News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
March 8, 2017
Faculty Ensembles combine with Lincoln High students for a memorable concert
On February 9, two School of Music faculty ensembles – the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and the Wingra Wind Quintet – traveled to Wisconsin Rapids, the home of the Mead Witter Foundation, for a special concert to thank them for their support of the school of music. The two ensembles, plus the Wind Ensemble from Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids, performed a side-by-side concert at the Performing Arts Center of Wisconsin Rapids after the students were coached by ensemble faculty and UW-Madison conductor Scott Teeple.
Professor Mark Hetzler sits in with the Lincoln High School trombone section during a rehearsal for the Mead Witter Thank You Concert on February 9, 2017.
Mead Witter School of Music Professor Marc Vallon discusses a fingering with a Lincoln High School Wind Ensemble bassoonist.
Assistant Professor Tom Curry worked with the Lincoln High School Percussion Ensemble as part of the educational clinic.
Afterwards, music engagement and outreach coordinator Beth Larson received this note from Jeanne Olson, director of bands at Lincoln High School: “Thank you so much for all of the time you spent organizing that event, my students loved it and learned so much! I had them write a reflection this week, and they were very positive and many listed countless things that they learned from the professors sitting in with them and then working with the small groups!! It was a very successful event!” Photographs by Beth Larson.
Irving Shain Woodwind-Piano Duo Competition Winners to perform this Saturday
Meet Yasha Hoffman, Russian Studies and composition double major
Yasha Hoffman, a Minnesota native, grew up with parents of Soviet/Russian heritage and as a young child, fell in love with Russian folk songs. “One of my favorite activities was putting on ‘concerts’ for my parents where I’d loudly sing Soviet children’s songs and bang on the piano,” he says. He loves the breadth of opportunity offered by classes at UW-Madison. Read more about Yasha Hoffman.
“Performing the Jewish Archive” project continues worldwide
UW-Madison professor Teri Dobbs in Israel, Jordan, Michigan, and Vienna (upcoming)
This past January, Professor Teri Dobbs, a member of the Performing the Jewish Archive team, spent two weeks in Israel and Jordan. During her time there, she was a guest at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, together with colleagues from UW-Madison’s Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies. In addition, she conducted research in the Yad Vashem Archives, met with musicology/music education colleagues to discuss the possibility of future projects within Israel, and met with the family of piano prodigy and composer, Josima Feldschuh (d. 1943).
Professor Dobbs will present several conference papers this coming semester, most of which pertain to her work with Performing the Jewish Archive. Her paper, “Music Education and the Holocaust: So What?” was heard at the New Directions in Music Education Conference: “Musicking Equity: Enacting Social Justice Through Music Education,” Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, February 17. Dobbs has been invited to present more two papers, one in collaboration with soprano and PtJA performer Elizabeth Hagedorn of Vienna, at the 25th European Association for Music in Schools/6th European International Society for Music Education regional conference, JOINT (AD)VENTURE MUSIC: Network as a Challenge for Music Educators, at the University Mozarteum, Salzburg, Austria, April 18 – 22, 2017. Learn more here.
March 12, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall. UW Symphony with alumnus Anthony Georgeson, bassoon, conducted by James Smith. Georgeson is principal bassoon with The Florida Orchestra in St. Petersburg. Georgeson will play the Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B flat major, K. 191. Other works will include Un Sourire pour Orchestre by Olivier Messiaen and Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. This is the penultimate opportunity to see longtime conductor James Smith, who will retire this spring after 34 years at UW-Madison. His final appearance as conductor will be on April 9.
March 14, 6:30 PM, Morphy Hall. Emery Stephens, baritone, guest artist recital. Free concert.
Stephens is assistant professor of voice at Wayne State University in Detroit. Prof. Stephens will coach student singers and pianists in African-American songs and spirituals and perform with students in a recital, with Professor Martha Fischer as collaborative pianist.
The Midwest Graduate Music Consortium – Presenting Original Research and New Compositions
Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1, Memorial Union and Mead Witter School of Music. Free events.
The Midwest Graduate Music Consortium (MGMC) is a joint venture organized by graduate students from Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. MGMC encourages the presentation of original research and the composition of new music by graduate students around the country. The 21st annual meeting will include paper sessions, a new music concert, and a keynote address. For the new music concert, seven composers’ works were chosen from a nationwide call for scores. The ensemble Sound Out Loudwill perform the new works, each a world premiere. All of the composers will be in attendance. Find the schedule and concert program at this link: Midwest Graduate Music Consortium
University Opera’s “Turn of the Screw” receives warm reviews
“Much of the overall success of the show begins with decisions by Ronis (and executed by costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park) to resist all temptation to make the specters of Quint (former valet of Bly’s master, who is far removed from the action of the story) and former governess Miss Jessel in any way ghoulish. Alec Brown and Anna Polum, in the roles on Friday night, looked fully human—and that’s just fine. The otherworldliness—and palpable evil—that they exude is in the music and the libretto itself,” wrote Greg Hettsmanberger in his blog, What Greg Says.
