Category Archives: Jim Smith

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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UW-Madison’s Top Musicians to Solo in Annual “Symphony Showcase”

News and Events from the UW-Madison School of Music – January 26, 2016

“Symphony Showcase” brings out the best, literally

They’ve prepared for months and now are ready to show off a bit on the stage of Mills Hall: Our annual Symphony Showcase, a concert featuring the winners of our annual concerto competition in solo performances with the UW Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Smith.  This year’s winners are all graduate students with impressive worldwide resumés; one is a composer whose new work will be premiered by the orchestra. Please join us on Sunday, February 14, at 7:30 PM for our concert and reception in Mills Hall! (Note: Parking is free on Sundays in Grainger Hall.) Concert tickets are $10 but are free for students of all ages. Buy in advance ($4 fee) or in person in Mills lobby.

Concerto winners
L-R:
Kangwoo Jin, piano; Luis Alberto Peña, piano; Garrett Mendelow, percussion; and Paran Amininazari, violin. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.
Yunkyung Hong, composer. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.
Yunkyung Hong, composer. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

Meet the winners and the works they will play, and read full biographies on this webpage.

Violinist Paran Amininazari, doctoral student of Assistant Professor Soh-Hyun Park Altino. Paran is also a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and a founding member of the Willy St. Chamber Players. Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63, one movement.

Yunkyung Hong, a doctoral composer studying with Professors Laura Schwendinger and Stephen Dembski. “Yun” has won many awards and commissions worldwide and is employed by UW-Madison’s MOOCS (massive online courses) program as a sound designer. Her new work is called Transparency.

Pianist and Collins Fellow Kangwoo Jin, doctoral student of Professors Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson. Kangwoo is a winner of many competitions and received his master’s degree from Indiana University. He is also a teacher in the school’s Community Music Lessons program. Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor Op. 18, third movement.

Garrett Mendelow, doctoral percussionist and Collins Fellow studying with Professor Anthony Di Sanza. In 2012, Mendelow won second place in the biennial Tromp Percussion Competition in The Netherlands, and in 2014, he was a semifinalist at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich, Germany. Arena Concerto, by Swedish composer Tobias Broström.

Luis Alberto Peña, a doctoral piano student of Professor Christopher Taylor.  Luis has soloed with many orchestras and won awards in Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela and the USA. Richard Strauss’s Burleske in D Minor for Piano and Orchestra.


The Wisconsin Idea at Its Most Audible

Did you know that the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, the Wingra Wood Quintet and the Pro Arte Quartet are our contribution to the Wisconsin Idea? Over decades, the three ensembles have logged thousands of miles giving concerts and master classes in high schools, concert halls and colleges all over Wisconsin. And we want to visit your town!

We’ve given it a new name: the “Music Engagement & Outreach Program,” and we have a new coordinator, Beth Larson,  a violinist who graduated from UW-Madison in 2011 and performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and the Willy Street Chamber Players.  With Beth’s help, the three groups have begun an exciting new partnership with Milwaukee’s High School of the Arts, working not only with bands and orchestra but with literature and science classes as well. Contact Beth to learn more.

ThreeEnsembles-Web2015-16

Find the ensembles in your corner of Wisconsin! Upcoming concerts include:

Pro Arte Quartet (please note: due to injury, the Pro Arte concert for Feb. 3 in Mills Hall has been canceled)
2/23/16 5:30 PM Concert & Clinic | Wisconsin Philharmonic | Waukesha, WI
2/28/16 2:00 PM Concert | Marcus Center for the Performing Arts | Milwaukee, WI
4/5/16 7:00 PM Concert | University of Wisconsin – Platteville | Platteville, WI
4/7/16 7:00 PM Concert | Oakwood Village – University Woods | Madison, WI
4/11/16 7:30 PM Concert | Three Lakes Arts Association | Three Lakes, WI
5/14/16 7:30 PM Concert | Midsummer’s Music | Sister Bay, WI
Wisconsin Brass Quintet
3/4/16 7:30 PM Concert | Concordia University | Mequon, WI
Wingra Wind Quintet
2/11/16 3:30 PM Concert | Coventry Village | Madison, WI
2/18/16 10:00 AM Educational Concert | Edgewood High School | Madison, WI
2/26/16 7:30 PM Concert | Nicolet Live @ Nicolet College | Rhinelander, WI


