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.
Interview conducted by Kyle Johnson, a dissertator in piano performance.
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 email@example.com.
News and Concert Highlights from the UW-Madison School of Music – Feb. 29, 2016
University Opera presents its spring 2016 show:”Transformations”
Transformations, a 1970s chamber opera that explores serious psychological themes through the re-telling of Grimm’s fairy tales, will be staged March 11, 13 and 15 by UW-Madison University Opera. The opera was written by Conrad Susa based on poetry by Pulitzer-Prize winner Anne Sexton, who suffered from mental illness and depression, and took her own life in 1974 at age 45.
‘It’s a challenging and compelling piece of music theater,” said David Ronis, director. “It’s a great vehicle to teach skills to young opera singers, and stimulating thought and dialog across the university and community.” While the opera is dark at times, it contains much humor as well.
Sexton’s writing was often confessional and overtly feminist. Her champions included Maxine Kumin, Robert Lowell, and Sylvia Plath. Transformations was commissioned of Susa in 1972 by the Minnesota Opera, known for its interest in contemporary works. The libretto includes eight cast members who play multiple roles from the fairy tales; the plot involves a middle-aged witch who is transformed into a young beauty pulled into a nightmare.
Transformations is conducted by graduate assistant conductor Kyle Knox.
Performance dates, times and prices:
Friday, Mar 11 @ 7:30pm (Pre-show discussion, 6 PM)
Sunday, Mar 13 @ 3:00pm
Tuesday, Mar 15 @ 7:30pm
General Admission: $25; Seniors: $20; Students: $10
Tickets available at the Memorial Union Box Office. Also available at the door.
Transformations is a thought-provoking and complex opera that benefits from thought and discussion. Join us for a pre-show discussion at 6:00 PM in Music Hall, March 11, with noted University scholars: Lynn Keller – Professor of Poetry, UW-Madison Thomas DuBois – Professor of Scandinavian Studies, Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies,UW-Madison Laura Schwendinger – Professor of Composition, School of Music, UW-Madison Karlos Moser – Emeritus Director of Opera, UW-Madison
David Ronis – Interim Director of Opera, UW-Madison
Moderator: Susan Cook, Director, UW-Madison School of Music
Selected Concert Highlights, March 2016
The Hunt Quartet. Sunday, March 6, 6:00 PM, Morphy Hall, free and open to all. The Hunt Quartet is the graduate string quartet at UW-Madison, comprised of Paran Amirinazari, violin; Clayton Tillotson, violin; Blakeley Menghini, viola; and Andrew Briggs, cello. The quartet will play music of Beethoven, Webern, and Schubert. Funding is provided by Dr. Kato Perlman and the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
UW Chamber Orchestra
Wednesday, March 16, Mills Hall, 7:30 PM. The UWCO, conducted by James Smith, will perform works of Bela Bartok, Elliott Carter, and Einojuhani Rautavaara, one of Finland’s most important composers. Rautavaara’s style has been influenced by Orthodox liturgical music and Finnish fiddlers and is both Romantic and mystical; read about him at this link.
“Le Domaine Musical”
Friday, March 18, Morphy Hall, 8:00 PM. Free concert. An homage to the late composer Pierre Boulez, featuring music of Pierre Boulez, Anton Webern, Claude Debussy and Johann Sebastian Bach. Performers drawn from School of Music faculty as well as students.
On Saturday, February 20th, the clarinet studio and Wesley Warnhoff, adjunct professor of clarinet, hosted its first “Clarinet Day,” including Warnhoff and students performing works by Francis Poulenc and Eric Mandat, master classes with high school students, and chamber music sessions with college and high school students working side by side. The day concluded with the group attending a stunning performance by the UW Wind Ensemble conducted by Professor Scott Teeple. Warnhoff plans to turn this into an annual event; check back next year!
New on SoundCloud: Hear Martha Fischer, Wes Warnhoff and Jamie-Rose Guarrine perform “The Shepherd on the Rock” at last January’s annual “Schubertiade” concert. Fischer is prof. of piano and collaborative piano at UW-Madison. Guarrine received her DMA at UW-Madison and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Cellist Andrew Briggs earns ovation from Middleton Community Orchestra audience
“I must say that he gave me about the most satisfying experience of it that I have ever heard.” Reviewer John Barker, in his review of the MCO’s Feb. 24 concert, in which Briggs, a UW-Madison graduate student studying with Prof. Uri Vardi, played Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. “The reason for that is not only his playing skill but also his natural rapport with an audience: He communicates.” Click to read the full post at The Well-Tempered Ear.