Doctoral cellist Andrew Briggs performs with Middleton Community Orchestra
At the March 1 concert of the Middleton Community Orchestra, cellist Andrew Briggs played two works by Antonin Dvorak: Silent Woods, Op. 68, No. 5,and Rondo in G minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 94. “Briggs played both of these with affectionate sensitivity. Currently finishing his doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, he is an artist with an already expanding reputation and a great future,” wrote reviewer John Barker.
On Monday, March 27, Andrew will perform a lecture/recital on his dissertation project, “Piatti and the Body: An Integrative Approach to Learning and Performing the 12 Caprices, Op. 25.”
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.
Our final issue of the 2014-2015 academic year contains news about a few new graduates and updates from some already out in the working world. We never fail to be inspired by all of the creative ways that music students both indulge their passions for the art form and their obligation to support themselves. Music may not be a sure ticket to fortune, but for most it is a ticket to personal growth and happiness, provided students are motivated and receive support from teachers, friends and family. We are proud to present these stories about graduates of the UW-Madison School of Music.
Valerie Clare Sanders (B.M., violin performance, 2015). Student of Felicia Moye (now at McGill University) and Leslie Shank.
In September, I will be moving to London, England to study with Simon Fischer at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in their postgraduate Orchestral Artistry program. This program is a partnership with Guildhall, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Barbican Centre, and it involves intensive side-by-side training with members of the London Symphony Orchestra.
I’ve been a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra for three years, have served as acting concertmaster of the Middleton Community Orchestra and was also a member of the Perlman Piano Trio, which is sponsored by longtime School of Music supporter Kato Perlman.
As a violinist I maintain a strong love for performing and continuing to develop my interpretive facility but am also become very passionate about exploring classical music in the context of a larger cultural discourse, joining and starting new conversations about why musicians do what they do, how they can learn to do it in new ways, and exploring the psychological nature of what it means to be a classical musician today. UW has proved to be a great springboard for this sort of inquisitive energy.
Duangkamon Wattanasak (B.M., keyboards, 2015). Student of John Chappell Stowe.
This fall, Duangkamon will attend the State University of New York at Stony Brook to pursue a master’s degree in harpsichord performance. This past year, she received a Hilldale Undergraduate Faculty Research Fellowship this past academic year to work on a project editing German Baroque music with Prof. Jeanne Swack. She presented part of her research in the form of a performance of Sebastian Bodinus’s Sonata for Flute and Basso continuo in E minor at the Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 16 in Union South with Mi-Li Chang, Baroque flute and Andrew Briggs, Baroque cello.
Hinano Ishii (B.M., flute performance, 2015). Student of Stephanie Jutt.
Four years ago around this time, I was preparing for my concerto debut at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center and certain about pursuing a career in music. Now, I’m looking forward to my post-graduation plan: working in operations and education at Bravo! Vail, a summer music festival in Colorado featuring the New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Dallas Symphony and many other renowned musicians.
My enthusiasm for arts administration, sparked by an Arts Enterprise course taught by my flute professor Stephanie Jutt, quickly led to my election as president of Arts Enterprise at UW-Madison. I produced a series of workshops on topics including grant writing and arts law, and founded an Arts Career Resource Center on campus. From the connections I made through UW, I took on positions as the Programming and Community Engagement Intern at Overture Center and Marketing Assistant for PROJECT Trio. Eager to advance my skills, I also worked at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. as a National Symphony Orchestra Operations Intern. This gave me the opportunity to assist in planning rehearsals, concerts, and events including two nationally broadcasted performances at the U.S. Capitol. In my final year on campus, I was the assistant to Katherine Esposito, the School’s concert manager and publicist, helping to organize festivals and concerts, while also working at the Overture Center as the Development Intern.
Meanwhile, I’ve pursued my flute studies, performing with the symphony orchestra and in solo recitals. In my junior year, I was featured on UW-Madison’s homepage with an article highlighting my accomplishments and performed on a PBS annual science show hosted by UW-Madison’s chemistry professor, Bassam Shakashiri.
It is with mixed emotions to be leaving this wonderful university. I am extremely lucky to have found what I love doing best and having all the resources and connections available in Madison to create opportunities in arts administration. Although I am a music performance major, the environment allowed me to pursue my aspiration while also advancing my flute playing which makes UW-Madison an extraordinary educational experience. I am happy to have taken full advantage as a student and thankful for my mentors, parents and friends who have supported my work for the past four years! On Wisconsin!
Vince Mingils (M.M. 2015, percussion performance). Student of Anthony Di Sanza, Todd Hammes.
Mingils, a recipient of a Paul Collins Distinguished Graduate Fellowship at the School of Music, will move to Florida to serve as the Director of Percussion Studies and Assistant Director of Bands at Matanzas High School and Indian Trails Middle School in Palm Coast. Mingils also holds a bachelor of music education degree summa cum laude from Stetson University.
In addition to performing with the percussion ensembles at UW-Madison, Vince coached ensembles and occasionally joined UW-Madison’s resident/alumni percussion ensemble, Clocks in Motion. He also traveled with the UW Wind Ensemble to Carnegie Hall and Beijing and Shenyang, China for the studio’s first international tour (see story below). In addition to studying classical percussion, his UW teachers helped foster his burgeoning interests in composition, improvisation, Middle Eastern music, and hand drumming.
