Category Archives: Summer Music Clinic

Help for Small-Handed Pianists, with Jessica Johnson; Pianist Christopher Taylor solo recital; Cuba Trumpet Expert performs with UW Jazz; and more!

News and Concert Highlights from the UW-Madison School of Music. February 9, 2016

Join us this Sunday for Symphony Showcase: UW Concerto Winners perform solo. Sunday, Feb 14, Mills Hall, 7:30 PM. $10 general public/all age students free. And see our complete calendar, including recitals, jazz, classical, voice and percussion concerts, colloquia, and opera, at this link: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/


A Solo Recital with Pianist Christopher Taylor, Feb. 26, 8 PM, Mills Hall
Christopher Taylor
Christopher Taylor

On Feb. 26, acclaimed pianist Christopher Taylor will play music of Bach, Brahms, and Scriabin in his only solo Madison concert this academic year. On the program: J.S. Bach’s French Suite No. 1 in D Minor, Aleksandr Scriabin’s 12 Etudes, and the lovely Johannes Brahms’s Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 1.

Read Jessica Courtier’s review of Taylor’s 2015 performance with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. “We in Wisconsin are privileged to call Christopher Taylor one of our own,” she wrote. Tickets are $15 for the general public; free for students of all ages.


Jessica Johnson holds out hope for pianists with small hands

How big are your hands? If you aspire to be a professional pianist, that’s an important question. On average, women have smaller hands than men, and are frequently stymied when trying to stretch their fingers to reach the larger octaves written into many major concertos, such as those by Liszt and Rachmaninoff. That simple fact bears on another simple fact: There are fewer women in the top echelons of professional concert pianists. Injuries are also common.

Jessica Johnson
Jessica Johnson

On Sat., Feb. 20, Jessica Johnson, professor of piano and piano pedagogy, will hold a full day of all-free events to demonstrate what has been working for her: The adoption of a specially sized piano that is 7/8 of normal size. Made by Steinbuhler & Co., one of these is now owned by the School of Music, and Prof. Johnson has found that playing it has been a “life-changing” experience.

Join us on Feb. 20 at 2:30 for a workshop, master class, hands-on demonstrations, and concert, all featuring the Steinbuhler DS 5.5 7/8 piano. Learn more here. And watch for an article about this revolutionary new approach in an upcoming story by Gayle Worland, in the Wisconsin State Journal.

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Trumpeter & Cuban Music Expert Mike Davison to perform with the UW Jazz Orchestra

Master class: Mon Feb 22, Mills Hall; Concert: Weds., Feb. 24, 7:30 PM, Music Hall. Read more here.

Even after a semester with Juan de Marcos, we’re still feeding on Cuban music! This month, we’re bringing Mike Davison (DMA, trumpet performance 1987)  to campus from the University of Richmond, where he teaches and performs. He’ll join the UW Jazz Orchestra, the Waunakee High School Jazz Ensemble I and the UW Latin Jazz Ensemble in an evening of rousing Caribbean tunes. Davison’s bio includes concerts around the world, four recorded jazz CDs, and performances with well-known singers, musicians, and even for a pope.


UW Wind Ensemble travels to Verona and west Madison for concerts
Tom Curry
Tom Curry

Find the UW Wind Ensemble in your corner of Dane County! Last December, the Wind Ensemble made an appearance at the Sun Prairie High School and will continue its out of town concerts this spring. Find them at Verona High School on Feb. 19, at Oakwood Village – West (Mineral Point Road) on March 31, and of course at the School of Music as well (Feb. 20). Both February concerts will feature Tom Curry, adjunct professor of tuba, in a work titled “Heavy Weather,” by the composer Jess Turner.

 


Summer Music Clinic registration now underway

Registration is open through May 2 for UW-Madison’s legendary Summer Music Clinic, which offers dozens of classes in all kinds of musical skills for kids completing grades 6-8 (junior session) and 9-12 (senior session). For one week, students live in UW dorms and attend classes that they choose from a lengthy list, including band, orchestra and choir; sight-singing; jazz improvisation; opera; swing dance; yoga; and even specialized classes on subjects ranging from the music of film composer John Williams to Stephen Sondheim to rock’n roll. Instructors are all highly skilled; many are university professors or other working professionals. Taste the fun by visiting SMC’s Facebook page! For more information, email anne.aley@wisc.edu.