Music reviewer Greg Hettsmanberger gets his own TV blog

Blogger Greg Hettsmanberger has been writing about classical music for Madison Magazine for several years now, and has now begun a stint on TV as well and started a new personal blog, “What Greg Says,” mostly about music. You can catch his TV segment on occasional Wednesday mornings just after 6:30 AM on WISC-TV/Ch. 3. In his debut appearance, he included our upcoming Schubertiade as one of his recommendations.

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Meanwhile, another faithful classical music critic, Jake Stockinger, just passed the 1.4 million mark in hits to his blog, The Well-Tempered Ear, in continuous publication since 2009. Congratulations, Jake!


Want to burnish those rusty piano or trombone skills? UW-Madison’s Community Music Lessons can help

The CML program was founded in 1968 and is still busy offering lessons to students young and old(er) in our community. Our teachers are graduate students recommended by their major professors, and are available in the areas of instrumental, voice, and even composition. Registration for the spring semester just opened; click here to learn more.
Read biographies of our current teachers.


Faculty News: Laura Schwendinger, Uri Vardi & David Perry.

Alumni News: Violist Elias Goldstein.


Hire a Musician!

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.


Personalize your calendar view! Click on the “view as” link on the right of our calendar page.
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You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

Violist Nobuko Imai joins Pro Arte Quartet Oct. 7; Brass Fest II features solo trumpet, Oct. 9-11; UW Opera presents “Figaro,” Oct. 23-27

News & Events from the UW-Madison School of Music – September 29, 2015

Violist Nobuko Imai joins the Pro Arte Quartet for an evening of chamber music
NobukoImai2
Nobuko Imai

Nobuko Imai is considered to be one of the most outstanding viola players of our time. She’ll join the Pro Arte on Wednesday, October 7 at 7:30 PM for a free evening of chamber music. On the program: Mozart’s String Quintet in C Minor, K. 406/516b and Mendelssohn String Quintet in B-Flat Major, Op. 87. There will also be a master class with Nobuko Imai on Tuesday, October 6, Morphy Hall, 7:30 PM. Click here for event info.

Brass Fest II features an eclectic mix of voice, jazz trumpet, and brass quintet: October 9-11

From October 9 to 11, the UW-Madison School of Music will present its second brass music festival, following a spirited event last year that was enthusiastically received by students and the community. See photos here.

BrassFest8x11Poster2015All events will be held in Mills Hall.

This year, “Brass Fest II” has added a vocalist to the mix: Elisabeth Vik, a Norwegian singer who mixes jazz tunes with pop and folk music from the Middle East, Bulgaria, Spain and India. The three-day festival will also features two brass quintets and Adam Rapa, a solo trumpeter.

Friday: Chicago’s Axiom Brass Quintet. 8 PM. With Dorival Puccini, Jr., trumpet; Jacob DiEdwardo, horn; Kevin Harrison, tuba; Orin Larson, trombone; Kris Hammond, trumpet. The award-winning Axiom Brass Quintet has quickly established itself as one of the major art music groups in brass chamber music. Their repertoire ranges from jazz and Latin music to string quartet transcriptions, as well as original compositions for brass quintet. Tickets $15, students and children free admission.

Saturday: Festival Brass Choir Concert Brass Festival Concert. 8 PM. Guest artists Adam Rapa and Elisabeth Vik will be featured on a program that showcases the combined sounds of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and their guests, the Axiom Brass Quintet, conducted by Scott Teeple of the School of Music. They’ll perform music of Anthony DiLorenzo, James Stephenson, Richard Strauss, and a tour de force performance by the expressive and technically agile Adam Rapa of Weber’s Clarinet Concerto, arranged with a twist. The program will also feature Daredevil by UW alumni composer and tubist Michael Forbes, and Vik/Rapa will join talents in a shimmering piece by Swedish composer Evert Taube arranged for brass choir by Rapa. Tickets $15, students and children free admission. Meet the performers at a reception following the concert!