Tim Morris(B.M., music performance and political science). Student of Matthew Mireles, John Stevens (emeritus) and Tom Curry.
This fall, Tim will pursue a master’s degree in euphonium performance at the University of Georgia. While in Madison, he played in the Wind Ensemble, Low Brass Ensemble and competed in the Leonard Falcone Euphonium Student Competition and the International Tuba Euphonium Conference’s Young Artist Euphonium Competition. He also spent two years as a legislative intern in the Wisconsin State Senate, leading to a better understanding of the political process and the issues facing the State of Wisconsin.
“The School of Music has provided me with countless life-changing experiences,” Tim writes. “I have benefited tremendously from an extremely talented and supportive faculty who have helped me realize many of my musical goals. With their guidance I have been fortunate enough to participate in international music competitions, perform for many people and travel all over the world in the process. I have no doubt that I would not be the same musician I am today without the teachings of my mentors as well as the support of the musicians here that I have the distinct privilege of calling my friends and colleagues.”
Amanda Fry (B.M., music performance, horn). Student of Daniel Grabois.
Next fall, Amanda will attend the University of Maryland at College Park to work toward a master’s degree in horn performance, studying with Gregory Miller. At UW-Madison, she performed with the UW Symphony, the Wind Ensemble, and the UW Horn Choir. As a member of a student brass quintet, she completed a residential clinic at a middle and high school, performing and conducting master classes, and coached small chamber ensembles as they prepared for the state Solo and Ensemble competition. She also spent a semester in Vienna through the Study Abroad program, and feels “incredibly fortunate” to have played on stage this spring at Carnegie Hall with the UW Wind Ensemble.
“Studying in Vienna was incredibly valuable in many ways,” Amanda says. “Not only did I gain confidence from living on my own in a foreign country, but I also met a lot of amazing people and made some awesome friendships. I was incredibly fortunate to explore new places around the world and experience other cultures – albeit for a short amount of time. As for my experience at UW, I am very happy with my choice to study here. I’ve had opportunities here that have been invaluable to my growth as a global citizen. I couldn’t be happier about my decision to earn a degree from this university.”
Jeremy Kienbaum (B.M., music performance, viola/violin.) Student of David Perry (violin) and Sally Chisholm (viola).
Starting in September, I will be attending The Juilliard School to study viola with Samuel Rhodes, the former violist of the Juilliard String Quartet and chair of the Juilliard Viola Department. I am very honored to work with him, and excited to learn from and be surrounded by exceptional musicians.
I am eternally grateful for this opportunity to have studied with two fantastic professors, Sally Chisholm and David Perry; my musicality and technical facility have developed immensely through their teaching and guidance. Studying chamber music with Pro Arte quartet cellist Parry Karp has also been a rare treat; the devotion and joy he brings to coaching students makes every lesson meaningful, not to mention the wealth of musical knowledge he has shared with me over the last four years. I am truly in debt to all of my professors and colleagues here, who have helped to deepen my love and passion for music. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to take in all the arts New York City has to offer, but I’ll miss all of my friends at UW and cheese curds at the Terrace.
Daniel Black (B.M., composition, 2002), received a 2015 Career Assistance Award from the Solti Foundation U.S.. Former student of Joel Naumann (emeritus, composition); Stephen Dembski (composition) and David Becker (conducting, now at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas).
Sergio Acosta (BM, flute performance, 2011; MM, bassoon performance, 2013) now with The U.S. Army Field Band. Former student of Stephanie Jutt and Marc Vallon.
Jamie-Rose Guarrine (MM in vocal performance, 2002; DMA in vocal performance, 2005), will join the faculty of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst as Assistant Professor of Voice. Former student of James Doing.
Ben Davis (B.M., music education, 2014), now in a master’s composition program at DePaul University and will participate in the Summer Academy for Young Composers at Akademie Schloss Solitude. Former student of John Aley (trumpet); also studied composition with Stephen Dembski and Filippo Santoro, DMA 2014.
Paola Savvidou (MM in Piano Performance and Pedagogy, May 2008; DMA in Piano Performance and Pedagogy, May 2012) is Assistant Professor of Piano Pedagogy at the University of Missouri. Former student of Jessica Johnson.
Jonathan Kuuskoski (MM in piano performance & pedagogy, 2009), now Director of Entrepreneurship and Community Programs at the university of Missouri. Former student of Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson.
Julia Marion (BM, bassoon performance 2008), was a member of the inaugural class of The Juilliard School’s Historical Performance Program and now freelances extensively in Europe and the U.S. Former student of Marc Vallon.
Chris Van Hof (DMA, trombone performance, 2013), is the tenure-track Assistant Professor of Trombone and Euphonium at Colorado State University. Former student of Mark Hetzler.
Join us to wish bon voyage to our newest grads!
The School of Music Graduation & Awards Recognition Ceremonywill be held in Music Hall on Friday, May 15, 2015 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Please join us to recognize our generous donors and the fortunate and talented student recipients of scholarships and awards, as well as all the graduates of the School of Music who plan to walk at Camp Randall this May, in summer, or in winter of 2015. We’ll follow with a light reception of hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.
Parking on campus is free starting at noon on Friday until Sunday morning.