Below: Summer Music Clinic photographs by Michael R. Anderson.


Faculty News: Daniel Grabois, Laura Schwendinger.

Alumni News: Violist Elias Goldstein.


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.


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.

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School of Music appoints alumnus Tom Curry as visiting assistant professor of tuba

UW-Madison alumnus studied with UW’s John Stevens and Northwestern’s Rex Martin

The UW-Madison School of Music is pleased to announce the appointment of Appleton native Tom Curry as Visiting Assistant Professor of Tuba, replacing Professor of Tuba John Stevens who will retire this spring after 29 years in the position.

Tom Curry
Tom Curry

Curry, a former student of John Stevens’, graduated from UW-Madison in 2009 with a degree in music performance and communication arts and was on the Dean’s List for eight semesters with a 4.00 GPA. He subsequently earned a master’s degree in music performance and literature from Northwestern University, studying with Rex Martin, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in music performance there. He is principal tubist of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra and the Evanston Symphony Orchestra, and has performed with the Joffrey Ballet, the Chicago Philharmonic, the Ars Viva Symphony, and many other orchestras.

Curry maintains a large studio of private low brass students at several Chicago-area high schools and also teaches supplemental tuba and euphonium lessons and master classes at Northwestern. He has served as a low brass instructor at the University of Wisconsin Summer Music Clinic and as a guest tuba and euphonium instructor at Lawrence University.

In addition to teaching the Tuba/Euphonium Studio, Curry will play in the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, a position he also held during his final semester at UW while John Stevens was on sabbatical.

Tom Curry
Tom Curry

In Chicago, Curry has regularly appeared with several local and national rock and popular acts, including performances with the Grammy-nominated group Foster the People and the local band, Mucca Pazza.

“We’re ecstatic,” says Mark Hetzler, professor of trombone. “There’s an energy about Tom which comes across in how he teaches and plays. And he understands the style of teaching here: the faculty connection with students is extremely important. He’s going to continue that tradition.”

“It’s quite an honor to come back to a place that had such a formative influence on me,” Curry says. “To be in that environment is an incredible opportunity.”

For more information, please contact Mark Hetzler, hetzler@wisc.edu, 608-628-5026.

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!”

UW’s Summer Music Clinic: A memorable two weeks

For the final two weeks in June, UW-Madison was host to a horde of teenage music enthusiasts at the annual Summer Music Clinic who honed their music chops during lessons, rehearsals and concerts while forming friendships and cultivating new ideas. Camp counselor Jacob Wolbert, an incoming senior in percussion who was one of last spring’s Concerto Competition winners, offered to chronicle events and, while doing so, found himself considering just how much the camp means to him personally. Jacob’s now in Rio de Janeiro, studying Brazilian culture and music in preparation for writing a thesis on samba music. Fanfare wishes to thank Jacob for all his thoughtful commentary.

Chalk art at at the Summer Music Clinic. All photos by Mike Anderson.
Sidewalk art at the Summer Music Clinic. All photos by Mike Anderson.

“Today, I had the privilege of hearing Peter Deneen, a band teacher from Traverse City, inspire his Michigan Band students before their final concert at Summer Music Clinic. Deneen drew from two relentless pursuers of excellence: Vince Lombardi and Ludwig van Beethoven. At one point, Lombardi told his Green Bay Packers, the best football team of the era, “…we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.” Meanwhile, Beethoven once said that “Power is the moral principle of those who excel…” As Deneen shared these two quotes, I watched as the middle schoolers sat with their eyes wide open, their mouths closed, completely enraptured, in the cavernous rehearsal room. Subsequently, the campers, after playing together as a band for only ten hours of their lives, proceeded to Mills Hall to astonish the audience. Their parents, family, and friends gave a vigorous standing ovation, bringing Deneen back on stage twice.

“Pete Deneen represents just one of the many world-class music educators making up the faculty of the UW Summer Music Clinic, but his credo transcends to the entire program. SMC excels symbiotically, in the sense that every contingent of the camp helps one another in striving for excellence. Some of this help is more evident, such as the instruction of campers by teachers, or the properties staff providing instruments, chairs, and music for every class. The campers, although in a lower position of authority, help everyone else just by enthusiastically making music, learning, and having fun. As an ensemble assistant, I have grown from the help of these campers, whether they know it or not. In helping eager, young percussionists, I see their mental gears turning as they adjust their posture in playing bass drum or their stick height for the snare drum. This, in turn, informs me on how others learn and how I can teach.