Sunday: Elisabeth Vik and Adam Rapa, duets on trumpet and voice.  7:30 PM. Rapa and Vik have perfected a creative blend of jazz and folk vocals with solo trumpet.  Free concert. Hear them here:

Buy tickets to both concerts and save!

University Opera presents “The Marriage of Figaro” Oct. 23-27

After the unprecedented success of last spring’s sold-out run of The Magic Flute, this fall, University Opera will present four performances of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.  This new production will be directed by returning interim opera director, David Ronis, and James Smith will conduct the UW Symphony Orchestra.  The production will involve over 80 UW singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew. Read the full news release on the School of Music website.

15-037 Figaro Pstr-Fnl_Hi-Res(1)

The opera will be performed in Italian with projected English supertitles in Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, on Friday, October 23 at 7:00pm, Saturday, October 24 at 7:00pm, Sunday, October 25 at 3:00pm, and Tuesday, October 27 at 7:00pm.  Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/location.html

Please check our calendar for many other concerts in October, many free. All are held on campus unless indicated otherwise. Selected events are listed here:  UW Wind Ensemble, October 2; “An Evening of Opera Arias,” Capitol Lakes Retirement Community, October 10;  Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, October 14; Contemporary Jazz Ensemble & Jazz Composers Septet, October 15;  Javier Calderon, classical guitar, October 17; Choral Collage, October 18; and many more.

UW Wind Ensemble. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.
UW Wind Ensemble. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.
Opera Benefit Concert with Brenda Rae and UW-Symphony Orchestra delights all

On Sunday, Sept. 27, alumna soprano Brenda Rae and the UW Symphony wowed an audience of about 400 in Mills Hall with spectacular performances. Read a review by John Barker, professor emeritus of history.

On Friday, UW-Madison staff photographer also shot photos of Brenda’s master class. View all of them here.

UW student Alaina Carlson (right) performs during a Brenda Rae opera master class held in Music Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Sept. 25, 2015. During the class, students performed for a public audience and received helpful critiques from UW School of Music alumna Brenda Rae (left). (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)
UW student Alaina Carlson (right) performs during a Brenda Rae opera master class held in Music Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Sept. 25, 2015. During the class, students performed for a public audience and received helpful critiques from UW School of Music alumna Brenda Rae (left). (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)
UW student Alaina Carlson (right) performs during a Brenda Rae opera master class held in Music Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Sept. 25, 2015. During the class, students performed for a public audience and received helpful critiques from UW School of Music alumna Brenda Rae (left). (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)
UW student Alaina Carlson (right) performs during a Brenda Rae opera master class held in Music Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Sept. 25, 2015. During the class, students performed for a public audience and received helpful critiques from UW School of Music alumna Brenda Rae (left). (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)
From the Archives: UW-Madison Archivist David Null uncovers band stories from 1915

Did you know…. that in 1915, the University First Regimental Band took a long train ride to California to help celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal?

FirstRegNullemblem

The UW-Madison Archives at Steenbock Library houses thousands of memories from UW-Madison’s past. Over the summer,  UW-Madison Archivist David Null dug down and found clippings, photos and letters documenting UW Bands’ concert at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and 19 other cities, including Lewiston, Montana.

Read David’s full post on Tumblr.

Composition/business undergrad double major wins national prize for best musical

Congratulations to Nicholas Connors, a composition student of Les Thimmig, Laura Schwendinger, and Stephen Dembski, who in August won the college division grand prize in Showsearch, the nationwide search for new musical theatre writers put on by Festival of New American Musicals. His new musical Here, In The Park will be premiered next summer in New York City by a professional cast and production team. He’ll also receive a financial award and professional mentoring.

While in Madison, Nick founded Intermission Theatre and produced his first musical, SPACE VOYAGE: THE MUSICAL FRONTIER. He also served as music director  for Tony Award-winning Karen Olivo’s  Madison debut at Overture Center. Nicholas is now in England finishing his business classes and will graduate this fall from UW-Madison with degrees in music composition and marketing.

