Meet New Faculty: Alicia Lee, clarinet

Clarinetist Alicia Lee, assistant professor of clarinet, came here this fall from New York City, where she performed regularly with many ensembles, including the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Knights, Alarm Will Sound, NOVUS, and ACME, and participated in music festivals all over the world. She co-founded Decoda, a chamber music collective affiliated with Carnegie Hall, and is also a member of NOW Ensemble, a contemporary music group comprised of composers and performers. For seven years, Alicia was associate principal of the Santa Barbara Symphony and also played bass clarinet with the Bergen Philharmonic in Norway in 2013-14. Her degrees are in French language and literature (Columbia University) She studied at The Juilliard School and earned additional degrees from the University of Southern California and The Colburn School as a student of Yehuda Gilad.

At the Mead Witter School of Music, she is now a member of the Wingra Wind Quintet.

Read Prof. Lee’s full biography here.

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

Alicia Lee. Photograph by Katrin Talbot.

In New York City you’ve had a very active performing career. Are you still shuttling back and forth between NYC and Madison? Did you ever foresee yourself entering academia?

Yes, I am still shuttling back and forth between NYC and Madison – this Thanksgiving, I was thankful for nonstop United flights between Madison and Newark. I am lucky to still have performing opportunities on the East Coast, but the main reason I am going back so often is because my husband is still living in New York! I was not necessarily focused on finding a college teaching job, but it was always among the mix of my interests. I grew up in Michigan with my parents teaching in the music department at Michigan State University, so there is definitely a level of familiarity with this environment that I am very much enjoying.

You hold a bachelor’s degree in French language and literature. What connections have you made between French language/lit and music?

My initial reason behind choosing French language/literature as a focus of study was because I knew that I was headed towards a career in music. I wanted to spend my time at university studying something that I always found beautiful and fascinating but perhaps not the most practical! I discovered that the process of learning a language is similar to my experience of learning music. In order to feel really comfortable expressing myself, I have to feel so comfortable in the language that it becomes second nature. There are so many subtleties within language and the more you catch onto them, the more you see them in every language, including music. Unfortunately, my French never became quite as fluent to me as music, but I guess that’s why I became a musician.

What is your most memorable musical or professional experience? Your most embarrassing?

One of my most memorable musical experiences is hearing a classic, live recording of Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock, sung by Benita Valente. There is a moment where her voice almost, almost breaks, but doesn’t. To me it’s one of the most sublime musical moments that has taught me so much about how I want to be able to play the clarinet. My most embarrassing musical experience was when I was in high school at a summer music festival. I showed up to an orchestra rehearsal – one of my very first orchestral experiences ever – without my music, which I had left on my bed in my dorm room after dutifully practicing my part. Everyone around me was urging me to just run back and get it, but I was so nervous and worried that I just faked my way through Prokofiev’s Love of Three Oranges Suite. Somehow the intense anxiety and adrenaline of the moment got me through. I’ve never played that piece since and if you asked me to hum a tune from it, it would be impossible.

Above: Alicia Lee joins the Decoda Ensemble for a performance of Thomas Adès “Catch.” With Lee are Anna Elashvili, violin; Claire Bryant, cello; and Michael Mizrahi, piano.

Are there any New York City projects that you could bring to Madison audiences?

Six years ago, I along with some close musical friends founded a chamber collective called Decoda. Our mission from the start was to bring meaningful musical experiences to all audiences. As a freelancer (in my former life), it can be difficult to feel real ownership over the work that we find ourselves doing, and Decoda became a very important part of my life since we built it from the ground up. I would love to bring colleagues from Decoda to Madison and also to UW-Madison, because I think we have a unique process and way of presenting our music.

About  UW-Madison’s Wingra Wind Quintet:

The Wingra Quintet is an opportunity for me to collaborate closely with my colleagues in the wind department. We look forward to expanding our performing season and programming many exciting works. One piece in particular that I am looking forward to is “Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet” by Gyorgy Ligeti. While it is considered a staple of the quintet repertoire, it is quite a time commitment, which often prevent it from being programmed. I am lucky to be in a situation where we have the time and space to put together such a masterwork from the repertoire, as well as have colleagues equally excited to work on this beast!