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.
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 who recently made his Madison Opera debut in its 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.)
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.”
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
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.'”
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.
The fall semester begins next week: Wednesday, September 2. We hope all our readers enjoyed a wonderful summer with just enough activities to allow you to feel rested, but not exhausted. We have much to tell you and many invitations to enjoy performances and events at Mills, Morphy, and Music Halls this year.
Students travel the world during summer
We asked our students to tell us what they did during the summer — and now we all wish we could have joined them! Here are a few stories.
Joshua Junig, a tenor and a student of Elizabeth Hagedorn, spent the last few weeks in Rock River Repertory‘s production of “Miss Saigon,” portraying the role of Thuy. Directed by Jim Tropp, the show ran for two weekends at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center in Edgerton, Wisconsin. This year, Joshua plans to take music theory, vocal instruction and piano, and graduate in 2018 with degree in choral music education.
For eight weeks, Elliot Stalter, a violin performance major in the studio of Professor David Perry, attended the Aspen Music Festival and School. He enjoyed studying privately with Paul Kantor and playing in weekly orchestral concerts as well as attending masterclasses and concerts. This year he looks forward to taking classes in world music and conducting and will graduate in 2017.
DMA cellist Andrew Briggs, student of Uri Vardi, spent the summer performing music and traveling in Europe. In late June, he worked with cellist Lluis Caret at the Master Classes at Fontfroide (download 2 MB PDF) (Narbonne, France) and attended the Holland Music Sessions (Bergen, Netherlands) in July and August. Between the courses, he traveled to Paris and Berlin, and played chamber music with his musical relatives in Amsterdam.
Timothy Young, an instrumental/general music education major and bassoonist, spent a week on a production crew assembling, operating, and tearing down staging, audio, and lighting for the inaugural Eaux Claires Music Festival. The rest of his time was spent practicing, working as a sound and lighting technician for the Wisconsin Union, counseling at UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic, and visiting family and friends.
In July, voice performance major Alannah Spencer, a student of Paul Rowe, attended the Illinois-based young artist program, the Midwest Institute of Opera. Here she worked with coaches and teachers from around the U.S. and performed the role of La Bergere/La Chouette in Ravel’s opera “L’enfant est les sortileges.” This year Alannah will be wrapping up both her music and her anthropology degrees while serving as the concert office assistant for the School of Music.
Recent alumna and flutist Hinano Ishii (B.M., 2015), who plans a career in arts administration, enjoyed her summer working as an operations and education intern at Bravo! Vail Music Festival in Colorado. Her responsibilities included coordinating logistics and assisting on-site production for the New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and various quartets. In addition, she worked closely with guest artists and conductors including Alan Gilbert, Midori, Augustin Hadelich, Alisa Weilerstein and Christopher O’Riley.
This summer pianist Ian Tomaz, a student of Martha Fischer, spent six weeks at the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina as a participant in the 79th Annual BMC Summer Music Festival, where he studied with Elisabeth Pridonoff and Donna Lee, working on new repertoire in addition to participating in recitals and masterclasses. This semester he will be taking classes in piano and vocal repertoire, “Survey of the Classical Era” with musicology professor Charles Dill, and a philosophy course entitled “The Meaning of Life”, in addition to chamber music and lessons. He will graduate with a BM in piano performance in 2017.
Isidora Miranda, a PhD candidate in Historical Musicology and a student of Pamela Potter, recently concluded a six-month research trip to the Philippines. Her research took her to various archives in Manila, looking at zarzuela and operetta scores from the first two decades of the 20th century, and perusing rare documents from the early American colonial period. Before heading back to the Midwest, Isi gave a presentation on the 1904 zarzuela Minda Mora at the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies held on August 12, 2015 at the University of Vienna.
In June, DMA saxophone student Steve Carmichael, a student of Les Thimmig, attended the James Houlik Saxophone Retreat and the Wild Acres Flute Retreat in Little Switzerland, North Carolina, where he studied with classical saxophone virtuoso James Houlik and baroque flute expert Stephen Preston. He performed new works for saxophone, as well as the music of Toru Takemitsu. Steve also performed recitals through out the Midwest and southern states. This year he plans to present four recitals and take Music of the Romantic Period, saxophone instruction, and perform in the Wind Ensemble and Contemporary Composers Ensemble.