Nick Connors, center, with the cast for his musical, "Here, in the Park," about a struggling writer who meets an investment banker/painter in a big city.
Nick Connors, center, with the cast for his musical, “Here, in the Park,” about a struggling writer who meets an investment banker/painter in a big city.
Faculty News

On our website: News from John Aley, Laura Schwendinger, Tony Di Sanza, Wesley Warnhoff and Dan Grabois. Click here to read.

Alumni News

On our website: News about “Hill’s Angels”; MiLi Chang, flutist; Nebojsa Macura, composer, and more. Click here to read.

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.

Personalize your calendar view! Click on the “view as” link on the right of our calendar page.

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You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

British Choral Composer to visit UW; Wind Ensemble travels to Carnegie; John Stevens trombone premiere; more!

AWARD-WINNING CHORAL COMPOSER TO VISIT UW-MADISON Feb. 19-21

British composer Cecilia McDowall, a recent winner of the British Composer Award for her work, Night Flight, for choir and solo cello, will jump the pond in late February for a three-day residency at the School of Music. The residency–McDowall’s first in the U.S.– will include two concerts, one featuring the U.S. premiere of her work, Seventy Degrees Below Zero, commissioned in 2012 to honor the British explorer Robert Falcon Scott.

McDowallWEB

The classical magazine Gramophone describes McDowall as having “a piquant musical vocabulary, underpinned by moments of pure lyricism.” In 2008, the Phoenix Chorale won a Grammy Award for “Best Small Ensemble Performance” for its Chandos CD, “Spotless Rose: Hymns to the Virgin Mary,” which included a work, Three Latin Motets, by Cecilia McDowall.

Visit our website to learn details of her residency: http://www.music.wisc.edu/cecilia-mcdowall/

Hear her music at this site: https://soundcloud.com/cecilia-mcdowall
Please join us for one or more of our events!

  • COLLOQUIUM Thursday Feb. 19, noon, Mills Hall: Meet the composer! McDowall will describes how she creates music based on real or imagined events. Free.
  • CONCERT Friday Feb. 20, 8PM, Mills Hall: Featuring the U.S. premiere of Seventy Degrees Below Zero. With UW Madrigal Singers and Concert Choir (Bruce Gladstone, conductor) and a faculty/student chamber orchestra conducted by James Smith.  Michael DuVernois of the IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center will offer a slideshow describing the past and the present in polar research.  Free reception to follow!
    Tickets: $20 adults, free for students. Buy online (click link) ; in person at the Memorial Union box office or at the door.
  • CONCERT Saturday, Feb 21, 8 PM, Mills Hall: The Chamber Music of Cecilia McDowall. Free.

Learn much more at our website: http://www.music.wisc.edu/cecilia-mcdowall/

News flash: Our Spring 2015 event brochure is now available in an interactive format! Click this link to view: http://www.music.wisc.edu/flipbook/

UW WIND ENSEMBLE TO PERFORM AT CARNEGIE HALL IN MARCH-Catch their send-off concert on Feb. 24
The UW Wind Ensemble. Photograph by Megan Aley.
The UW Wind Ensemble. Photograph by Megan Aley.

The Wind Ensemble and its conductor, Scott Teeple, plans a trip too, not across the ocean but across half the country: a performance on March 9 at Carnegie Hall. You can hear them perform prior to their New York concert on Feb. 24, a ticketed fundraiser and preview concert,  will include works by Vaughan Williams, Kathryn Salfelder, Percy Grainger, and others. Tickets: $10 adults, free for students. Buy online (click link); in person at the Memorial Union box office or at the door. Read more here.

Many thanks to Lau and Bea Christenson and the UW-Madison School of Music for supporting this trip.

