Category Archives: Eugene Purdue

2016-2017 Concerto Competition Winners Announced – Concert Feb. 12

Two violinists, one pianist, one trumpeter, and one vocalist will solo with UW Symphony Orchestra with conductor James Smith.

In addition, the music of composition student Nathan Froebe will be performed.

The concert is in Mills Hall at 7:30 PM. There will be a free public reception immediately following at the University Club, 803 State Street.

Ticketed: $10 adults; students & children free. Buy tickets here or at the door.

The winners are:

  • Violinist Shing Fung (Biffa) Kwok, a doctoral student of Prof. David Perry and recipient of a Collins Fellowship. He will perform Tzigane by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).
  • Violinist Matthew Lee, an undergraduate senior who studies with Prof. Soh-Hyun Altino. He will perform the cadenza from the Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, opus 77 of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).
  • Trumpeter Matthew Onstad, a master’s student of Prof. John Aley. He’ll perform the Trumpet Concerto in F Minor, Op. 18 by Oskar Böhme (1870-1938).
  • Soprano Anna Polum, who will sing “Amour, ranime mon courage,” written by Charles Gounod (1818-1893) for his opera adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Anna studies with voice professor James Doing.
  • Pianist Shuk-Ki Wong, to perform the first movement of the Piano Concerto in G Major by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Shuk-ki studies with Professors Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson.
  • Composition student Nathan Froebe (not pictured) is the winner of this year’s composer’s contest. More information coming soon.
L-R: Shuk-Ki Wong; Matthew Lee; Anna Polum; Matthew Onstad; Biffa Kwok. Photograph by Hannah Olson.
L-R: Shuk-Ki Wong; Matthew Lee; Anna Polum; Matthew Onstad; Biffa Kwok. Photograph by Hannah Olson.

A native of Hong Kong, Biffa Kwok began his violin lessons at the age of ten, studying with Chu Tong Lo. In 2004, Kwok entered the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and graduated in 2013 with a bachelor of music degree in violin performance. Kwok also holds a master’s degree in violin performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Mikhail Kopelman, former leader of the Borodin and Tokyo String Quartets.

Kwok has received many awards, including the ExxonMobil Scholarship, Chan Ho Choi Enchanting Music Scholarship during his studies at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts; the Eastman Graduate Assistantship during his master program at the Eastman School of Music, and the James R. Smith Orchestral Leadership award during his studies at the Mead Witter School of Music.

Kwok has collaborated with many artists such as Trevor Pinnock, Uroš Lajovic, Perry So, Kokman Liu, Neil Varon, Brad Lubman, Zhu Dan, Nobuko Imai, and John Demain. A strong advocate of chamber music, Kwok actively participated in many chamber performances, including masterclasses with the Chilingirian; the Endellion; the Penderecki; the Ying, and the Dover string quartets. Kwok also actively performed in orchestral performances including participation in the Academy (Hong Kong) Symphony Orchestra; Eastman Philharmonia; Eastman Graduate Chamber Orchestra; Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes (Elmira, NY), the Dubuque (Iowa) Symphony Orchestra, and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. He is also a member of Sound Out Loud, an ensemble based in Madison that specializes in performing contemporary music.

At UW, Kwok studies violin performance and arts administration. The ten-minute work he will perform, “Tzigane” by Maurice Ravel, is a Hungarian-styled rhapsody written in the early 1920s and first played by the Hungarian-English violinist Jelly d’Aranyi—a great-niece of the violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim— in 1924. The name “Tzigane” is derived from the generic European term for gypsy, and it shows Ravel’s interest in violin showmanship in the manner of Paganini and Sarasota.


Violinist Matthew Lee is a Madison native and former member of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra is is majoring in music performance and biology. Matthew began playing the violin at age 6 and studied with Hiram Pearcy for eleven years prior to entering college. He performed with WYSO orchestras for eight years, serving as concertmaster for the Youth Orchestra from 2011-12, including during their Eastern European Tour in 2012. He was a winner of the Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition in 2013, received honorable mentions in the Madison Symphony Orchestra Bolz concerto competition. At UW-Madison, his teachers have included Eugene Purdue and Prof. Altino.