Click here for information about the official UW-Madison commencement ceremony at Camp Randall Stadium, Friday, May 15 and Saturday, May 16.
Cellist wins Yamaha Young Performing Artists Prize
Kyle Price, 22, a first year master’s cello student at UW-Madison and artistic director and founder of the Caroga Lake Music Festival, was recently announced as a prize winner of the Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition. As a Yamaha Young Artist awardee, he will be invited to attend an all-expense paid weekend at the Music for All Summer Symposium and receive a once in a lifetime performance opportunity in front of thousands. Additional benefits include national press coverage, recording and photos of the live performance, and participation in workshops designed to launch a professional music career. Winners also enjoy many of the privileges of a Yamaha Artist, including services and communication with Yamaha’s Artist Relations department. Among other recent accomplishments, Kyle was also named a finalist in the G. Gershwin International Music Competition 2015 and semifinalist in the Maurice Ravel International Composition Competition (Italy). Kyle Price is a student of Prof. Uri Vardi and a Distinguished Paul Collins Fellow at the UW-Madison.
Percussion Ensemble makes new friends and plays music in China
by Anthony Di Sanza
Vince Mingils, Trevor Maliborski and Lucas Gutierrez trying on the local Manchurian head ware at the Shenyang palace.
Shenyang Conservatory students during Tony Di Sanza’s darabukka masterclass.
Selfies aplenty after our first concert in Shenyang!
At the Shenyang Emperor’s Palace. This was the palace used by the first three Emperors of the Ching Dynasty before the seat of power was moved to the Forbidden City in Beijing.
Our host in Shenyang and Tony Di Sanza’s dear friend, Professor Qingshan Lu.
Members of the UW Percussion Ensemble (Megan Hobbs, DeLane Doyle and Jacob Bicknase) after a dinner with our new friends from Shenyang Conservatory.
UW and Shenyang students rehearse for a concert featuring the music of Chinese composers.
Shenyang Conservatory and UW-Madison students enjoy a meal together.
(Click photos for captions)
On April 4, after a solid year of planning, fundraising and marathon rehearsals, the fourteen members of the UW-Madison Percussion Program–celebrating its 50th year– and its three faculty members traveled to Beijing and Shenyang, China, for their first international concert tour. They were invited by percussion professor Lu Qingshan of the Shenyang Conservatory, whose former student, Zhang Yuqi, is now a master’s candidate at UW-Madison. Faculty members from UW-Madison included Prof. Anthony Di Sanza and instructors Todd Hammes and Tom Ross. Concerts included music of the United States, Brazil, El Salvador, and China, plus a collaboration with Shenyang students on two jazzy percussion works.
While in China, the students also visited Tiananmen Square and the Beijing Olympic Park, and even snuck in some Badgers basketball updates while walking the Great Wall. As they moved from one location to another, they received practical lessons in how to set up and dismantle bulky percussion equipment, how to rehearse in unfamiliar concert halls, and how to create a seamless performance on a tight schedule with musical strangers (who then became friends).
“The best thing was just watching our students interact with the Chinese students,” says Prof. Di Sanza. “They went to lunch together, shopped together, drank together, rehearsed together, gave each others nicknames, and a bunch of us went to a pool hall late one night.” They even took selfies with each other (see above photos).
“We will treasure the relationships we built along the way,” he adds. “None of this would have been possible without the support of our sponsors in the United States, including the UW China Initiative, The UW-Madison Division of International Studies, Dr. and Mrs. Robert W. Graebner and the UW-Madison School of Music. We are forever grateful for their support and confidence.”
UW’s Contemporary Jazz Ensemble wins a first prize in Eau Claire
On April 17, the CJE, directed by Assistant Professor Johannes Wallmann, won first place in the college combo category at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival. The group performed compositions by saxophonist Joshua Redman and trumpeter Dave Douglas, and “Bon Voyage – An Ode to Adventure,” a new composition by the ensemble’s saxophonist Geoff McConohy, a UW senior from Menomonie. Because the ensemble finished first in its category, the group performed on the festival’s evening concert for an audience of a thousand at Eau Claire’s State Theater that featured headline artists The New York Voices. Student performers in the ensemble include students from the School of Music, the College of Engineering, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the School of Business. The Eau Claire Jazz Festival, now in its 48th year, is one of the oldest jazz competitions in the country, with participating middle school, high school, and college and university bands from around the Midwest.
University Opera secures Morgridge Grant and private bequests to create endowed directorship
Karen Bishop returned to school later in life to pursue her love of opera, earning a master’s and DMA from UW-Madison Opera. In January, she died of cancer. Her late husband, Charlie Bishop, has carried out her wish to support the program by providing funds which will be matched by the University’s Morgridge Fund. Donations are still being accepted. Read the full April 21, 2015 news release here.
Make Music this Summer with Summer Band!
Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the ending of the Civil War and historical Camp Randall with this free annual favorite, the UW–Madison Summer Band conducted by Prof. Scott Teeple. Community members, teachers, students alike can join in this music-making experience. Seven rehearsals and a single performance make this ensemble an exciting way to keep your musical chops in working order. The program will focus on music of the Revolutionary War and that time period to honor the anniversary. Click here to learn more.