DOCTORAL TROMBONIST COMMISSIONS AND PERFORMS A JOHN STEVENS PREMIERE

How do new classical works get funded these days? Sometimes, it’s the product of “consortia,” a group of universities and orchestras interested in new works. Such is the case with the Kleinhammer Sonata for bass trombone,  named for the former bass trombonist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and newly written by former tuba professor and composer John Stevens. As part of his doctoral dissertation, Alan Carr, a trombonist in the studio of Prof. Mark Hetzler, secured underwriting from UW-Madison and many others, including the Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco and Detroit symphonies and the Metropolitan Opera. The new sonata will be part of a new CD that features works for bass trombone, none previously recorded.  Come hear Carr will perform the new sonata on March 3 in Mills Hall at 7:30 PM, along with pianist Vincent Fuh. Composer John Stevens is expected to attend. Read more here.

ALUMNA SOPRANO EMILY BIRSAN PROFILED IN CLASSICAL SINGER MAGAZINE
Emily Birsan (3)
Emily Birsan

“[UW provided] a small hall and a safe environment,” Emily Birsan says of her experience at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “But that situation really boosted my confidence that I could take on these pretty big leading ladies and make them my own.” Birsan is featured on the front cover of February’s Classical Singer magazine. Read the full article here. 

MUSICOLOGY DISSERTATOR RECEIVES OPERA AWARD

Robert Torre, a PhD candidate in musicology studying with Professor Jeanne Swack, recently received the Leland Fox Scholarly Paper Award from the National Opera Association for his essay “Cultural Translatio and Arne’s Artaxerxes (1762).” The paper is part of a broader project that examines the role of translation in the composition and reception of Italian opera in eighteenth-century London. Robert is currently visiting faculty at Emory University in Atlanta.

HOMAGE TO RAMEAU CONTINUES THIS SPRING

Prof. Charles Dill‘s massive effort to pull together a series of events to commemorate the work of Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau will continue this spring, with events on Feb. 5 (Chazen Museum); March 11 (Chemistry Building–yes, you read that right);  April 18 (Morphy Hall) and April 17 & 18 (performance of Pygmalion by the Madison Bach Musicians, at the First Unitarian Society Church). Why in Chemistry, you ask? Because chemistry professor Rod Schreiner knows a bit about the principles of string vibration and sound propagation that influenced Rameau. Even today, 250 years after his death, Rameau’s work is considered seminal, so please join us to learn more! Full information can be found here: http://www.music.wisc.edu/rameau/ All events are free.

WISCONSIN BRASS QUINTET COMING TO A TOWN NEAR YOU
The Wisconsin Brass Quintet. L-R: Mark Hetzler; Daniel Grabois; John Aley; Tom Curry; Jessica Jensen. Photograph by Megan Aley.
The Wisconsin Brass Quintet. L-R: Mark Hetzler; Daniel Grabois; John Aley; Tom Curry; Jessica Jensen. Photograph by Megan Aley.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet will travel around Wisconsin this spring with an all-new program of works written or arranged for brass, including compositions by Cecilia McDowall (who will travel from England in late February for our residency), Malcolm Arnold, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Vladimir Cosma, and William Mathias. Towns will include Ashland, Richland Center, Kohler, and others. Check this website to find more locations and times.

Meanwhile, UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet and the Wingra Woodwind Quartet will also travel this spring to perform, all in keeping with the Wisconsin Idea of outreach to the state. All their outstate concerts can be found on this website:  http://artsoutreach.wisc.edu/index.html

HEAR OUR CONCERTO WINNERS SOLO WITH ORCHESTRA THIS WEEKEND: SUNDAY, FEB. 8: 7 PM, MILLS HALL
L-R: Keisuke Yamamoto; Ivana Ugrcic; Jason Kutz; and Anna Whiteway. Missing: Composition winner Adam Betz. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.
L-R: Keisuke Yamamoto; Ivana Ugrcic; Jason Kutz; and Anna Whiteway. Missing: Composition winner Adam Betz. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

Grab a spot this Sunday for our annual “Symphony Showcase” concert featuring our concerto competition winners. Tickets are $10.00 for adults, free to students, and include a reception in Mills lobby immediately following. This event is always joyous; we encourage all to attend! Read more here: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/symphony-showcase/

Buy tickets online (click link) or in person at the Memorial Union box office or at the door.

