UW-MADISON PERCUSSION PROGRAM CELEBRATES 50 YEARS WITH A MARCH 20 CONCERT AND TRIP TO CHINA
“Fifty years is not a long time in the world of classical music, but it’s a very long time in the world of formal percussion studies. In the 1960s and before, the very notion of teaching percussion beyond the basic orchestral instruments caused music educators to simply shake their heads in disbelief.” So what happened? Read the full story on our main website here.
The University of Wisconsin Madison World Percussion Ensemble performs the Olodum classic A Visa La (May 2013). The arrangement was created by Nininho and A. Di Sanza.
HEAR THE MUSIC OF BRITISH COMPOSER CECILIA McDOWALL AND MEET THE COMPOSER, TOO
Heard any new choral music lately? You’ll get your chance this week when Cecilia McDowall, winner of the 2014 British Composer Award for her choral work, Night Flight, comes to Madison.
Please note: On Wednesday the 18th at noon, McDowall will be featured live on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Midday show with host Norman Gilliland (88.7 FM). On Thursday on WORT Radio (89.9 FM), host Rich Samuels plans a half-hour special on McDowall that he pre-recorded with organizer John Aley. At 7:15 AM.
Thursday, noon, Mills Hall: Colloquium with the composer. How does she impart those whispery Antarctic sounds into her music? Come to ask and find out how!
Friday, 8 PM, Mills Hall: We’ll feast on McDowall’s choral and instrumental music for ensembles and soloists, including her work about the ill-fated expedition of polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott. Selected faculty and student performers will include pianist Christopher Taylor, tenor James Doing, the UW Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers, and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn. Mike Duvernois of UW-Madison’s IceCube Antarctic research project will update us on the state of polar research today (hint: they don’t need sled dogs anymore). Tickets sold at the Memorial Union Box office and in Mills on day of show. Adults $20, all-age students free. http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/location.html
Saturday, 8 PM, Mills Hall: A concert devoted to smaller ensembles, including a trio with violinist Eleanor Bartsch, cellist Kyle Price, and pianist SeungWha Baek. They’ll perform “The Colour of Blossoms,” a meditation by McDowall after a 13th century Japanese story. Free concert. Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/cecilia-mcdowall/colour-of-blossoms
Sunday, 9:15 and 10:30 AM, Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue. Forum (9:15) and Church Service (10:30) featuring McDowall’s music, with the composer present.
WINNERS OF SHAIN WOODWIND-PIANO DUO COMPETITION ANNOUNCED
Our 2015 winners are Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet and SeungWha Baek, piano, and Iva Ugrcic, flute and Thomas Kasdorf, piano. Pedro Garcia, clarinet and Chan Mi Jean, piano, received honorable mention.
The competition is sponsored by former UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain. The winners will perform this Sunday, Feb. 22, at 3:30 PM in Morphy Hall. A reception will follow.
BENEFIT FOR STRICKEN TROMBONIST BRITTANY SPERBERG: MARCH 18
The Dairyland Jazz Band, with Sperberg on trombone, plays Ory’s Creole Trombone.
Undergraduate trombonist Brittany Sperberg, who performed in the UW’s Dairyland Jazz Band and many other ensembles, is now having serious medical problems and has withdrawn from school. Sperberg was featured in this blog in the fall of 2013. Her teacher, trombonist Mark Hetzler, has organized a benefit concert on Wednesday, March 18, 7:30 PM to raise donations to assist her family with unmet expenses. Please join us to help wish Brittany a speedy recovery! Donations may also be made at YouCaring.org. Learn much more at our website: http://www.music.wisc.edu/2015/02/07/sperberg_benefit/
STELLAR SINGING EXPECTED AT UNIVERSITY OPERA’S NEXT SHOW: MOZART’S THE MAGIC FLUTE
University costumers are already busy sewing Victorian bustle skirts and the classic South Asian attire known as the shalwar kameez for next month’s University Opera production of The Magic Flute. It’s all a product of visiting opera director David Ronis‘s imagined East-west setting for the show. Read the complete news release on our website.
New this spring: four performances, not just three, allowing for even double casting of all lead roles. The show dates are Friday, March 13, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 15, 3:00 p.m.; and Tuesday, March 17, 7:30 p.m.
SCHOOL OF MUSIC PHOTO EXHIBIT STARTS MARCH 1, LOWELL CENTER
Our friendly helpful photographer Mike Anderson has enlarged and framed about 25 images of student musicians to be placed on display in the Lowell Center Gallery, 610 Langdon Street. The exhibit runs from March 1 to April 30, and there will be a small reception on March 8. Read more here.