To contact Prof. Lee for information or a sample lesson, email her at

See Prof. Lee with the full Wingra Quintet, this Sunday at the Chazen Museum, noon. Click here for program.


Meet New Faculty: Alex Noppe, trumpet

New trumpet adjunct professor Alex Noppe came to UW-Madison this fall to teach both classical and jazz trumpet. While he hails from Green Bay, his career has taken him all over the world, as a member of the Mirari Brass Quintet, which he co-founded, of the Louis Romanos Quartet, which plays new Orleans-style jazz, and as a performer and soloist in orchestras and as a clinician at brass conferences. He’s also a composer and arranger. In Madison, Alex is a member of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, which recently returned from a Big Ten performance tour, and will next perform in Rhinelander (February 22); and in Madison (February 24).  Click here to read Alex’s full biography.

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

Alex Noppe. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

What approaches do you take when teaching jazz trumpet vs classical trumpet?

I don’t really treat different styles of music all that differently.  In my opinion, the “umbrella” under which all study is organized is trumpet fundamentals—all of the skills, concepts, and techniques that go into becoming an excellent player on your instrument.  Underneath that are various bins of styles & repertoire that get studied individually—baroque, jazz, orchestral, mariachi, etc.  But the techniques for learning each individual style don’t really differ that much.  I suppose jazz players tend to do a lot more ear-development exercises, but that’s something that everyone else should be doing as well.

You’ve had a diverse array of performance opportunities, which include orchestras, chamber groups, and jazz ensembles. Do you have a preference for any one type of performance setting or musical style? 

Not particularly.  I’m at my happiest when I’m involved in a variety of different performing activities, so I enjoy the challenge of rapidly switching back and forth between genres and groups.  Having said that, the majority of my playing these days is in small chamber groups.

The Mirari Brass Quintet. L-R: Stephanie Frye (tuba); Sarah Paradis (trombone); Matthew Vangjel (trumpet); Jessie Thoman (horn); Alex Noppe (trumpet).

Tell us about the Mirari Brass Quintet (pictured above).

Originally, it was a group of graduate students at Indiana that formed the group, but over the years we changed a few members (adding Stephanie Frye, UW-Madison MM 2010 & DMA 2013).  We’ve always had a bit of an interesting model in that we live in four different states scattered across the country, which definitely presents some challenges for rehearsing and performing.

Mirari is in its ninth season together and we spend most of our time doing concert tours, educational residencies, and new music commissioning.  We play a fairly eclectic mix of music that we’ve affectionately dubbed “stylistic whiplash”–everything from Renaissance to jazz to contemporary classical to Latin to musical theater, and on and on.  At this point we’ve performed in about 30 states and did our first international concert tour this past summer in China.  We have one album out from a few years ago and another one being released in just over a month on Summit Records.

What works have you arranged for Mirari?

I do the bulk of the in-house composing and arranging for the group, and at this point I’ve probably contributed about 20 pieces to our book. I’ve done a few jazz arrangements from composers like Charles Mingus, Thad Jones, Chick Corea, and Pat Metheny, some original compositions, a piece for quintet and vocals, one for quintet with piano, and one for quintet and wind ensemble.

Above: The Mirari Brass Quintet performing “Spires,” a commissioned work from Rome Prize winner and Guggenheim Fellow Eric Nathan. “Spires” may be heard on Mirari’s 2012 CD, also called “Spires.”

What is your most memorable musical experience? What is your most embarrassing musical experience?

Tough question—not sure if I have only one answer for this!  Some of the more memorable performances include performing in Thailand and China with my chamber groups, a jazz festival in Maui that included a home-stay with not one but two infinity pools, and getting to work with an amazing array of great musicians including Leonard Slatkin, Wycliffe Gordon, John Clayton, Randy Brecker, and many others.  Oh yeah, and sharing a duet on an album with “Yes” lead singer Jon Anderson.

