Category Archives: Student Ensembles

Wayne Corey: “UW Honors Jazz Band hits right notes”

Members of the UW High School Honors Jazz Band. Photo by Mike Anderson.

Wayne Corey lives in Madison and loves jazz. He writes a semi-regular feature column, Wayne’s Music World, for a blog called “Madison Jazz.” Last week, Wayne attended a concert at Mills Hall that featured the inaugural group of young musicians comprising the UW High School Honors Jazz Band as well as the UW Madison Jazz Orchestra, both conducted by UW jazz professor (new just this past year), Johannes Wallmann. Wayne loved it, and wrote this post. Reprinted with permission.

Madison Jazz website

“The UW Honors Jazz Band is the best jazz idea in Madison in 2013.  But it isn’t just an idea. These kids can flat-out play.  As a veteran “listener” I’ve listened to a lot of good musical ideas.  They don’t always work.  The UW Honors Jazz Band from the fertile musical mind of Professor Johannes Wallmann proved at its inaugural concert that it is a really great working idea.

“The Honors Band was the early May opening act for the UW Jazz Orchestra.  I’ll say more about that band’s fine performance next week.

“The impressive set list for the Honors Jazz Band included Matt Dennis’ classic Angel Eyes and Thad Jones’ The Farewell plus A Single Sky by Dave Douglas and Samba de Los Gatos from Mike Steinel, a prominent jazz faculty member at the renowned University of North Texas.  With a set like this the auditions for the by-invitation-only band must have had a sign reading, ” ‘No wimps allowed.’

“The band worked together for just three, albeit very long, rehearsals. The players looked very serious, expected from a young group making their initial public appearance.  At the same time, the listener felt a sense of swing from the group.  These are talented musicians playing more than notes.  They seem to have a surprising understanding of the music they are playing.

“I was impressed with several soloists including the budding improvisational skills of trumpeter Henry Smith of Madison West and the exactly right tone of Middleton’s Michael Hoot on Angel Eyes.  Angel Eyes is a song I know really well.  I can’t be fooled.  The Four Freshmen and Five Trombones, Sinatra in a “saloon song” segment, Ella when she slowed things down.  Great artists have done great things with Angel Eyes.  Michael Hoot and the Honors Band got it right.

“The band’s initial appearance featured fourteen musicians from six area high schools, Madison East, West & Memorial, Middleton, McFarland and Verona.  Four UW Jazz Orchestra “ringers” augmented the sound.  Assistant director Brad Carman from West led the opening number.  Noticeable by their absence were any players from La Follette, Edgewood and McFarland high schools. Sun Prairie High School has the leading local jazz reputation and was not represented but that band has been preparing for the Essentially Ellington competition at New York City’s Lincoln Center.

“The UW Honors Jazz Band is important on a number of levels.  It tells very talented high school musicians that America’s great original art form is important.  It encourages them to study the music, play the music and – of course – think about a future with jazz.  The Honors Band introduces the musicians to peers and to music that may be old to some of us oldies but is probably new to many of them.  It demonstrates to the musicians, friends and families that jazz is complex music to be played by skilled musicians.

“The Honors Band reminds those of us who have been listening to jazz for decades that our music can again begin to grow.  It can play a vital role in American culture.  If you have friends in Europe and Japan you know that jazz is a more important part of the music scene in those areas than it is in the country of its birth.  I’m grateful that Japan, Germany, France, Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries play such vital role in the promotion of jazz and – let’s be honest – the earning power of jazz musicians.  For listeners to be able to keep listening we need musicians to earn an income.

“The emergence of programs such as the UW Honors Jazz Band suggests our music future in the Upper Midwest may be getting brighter.  It really is the best jazz idea in Madison in 2013.”

Stephanie Frye, female tubist in a (previously) man’s world

Stephanie FryeAs a pre-college student, Stephanie Frye couldn’t help but notice that the world of tuba players (a/k/a tubists) was a predominantly male one. As a grown woman and professional tubist, she noticed a paucity of female composers as well. Now, as she prepares to leave UW-Madison to become a lecturer in tuba at East Tennessee State University, she’s not only made inroads in the first area but in the second one as well.