Richard Davis
Richard Davis, UW professor of bass, teaching at the 2013 Summer Music Clinic. Davis was just named a “Jazz Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“What makes these kids special is that they honestly want to learn more during this week, a week that for many of them is one of the first of their summer. Many campers that I have talked to during meals or free time tell me how they can’t wait to play or sing in their ensembles, but also relate their excitement for non-performance classes, such as Jazz Legends, Music Theory, or Yoga for Musicians. The soon-to-be eighth graders I worked with approached music with a maturity beyond their years. Although they sometimes showed their young age during free time, one could barely tell when they executed such difficult repertoire as Eric Whitacre’s The Seal Lullaby or Frank Ticheli’s Abracadabra. Whether listening to Pete Deneen share his wisdom on how to perform well (“People come to see concerts, not to hear them”) or to counselors telling them the procedure for checking out (“Don’t forget to fold your comforters and put them at the foot of your bed”), the campers listened, and this was reflected in their excellence over the week.

“One of the yearly traditions of SMC, the student recital, offers the campers both the opportunity of dazzling their peers with their talents, as well as learning concert etiquette as a means of expressing respect and friendship. Jacob Rose, an eighth-grade trumpet player from Heritage Christian Academy in Maple Grove, Minnesota, spoke with me on the experience of playing in this recital. It took Jacob about four months to prepare G. F. Handel’s Aria con Variazione, and even after this time, he was very nervous to play in front of three hundred fellow middle school musicians. However, he highly valued the experience and used his years singing in a choir to combat the natural stage fright. (For the record, Jacob’s performance sent chills down my spine.) For this brilliant young musician with such high potential, the most irksome part of Jacob’s experience was having to wait in the vestibule as other students performed. He plans to continue playing trumpet all of his life and emphasized that he trusts his private teacher with helping to achieve his goals.

“Jacob Rose’s seemingly innocuous comment on trust sheds light on one of the main pillars in achieving the excellence that Pete Deneen was referring to when talking to the Michigan Band. For the collective whole of the UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic to excel, every contingent has to trust each other and work together. In doing so, the campers, counselors, staff, and faculty all reach a heightened sense of what is important in life, and express the power of music to the utmost extent.

“If the junior session of SMC achieves excellence, then the senior session raises the stakes. Although the age difference between the weeks can be as small as one year, the maturity witnessed of the high schoolers really leaves a lasting impression. This year, I encountered some returning campers for whom it was their first time attending the second week; I had been their counselor last year when they were about to enter high school. Apart from being taller and visibly older, the kids’ ability level ascended dramatically, making them able to tackle such gargantuan repertoire as Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony or Verdi’s Overture to La Forza del Destino. Assisting in the Georgia Orchestra with Michael Alexander, I greatly enjoyed watching the progression of the orchestra from stumbling through note accuracy and rhythms on the first day (although not nearly as sloppily as the first-week campers) to acing the tricky violin runs and brass bombardments on the day of the concert. By Friday, the group honestly sounded like a world-class youth orchestra that had played together for many months. Mr. Alexander encouraged this level of musicianship, stressing on the first day that note accuracy would come naturally, but the mature communication required of seasoned orchestras was a skill that had to be actively cultivated in order to excel. Again, one should detect the pattern of excellence among the exceptional conductors who attend this camp.

“During the high school week student recital, I had the chance to talk to Anne Aley. The director of SMC, Anne’s hard work (along with that of her co-director, Julie Welbourne) has provided tens of thousands of kids (myself included) with the most memorable week of their summers, year after year. Watching the masterful performances (some of these kids, although not old enough to drive or vote, would fit right in in collegiate music studios), Anne turned to me and remarked how amazing the change was between the first and second week, but not necessarily in terms of musicianship. Along with having more years at their instruments, the kids have also fomented a stage presence, a professional demeanor, and a captivating sense of communicating the importance in their music to the audience. This concert also sent chills down my spine, but for different reasons.

Julie Welbourne and Anne Aley.
Longtime co-directors of the Summer Music Clinic, Julie Welbourne and Anne Aley.