We are pleased to announce a sneak peek at several guest artist/School of Music events planned for next year: please save these dates!
(Please note: Concerts may be ticketed. More information will be available in late summer.)
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 7:30 PM, MILLS HALL: Brenda Rae, alumna soprano, sings Reinhold Glière‘s Concerto for Coloratura Soprano (1943) with the UW Symphony Orchestra. Benefit for University Opera. Tickets $25, on sale in July at the Memorial Union Box Office.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 7:30 PM, MILLS HALL: Renowned violist Noboku Imai performs with the Pro Arte Quartet.
OCTOBER 8-11, MILLS HALL: Celebrate Brass 2015!Festival with Axiom Brass and UW faculty & students.Ticketing & event details to come.
JANUARY 19-24, MILLS & MORPHY HALLS: Student Recital Festival. A full week of free performances by our own talented students! Check back in fall for details.
MONDAY, MARCH 14, 7:30 PM, MORPHY HALL: duoJalalbrings its mix of classical, Middle Eastern, jazz and Klezmer music to Madison. With Kathryn Lockwood on viola and Yousif Sheronick on percussion. Ticketing & event details to come.
APRIL 26-29, MILLS & MORPHY HALLS: UW Jazz Festival with Bob Sheppard, LA-based multi-woodwind performer, recording artist, and jazz musician. Ticketing & event details to come.
AUGUST 30, 2015 & MAY 2-5, 2016: “Performing the Jewish Archive”:The U.S. component of a major international research project led by the University of Leeds, in England, will shine new light on forgotten works by Jewish artists. In Madison, partners include the UW-Madison School of Music (Prof. Teryl Dobbs, chair of music education, faculty lead) as well as the Center for Jewish Studies, the Mayrent Institute, and the Arts Institute at UW-Madison, and Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society. Click here for more information.
Wingra Celebrates 50 Years
The Wingra Woodwind Quintet honored itself with a party and short concert on April 25 at the University Club. Many former members were in attendance. They also bid farewell to hornist Linda Kimball and clarinetist Linda Bartley. Stay tuned for the group’s roster next year!
Richard Davis to speak on WORT radio about the Black Music Ensemble, his work on racism and music relevant to black history
On Thursday, February 13 from 9 to 10 am, bass professor Richard Davis, recently dubbed a “Jazz Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts, will be a guest on WORT radio’s “Diaspora” show with host Terry O’Laughlin, who describes his show as “a weekly journey across the musical spectrum.” Davis is the founder of the Institute for the Healing of Racism, which offers a ten-week series of Thursday evening classes to address issues of racism and allow discussion and solutions to heal it. (Click here for class info.) That evening, Feb. 13 at 8:30 PM in Morphy Hall, Davis’s Black Music Ensemble will present a concert of jazz, soul, and blues, and songs by artists such as Sam Cooke, John Legend, Snarky Puppy and Nat King Cole. Says BME member Ellen Breen: “There’s no a better way to celebrate Black History month than by coming out to the concert and enjoying the gifts black artists have given to the musical world!”
Meanwhile, registration is now open for Davis’s 21st annual Foundation for Young Bassists conference, to be held April 18-19 in Madison at the Pyle Center. Learn more here: http://www.richarddavisfoundation.org/
UW-Madison Wind Ensemble and the Wisconsin Brass Quintet to tour western Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota
Do you live near Bloomer, Wisconsin, or Mankato, Minnestota? If so, you’ll have an opportunity to watch the UW Wind Ensemble and the Wisconsin Brass Quintet in live performances in late February, as the two groups wend their ways on a chartered bus through western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota in order to showcase the School of Music’s band program while livening up the winter with a bit of brassy cheer. Not only do the tours spread Wisconsin Badger pride, they are also an important illustration of the Wisconsin Idea: that the boundaries of the campus are the boundaries of the state (stretching the boundary a bit, though, in this case).
The tour, the Wind Ensemble’s fifth, is scheduled for February 25 through the 28th; specific stops include high schools in Cameron and Bloomer, Wisconsin, plus five small cities in Minnesota: Mankato, Rosemount, Watertown, Owatonna, and Edina. At each stop, the two groups will offer an evening concert, with afternoon workshops in some locations. All events are free. The program will include Amazing Grace (Traditional/Himes), Lincolnshire Posy (Percy Grainger/Fennell), First Suite in E-flat for Military Band (Gustav Holst), March from “Symphonic Metamorphosis” (Paul Hindemith) and Shadowcatcher, for brass quintet and wind ensemble (Eric Ewazen).
In Madison, the Wind Ensemble will perform on February 22 in Mills Hall, presenting music of Karl Husa, Roger Zare (Wisconsin premiere) and Steven Byrant.
The Wind Ensemble, conducted by Professor Scott Teeple, is a 41-member group of wind and percussion players, both undergraduate and graduate students. Entrance is by audition. For more information about the tour, contact Barb Douglas at the School of Music, email@example.com.
Violinist Todd Reynolds and laptop in concert February 19
Think of great composer-performers of the past. Think of great singer-songwriters of the present. Now, meet violinist Todd Reynolds. A virtuoso performer, Todd writes much of the music he performs. He has collaborated with countless other musicians, but his most frequent partner in his solo work is the electronics software on his computer.