As for embarrassing experiences—probably too many to count, but they definitely include dressing up as pop star Michael Jackson for an orchestra concert, passing out while playing a high note during my freshman year of college, and recording a marching band version of “Spider-Pig” (yes, from the Simpsons movie!).

Your bio lists that you were a “cellophonist” in a concerto for cellphones and orchestra. What was that?

Definitely one of the more entertaining gigs.  My mentor in grad school, David Baker, was commissioned to write a concerto for cell phones and orchestra—especially amusing since he could barely use his own.  My role included juggling 3-4 different phones at the front of the stage and triggering off various ringtones, accompanied by the orchestra and several hundred phones from the audience.  The music director of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra coined the term ‘cellophonist’, and I’ve found it hilarious ever since.

Contact Alex for a visit and/or a sample lesson:

Meet New Faculty: Matt Endres, Jazz Drums & Jazz History

In September, we welcomed Matt Endres as a new adjunct professor teaching jazz drums and jazz history. Matt is from Sauk City,  and received his bachelor’s of music degree at UW-Stevens Point, his master’s degree in jazz studies from the University of Illinois, and his doctoral degree in jazz studies and ethnomusicology at the University of Illinois. He’s been a bandleader, a sideman, and played drums with the Downbeat award-winning group “Old Style Sextet.” He’s heard on multiple albums and has worked with many well-known musicians, including trumpeter Doc Severinson. Read Matt’s full bio here.

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

What is one topic in jazz history that you find most important to share with your students? 

I don’t focus solely on major artists who would be considered “hallmarks” in my courses. I find it more relevant to emphasize what was happening socially, racially, economically, and politically in the US from the 19th century to present day. These are the things that shaped what we know today as the purely American music of jazz. After all, these topics act as the main artery that powered the evolution of this music. Note: Next spring, Matt will teach the class “Jazz Innovators: Armstrong, Ellington and Beyond,” Tuesdays & Thursdays from 1 to 2:15 PM. Learn more in the Course Guide.

What types of opportunities would you like our students to have?

Playing gigs is definitely the best arena for personal development as a musician. We live in a city that is very rich in the musical sense. There are many opportunities to play in Madison and I stress the importance of getting out, being heard, and creating with as many musicians as possible.

What was it like working with Doc Severinsen?

Doc is one of the most professional people I’ve ever worked with. Any horn player that complains about their chops after a gig, I have no sympathy for. Doc is 90 years old and has more stamina than anyone. He still performs with true effortless mastery. A true sweetheart and a giant influence.

Click here to read a story in the Sauk Prairie Eagle about Matt’s appointment to the School of Music.

What’s the most rewarding thing about teaching the students here at UW?

These kids work and have a real passion for music. I’ve noticed substantial maturity in their playing in a very short period of time. They have a hunger for progress and the standards put onto them by faculty elevate their musicality immensely. I’m very honored to be working with world class educators here within the Mead Witter School of Music.  Within the jazz department specifically, Johannes Wallmann has a very clear vision on what this young department will be, and what he has created thus far is extraordinary. The opportunities he provides for the students is very inspirational. I’m very honored to have the privilege to work along side him and he has exposed me to many different academic arenas.

Share one memorable and one embarrassing musical experience. 

My most memorable experience also acts as my most embarrassing one. In October of 2014, in Macau, China, I dropped a stick in the middle of one of my solos in the finals of a music competition. I made it out alive and was able to develop it into a formative arrangement. That remains to be one of my most creative experiences I’ve had playing to this day.

What are some of the highlights from your career thus far?

I’ve had the pleasure of playing with many world class musicians/composers and created a lot of fantastic music.  I’m fortunate to have success internationally on music charts with a handful of these records. Still, the most memorable and rewarding aspect of recording has been noticing the personal progress in my own playing after cutting a record.

Where can we hear you in Madison?

I’ll play Thursday, December 7, with the Tony Barba Quartet at Madison’s (119 King St.) from 8-11 PM; Sunday, December 17 for Madison Jazz Jam at The Rigby (119 E. Main Street) from 4-7 PM; and Friday, December 29, at North Street Cabaret with the Tony Barba Quartet, 8 PM.