Below are a few of Mike’s images taken at our concerto winners concert (“Symphony Showcase”) that was held on February 8. (More information here.) Please check back this fall for our next winners recital date, and join us; it is always a joyous event!
Ivana Ugrcic and Stephanie Jutt, professor of flute.
Susan C. Cook, director of the UW-Madison School of Music.
Kyle Knox, graduate assistant conductor.
Jason Kutz, with the UW Symphony Orchestra and conductor James Smith.
Kyle Knox and composer competition winner, Adam Betz.
A message from Susan C. Cook, Director of the School of Music
On May 16, as part of the University’s entire Commencement weekend, the School of Music held its inaugural Graduation and Awards Recognition. It was a lively and celebratory event that provided the opportunity to recognize the achievements of our graduates, to honor award recipients and to recognize and, in some cases, to thank personally the many donors who have made those student awards possible. Thus, for many of us, the 2013-14 academic year has ended, and so this is the last Fanfare blog post you’ll receive from us until August.
However, the School of Music, as I’ve learned, never truly goes silent. Our facilities in the Mosse Humanities Building and in Music Hall will continue to thrum with activity of all kinds—from summer classes, ensembles and Community Music Lessons to special events like the National Summer Cello Institute (now in session), the Summer Music Clinic and the Madison Early Music Festival. Over the summer, music study continues, both in more leisurely and more intensive ways. We’re also planning to carry out some much needed renovations, ones that will benefit both our classroom teaching and our on-stage performances.
Looking back over the year I continue to be struck by how much we do and how well we do it. Primary in my mind are the high quality performances by our students as they’ve worked alone and collaboratively in our libraries, practice rooms, offices, studios, classrooms and, on stage and off. The creativity, energy and commitment they display towards their creative work never ceases to amaze me; it makes my job as director enormously rewarding.
I look forward to welcoming you back to campus, even if only virtually, in August. We have a lot of exciting things planned for next year as we continue to be a music school on the move, living out the Wisconsin Idea within our state and the world.
Thank you for your support throughout the past year. I always welcome hearing from our alums and friends, so feel free to stop by my office or drop me an email message at firstname.lastname@example.org
On, Wisconsin and the summer!
Susan C. Cook
Scroll down for photos from the May 16 ceremony at Music Hall. For a list of all graduates, click here.
UW pianist Yeaji Kim profiled in Wisconsin State Journal
Yeaji Kim, a visually disabled pianist and brand-new DMA in piano performance and pedagogy, developed a dissertation project that has the potential to not only change the way blind musicians learn to play music, but help blind and sighted musicians and teachers to collaborate and learn more easily.
Kim ‘s story was featured in a May 18 front-page story by reporter Gayle Worland in the Wisconsin State Journal as well as in a four-minute video made by the university.
Jessica Johnson, professor of piano pedagogy, calls Kim’s work, which involves a three-dimensional staff and notes that both sighted and sight-impaired people can understand, “revolutionary.” Read the full (very interesting) story here. More information is available at this blog.
Composer Filippo Santoro uses architecture as metaphor to create new works
Santoro, a native of Italy who just received his DMA in composition from UW-Madison, describes his composing process in a recent blog post. “A good architect will begin by observing the architectural style of the surrounding buildings, the nature of the soils at the building site, how the space is currently used and the building’s proposed purpose. Similarly, a piece of music always develops from a small idea, like a seed, that you may want to take care of even long before it becomes a piece,” he writes. Read more here.
Collins Fellow Philip Bergman earns spot in Japanese training orchestra
Bergman, who received his master’s degree this spring, studied with cello professor Uri Vardi and received a fellowship provided by longtime donor Paul Collins. “I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Collins this past fall when I performed with a quintet at a banquet. I thanked Mr. Collins not only for his support of my education, but for his role in creating some of the finest positions available to student musicians in this country,” he writes. Read more here.
Photographs from 2014 Awards and Graduation Ceremony
All photos by Michael R. Anderson. Click for captions.
Lisa Garza (BM, percussion) and Ben Davis (BM, music education/trumpet).
Associate Director Janet Jensen.
Susan Lipp, a member of the school’s board of visitors, with assistant director Ben Schultz and associate director Janet Jensen.
David Glickstein (BM, saxophone); Barb Douglas, concert bands coordinator.
Director Susan C. Cook.
Choral Conductor Beverly Taylor.
Peter Miliczky (MM, violin) and Elspeth Stalter-Clouse (MM, violin).
Philip Bergman (cello, MM); Madlen Breckbill (BM, violin).)
A congratulatory moment.
CatieLeigh Laszewski (MM, voice); Sara Giusti (MM, piano), Yana Groves (MM, piano); Christina Kay (MM, voice).