Todd will be in at UW-Madison February 19-21, performing and leading masterclasses and workshops. His recital on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 PM in Mills Hall will include some of his own music and some works written for him, all played on violin with electronics. He will be holding a variety of other events during his visit that will reach many School of Music students and community members. These will include:
A violin masterclass: Friday, Feb. 21, 2:30-3:30PM , Morphy Hall.
“How I Did It: A Career Workshop”: Thursday, Feb. 20, 12:00-1:00PM, 1321 Humanities.
The violinist of choice for Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, and Bang on a Can who has also performed with electronic cellist Zoe Keating, Todd Reynolds’ compositional and performance style is a hybrid of old and new technology, multi-disciplinary aesthetic and pan-genre composition and improvisation. He has released a double CD of solo works on Innova Records which was rated best of classical by Amazon. His music is soulful but edgy and filled with brilliant violin playing.
Todd is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music and the New School Mannes College of Music, and was a frequent collaborator with School of Music horn professor Daniel Grabois, who was based in New York City for many years.
Horn professor presents concert of UW-Madison composed music
Speaking of Dan Grabois: On Wednesday, February 12 at 7:30 pm, Dan and and piano professor Jessica Johnson will offer a faculty recital comprised of all-UW-Madison-composed music, some only recently. Dan writes:
“John Stevens wrote his ‘Sonata’ in 2008. Like much of his music, it is written in a lyrical style that has a jazz influence lurking under the surface.
“Les Thimmig’s ‘Four Ballads,’ from 2000, are pure emotional song.
“My own ‘Antilogy’ was written last week. It alternates sections of driving Bulgarian style odd-meter rhythms with sections of slow lyrical writing.
“And the final piece was written by Alex Charland, who is a sophomore sax major here at the SOM. He is a Stamps Scholar, and as such a member of a group of six undergraduate high-achieving musicians whom I advise. Alex is an extremely talented player and composer. He offered to write this piece, ‘War Suite,’ for this recital – an offer that was gladly accepted. The piece was completed over winter break this year.”
Mernier Composition Brings Pro Arte Quartet Full Circle
New Chamber Work to Premiere in Madison March 1, 2014
Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3 will receive its world premiere by the Pro Arte on Saturday, March 1, at Mills Concert Hall in the Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus. The 8:00 p.m. event is free and open to the public, with no tickets required.
The March 1 concert will be preceded on Thurs, Feb. 27, by an open rehearsal from 9 a.m. to noon, also at Mills Hall, during which the composer will coach the Pro Arte as they prepare for the premiere of the work, composed in honor of the quartet’s Belgian heritage.
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!”
Composer Joel Puckett, a writer of hauntingly beautiful new music, including “This Mourning,” dedicated to the memory of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and “Shadow of Sirius,” a concerto for flute and wind ensemble, will bring his ideas and talents to UW-Madison in early December as part of a residency sponsored by the school’s concert band program.
On Friday, December 6 at 8 pm, the UW Wind Ensemble, conducted by Prof. Scott Teeple, will perform two of Puckett’s works: “Southern Comforts,” a work for solo violin and wind ensemble, and “Avelynn’s Lullaby,” written in honor of Puckett’s then-infant baby daughter. “Southern Comforts” recalls Puckett’s memories of his youth in Atlanta, Georgia (“Movement 1: Faulkner. Movement 2: Football and the Lord. Movement 3: Lamentation. Movement 4: Mint Julep) and will feature Felicia Moye, professor of violin, as soloist. The concert will also include the music of Gabrieli, Holst, and Skrowaczewski. Admission is free.
Joel Puckett is professor of music theory at the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University. His three-day visit here is part of “Circa Now,” a concert and residency series within the concert band program that features the music of living composers.
Writing about a performance of “This Mourning,” a work for chorus, orchestra, tenor and 40 wine glasses, the Baltimore Sun’s Tim Smith wrote, “The third and final movement reaches profound heights. As the chorus intones Dickinson’s lines, “There must be guests in Eden, All the rooms are full,” a cathartic, almost ecstatic rise of melody and emotion unfolds. Throughout this movement is the otherworldly haze produced by 40 crystal glasses, tuned to different pitches — the composer’s most inspired touch. The effect of hearing those delicate tones dissipating one by one as the work ends is as subtle as it is touching.”
We asked Joel Puckett a few questions about his life and works. Enjoy, and please join us on December 6!
How did you get interested in composing?
“My father used to encourage me to make up my own versions of the pieces I was learning at the piano. Whatever it happened to be, he thought that if I had a better idea, I should change it. (This, by the way, was when I was very little and was playing Hot Cross Buns. He didn’t have me changing Beethoven!)”
What influences you as a composer?
“My life. I just try to look around me, see beautiful things and respond in the most honest way possible.”
Are there certain genres/styles/composers/artists to whom you gravitate and, who might have had influences on your compositional style?
“Sure, I listen to almost everything. With the two little ones (three years old and another who is thirteen months) we listen to lots and lots of folk music, activity songs and standard concert music of all periods.