RONIS AND TEAM WIN PRIZE AT NATIONAL OPERA ASSOCIATION

We congratulate visiting director of opera David Ronis, whose Queens College-CUNY production of “Dialogues of the Carmelites” recently won third place in Division 4 of the 2013-14 National Opera Association’s Production Competition. Ronis and his team have won twice before, in 2009 and 2011.

David Ronis.
David Ronis

 

 

 

 

 

 

With that in mind, you won’t want to miss this spring’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, also directed by Ronis. There will be four shows, one more than the usual number:  March 13 at 7:30pm; March 14 at 7:30pm; March 15 at 3:00pm; and March 17 at 7:30pm. Buy tickets online (click link) or in person at the Memorial Union box office or at the door. More info to come! http://www.music.wisc.edu/opera/

From the Gallery: Scenes from two recent concerts at the School of Music. All photographs by Michael R. Anderson.

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Retiring director Farlow brought high expectations and humor to the stage

Written by Paul Baker
Photographs by Michael R. Anderson

In his 16 seasons as director of University Opera at UW-Madison, William Farlow has become known for high expectations coupled with a devilish sense of humor.

This is his final year, his final opera: Hector Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict, to be performed in Music Hall April 11, 13, and 15. Now, in near-daily rehearsals, a group of voice students are receiving their very last chances to experience the Farlow Method.

(Click here for a news release about this show.)

It is not always easy. He can be brutally honest one minute, and chuckle with mirth the next. Students may accept his comments with a professional “thank you” or jokingly threaten to post questionable comments on his Facebook page. On the other hand, during one rehearsal a few years ago of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites, known for a somewhat-oppressive tone, he donned bunny ears to lighten the mood.

He does not compromise. He wants the best. Some young actors sometimes find it difficult to deliver their spoken words, he confides. “They overdo it. They don’t yet know how to underplay less important lines.”

To a pair of male actors, clearly still working on their delivery: “That dialog sort of went reasonably well.”

To the chorus, who failed to show sufficient fear when the inept Somarone brandishes his conductor’s baton, he invoked the name of a famous household appliance: “Your inhalation must sound like a giant Hoover [vacuum], sucking up in Chicago!”

To the chorus, again, celebrating Don Pedro’s military victory over the Moors: “You will have to put out a lot more sound. The longer you sing, the less energy there seems to be. It should be the opposite. Especially when the orchestra is here.”

At a recent rehearsal, Farlow never sat for long. He constantly jumped onto the stage to position actors and chatted during breaks when conductor James Smith worked with musicians. His need to be in the middle of things stems from his time at Chicago’s Lyric Opera, he says. The director would suggest a change, and Farlow would sprint down the aisle, grab the actors and push them into new positions. He developed a response to the common adage that “directors must not invade the actors’ space”: “Baloney!”

Farlow well remembers this stage of a singer’s career. Before he began directing, he performed half a dozen or so Gilbert and Sullivan roles. The experience became critical to his directing. It’s like being a good orchestral musician before you conduct, he says, or a good shortstop before you coach.

Stress is always part of performance, and the last thing Farlow wants to do is add to it. So much is going on at any given moment that rehearsals can seem like a circus. He tries to keep pressure low, unless he’s really ticked off about something. He knows that actors must be comfortable to give their best.

The two-act Béatrice et Bénédict is based loosely on William Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado About Nothing. Written by Hector Berlioz and premiered in 1862, it is scored for lead singers, chorus, and a large orchestra. The story line leads up to a double wedding ceremony.

Although the singers deliver dialog in English, they sing in the French. Farlow decided that was the way to go, following his success with a production of The Magic Flute with English dialog and German singing.

The modestly-sized chorus consists of six female and six male undergraduates. A professional company doing Béatrice et Bénédict would employ a chorus three times that size, Farlow says, but Music Hall doesn’t require such forces.

Lead parts are sung by Lindsay Metzger (Beatrice), Benjamin Schultz (Somarone), Anna Whiteway (Hero), Daniel López-Matthews (Benedict), Erik Larson (Don Pedro), Jordan Wilson (Claudio), Kathleen Otterson (Ursule), and  Annisa Richardson (Adèle).