“I chose this piece because I love Shostakovich’s work in general,” says Matthew. “His violin concerto is significant because it was written during a time when Shostakovich was scrutinized carefully by the Soviet government, in a time of increased arrests of people who wrote in an anti-Soviet manner. The violin concerto was therefore hidden from the public until after Stalin’s death. I love the whole concerto, but the cadenza and fourth movement stand out because of the desolate, barren quality of the cadenza transitioning into the exaggerated, frenzied movement of the burlesque.”


Trumpeter Matthew Onstad, who hails from Beaver Dam, is pursuing a master’s degree in trumpet performance, studying with Prof. John Aley. He is a member of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and recently won the post of principal trumpet with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, where he holds the Francis Neiswanger Memorial Principal Trumpet chair. Aside from his duties with the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, Matthew has been a member of the 132nd US Army National Guard Band since 2012, and has performed with the Madison and Oshkosh Symphony Orchestras. Matthew received his bachelor’s of music degree at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where he studied with Marty Robinson and Robert Levy.

“The Böhme is one of the very few well-known trumpet concerti that was written in the Romantic era of music,” Matt says.”Although it is not a ‘standard’ in the trumpet repertoire, it certainly deserves the title, with all of the different colors it offers to the audience. It’s outer movements demonstrate virtuosic and acrobatic technique, while the inner movement possesses such beauty and sensitivity, thus making it one of my favorite pieces of music to perform.”


Soprano Anna Polum is a native of Kodiak, Alaska, and is pursuing a master’s degree in voice performance, studying with Prof. James Doing. She holds degrees in music education and voice performance from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Anna has won or placed in competitions offered by the National Organization of Teachers of Singing in both Alaska and Wisconsin. Recently, she sang Contessa Almaviva in University Opera’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro, and next spring will sing Miss Jessel in University Opera’s production of The Turn of the Screw. For the 2016-2017 season, Anna is the soprano studio artist for Madison Opera and covered the roles of Juliet in the company’s performances of Romeo and Juliet; Chan Parker in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird; and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). She will also sing the role of Papagena in the same production of Die Zauberflöte.

Gounod’s operatic adaption of Romeo & Juliet premiered in 1867 at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris. While Gounod is now better known for Faust, Romeo & Juliet was a bigger success at its premiere, and has stayed in the repertoire for 150 years due to its beautiful music, genuine passion mingled with wit, and exciting fight scenes.

“I covered Juliet with Madison Opera this past November, so this role is fresh for me,” Anna says. “The setting is quite dramatic, especially in the middle recitative section, where Juliet envisions Tybalt’s ghost coming for her and Romeo. Between her fear of losing Romeo and her love for Romeo, she decides to take the poison that Friar Lawrence gives her, claiming ‘je bois a toi!,’ meaning ‘I drink to thee (meaning Romeo).’ I love the dramatic flair to this piece, especially since the rest of the opera is quite mellow, flowing in and out of love duets and party scenes.”


Hong Kong native Shuk-Ki Wong is a doctoral pianist who studies piano performance and pedagogy with Professors Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson. She was a winner of the 31st Annual Beethoven Piano Competition at UW-Madison as well as the Exhibition Award from Trinity College London, and has appeared as soloist at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong City Hall and Verbrugghen Hall in Australia. During her studies, Shuk-Ki was invited to perform at the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival and the Asia-Pacific Music Summit, and she has participated in master classes with Colin Stone, Sa Chen, Stephen Savage, Murray McLachlan and Jack Winerock. Shuk-Ki is also on the piano faculty at the School of Professional and Continuing Education in Madison Technical College, where she teaches students with diverse interests and abilities.

Shuk-Ki obtained her bachelor of music degree and diploma of music from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts with the support of the First Initiative Foundation Music Scholarship and Grantham Scholarship. She subsequently received the Molly McAulay Memorial Scholarship to fully support her graduate studies at the University of Sydney, Australia, under the tutelage of Mr. Clemens Leske.

“The brightness, energy, and the blend of ‘light-hearted and brilliant’ qualities and jazz music in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major have drawn my interest, and I am excited to perform this masterpiece with the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra,” she says.