“This musical communication, while potentially the most visible change between the two weeks, is also what makes the counseling staff such a cohesive, caring unit. Ben and Allison Jaeger, the dorm supervisors and heads of the counseling staff, stress that we open ourselves up to each other, to the kids, and to the camp, sharing what makes us special and extraordinary human beings. While this level of communication may be easy for some of the virtuosic musician counselors to achieve in playing and performing, it can be very hard to bare your soul to those around you on an interpersonal level. Our supervisors trust us to reveal as much of ourselves as we see fit, and this results in counselors helping the kids and each other as we traverse the uncertainties of the world. For many counselors, college has just started, just ended or will be ending soon, and the transitional statuses can make it difficult to cement an identity. Luckily, our belief in each other, and especially in the campers, carries us through our own self-doubt and makes us strong, helping us put aside any negativity in our own lives to just be there for the campers. Over the past two weeks, our staff formed a strong bond, one that left a lasting impact on everyone involved. The kids could see this too, and many of those eligible filed prospective counselor forms for next summer.

“In a world of doubt, turmoil, and anxiety-inducing events occurring almost daily, the UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic represents a breath of fresh air. For the students who attend, this means that they can finally have an open musical dialogue with their kindred spirits, free of judgment or prejudice. For the staff, this means that for two weeks, they can build a family and learn valuable life lessons in selflessness. For everyone, excellence is the result of total communication and we are able to say the most powerful things in the world. I hope to continue communicating with you through music next year at the 2014 UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic.”

No shortage of summer talent and ambition at the UW SOM

It’s summer now, and the UW-Madison School of Music hasn’t slowed down one bit. That’s because it is a hothouse of creative people with tons of musical ideas and ambition.

Jeffrey Sykes and Stephanie Jutt
Jeffrey Sykes and Stephanie Jutt

For two weekends now, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, co-founded by UW flute professor Stephanie Jutt and SOM doctoral alumnus Jeffrey Sykes, has presented concerts of spellbinding charm. (Fanfare ought to know-she attended the first one and will attend the last as well.) But for the second, we have a wonderful review by Jake Stockinger, whose blog The Well-Tempered Ear should be a must-read by any classical music aficionado in Dane County.

Jake called this concert “nothing short of a triumph” due to Sykes’ creation of an original story about the complex romances of Robert Schumann, his wife Clara Wieck Schumann, and Johannes Brahms by way of a “two-act mini-drama -– an experimental scissors-and-paste tapestry woven together with snippets of letters, diary entries and of course music -– proved successful on every count. It was greeted with cries of Bravo! and an enthusiastic, prolonged standing ovation.”

The concert also featured UW SOM vocal alumna Emily Birsan (now at The Lyric Opera of Chicago), Madison Symphony orchestra conductor/pianist John DeMain, UW SOM cellist Parry Karp, UW SOM/MSO violinist Suzanne Beia, and bass-baritone Timothy Jones. You can read Jake’s full review here.  You can also attend their final weekend of concerts; click this link to learn more.

Meanwhile, last Friday night at Music Hall, UW SOM violist and aspiring conductor Mikko Utevsky presented the first of two concerts this year of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, a three-year old ensemble created anew each summer of high school and college classical players. Utevsky, a graduate of Madison East High School, is an enterprising and sophisticated student of classical music who was profiled recently in a Q&A in Jake’s The Well-Tempered Ear. For the first concert, which featured local musicians Diedre Buckley on viola and Eugene Purdue on violin as well as WPR host Lori Skelton as narrator, featured Aaron Copland’s “Our Town,” Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” and Mozart’s “Sinfonia concertante.” It received a positive review from emeritus professor of history John Barker. “Utevsky has been able, in a short time with limited rehearsal opportunities, to forge them into a thoroughly credible, and creditable, ensemble,” he writes. Read Barker’s full review here. 

MAYCO will present a second concert at Music Hall on Friday, August 9, featuring a work by local composer Jerry Hui and former East High School trumpeter and Wisconsin Youth Symphony alumnus Ansel Norris, now a junior at Northwestern University. That program will feature the Haydn Trumpet Concerto and music of Hui and Beethoven.

Of course, then there’s the ongoing festival in the Humanities Building known as the Summer  Music Clinic. You can find photos of students at last week’s junior session below and on our Facebook page. And later this week, we’ll offer up another first-hand reflection by guest blogger, SOM percussionist, and SMC counselor, Jacob Wolbert.