Farlow stayed on as Director of University Opera this last year because he knew he had two more master’s students majoring in opera performance left to graduate. He loved last semester’s production of Handel’s Ariodante (“It was beautiful”) and he thinks he can see the Berlioz through to the end. “Just needs a little tightening up here and there.” And that’s exactly what he was doing.

Later, over lunch, Farlow takes a minute to reflect. Four weeks from tomorrow my directing career is over, he says, a glint in his eye. He’s already been asked to direct four productions and he’s turned them all down.

Even though he will no longer direct, he will continue to serve as artistic advisor for Madison’s Fresco Opera and artistic consultant and master teacher for Des Moines Opera. 

Working his way through a delicious looking spinach quiche, he was reflective, yet upbeat, when we talked. Béatrice et Bénédict has been on his wish list for at least 30 years. He first saw it performed on public television and thought, “it was the greatest thing I’d heard.”

The most rewarding challenge

Growing up in the 1950s and 60s in El Paso, Texas, William Farlow benefited from strong public school music programs. His first career ambition was to direct a high school orchestra; he graduated college from the University of Texas-El Paso as a music theory/composition major. But that impulse passed very quickly. His eyes were opened to the possibility of a professional career as a director when he did graduate work at UT-Austin with Walter Ducloux, the internationally known conductor, pianist, translator, writer, and educator whose career spanned over 50 years.

A former pianist and violinist, Farlow chose opera as his life work because it combines singing, dancing, lighting, costumes, poetry, prose, stage design, and orchestral conducting. Opera is the most rewarding and the most frustrating challenge of all, says Farlow. “To make all those elements come together at the same time is a huge undertaking, but when it does all come together it’s unlike anything,” he says.

Most operas he’s witnessed have been good. Unforgettable performances are rare. One can enjoy outstanding performances by individual singers in an otherwise mediocre production. But a really extraordinary experience requires everything to sparkle: singers, orchestra, the conducting, the sets, the costumes. He places the Chicago Lyric’s recent La Clemenza di Tito in the “wonderful” category, and not only because UW alum Emily Birsan played the role of Servilia. (Note: Birsan is scheduled to perform in this weekend’s performance of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, in Mozart’s Requiem. Students may purchase tickets for as little as $12. She will also give a master class at the School of Music Thursday, April 3, at 1PM in Mills Hall.)

Farlow’s years of experience prepared him for directing Tristan und Isolde for the Pittsburgh Opera (where he served as operations director from 1990-1992), Turandot for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Salome for the Los Angeles Opera. He has also directed productions for the Canadian Opera Company, Los Angeles Opera and the Kalamazoo Symphony.

People sometimes ask when his career really took off. “I don’t know that it ever did take off,” he says. “I just started working more in opera and working less at Barnes and Noble.”

The anatomy of the UW Opera program

“Wonderful” is a term voice professor Mimmi Fulmer uses to describe Farlow’s work. She credits him with transforming the program in two ways: using the university orchestra, rather than using a “pick-up” ensemble. And rather than assigning meaty roles to faculty and guests, he picked only students.

Plotting out operas for the coming year, Farlow always chose works by surveying his resources and solving an equation, of sorts. It went like this: Here are my singers. What operas can they do now? Is the orchestra part workable? Does it require a huge chorus? If it requires five baritones, do we have five baritones? Will this role prepare this student for where she or he should be next year? “I choose operas that will afford the most parts to the most singers,” he says.

He developed a policy of accepting students into the opera performance program only if he knew if he knew they could be cast in three major roles. He wanted to understand their strengths and their potential so that he could plot their growth and pull out the best they have to offer. “When a really talented student lands on my doorstep,” he says, “I want to know I can work with them for a few years, and that gives me some leeway.” Two dozen Master’s of Music in Opera Performance students have graduated during his tenure.

After graduation, when their professional careers start to develop, singers need to be patient, Farlow says. If you want a career as a musician, you have to give it everything, he says, “and that means doing all kinds of temp work that you never thought you would, and you have to give it at least five years. And you’ll see if that’s what you want to do, or not.”