We also placed the following photo and paragraph on our Facebook page, which is steadily acquiring new fans! (are you one?)
Junior trombonist Tom Kelly won the concerto competition at the Sewanee Summer Music Festival. DMA horn candidate Sarah Gillespie traveled to the Max Planck institute in Germany to take real-time MRI video of the vocal folds of horn players as a pilot study for her dissertation. Master’s student and baritone Gavin Waid learned the role of the Count for UW-Madison University Opera’s upcoming production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
Meet our new faculty: Violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino and Clarinetist Wesley Warnhoff
A warm welcome to our new assistant professor of violin, Soh-Hyun Park Altino, who moved here in July to take the tenure-track position previously held by Prof. Felicia Moye, who now teaches at McGill University in Toronto. In Memphis, where she served on the faculty of the University of Memphis for fourteen years, Prof. Altino performed with the Ceruti Quartet and also in the Dúnamis Trio with pianist Victor Asunción and cellist husband Leonardo Altino. Prof. Altino has traveled worldwide to give master classes and participate in educational programs. Read about Prof. Altino on our website.
And reserve November 13, 8 PM in Mills Hall, for your first chance to hear Prof. Altino in concert. She will perform works of Bach, Brahms, and Ives, accompanied by Martha Fischer, professor of piano. Tickets $12 adults/students free. Buy here or at the hall day of show.
We also welcome Dr. Wesley Warnhoff, new adjunct professor of clarinet, who replaces the now-retired Linda Bartley, former professor of clarinet. Dr. Warnhoff is a founding member of the VCP International Trio, a violin, clarinet, piano trio that advocates new music performance, and he is also the principal clarinet of the Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra in Michigan. In Madison, he will perform with the Wingra Woodwind Quintet. Read about Dr. Warnhoff here.
The world rediscovers long-lost works of Jewish performance, literature and visual art – starting this weekend in Madison
Researchers from the University of Leeds in England fly into Madison this week to participate in the first event of a yearlong foray to explore and discover previously unknown works of Jewish art from the early part of the 20th century, including works created during the Holocaust. School of Music music education professor Teryl Dobbsis the Madison link to the worldwide project, which continues in Minneapolis in September and then back to Madison in May, plus many performances and discussions in England and Ireland next spring and summer.
The August 30 events consist of a brunch with researchers ($12); a “Sound Salon” with the Mayrent Institute; a concert with the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society; and a two-act cabaret evening. Please note: Some venues may have reached capacity. Check link here.
37th Annual Karp Family Concert this Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7
7:30 PM, Mills Hall. Free
Family patriarch and emeritus piano professor Howard Karp passed away last summer, and pianist Frances Karp is injured, but the family will carry on with its end-of-summer tradition of family concerts. Performers will include Isabel Karp, narrating a Shakespeare poem to the music of viola (Katrin Talbot) and cello (Parry Karp). Pianist Christopher Karp and Parry Karp will perform Beethoven’s Sonata in A Major for Piano and Cello, and Parry Karp will present several solo works for cello.
UW-MADISON PERCUSSION PROGRAM CELEBRATES 50 YEARS WITH A MARCH 20 CONCERT AND TRIP TO CHINA
“Fifty years is not a long time in the world of classical music, but it’s a very long time in the world of formal percussion studies. In the 1960s and before, the very notion of teaching percussion beyond the basic orchestral instruments caused music educators to simply shake their heads in disbelief.” So what happened? Read the full story on our main website here.
The University of Wisconsin Madison World Percussion Ensemble performs the Olodum classic A Visa La (May 2013). The arrangement was created by Nininho and A. Di Sanza.
HEAR THE MUSIC OF BRITISH COMPOSER CECILIA McDOWALL AND MEET THE COMPOSER, TOO
Heard any new choral music lately? You’ll get your chance this week when Cecilia McDowall, winner of the 2014 British Composer Award for her choral work, Night Flight, comes to Madison.
Please note: On Wednesday the 18th at noon, McDowall will be featured live on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Midday show with host Norman Gilliland (88.7 FM). On Thursday on WORT Radio (89.9 FM), host Rich Samuels plans a half-hour special on McDowall that he pre-recorded with organizer John Aley. At 7:15 AM.
Thursday, noon, Mills Hall: Colloquium with the composer. How does she impart those whispery Antarctic sounds into her music? Come to ask and find out how!
