in honor of Johannes joining the faculty of UW and the plans for a jazz department. I attended and was blown away by the back story, by donor John Peterson’s generosity, by Johannes and by the local jazz community’s embrace of the new direction the school of music was taking.”

“I knew it would be the cover of our October ‘Where to Study Jazz Guide’ right there and then,” he continued.

An excerpt: “In 2014, Wisconsin will introduce its first Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies program—almost 100 years after the university began offering degrees in music. Meanwhile, the school has benefited from local support, such as a large donation from a local philanthropist earmarked for jazz, and equipment and scholarships provided by local companies like musical instrument retailer Full Compass. New facilities are on the horizon, too, including a $46 million music building to host the university’s concert halls, faculty studios and departmental offices. From all indications, it’s a good time for jazz in the state’s capital.”

Congratulations to Johannes and the UW jazz program!

Meanwhile, last month Tony Di Sanza, professor of percussion, mingled with top percussionists in South Korea as the guests of Akademie Percussion Ensemble (APE), now beginning its 20th year as an ensemble. We asked Tony to write a story about his trip:

Anthony Di Sanza Travels to South Korea to Eat Kimchi (and play a couple of concerts)

“I have been fortunate to be a member of the Galaxy Percussion Group for over ten years.  The group was initially formed to accompany Japanese marimba virtuoso Keiko Abe in the early 2000’s.  After that the ensemble recorded a CD of works featuring marimba solo with percussion trio with American marimbist Linda Maxey.

“Through the years the ensemble has changed shape, depending on the programs being performed and ensembles with which we were collaborating.  At first, the ensemble members were Michael Udow, Roger Braun and myself.  In 2010 the group began a relationship with the Akademie Percussion Ensemble (APE) from Seoul, South Korea.  APE is the premier professional chamber percussion group in South Korea and they also run a tremendous prep program for developing percussionists.  In August 2010, Galaxy traveled to Korea to share a concert tour with APE.  Given the repertoire being discussed for the 2010 tour, we decided to add a 4th member to the ensemble.  Galaxy welcomed Jamie Ryan as our 4th member for the 2010 tour and the group has been a quartet ever since.

“Galaxy Percussion represents three generations of percussionists.  Michael Udow is retired Professor of Percussion at the University of Michigan where Roger and I both studied with him.  Roger studied with Mike as an undergraduate and I as a masters and doctoral student.  I have had the pleasure to learn from Professor Udow for over 20 years as a student and professional.  His influence upon me runs very deep.  Jamie Ryan studied with me at UW as an MM and DMA student and he now serves as Assistant Professor of Percussion at Eastern Illinois University.  In essence, Mike is Jamie’s percussive grandfather.  🙂

“In 2011, Galaxy and APE toured the Midwest United States, including a performance at UW. During the 2011 tour, APE director Kang-Ku Lee invited Galaxy to perform in Seoul for a celebration of APE’s 20th year in 2013!  We, of course, were happy to accept Kang-Ku’s kind invitation.

“Given that Galaxy Percussion members live in myriad parts of the country, rehearsals are done in the days prior to a particular event.  We met in Seoul on Aug 6 and had three days to rehearse our program.  Most of the repertoire we were performing was new to us, so we each needed to be ready for three intense days of rehearsal (with jet lag).  A major portion of Galaxy’s repertoire is music composed by the ensemble members and this program reflected that ethos performing works by Mike, Roger and myself.

“One of the challenges for the ensemble in rehearsals is not getting lost in laughter.  The group really gets along well (which is so important when traveling) and has fun making music and hanging out.  Sharing the program with APE and Galaxy was a Swiss percussion quartet named QuaDrums.  Working with Hans, Thomas, Chris and Rafi was complete blast!  Lovely musicians and wonderful people.

Akademie Percussion Ensemble, QuaDrums & Galaxy in rehearsal, South Korea, August 2013.
Akademie Percussion Ensemble, QuaDrums & Galaxy in rehearsal, South Korea, August 2013.

“The first concert took place on Aug 9 and included each group performing about 20 minutes of repertoire and closing with two fun works combining all three ensembles.  Despite it being a bit like a sauna in the hall, the concert went very well (with a full house attending) and we looked forward to having Saturday and Sunday off.  Being that QuaDrums and Galaxy were staying in the same hotel it was easy for us to occasionally share meals and enjoy long conversations with libations.

“On Monday, we rehearsed most of the day and on Tuesday moved into the Seoul Arts Center for the evening concert.  The Arts Center is the most high profile concert hall in South Korea and is a tremendous place in which to perform.  This was the gala event celebrating APE’s 20th year and we were all excited to perform for the large audience.  The concert came off without a hitch and after packing up the party began in a local pub.  At 2:00am QuaDrum, having to head to the airport at 5:30am, decided to call it a night.  Galaxy stayed until about 3:00am and bid goodnight to our Korean hosts, who, as it turns out, continued the celebration until dawn!

“Having had a wonderful time with our old friends (APE) and new friends (QuaDrums), Galaxy caught various flights from Seoul home.  Amazingly, as I was boarding the plane, preparing for the 12-hour flight, I was told that the airline had oversold the flight and I was being bumped up to business class.  What a tragedy!  While I had a luxurious flight from Asia, Roger got stuck in Toronto and had to spend a night in a hotel after ten hours of waiting in the airport.  I felt bad for Roger.”

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One thought on “Wallmann & Jazz Studies featured in Downbeat; Di Sanza eats kimchi and plays drums in South Korea”

  1. As an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, it gave me great pleasure to return to campus to write this DownBeat story. I learned a ton about journalism when I wrote for The Daily Cardinal, and I learned even more about jazz when I took Richard Davis’ class.

    Best,

    —Aaron Cohen

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