“In my own professional listening, I try to listen to something brand new every day. Most of the time this will be something from the very recent past, say within the past year or two. This is usually something that would fall under the heading of concert music, but frequently I find myself digging into something outside that world. Right now, for example, I am devouring the last few Snarky Puppy discs. And before that I was going through the recent music of William Bolcom.
“My teaching also keeps me exploring the concert rep for pieces that I don’t know but are worth digging into.
“And then on the way to work every day, I tend to listen to 70s funk or holiday music (regardless of the season)! I find they are both excellent antidotes for the ridiculous morning commute traffic.
Your works are performed all over the globe; you teach at a prestigious institution (Peabody Conservatory), what makes you want to write for wind-band medium?
“Why wouldn’t I?!? I know that my music will be taken care of and rehearsed thoughtfully. I know that the players are enthusiastic and excited about new music! I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t make writing for wind-band a part of their output.”
Knowing that you have also written for strings and various other ensembles, are there benefits to writing for wind ensembles that you don’t experience in other areas?
“Well, every ensemble has inherent limitations. The goal is to turn those limitations into opportunities. With a wind ensemble the limitation is that everyone has to breathe. I feel like dealing with that issue inspires me to find creative solutions to make it seem as though they don’t have to breathe!”
One for the pieces programmed by the UWWE, “Southern Comforts,” is for solo violin with wind ensemble accompaniment. The pairing of a wind ensemble and violin soloist is not common. How did you come upon the idea of writing for two such disparate groupings?
“I have always thought that the most effective concerti were the ones where the solo instrument was absent from the backing ensemble. If let’s say you are listening to a trumpet concerto with four trumpets also in the ensemble, there is the distinct likelihood that there will be confusion as to which trumpet is in focus as the soloist.
“So, for that reason, I have always been attracted to putting strings up front in a concerto situation paired with a winds only ensemble. (I actually have a string quartet concerto, Short Stories, that is for winds only in the backing ensemble.) I found that this allowed me to keep the violin in focus.”
(Hear the world premiere of “Southern Comforts” by the Baylor University Wind Ensemble in 2009):
What were some of the challenges when approaching this combination?
“Balance issues are always in issue with a soloist against a wind group. But I worked hard to make sure the violin is always clear when it is intended to be soloistic.”
Tell us how “Avelynn’s Lullaby” came to fruition?
“My daughter was born in the spring of 2010 and it was the happiest day of my life. I had recently gotten a commission for an eight-minute piece for the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music in Long Beach, California and was riding high on fatherhood when I began work.
“Our nighttime routine has been set in stone for a long time. I give her a bath, put her in her pajamas, and we read a book or two. And then we come to my favorite portion of the routine: the lullabies. Doing my part, I sing her slow lullabies while rocking her, and she does her part, fighting the onset of sleep. By far her favorite lullaby is the one my mother used to sing to me: ‘Sail Far Away, Sail Across the Sea, Only don’t forget to Sail, back again to me.’ At least, I thought it was the one my mother used to sing to me. I got curious about the rest of the verses and found that the piece was written in 1898 by Alice Riley and Jesse Gaynor and has only a passing resemblance to the song I remember my mother singing to me. Better yet, it has virtually no resemblance to the lullaby I had been singing to Avelynn! So, Avelynn’s Lullaby is both a journey of daddy trying to coax daughter to sleep and a journey of daughter enjoying the song, fighting sleep, and eventually succumbing to slumber.
“And now that Avelynn is three and we have a new little guy, she sings him the lullaby every night before he goes to sleep. It has been fun to watch her take ownership of the song.”
Listen to more of Joel Puckett’s music on SoundCloud:
It was a chance meeting and a bright idea, hatched at a summertime party in Madison celebrating a baby’s birth. Voice professor Mimmi Fulmer, former UW Opera director Karlos Moser, and Nathaniel Stampley and proud papa Jamie Schmidt, two alumni now with successful careers on Broadway, got into a lively chat. Mimmi had a thought: how about a reunion concert this fall?
It was vintage Fulmer: enthusiastic and lively, said Stampley. “She’s been that way since I first met her when I was 16 years old” as a teenager from Whitefish Bay attending the Summer Music Clinic, he said. “She’s an amazing person. Nothing much has changed! Next thing I knew, I was coming to Madison in September,” he added, laughing.
Over the past fifteen years, Stampley (BM, voice, 2008) and Schmidt (BMusEd & piano, 1996; MM, conducting, 1998) have risen to the top of their professions, Schmidt as a pianist and conductor for singers and musical theater, Stampley as a Broadway singer and actor. Stampley, fresh off a run as the understudy to Norm Lewis’s “Porgy” in the New York City show, “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess,” was scheduled to play that lead part in the national tour this fall. And Schmidt, who hails from the Madison area, was beginning his third year as the associate conductor for the national tour of “The Lion King.” He could fly in from Pittsburgh, taking a couple of days off from the Lion King. The timing was perfect. They agreed to come.
So it’s a date. On September 22 and 23, the duo of Stampley and Schmidt will perform a show of Broadway tunes at Mills Hall at the UW-Madison School of Music. It’ll be a reunion of two close friends who first met each other as singers in the former Prof. Robert Fountain’s UW Concert Choir in the mid-1990s, and continued on campus for over three years, Nate singing, Jamie accompanying him on piano. That’s the plan for this one-time show, and they’ll follow the next day with a master class in Music Hall offering tips about music, singing, and careers.