Friday, 8 PM, Mills Hall: We’ll feast on McDowall’s choral and instrumental music for ensembles and soloists, including her work about the ill-fated expedition of polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott. Selected faculty and student performers will include pianist Christopher Taylor, tenor James Doing, the UW Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers, and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn. Mike Duvernois of UW-Madison’s IceCube Antarctic research project will update us on the state of polar research today (hint: they don’t need sled dogs anymore). Tickets sold at the Memorial Union Box office and in Mills on day of show. Adults $20, all-age students free. http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/location.html
Saturday, 8 PM, Mills Hall: A concert devoted to smaller ensembles, including a trio with violinist Eleanor Bartsch, cellist Kyle Price, and pianist SeungWha Baek. They’ll perform “The Colour of Blossoms,” a meditation by McDowall after a 13th century Japanese story. Free concert. Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/cecilia-mcdowall/colour-of-blossoms
Sunday, 9:15 and 10:30 AM, Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue. Forum (9:15) and Church Service (10:30) featuring McDowall’s music, with the composer present.
WINNERS OF SHAIN WOODWIND-PIANO DUO COMPETITION ANNOUNCED
Our 2015 winners are Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet and SeungWha Baek, piano, and Iva Ugrcic, flute and Thomas Kasdorf, piano. Pedro Garcia, clarinet and Chan Mi Jean, piano, received honorable mention.
The competition is sponsored by former UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain. The winners will perform this Sunday, Feb. 22, at 3:30 PM in Morphy Hall. A reception will follow.
BENEFIT FOR STRICKEN TROMBONIST BRITTANY SPERBERG: MARCH 18
The Dairyland Jazz Band, with Sperberg on trombone, plays Ory’s Creole Trombone.
Undergraduate trombonist Brittany Sperberg, who performed in the UW’s Dairyland Jazz Band and many other ensembles, is now having serious medical problems and has withdrawn from school. Sperberg was featured in this blog in the fall of 2013. Her teacher, trombonist Mark Hetzler, has organized a benefit concert on Wednesday, March 18, 7:30 PM to raise donations to assist her family with unmet expenses. Please join us to help wish Brittany a speedy recovery! Donations may also be made at YouCaring.org. Learn much more at our website: http://www.music.wisc.edu/2015/02/07/sperberg_benefit/
STELLAR SINGING EXPECTED AT UNIVERSITY OPERA’S NEXT SHOW: MOZART’S THE MAGIC FLUTE
University costumers are already busy sewing Victorian bustle skirts and the classic South Asian attire known as the shalwar kameez for next month’s University Opera production of The Magic Flute. It’s all a product of visiting opera director David Ronis‘s imagined East-west setting for the show. Read the complete news release on our website.
New this spring: four performances, not just three, allowing for even double casting of all lead roles. The show dates are Friday, March 13, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 15, 3:00 p.m.; and Tuesday, March 17, 7:30 p.m.
SCHOOL OF MUSIC PHOTO EXHIBIT STARTS MARCH 1, LOWELL CENTER
Our friendly helpful photographer Mike Anderson has enlarged and framed about 25 images of student musicians to be placed on display in the Lowell Center Gallery, 610 Langdon Street. The exhibit runs from March 1 to April 30, and there will be a small reception on March 8. Read more here.
Below are a few of Mike’s images taken at our concerto winners concert (“Symphony Showcase”) that was held on February 8. (More information here.) Please check back this fall for our next winners recital date, and join us; it is always a joyous event!
Kyle Knox, graduate assistant conductor.
Conductor James Smith and Keisuke Yamamoto.
Jason Kutz, with the UW Symphony Orchestra and conductor James Smith.
Kyle Knox and composer competition winner, Adam Betz.
Ivana Ugrcic and Stephanie Jutt, professor of flute.
Susan C. Cook, director of the UW-Madison School of Music.
Meet the mystery composer behind “Poema for Saxophone and Orchestra,” to receive its premiere Feb. 8
We’re happy to finally present Daria Tennikova, the Russian-born composer at the School of Music whose new work will be premiered (with sax soloist Erika Anderson) on February 8, 7 pm in Mills Concert Hall, along with the other winners of the annual concerto competition. This year’s recital has a name, Symphony Showcase, and will be followed by a ticketed reception at at the Memorial Union’s Tripp Commons for all students, parents, faculty, alumni, board members, and the community. Please help us celebrate the fine work of our students and join us for both! Proceeds will help fund student scholarships. Buy your tickets here:http://www.arts.wisc.edu/
“Daria’s an unusual woman,” says composition professor Stephen Dembski. “She came up through the Russian conservatory system, and has gradually adapted to the American system while keeping a fierce intensity in her work, which is quite striking.”