Stephanie, a student of tuba professor and music school director John Stevens, who is also a composer, will receive her DMA this spring. As part of her dissertation project, she not only recorded seven works for the tuba by female composers, and commissioned two new works, by composers Asha Srinivasan and Inez S. McComas.

Her time in Wisconsin involved a range of activities, including performing (she is a member of the trombone-tuba duo Bell(e) Collective, the Sweet Thunder Tuba-Euphonium Quartet, and is the regular tubist with the Manitowoc Symphony Orchestra), plus teaching at Concordia University, UW-Platteville, and UW-Madison, UW’s Summer Music Clinic, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, and more.

On Friday, May 3, she’ll give a talk about her personal experience in commissioning new works of music, including finding and selecting composers, working with the composers, and funding the commission. On Saturday, May 4, Stephanie will present a recital of many of the works on her new CD.

We asked Stephanie to fill us in on a few areas of interest.

Tell us more about your upcoming CD of music.

“The CD isn’t officially named, but the recital I’m giving is called “A Celebration of Women Composers.”  I’ve received a contract from Mark Records and am planning on releasing the CD with them.  The works on the CD include Libby Larsen’s “URSA” (for tuba and wind band, reduction for tuba and piano), Sofia Gubaidulina’s “Lamento” (tuba and piano), Elizabeth Raum’s “Sweet Dances” (tuba alone), Asha Srinivasan’s “Dyadic Affinities” (tuba and electronic accompaniment), Barbara York’s “Through the Tunnel” (tuba and piano), Elena Firsova’s “Euphonisms” (tuba and piano), and Inez S. McComas’s “The Middle Pigeons” (tuba, trombone, and recorded sound).  The two pieces I commissioned for the CD from the previous list is Srinivasan’s “Dyadic Affinities” and McComas’s “The Middle Pigeons.”

What will you say about the commissioning process?

I’ll speak on different funding options for a commission and personal, collaborative relationship I’ve established with one composer in particular. Commissioning new works of music has been one of the most rewarding collaborative processes I’ve experienced.  The composer-performer relationship is a unique one in the music world, where performers have the chance to assist in the creation of a new work of art.

You’ve been a student of John Stevens, our tuba professor, music school director, and long-time composer. Tell us more about working with John.

The first time I met John I was at a tuba workshop at Interlochen.  I was a high school student and somehow had the great fortune of getting a lesson with this “tuba god” (as my mother would say) in all places but a stairwell of one of the buildings.  That hour, even in a boomy, noisy stairwell, made an incredible impact on my excitement towards the instrument and music.  So much so, that a number of years later, I knew the right place for me for my masters degree was at UW-Madison, with John.  Then when I began considering doctoral programs, I knew I had lots left to learn and stayed.  As a teacher and performer, John emphasizes not just being a great tuba player, but a great musician.  From the very beginning John gave me permission to take musical risks, try new things, and break boundaries, not only increasing my ability on the instrument, but also my confidence as a musician and person.  I wouldn’t be the performer and teacher I am today without his incredible influence.

Meet Stephanie this week at her talk or  recital, or both. 

Lecture, Friday, May 3 at 12:30PM (Room 1321, Mosse Humanities Building): “The Commissioning Process: A Reflection.”

Recital: Saturday, May 4, 6:30 pm, Morphy Recital Hall. 

Tyrone Greive to retire after 34 years as professor of violin

Tyrone Greive

“Music is more than a profession; it is a way of life.”

So says Tyrone Greive after 34 years as professor of violin at UW-Madison. Greive will retire this spring, but the indefatigable musician, well-known to Madison audiences as the former concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will still teach, perform and indulge his lifelong passion for Polish string literature.

On the teaching side, Greive will still be found in the music building, as he has offered to voluntarily help six current students finish their degree requirements. Meanwhile, his former students can be found teaching, conducting and performing all over the world.

Prof. Greive was also a tireless supporter of the UW’s Summer Music Clinic, an annual month-long event that supports and teaches aspiring musicians in middle and high school.