Meet Eugene Purdue, visiting assistant professor of violin

The SOM is pleased to announce the appointment of violinist Eugene Purdue as visiting assistant professor of violin for the 2013-14 academic year. Gene, as he is known, is a well-known violin teacher in the Madison area, having trained dozens of the area’s most successful young students. Now, with the retirement of Professor Tyrone Greive, Gene will absorb many of Prof. Greive’s former university students into a new studio in the music building.

A graduate of Indiana University, Mr. Purdue has studied with Tadeusz Wronski, Josef Gingold, Franco Gulli and Daniel Guilet with summer studies with Dorothy Delay. He has served on the faculties of the Music Institute of Chicago and Midwest Young Artists of Ft. Sheridan, Illinois.

Eugene Purdue.
Eugene Purdue. Photograph by Thomas Stringfellow.

Gene is the former first violinist of the Thouvenel String Quartet of Midland, Texas, which he formed in 1974 with his wife, Sally Chisholm, violist with the Pro Arte Quartet. The Thouvenel String Quartet performed regularly for many years, travelling around the country and the world, from New York to Washington, D.C. and on to Vienna, Amsterdam, and even Tibet. The ensemble was especially interested in contemporary music, commissioning works from the likes of Elliott Carter and Milton Babbitt. In 1983, they received a warm review from the New York Times. “The Thouvenel Quartet’s sound seemed the product of one elegant impulse divided equally among four individuals,” wrote reviewer Tim Page.

NYT review of the Thouvenel Quartet

In 1991, after Sally was offered the position of violist with the Pro Arte Quartet, the couple moved to Madison where Gene founded his private violin studio (nicknamed “the Buddy Conservatory of Music,” in honor of his cat). Since then, his methods have apparently worked well: many of his high school students have won major classical competitions before enrolling in music school, some at UW-Madison, others at conservatories around the country. Those competitions include the local Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Bolz Young Artist competition as well as larger ones in Naumberg (New York), Klein (San Francisco), Johannsen (Washington DC), Lukas Foss (New York), Fischoff (Notre Dame), the St Paul String Quartet Competition, and the Walgreens National Concerto Competition (Chicago).

Considered a thoughtful teacher, Gene offered his views on teaching and competitions in a 2011 interview in The Well-Tempered Ear, a blog written by former Capital Times arts editor Jake Stockinger.

Eugene Purdue interview in the Well-Tempered Ear

In that interview, Gene offered his view of how to manage nerves as a performer: “Another important point is breathing. To be in control, you must use abdominal breathing. If not, you can spiral out of control. Also, your technique needs to be solid and of course, you need to know your piece really well. My basic feeling about nerves is that nerves don’t cause problems; they reveal problems.”

Recently, Gene answered a few questions about his plans for teaching older students at UW.

I’m curious to know how teaching at UW will differ from what you do privately.

I have always tried to teach the same information to everyone. The difference is how fast they move. For instance, if someone is more committed and practices more, then they move faster. I am anticipating that my UW students will be very committed.

How do you view this opportunity?

I am very excited to be involved generally in the UW music community. Also, to be a colleague of such outstanding musicians and teachers as Felicia Moye and David Perry is a real honor.

What is your view of the UW SOM?

I view the UW School of Music as a top school. The combination of great faculty and students in a great atmosphere is hard to beat. That is why I have referred so many of my students to UW. Without exception, they have told me that I advised them well.

What do you think you can offer UW students that might derive from your years of teaching privately, having had so many successful students? Are there any specifics that might prove especially helpful?

Having been out in the “real world,” I think I have a perspective on private teaching as a good career possibility.

Can you tell us where some of your successful students are now, what they are doing? Many of them did not attend UW-Madison following high school study.

One is in a leading Canadian string quartet, one is part of the avant garde music scene in New York and recently received an Annenberg Fellowship, another is in New York subbing in the New York Phil, another is in the New World Symphony, several have become private or Suzuki teachers and some have thrown in the towel and become Ph.D’s or doctors.

What are your plans to start the year? Do you know how many students you will have? Will this put a crimp in your private teaching?

My class is still taking shape but I am hired on a 2/3 basis and I anticipate a full load. This year I had enough graduating seniors that I have not had to drop anyone from my private class.