Want to meet Matt and /or request a sample lesson? Reach him at

School of Music pioneers new course on Japanese music

November 21, 2017

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music

University of Wisconsin-Madison
455 North Park Street, Madison Wisconsin 53706

Scroll down to see a partial list of additional second-semester courses (including String Literature, West African Dance & Music, and Electro-Acoustic Ensemble) offered at the School of Music. 

An Exploration of Japanese Music, from Traditional to Avante-Garde

Having taught one year already at the School of Music, musicology instructor Matthew Richardson (Ph. D, Northwestern University, 2016) isn’t brand new here. But we’d like to introduce you to him nonetheless, especially as he’s developed an innovative class in Japanese music history musicology that is now open to enrollment.

“Music in Japan”   (Music 660-402, Music Cultures of the World: Asia) will offer students an overview of the stylistic and historical depth of music in Japan, including traditional genres like classical court culture, kabuki, and geisha performance, as well as modern J-pop, film music, and anime music. A major theme will be to position Japanese music culture within global trends from China, Korea, the US, and beyond.  The class will meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:55 to 10:45 in Room 2441, Humanities. For music majors, the class will fulfill a world music requirement. For non-majors, the class will fulfill a distribution requirement.

We asked Matt to tell us the story behind his interest in Japanese music.

I got into Japanese music in a sort of round-about way. I had studied Japanese as a hobby during a gap year before graduate school. After I started grad school, I was writing a paper on some German synthpop* and came across a Japanese group called Perfume. They put together a lot of retro synthpop sounds with the really pop-y choreography that’s popular in Japan, and once I started trying to figure out what to make of them it snowballed into a dissertation on Japanese pop. One thing that drew me to the subject was that a lot of groups like Perfume work on many levels at once. On the surface level, they’re just really fun synthpop, but when you dig deeper there are references to obscure synthpop from the ‘70s, and sometimes even when they’re performing on a TV commercial or something, they sort of poke fun at advertising while they’re advertising something. It manages to be really simple but really complex at the same time.

“Japanese pop music has a lot of influence from European and American pop music, but at the same time some music styles mean something different in Japan than they do in Europe and the US. In other words, what Japanese hear in Japanese music is different from what Americans often hear in Japanese music. And when Japanese fans listen to American music, it often means something different to them, too. One good example might be punk rock. In the US, that sort of sound is associated with rebellion and counterculture. But in Japan, a lot of artists use it as simply an energetic, youthful style without intending any of the political and meanings it has in the US.

“Since I wrote the original description I’ve added a unit on Japanese artists who tour in the US, and American artists who tour in Japan, talking about why they do or do not catch on. One of the issues we’ll look at is how a lot of the Japanese singers who do sound more ‘American’ (like Thelma Aoyama and Utada Hikaru) flop in the US because they sound too ‘normal,’  but really eccentric pop groups (like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu or Babymetal) often go viral in the US and then only later catch on in Japan.

“There actually aren’t any musicologists that specialize in anime, that I know of. That part of the class will be reading a lot of general things on anime in Japan, and then spitballing some of my ideas about how those ideas apply to how music works in anime. One of the takeaways will be that anime is all about creating these big, sweeping fantasy worlds, and each series or studio usually grabs onto one kind of music that somehow fits with the fantasy, whether it’s jazz or synthesizer music.”


“Sorry, sometimes I forget how much jargon is floating around in my head! Synthpop is a term for pop music that’s mostly played with keyboards and synthesizers, especially when there’s a little bit of a disco-ish beat (like A-ha or Devo back in the 70s/80s).”

Learn more about “Music in Japan” and other music courses available this spring by checking the “Public Search” option at this website.