Here’s Daria’s bio, from an earlier announcement:
“Daria Mikhailovna Tennikova was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1989. She began taking composition lessons from Natalia Karsh of the Composers Union of Saint Petersburg, but initially chose to focus on piano rather than pursuing a career in composition, receiving an associate degree in piano performance and pedagogy from St. Petersburg’s Mussorgsky College of Music in 2008. Her work received its first public performance at the college when her “Three Lilies” for soprano and piano was played as part of a final accompaniment exam. Daria moved to the United States in 2009 and began devoting more time to composition. In 2010 she began pursuing a bachelor’s degree in composition at UW-Madison, studying with professors Laura Schwendinger and Stephen Dembski. Poema for Saxophone and Orchestra is Ms. Tennikova’s most recent composition, and her very first work for orchestra. She says, ‘I began thinking about writing a piece for soloist and orchestra last spring. Originally I wanted it to be for a piano soloist, and I wrote the main theme with something “Russian” in mind. Later in the spring of 2013, I heard Erika Anderson play Anthony Caulkins’ saxophone piece at a concert. I was moved by her wonderful performance to write my piece for saxophone soloist. I wanted Erika to play it, so I asked her if she would be interested in collaborating and, being both a wonderful person and a great musician, she agreed to play without even hearing the music! I am very grateful to her for giving my piece a beautiful performance!”
March residency to feature singers and music from Finland
Three revered Finnish musicians from the faculty of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland, will be in residency at the School of Music during the first week of March to present master classes, workshops, and discussions on Finnish music education. The week will be capped by a concert at Luther Memorial Church on Saturday, March 8th, at 1 pm. All events are free and open to the public. Read more here.
Clocks in Motion profiled in the Wisconsin State Journal
New work to be premiered this Saturday, Feb. 1
UW-Madison’s newest resident musical ensemble was profiled in last Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal. “The UW-Madison-based percussion ensemble is breaking ground by reviving rarely performed works, commissioning new music and even inventing its own instruments,” wrote reporter Gayle Worland. “Self-run, ambitious and highly talented, Clocks in Motion is also a group in motion, with a schedule that in the next four months includes seven performances in Madison and a Midwestern tour. ‘What this group is doing is something that’s quite inspiring, and tremendously unique,’ said UW percussion professor Anthony Di Sanza, who is teaching or has taught each of the young musicians who make up Clocks in Motion.” Read the full story here.
On Sunday at 7:30 pm in Mills Hall, the group will present “Earth and the Great Weather,” a collaborative multi-media performance depicting the Arctic landscapes of Northern Alaska, to include percussion, strings, chorus, digital delay patterns, spoken texts, and pre-recorded nature sounds. The work was composed by John Luther Adams. Performers will include Chelsie Propst, Sarah Richardson, Cheryl Rowe, and Paul Rowe will comprise the vocal chorus, and Carol Carlson, Max Fisher, Spencer Hobbs, and Mikko Utevsky will serve as the string quartet. Steve Gotcher, audio engineer for Audio for the Arts, will control the complex electronic component of the performance. Matthew Schlomer will conduct.
Alumnus Elias Goldstein to solo at Carnegie Hall
Viola professor Sally Chisholm informs us that her former student Elias Goldstein, a former Collins Fellow, will perform works of Haydn, Mozart, Boccherini, Paganini, and others at a recital on February 19 at Carnegie Hall.He will be accompanied by Ieva Jokubaviciute on piano and Roxana Pavel Goldstein on violin. Goldstein received his DMA in 2011 from the School of Music and is now professor of viola at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Pianist Christopher Taylor profiled in Madison Magazine
Writer Greg Hettsmanberger interviewed UW’s globetrotting pianist Christopher Taylor in a story published in the January issue of Madison Magazine.
What do you tell your students is the most important thing about being a pianist—especially not a professional performer? “I rarely try to boil this craft down to one overriding principle, but obviously I consider it a basic prerequisite for a student to be motivated by love of the art and curiosity about understanding its multifaceted glories. Provided those ingredients are present, then the student will thrive musically, regardless of his or her professional ambitions or prospects,” Taylor answered.Read the full story here. And catch Christopher Taylor in his only Madison appearance this year, performing Prokofieff’s Sonata No. 6 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E flat, as arranged by Franz Liszt, at Mills Hall on February 28, 8 pm.