Says Anne Aley, director of the Summer Music Clinic: “It is hard not to describe Tyrone Greive without a cascade of positive phrases as he has done so much to inspire the students who have attended the UW Madison Summer Music Clinic. Amiable, talented, vitally interested in each and every student, Tyrone invariably took the time to get to know the students as individuals, was unfailingly encouraging as a musical mentor, and enthusiastically admiring of all of their endeavors.”

“[He] consistently brought the house down on faculty recitals with his technically and musically show-stopping (and sometimes tongue-in cheek) performances. He maintained the sense of community that forms at a music camp and corresponded with students throughout the school year and continued to encourage and be delighted with their achievements over years of musical growth and achievements. We will miss him!”

Retirement will also give Prof. Greive more time to indulge in his latest project: a book manuscript tentatively titled “Polish Violin Repertoire, in its historical and cultural context.”  Learning about Polish string music is his lifelong passion, which has resulted in numerous discoveries of previously unknown music scores, multiple journal articles, several research grants and awards.

His performance editions of both Polish and non-Polish violin music, often created from manuscripts found in Polish libraries, have been published by PWM Editions of Kraków, Poland and Masters Music, Hildegaard Publications and International Music in the US. In February of 1998, Greive was named winner of a 1997 Stefan and Wanda Wilk Prize for Research in Polish Music sponsored by the Polish Music Research Center at the University of Southern California. He also has two CD recording of Polish violin-piano music made with Ellen Burmeister, UW-Madison professor emerita of piano.

Prof. Greive, a native of Sioux City, Iowa, came to UW in 1979 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Morningside College and MS and DMA degrees from Carnegie-Mellon and University of Michigan. He began his tenure at the Madison Symphony Orchestra in 1979 (with his wife, Janet Greive, serving as first stand cellist for the same time period) and together they retired in 2010.

On May 3 at 8 p.m., in a free concert with the UW Symphony Orchestra in Mills Hall, Professor Greive will perform the Concerto No. 2, op. 61 by Karol Szymanowski. The concert will be repeated on May 4 at 7 p.m. in a ticketed performance at the River Arts Center in Prairie du Sac.

“Twisted Metal” upends the concept of Horn Choir

Newly installed horn professor Dan Grabois knew that an assemblage of horn players (a/k/a French horns, to those of us new to classical music) could offer much more than the standard brass literature.

"Twisted Metal" Horn Choir concert at Memorial Union
“Twisted Metal” in concert at the Memorial Union Rathskeller

(Photograph by Mike Anderson.)

From Dan Grabois, UW Professor of Horn:

“Before I arrived at UW (this is my second year), the Horn Choir used to give its annual Christmas concert at the Chazen museum, then take the second semester off. I wanted to keep going during second semester, but to go in a new direction, where we could learn a new style and increase our level of creativity. To me, this meant turning the Horn Choir into a rock band. This year, we actually did it. I told the students the plan partway through first semester, and was met with a mixture of enthusiasm and skepticism. My expectations were that we would write pieces together, as an outgrowth of group improvisation, and that the students would arrange rock tunes for the group. I had no interest in performing rock music under the name “UW Madison Horn Choir,” so I changed our name to Twisted Metal.

“A few students came back from winter break with arrangements they had done, and we started working on them. It’s funny that a style of music that is so integral to the lives of the students can be very difficult to reproduce on our instruments, but we worked long and hard at playing the music in the right style. We also improvised, coming up with our tune TM Funk Machine in our very first rehearsal (it got its name at the last possible moment, when I was typing up our concert program). Another improvisation became a section of an arrangement one of the students did. During the course of the semester, more and more of the students’ arrangements were completed and quickly learned.

“We had two scheduled concerts: one at the Rathskeller (at the Memorial Union) and one in the School of Music in Mills Hall. Performing our debut in front of people who were drinking beer was the perfect introduction to rock stardom for my students. We had found a drummer, the final missing piece to kick the band into shape, and we played a bang-up set. Everyone was primed for our Mills concert, and the outfit purchasing and makeup application moved into high gear. This concert was a real culmination for Twisted Metal: we created an identity, learned a style, moved our performance energy up several notches, and had a great time to boot. Twisted Metal is here to stay.

“Twisted Metal performed the music of Queen, Boston, Alanis Morissette, The XX, Nena, Rush, and Twisted Metal. Two students sang, and everybody rocked.”