A smattering of other courses offered next spring include the following. (Please note: check with the instructor as not all classes are open to general students and auditors):

  • MUSIC 416: Survey of Music in the Twentieth Century with Professor Susan C. Cook
  • MUSIC 542: Choral Literature and Performance Practices of Today with Associate Director of Choral Conducting Bruce Gladstone
  • MUSIC 546: String Literature with Artist-in-Residence and Pro Arte Quartet Violinist Suzanne Beia
  • MUSIC 319: Topics in Music and Ethnicity in the United States (Delta Blues) with Professor Charles Dill
  • MUSIC 318: Cultural Cross Currents: West African Dance/Music in the Americas with Associate Professor of Dance Christopher Walker

and a variety of Special Topics courses (all MUSIC 497):

  • Opera Production with Assistant Professor David Ronis
  • Electro-Acoustic Ensemble with Associate Professor Daniel Grabois
  • Advanced Aural Skills: From the Conservatoire with Professor Marc Vallon
  • Marching Band Techniques with Assistant Director of Bands  Darin Olson
  • Acting for Singers with Assistant Professor David Ronis
  • Jazz Innovators: Armstrong, Ellington and Beyond with Adjunct Professor Matthew Endres
  • Music, Critical Pedagogy = Social Change with Associate Professor Teryl Dobbs

Our Full Concert Calendar


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. To receive the brochure, please send your postal address to newsletter editor..

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Meet New Faculty: Timothy Hagen, flute

New to UW-Madison, Timothy Hagen, adjunct professor of flute, is an internationally acclaimed flutist, praised for his “technical virtuosity and musical sensitivity” (NewMusicBox).

With my friend and colleague, Brandon Rumsey, just before the premiere of Michael Mikulka’s Flute Concerto, written for me.

He has been a prizewinner at multiple major competitions, including the Myrna Brown Artist Competition, Australian International Flute Competition, and Pasadena Showcase House Instrumental Competition. As a soloist, Dr. Hagen has appeared at New York’s 92nd Street Y and Lincoln Center in addition to multiple concerto performances with the Missouri Symphony. He was principal flute of the Missouri Symphony from 2009-2016 and has performed with orchestras across the country, including the Minnesota Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, Eugene Symphony, and Dallas Wind Symphony. His experience as a chamber musician includes fellowships at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and Atlantic Music Festival, and his compositions are performed by professional musicians throughout the United States.

Before joining the faculty at UW-Madison, Dr. Hagen taught at Oklahoma State University and the University of Texas at Austin, as well as in partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lincoln Center Education, and Dallas Symphony. He holds degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, University of Southern California, and University of North Carolina School of the Arts, in addition to a professional studies certificate from the Colburn School.

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

You are now a member of the Wingra Wind Quintet. What are some of your favorite works for wind quintet, and do you plan to program those pieces soon?

Performing with Wingra is one of the highlights of my job. Each of my four colleagues in the group is a superior musician, as well as a nice person, so everything we play together is a treat. That said, of the warhorses, I love Paul Hindemith’s Kleine Kammermusik, Op. 24, No. 2. I also love newer quintets by Jennifer Higdon and Andrea Clearfield, which we consider programming in 2018, along with Gyorgy Ligeti’s Ten Pieces (something of a classic by now), and John Harbison’s quintet. Right now, we’re giving our fabulous horn player (Joanna Schulz) a little break and playing Elliott Carter’s Eight Etudes and a Fantasy for woodwind quartet. The music is not only excellently crafted, but it is also captivating and compelling. I’ve wanted to play it for years, and I’m fortunate that my first time is with Wingra.

You’ve composed many works for flute. What is the difference between writing more pedagogical works vs a concert piece?

When I’m composing, my primary focus is to create a work that is successful in expressing what it’s trying to express. That is true whether the work is pedagogical or for the stage. For teaching pieces, like my NarrEtudes (as in “narrated etudes,” each of which is a chapter of a story), I have to be very conscious of the level of student I am targeting. These pieces aim to teach expressivity at the same time young students are still developing technique, so I had to be careful to find the perfect level of technical difficulty—the Goldilocks spot, not too easy or too hard, but just right—to correspond to the expressive demands of the pieces.

To a degree, this is also true of concert works. If I am writing a piece for myself, the process is somewhat easier because I have a strong sense of my strengths and areas where I need to grow, so I will tend to write music that will capitalize on the former and stretch me in service of the latter. If I am writing a piece for someone else, then there tends to be an ongoing conversation about what they want while I am crafting the piece. Drafts get sent back and forth, and the process stays open. This is what happened on my latest piece, In a Yellow Wood for piccolo and piano, which was written for a consortium of students of the late, great Jack Wellbaum, former Solo Piccolo of the Cincinnati Symphony. The lead commissioner, Heather Verbeck, is a beautiful, sensitive player, and we became good friends through this project.