Tuba prof John Stevens kicks off a pre-retirement semester of concerts
Join us for a post-concert reception at Tripp Commons! Seating limited: Tickets $10 per person. Buy them here.
Written by Nicole Tuma, graduate flutist and concert assistant, UW-Madison School of Music
For most UW-Madison students, winter break is a time for new beginnings. A time to put away that heavy textbook you’re so sick of lugging to the library and replacing it with another – hopefully lighter – one. A time to take one last glance at the comments your professor made on your term paper and start gathering your energies before researching the next. For pianists Sung Ho Yang and Seungwha Baek, flutist Mi-li Chang, clarinetist Kai-Ju Ho, and violinist Madlen Breckbill, however, this is not the case. These five School of Music students will be spending part of their break preparing for the “Symphony Showcase,” a concert that presents some of UW’s finest young musicians in solo performances with the UW Symphony Orchestra. For most, this process began over the summer, when they chose their repertoire for October’s Concerto Competition preliminaries.
On Saturday, February 8th, at 7 pm in Mills Concert Hall (note: this concert was originally scheduled for 8 pm) all five winners will be featured in performances with maestro James Smith with graduate conductor Kyle Knox and the UW Symphony Orchestra in an exciting evening of stylistically diverse concertos propelled by these students’ talent and energy. A sixth winner, composition undergraduate student Daria Mikhailovna Tennikova, will have her winning work, Poema for Saxophone and Orchestra, performed by the symphony and saxophone soloist Erika Anderson.
The concert is free and will be followed by a celebratory ticketed reception at Tripp Commons at the Memorial Union, featuring hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Tickets will be $10 per person. (Space will be limited! Reserve your spot early atthis site.)
For Kai-Ju Ho, a clarinetist from Taiwan, performing with the symphony will be a dream come true, she says. “I remember the first time I heard this concerto was on a recording when I was a freshman. I swore that one day I’d play it!”
Concertos, with their exhilarating combination of soloistic pyrotechnics and dedicated ensemble playing, are some of the jewels of the orchestral repertoire, and the opportunity to perform a concerto with an orchestra is an experience that musicians truly savor. For woodwind lovers, this year’s Symphony Showcase concert will be a real treat, as it will include two of the most popular woodwind concertos: Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto(1948) and Jacque Ibert’s Flute Concerto (1934). The Copland was written for and premiered by Benny Goodman and has an irrepressibly jazzy second movement, while the Ibert is a crowd-pleasing work that alternates dreamy, languid passages with a bubbly, lighthearted finale infused with Spanish dance rhythms and a hint of jazz. There will also be two piano concertos on February’s program, Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in Eb Major(mid-1800s) and Sergei Prokofiev’sPiano Concerto No. 3 in C Major (1921). Both are technically brilliant works that marry their composers’ mature styles with youthful themes composed years earlier, when Liszt and Prokofiev were students. Finally, there will be a performance of the first movement of Samuel Barber’s beloved Violin Concerto, a lyrical masterpiece that violinists and audiences have loved since its 1941 premiere.
All five solo pieces are incredibly beautiful but incredibly difficult; how will these performers prepare? All are experienced in performing many kinds of repertoire, in solo recitals, small chamber groups, large bands and orchestras, even jazz combos, but all agree that preparing a concerto—another beast altogether – requires a distinct approach. In the first place, the sheer volume of sound needed to project over a large orchestra is daunting, compared with what’s needed to play with a single piano, according to Mi-li Chang, a doctoral candidate and UW Collins Fellow from Taiwan.
Merely playing louder isn’t enough to ensure that the soloist soars over the orchestra, however; clear musical ideas are needed as well. A cohesive performance happens only when the soloist, conductor, and orchestra hear the music in the same way, but there’s no time in rehearsal for a soloist to explain her thoughts. Therefore, says clarinetist Kai-Ju Ho, a fellow graduate of the Taipei National University of the Arts, she must perform so clearly and convincingly that the orchestra understands and can follow her interpretation.
Lastly, because of the sheer number of people and instruments in an orchestra–for this concert, about 85–and the vast array of pitches, sounds, and colors in a complicated piece of music, concerto soloists need to spend a great deal of time studying the full score, says Kai-Ju. They must know what’s happening in the orchestra at every moment in a piece so that he or she can adjust note lengths, volume, and phrasing to fit in with the orchestra’s sound.