A full house at one of SMC's final concerts. Photo by Mike Anderson.
A full house at one of SMC’s final concerts. Photo by Mike Anderson.

 

Guest blogger Jacob Wolbert on UW’s 2013 Summer Music Clinic: “Something magical.”

The School of Music has a guest blogger this week and next: Jacob Wolbert, a third-year UW percussionist who is a counselor at the Summer Music Clinic, a many-decades tradition at the university. SMC, as it’s known, which takes place every summer in June, offers middle- and high-schoolers weeklong opportunities to explore all kinds of music: band, orchestra, choir, musical theater and jazz.  Students live in dorm rooms in Ogg Hall, take classes and play music in the School of Music venues in Humanities, and generally live the life of Riley in downtown Madison. For one week—-then they return home with lots of new friends, musical ideas, and fun memories.

By Jacob Wolbert 

So far, music and laughter have echoed throughout the halls of the Humanities Building and Ogg Residence Hall, setting the tone for the next couple of weeks.  New friendships have been forged, old ones rekindled, and a shared passion has been acknowledged and furthered.  All this can only mean one thing: the junior session of the UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic is well underway, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Jacob Wolbert
Jacob Wolbert
Photograph by Mike Anderson

My name is Jacob Wolbert and I just completed my third year at UW-Madison, pursuing majors in percussion performance and Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies.  As a middle schooler, I attended Summer Music Clinic, and I can safely say that I would not be majoring in music had I not been a camper.  Escaping the frustration of my school band, where interest levels and attitude varied considerably, I cherished my one week of the year to make music in a collaborative, encouraging, and fun environment where hundreds of other kids my age shared my enthusiasm.  Year after year, the counselors, faculty, and staff made SMC the best week of my summer, and after attending the high school session for four years, I knew that I had no desire to let that experience out of my life.  After a year working with the properties crew, I was privileged enough to be hired as a counselor.

Looking at Summer Music Clinic in this new role, I can see that nothing has changed, save the fashion styles, pop culture and technology.  The week follows a routine of morning classes with performances and free time interspersed.  To me, the most awe-inspiring quality of the camp is the equal level of joy in the campers between the music classes and the free time.  The proud look on Hannah’s face when she finally nails that tough tambourine part, or the delighted murmurs of “Cool!” and “Sweet” when Noah and Ben learn about jazz legends.  After classes, the middle schoolers are met with cheers, high fives, and songs from their counselors as they return to their dorms from the music building.  At this point, the counseling staff offers their campers a wide variety of afternoon activities, with everything from henna tattoos to dodgeball.  The lunch and evening concerts expose the kids to masterful music, as well as the possibility of where their passion can take them.  As a camper, I certainly fantasized about the possibility of playing for SMC as a guest performer.

At the outset of this year, I know exactly why I like this camp, but what makes other people, both counselors and campers, return back for another year?  According to Soren Davick, an eighth grade bass player, SMC offers the opportunity for kids to “hang out with fun, upbeat counselors, play great music all day, and meet new people.” Rachel Riese, a ninth grader playing viola, returned to the camp because of her great experience in viola group lessons with Diedre Buckley, not to mention the great time she had overall.  When asked if they planned on coming back next year, both campers responded with an emphatic “Yes!”

In order to get a full sense of the Summer Music Clinic counselor experience, I talked to counselors who had been on staff much longer than me and new counselors who are still adjusting to the routine.  Danielle Plocar, who has counseled here since I attended senior session, described this year’s middle schoolers as “amazing, mature, and energetic.”  For Keisuke Yamamoto, who joins the counseling staff for the first time, he has particularly enjoyed interacting with middle schoolers, an unfamiliar demographic to him.  Danielle loves reconnecting with returning campers and especially looks forward to the student recitals.  Keisuke hopes to connect with the kids on his wing and learn how to work better with the campers.

If you were to ask anyone who has participated in the UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic, no one would deny the presence of something magical, an intangible aura of positivity and progression through music.  Over these two weeks, I will continue to document inspiring sights, beautiful sounds, and humorous anecdotes of the events that take place here.

For photos of Summer Music Clinic, week one, check our Facebook page!

https://www.facebook.com/UWMadisonSchoolOfMusic