Sometimes, however, the two worlds come together: someone else commissions me AND I am left to my own devices. I was commissioned to write the required work for the Texas Flute Society’s 2017 Myrna Brown Artist Competition, and the contract had two requirements: the work had to use extended techniques (sounds beyond the traditional scope of flute tone), and it had to be sufficiently difficult to help the judges decide who should advance to the final round and ultimately win. This resulted in my piece Pop for solo flute, which was a ton of fun to write. It was the first piece I have ever composed where I was well aware during the process that it was possible, but it would take a LOT of practice to play (even for me, the composer). Because of this, I focused on making the piece fun and catchy, both for audiences and performers. Judging from the feedback after it was performed, I thankfully managed to get the balance right.

What do you offer to your students that is most unique – perhaps an aspect of teaching that came from one of your teachers?

I was fortunate in that my first teacher in college, Philip Dunigan at the North Carolina School of the Arts, was really from a different generation. He freelanced in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s, when you would go to Juilliard until you started getting enough work to quit school (which is exactly what he did, leaving without even a bachelor’s degree). In my lessons with him, he would hold up great musicians of the past as sonic role models, especially singers, like the phenomenal Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé, whose recordings I’ve recently come back to and whose voice was astonishingly beautiful. Dunigan would also strategically assign us copious amounts of listening. In my first year with him, he gave me Arthur Honegger’s solo flute piece Danse de la Chevre to learn, and with it came a list of Honegger’s other works to study, such as the orchestral tone poem Pacific 231, and the double concerto for flute and English horn. Absent from that list was the very piece I was learning, Danse de la Chevre, because his hope was for me to pick up on elements of Honegger’s style, not for me to simply copy professional flutists playing the same piece I was playing.

These two things I got first from Dunigan—sonic beauty and control and stylistic assimilation—came back in various guises through my other major flute teachers, especially Jim Walker and Marianne Gedigian. Walker would never, ever settle for anything less than my best sound all the time, and Gedigian has possibly the uncanniest ear for style of anyone I have ever met (and certainly of any flutist).

It’s no wonder that I view these same two things as the hallmarks of my teaching. Ask my students how much time we spend on sound in their lessons! (Answer: A LOT!) My philosophy is that for any musician to develop a voice worth listening to, they have to develop total control over their sound so that they have endless options to express what the composer is trying to express. This means doing a lot of listening—to singers, to violinists, to pianists, and occasionally, yes, to flutists—to build up huge sonic imaginations and a lot of practicing and experimenting to channel those imaginations through the flute.

As much as I have to say about sound, however, it, like all other aspects of musical execution, is subservient to style. I insist that my students spend a great deal of time researching, studying, and thinking about these aspects of music, because they determine how we proceed with everything else. Style is why the sound I use for Bach is different from the sound I use for Mozart, and why both are different from my sound for Brahms, for Varése, for Copland, and so on.

One final point I try to impart to my students that I learned from Jim Walker: being the best musician you can be is not a guarantee of success. There is nothing wrong with capitalizing on every skill you have. This mindset has not only led me to career success in areas outside playing and teaching the flute, such as community outreach, composing, and curriculum design, but it also has enriched my artistic life and my personal life.

What is one of your most memorable musical experiences? Most embarrassing?

One of my most magical memories comes from 2008, when my dear friend Greg Milliren (now associate principal flute of the Minnesota Orchestra) and I were each serving as co-principal flute in the American Youth Symphony in Los Angeles. Our gala concert that year featured the iconic film music of John Williams, conducted by the composer himself. The opportunity to play a whole program of this stunning music with wonderful friends and musicians, under Mr. Williams’ baton, was exciting beyond words.