For solo pianists, who more often perform unaccompanied, concertos pose a particular challenge. Instead of simply playing and hoping the orchestra will catch them, soloists need to actively collaborate with the orchestra , says SeungWha Baek, who is currently a doctoral student in collaborative piano and a member of the Perlman Trio, a student string trio funded by UW benefactor Kato Perlman. Brilliant technique is not enough: “This piece won’t happen without respecting [the] ensemble,” she says.
Preparing a concerto for performance requires a great deal of energy, which for these performers is not acquired in the practice room, but outside of it. And each has his or her own style. Madlen Breckbill, an undergraduate violinist from Madison, derives hers from interesting conversations, eating delicious food, seeing beautiful sights, and watching theater. Meanwhile, Kai-Ju enjoys cooking food from Taiwan and hiking in national parks (she has visited nine of them in the three years she’s been in the United States). “I like the peaceful moments and the amazing scenery,” she says. Mi-li spends time running or walking around Madison’s lakes, and Sung Ho, who formerly practiced piano eight hours a day, is now a member of the Hoofers Sailing Club and the UW cycling team. The extra hours once spent at the piano are now taken up reading scores, running and bicycling, windsurfing. He thinks all this has helped him to avoid injury. “My life has changed because of it. I lost twenty pounds; in every day, I feel more happiness.”
The students know they’ll forever treasure their time on stage as soloists with the UW Symphony; many musicians are never fortunate enough to experience it. And if the audience responds with smiles or tears, as happened once as Sung Ho rehearsed with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, the hard work of preparation is fully compensated.
About the Performers:
A native of Seoul, Korea, pianist SeungWha Baek is currently in the doctoral program in collaborative piano at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studies with Martha Fischer and is a teaching assistant. As of this fall, SuengWha is the pianist in the advanced student ensemble, the Perlman Trio, at UW-Madison.
Ms. Baek has a masters degree in accompaniment from Northern Illinois University where she studied with William Goldenberg and also received a certificate in performance. Prior to that, she earned a bachelor’s degree in music from SookMyung Women’s University in Seoul and a master’s in piano performance at the same university, where she studied with MiJeung Park. While at Northern Illinois University, she performed in many recitals for instrument and voice and served as accompanist for a production of “Little Women” with the NIU Opera Workshop. In 2007, SeungWha was a winner of the Northern Illinois University concerto competition and was an accompanist at the 2007 V.O.I.C. Experience program (led by Mr. Sherrill Milnes in Orlando, Florida) and the 2009 Quartet Program (directed by Charles Castleman at SUNY-Fridonia).
Pianist Sung Ho Yang was born in Seoul, Korea and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in the School of Music with Christopher Taylor. Mr. Yang graduated from Sun-Hwa Arts School in Seoul and attended Seoul National University. In 2004, he transferred to New England Conservatory of Music in Boston with his professor, Wha Kyung Byun, and later earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as a graduate diploma, from NEC. Mr. Yang has performed in master classes for Russell Sherman, Klaus Hellwig, Sergei Dorensky, and Vladimir Feltsman. He has also attended the Contemporary Music Festival in New Paltz, New York: New Music Mannes at New York, and the International Summer Academy at the Mozarteum, Salzburg.
Sung Ho Yang has won top prizes at the Florestano Rossomandi International Competition in Italy and at the Johann Nepomuk Hummel International Piano Competition in Slovakia. He is also a winner of the Beethoven Piano Competition at the UW-Madison School of Music, sponsored by former UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain. In his native Korea, he won the Segye-Times Piano Competition and the Eum Youn Competition, and was sponsored by the Kum Ho Cultural Foundation for two solo recitals in Seoul in 2002 and 2003. As a concerto soloist, Mr. Yang debuted with the St. Petersburg Radio Symphony Orchestra in St. Petersburg, Russia, performing Liszt’s Totentanz and with the Slovak Philharmonic orchestra in Bratislava, Slovakia, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3. Mr. Yang’s repertoire ranges from Rachmaninoff’s Six Moments Musicaux to Boulez’s Second Piano Sonata, and includes all of Liszt’s piano concerti. Mr. Yang currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin, where he has joined the UW cycling team and the Hoofer Sailing Club.