Mimmi Fulmer says Farlow always listened to a student’s voice, then mentally placed what that voice will be able to do several shows ahead. Farlow’s hunches generally proved to be correct. It’s not just that he had a crystal ball, Fulmer says; he also provided students opportunity and training. He could tell where the voice was going and help them make the next leap.

Fulmer updates her list of vocal and opera program graduates. The alumni, and what they’re doing, are a tribute to Bill, she says. The program has sent graduates (of the master’s and doctoral programs-there is no undergraduate opera major) to choice positions all over the world, and she credits that to Farlow’s leadership. Farlow recently saw former student Emily Birsan sing in the Lyric Opera’s production of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito. But Emily is just the tip of the iceberg, says Fulmer. Click here for a partial list of opera graduates: UW-Madison Opera Graduates2013

Farlow appreciates his UW faculty colleagues, who demonstrate their commitment in myriad ways. Longtime university orchestra conductor James Smith, for example, attends every rehearsal of every production, something Farlow has seen nowhere else. “Bill has an immense knowledge of all areas of music: vocal, orchestral, chamber music, and theatrical,” Smith says. Indeed, Farlow has directed operas ranging from works by 17th century Italian composer Cavalli to a 2009 world premiere of Maura Bosch’s Art and Desire, based on the life of Jackson Pollock.

Other faculty members have gone to great lengths to realize certain shows. With Mimmi Fulmer and emeritus professor and pianist Bill Lutes, Farlow presented a semi-staged version of Schoenberg’s Erwartung, one of his “absolute favorite things,” even though Schoenberg’s music is difficult and Fulmer said learning it was the hardest thing she’d done.

He also appreciates his tech colleagues, not only for their talent but for their longevity. Costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park have worked with Farlow on nearly every production. He’s had only had three tech directors, including incumbent Greg Silver, who’s been with him for seven years. Set designer and scenic artist Liz Rathke and lighting designer Steven M. Petersen have been stalwart as well.

He’s had help from a supportive media. Farlow credits Scott Herrick and Perry Allaire of WORT-FM with promoting his productions faithfully. Journalist Jacob Stockinger has supported UW opera for decades, beginning with his Capital Times columns and now with his blog, The Well-Tempered Ear. Many times Wisconsin Public Radio’s Jonathan Overby invited Farlow to guest on his program Higher Ground. And not just to plug the opera, but to stay in studio for an extra hour to play Ed McMahon to Overby’s Johnny Carson.

Besides faculty and staff salaries, the major part of University Opera’s funding comes from private donors and outside grants. Both Bill and Mimmi Fulmer, like many in the arts and on campus, have taken on larger roles in advancement and fund raising, work that now serves as a model for the entire School of Music.

Who will likely replace him? Farlow says whomever is hired will bring a skill set that overlaps, but does not duplicate, his own. “Professionals have their own way of doing things,” he says. “There are certain things that must be done but, beyond that, it’s up to the person.”

UW concerto winners to strut their stuff at “Symphony Showcase” on Feb. 8

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 at this site.)

 left to right:  Mi-Li Chang (flute), Madlen Breckbill (violin), SungHo Yang (piano), SeungWha Baek (piano), Kai-Ju Ho (clarinet)
left to right: Mi-Li Chang (flute), Madlen Breckbill (violin),
SungHo Yang (piano), SeungWha Baek (piano), Kai-Ju Ho (clarinet).
Not in photo: Composer Daria Tennikova.
Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

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’s Piano 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.

The concert will open with a performance of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s always exciting Russian Easter Festival Overture,  written in 1888-89.

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!”

Keeping options open: How alums & Wisconsin natives Stampley & Schmidt found their ways to Broadway

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.

Jamie Schmidt and Nathaniel Stampley,
Jamie Schmidt and Nathaniel Stampley, following a performance of “Lost in the Stars” in 1998. Photo by Carla J. Schmidt.

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.

Nathaniel Stampley
Nathaniel Stampley

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.

Both events are free and open to the public, and are underwritten by Opera Props, University Opera, and the School of Music.

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 Schmidt
Jamie Schmidt

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 Schmidt and Liza Minnelli.
Jamie Schmidt and Liza Minnelli.

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, Indianapolis and 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!”