As for embarrassing, I’d point to the 2006 Pasadena Showcase House Instrumental Competition, a major competition in Southern California. I had advanced to the final round and decided to up the stakes by playing some of my program from memory. Big risk sometimes equals big reward, but I fell hard that night. Even worse was learning after the fact that the jury anticipated that I would win after the semifinal round, when I did not play from memory. Needless to say, that did not happen. I am still mortified when I think about that experience. Memory does not equal artistry; and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Timothy Hagen will perform a recital on March 18, 2 PM in Mills Hall.

For information or a sample lesson, contact:

See Prof. Hagen’s personal website:

Meet New Faculty: Double bassist David Scholl

The bass section of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. L-R: Carl Davick, Zachary Betz, Robert Rickman, Mike Hennessy, David Scholl, Brian Melk, August Jirovec, and Jeff Takaki. Photograph by Katrin Talbot.

Double bassist David Scholl, a native of Bellevue, Washington, is new to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently serves as principal bass of the Madison, Quad City, and Dubuque Symphonies; is a frequent substitute in the Elgin, Rockford, and South Bend Symphonies; and was once a member of the Illinois Symphony and Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He’s performed as a guest artist on Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW series, University of Chicago’s Contempo series, and with the Spektral Quartet. In addition to maintaining a bass studio, he is on faculty at UW-Madison’s Summer Clinic, and presents in public schools. David received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University, where he studied bass with Bruce Bransby.

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

Do you vary your approach to music change based on the style, genre, or setting?

To be honest, for the most part my overall approach does not change. As a bass player my role is often harmonic, so understanding the form and melody is important in any style. Depending on context I will vary my articulation or volume, but the fundamental concerns are the same across genres.

Tell us your most memorable and embarrassing musical moments.

Most memorable: While I was in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago we gave a conductorless performance of Beethoven 6. The concert was the brainchild of Yo Yo Ma, and it felt a lot like chamber music, we made a lot of our own musical decisions, and there was a heightened energy in the hall that one doesn’t experience everyday.

Most embarrassing: While playing out of tune or coming in at the wrong time is still embarrassing to this day, the memory that comes to mind is playing bass on “I Hope You Dance” with my high school’s all-girl choir. The music was not to my taste and the girls teased me about my floppy hair in all the rehearsals. I was painfully shy. Come to think of it, this may have been what pushed me into becoming a more strictly classical player.

What ensembles are you currently playing with and what upcoming performances can locals plan to attend?

I am principal bass of the Madison, Quad City, and Dubuque Symphonies. I also sub frequently with other ensembles such as Elgin, Rockford, and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Locals can see me in most Madison Symphony concerts, also I am playing with WCO for its Nutcracker run in December. Additionally I am giving a solo recital in Morphy Hall on January 29th.

What it’s like to be in a “freeway orchestra” member (a musician who travels from city to city to perform)?

Some orchestras such as Milwaukee or Chicago give concerts every week and the musicians are employed full-time in one city, but for those of us that play in groups that perform less frequently, we have to travel around from town to town playing with many different groups to have a full schedule. Some musicians affectionately call it the “Freeway Philharmonic” as there is a substantial commute, and you will see many of the same faces in each group. Commuting takes a toll on us physically and mentally. The hardest aspect for me is the food: hotel rooms don’t have a kitchen and you will be lucky if it has a fridge, so there is a lot of eating out which is expensive and not the most health conscious. There are some real benefits to freelancing however. You have more freedom to pursue other projects, you get a variety of groups to perform with, and it a great way to get to know some other towns.

You’ve described Madison as “crunchy.” Define “crunchy.”

“Crunchy” is a term that comes from the type of health-conscious people who eat lots of granola, and the connotations that are associated with granola consumers, such as being environmentally conscious and having a more do-it-yourself lifestyle. Madison has a lot of great health food with all of its great restaurants, co-ops, and farmers markets; and with the thriving bike and artistic culture here the word seemed to fit. I meant it as a term of endearment, as I myself strive to be crunchier everyday.

David Scholl offers sample lessons to all college and pre-college string bass students.  Contact him at

On Monday, January 29, David Scholl will present a solo recital of works by Gliere, Faure, and Brahms. Morphy Hall, 8 PM.