Madlen Breckbill, a senior at UW Madison, began playing the violin at age four with Suzuki Strings of Madison. In her early years, Madlen participated in Sonora Strings of Madison, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, WYSO chamber ensembles and the WYSO Ambassadors. In middle school, Madlen studied with School of Music artist-in-residence and Pro Arte Quartet violinist Suzanne Beia; in high school she studied with Gene Purdue (now School of Music visiting assistant professor of violin). In 2011, Madlen attended the Madeline Island Music Camp, leading to an invitation to perform with her quartet at the Landmark Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the summer of 2012, Madlen and her quartet members were winners of the Meadowmount School of Music quartet competition. This past summer, Madlen served as concertmaster for the Kent/Blossom Music Festival chamber orchestra, under the baton of James Feddeck, for a performance at the Blossom Music Center, followed by a side-by-side performance with the Cleveland Orchestra.
At UW-Madison, Madlen performs with different chamber groups each year, including the Perlman Trio in spring 2013 for a performance of the Brahms Piano Quintet. Madlen studies with Pro Arte violinist David Perry and receives coachings and lessons from the many talented and kind music professors at UW-Madison.
Mili Chang is a doctoral student in flute performance and a Paul Collins Wisconsin Distinguished Fellow, studying with Stephanie Jutt. She has won a number of competitions, including the Irving Shain Woodwind/Piano Duo Competition with pianist Kirstin Ihde in 2012 and the Taipei National University of the Arts Soloist Competition Concert in 2010 at Taipei, Taiwan. In Madison, Mili performs in many ensembles, including UW’s Collegium Musicum, the Helios Quintet and the UW orchestras. A committed music educator, Mili is a frequent coach with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra chamber program, and has coached band and orchestra sectionals and a wind quintet at Daan Junior High School in Taipei. A native of Taiwan, Mili holds a master’s degree from Taipei National University of the Arts and a bachelor’s from National Taiwan Normal University. Mili’s flute teachers have included Jinny Hwei-Jin Liu from the Manhattan School of Music and Li-Man Sung from the Koninklijk Conservatorium in Brussels.
Kai-Ju Ho is a native of Taipei, Taiwan and holds a bachelor’s degree from Taipei National University of the Arts in Taipei, Taiwan, where she studied with Wei-Leng Chen, principal clarinetist of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra. She then received a master’s degree in clarinet performance from the University of Texas-Austin where she studied with Nathan Williams. She is now pursuing her doctoral degree in clarinet performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying with Linda Bartley.
Kai-Ju Ho is an avid performer in recital and solo appearances, orchestra playing and chamber music. She has received numerous awards, including first prize in the 2012 International Clarinet Association Young Artist competition, the 2007 Taiwan Clarinet Competition, and the 2006 Taipei Symphony Orchestra Young Artist concerto Competition. In 2010, Kai-Ju Ho joined the Chimei Philharmonic Orchestra and performed in China (Beijing, Ningbo, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Guangzhou). In 2006, she was a member of the Taipei Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Kai-Ju Ho has played in many master classes, including those with Florent Heau, Lei Fan, Paul Meyer, Kenneth Grant, Hakan Rosengren and Mark Nuccio.
Daria Mikhailovna Tennikova was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She began taking composition lessons from Natalia Karsh of the Composers Union of Saint Petersburg, but initially chose to focus on piano rather than pursuing a career in composition, receiving an associate degree in piano performance and pedagogy from St. Petersburg’s Mussorgsky College of Music in 2008. Her work received its first public performance at the college when her “Three Lilies” for soprano and piano was played as part of a final accompaniment exam. Daria moved to the United States in 2009 and began devoting more time to composition. In 2010 she began pursuing a bachelor’s degree in composition at UW-Madison, studying with professors Laura Schwendinger and Stephen Dembski.
Poema for Saxophone and Orchestra is Ms. Tennikova’s most recent composition, and her very first work for orchestra. She says, “I began thinking
about writing a piece for soloist and orchestra last spring. Originally I wanted it to be for a piano soloist, and I wrote the main theme with something “Russian” in mind. Later in the spring of 2013, I heard Erika Anderson play Anthony Caulkins’ saxophone piece at a concert. I was moved by her wonderful performance to write my piece for saxophone soloist. I wanted Erika to play it, so I asked her if she would be interested in collaborating and, being both a wonderful person and a great musician, she agreed to play without even hearing the music! I am very grateful to her for giving my piece a beautiful performance!”