Mimmi Fulmer has many fond memories of the two young men. “I first heard Nate sing when he was 16 years old, when he was auditioning for a Summer Music Clinic scholarship,” she said, in an email. “His star power was all there, even at that age: a glowing presence, warm and musical phrasing, and that voice! He brought that same vitality to his studies at Madison. I can remember clearly every performance he did in Opera Workshop and with University Opera–you don’t forget that kind of electricity.”
Jamie, who studied piano under Professors Todd Welbourne and Howard Karp, wound up conducting opera almost by accident after former opera director Karlos Moser offered Jamie a fellowship to pursue a masters degree with him. “It was the chance of a lifetime,” said Jamie. He said yes.
“Jamie did something invaluable to a career: recognize an opportunity and make the most of it,” Prof. Fulmer said. “When he graduated, he had the skills and experience to start his professional career as the founding Music Director for American Girl Place Theaters in Chicago. Since then, his career has taken him everywhere, as he remains the consummate musician and colleague that we all loved during his student days.”
Jamie and Nate shared a few thoughts about UW-Madison and the world of show business.
Jamie, who had intended to design cars as a mechanical engineer, changed his mind during his senior year of high school: “By this point, I had missed most audition deadlines to many music schools. The last place I wanted to go was UW-Madison, because I had spent my entire life in Madison, and wanted to get away and be free and be my own man. Fortunately, I had not missed the deadline to audition here, and my piano teacher at the time correctly thought that Todd Welbourne would be the right teacher for me. It was a fortunate, happy accident.”
Nate, on how he wound up in musical theater, as UW offers only opera: “I sort of fell into musical theater. It definitely was not the original plan.” But after graduating and returning to Milwaukee, he received an offer to return to perform in UW’s show, “Lost in the Stars,” by Kurt Weill, with Jamie conducting. One thing led to another, and he wound up in Chicago doing a variety of shows. “A couple years later, I got a random call for the national tour of ‘Ragtime,'” he said. “They asked, ‘Can you fly to New York?’ I did, and I got the job, in the ensemble. From that show, I got an agent.” By 2005, he was on on Broadway in “The Color Purple.”
Jamie, on his teachers at the School of Music: “My first four years of undergrad, I studied piano with Todd Welbourne; my final two years of undergrad I studied with Howard Karp, both wonderful teachers who gave me a solid technical and musical foundation at the keyboard. Karlos Moser was the Director of Opera, and he was the sole reason that I stayed on for my graduate work: he secured a Bolz Fellowship which funded my masters degree. His guidance was, and remains, invaluable to me, a true mentor and friend for life. My conducting studies during graduate work were with Jim Smith, one of the more thoughtful, seeking and accomplished musicians I have had the fortune to know and learn from.”
Nate, on how he manages to sing eight shows a week and still preserve his voice: “The biggest thing is rest. You have to get your rest, in order to have a quick turnaround, especially on a two-show day. We literally use our instrument all the time; we don’t have the luxury of putting it in a case. So the equivalent is just to be quiet. But what works for me may not work for everyone. Some people can go out and drink, and sound like a million bucks the next day.”
Jamie, on what it’s like to work on Broadway: “When I first began subbing shows on Broadway, I felt like a kid going on the big rollercoaster at Great America for the first time. It is not a university atmosphere, so there is no safety net, no excuse of being a student. You must nail it, or you are not asked to play again. So many things are learned on the fly: how to play a synthesizer with volume and patch change pedals (instead of a piano); how to follow the conductor through a video monitor (and adjust for latency); how to play as a rhythm section member rather than a soloist; and on and on. There are so many talented musicians in New York, of course– it is the ultimate destination for theater. Every time you play is an audition for someone, somewhere, perhaps years down the road. This was my path to my current position as Associate Conductor with the Lion King national tour; I was associate conductor for the Kennedy Center’s production of Ragtime, and did a lot of vocal coaching with the woman cast as Sarah. A couple of years later, I received a call to interview for Lion King. It turned out that her husband was the former Music Supervisor for Lion King worldwide. The circle of life, truly…”
Jamie, on how he wound up working with the likes of Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters, and how they keep going after so many years on the stage: “I conducted the Kennedy Center Spring Gala in 2010, and Liza was the emcee. We hit it off, and she hired me to conduct her symphonic tour shortly therafter, which led me to conduct the St. Louis, Atlanta, San Diego, Richmond, Indianapolisand Dallas Symphony Orchestras. She is a born entertainer, and I was excited for the chance to make music with her, especially with orchestras of that caliber. What keeps people like Liza and Bernadette going? I cannot presume to know them intimately, but it seems performing and entertaining is what they know, what they have spent their lives doing. Not to do it would be like not eating, it is what keeps their internal gears running smoothly.”
Asked what advice he’ll offer to aspiring performers, Nate replied: “I honestly believe we all get a shot at making it. The biggest thing is knowing what you want, even if it’s pie in the sky, even if it’s ‘I want to be the lead in a Broadway musical,’ or ‘I want to sing at the Met in ten years.’ Go for it!”