Christina Kay (voice, MM); and Yana Groves (piano, MM).
Tatiana Koike (BM, flute)
The scene in Music Hall.
Doctoral trombonist wins the 2014 Esther Taylor Graduate Arts Fellowship
Alan Carr, a DMA candidate in bass trombone and a Paul Collins Distinguished Fellow at the School of Music, has received the Esther Taylor Graduate MFA Fellowship, designed to support and encourage graduate students in the visual and performing arts by supporting public presentation of their work in conjunction with their degree program. The fellowship carries a grant of $1,500.
The fellowship will help Carr to complete his dissertation that will culminate in a solo CD project called The Elephant in the Room. The CD will feature previously unrecorded works for bass trombone and also offers two new pieces, including a new sonata by UW-Madison tuba professor (retired as of this semester) John Stevens. Carr assembled a consortium of 12 leading bass trombone players from around the world to commission the Stevens sonata.The consortium includes bass trombonists from the Atlanta Symphony, Boston Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Malaysia Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, National Symphony, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, and several others.
This new work will be a substantial contribution to the bass trombone repertoire and will be dedicated to the late Edward Kleinhammer of the Chicago Symphony, who passed away in November 2013.
In addition to his graduate studies, Carr is also adjunct professor of low brass at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon and an active performer, having appeared with the Baltimore, Dubuque, and Hartford Symphony Orchestras, and with Ensemble ACJW at Carnegie Hall in New York City. For seven years, he was the bass trombonist in the King’s Brass, performing nearly 1,000 concerts and recording six CDs during that time. Carr has performed throughout the world, including concerts in Austria, Dominican Republic, Germany, Italy, China, Korea, and the US Virgin Islands, as well as all 48 continental US states. In March, Carr gave a solo performance at the 2014 Eastern Trombone Workshop in Washington, D.C. Carr received his Master of Music from The Juilliard School and a Bachelor of Music from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. He also holds an Artist Diploma from Yale University. Carr can be heard on Summit, Naxos, and Albany record labels, and is an Edwards Instrument performing artist.
Doctoral musicologist receives three fellowships to further her research
Isidora Miranda, a PhD candidate in historical musicology who studies with musicology professor Pamela Potter, has been awarded a Summer Fellowship at the Institute of Philippine Culture at the Ateneo de Manila University, a UW-Madison Center for Southeast Asian Studies Fellowship, and a UW-Madison Center for Southeast Asian Studies Field Research Award. Isidora earned her undergraduate degree in music at the University of the Philippines and her master’s degree in Violin Performance and Musicology at Western Illinois University. She writes: “The research work I am planning to do this summer is scour through the Raymundo Bañas Collection at the National Library in Manila. The collection comprises of original manuscripts, printed sheet music, prints, anthologies, silent movie scores, religious music for the local Roman Catholic churches, music programs from local concerts and musical events, and mimeographs of other music historical sources. In 1924, Raymundo Bañas (1894-1962) published The Music and Theater of the Filipino People, a compendium of music and musicians from the late-nineteenth century up to the time of his publication. As preliminary questions, I would like to know how much of Bañas’s musical archive informed his writing, and perhaps more importantly, what was the impetus for building a repository and authoring a narrative that sought to represent a “national” conception of music that is Filipino? This is particularly interesting in light of the growing push towards a Philippine self-government and a re-assertion of Spanish colonial identities in opposition to American influences at the time when Bañas was amassing his library.”
Senior composition major wins University Bookstore’s Academic Excellence Award
Daria Tennikova, whose work, “Poema for Saxophone and Orchestra” was a winner of the school’s annual concerto competition, has been awarded a 2014 University Book Store Academic Excellence Award in the amount of $1,000. The awards are made to undergraduate students who best exemplify the principle that excellence can be achieved through independent study. This summer, Daria will attend the summer music festival, New Music on the Point.based in Lake Dunmore, Vermont.
Horn alumnus wins Lawrence University’s “Outstanding Teacher” Award
Eric Anderson (B.M. Music Education, 1998), music department chairman and band director at Verona Area High School, was honored Sunday, May 4 with Lawrence University’s 2014 Outstanding Teaching in Wisconsin Award, along with Lynette Schultz, an English teacher at Williams Bay Jr./Sr. High School. Eric is now band director at Verona Area High School and also sits on the board of directors of the UW-Madison School of Music Alumni Association. He also frequently conducts the orchestras for Children’s Theater of Madison and Four Seasons Theater.
The recipients are nominated by Lawrence seniors and selected on their abilities to communicate effectively, create a sense of excitement in the classroom, motivate their students to pursue academic excellence while showing a genuine concern for them in and outside the classroom. Since launching the award program in 1985, Lawrence has recognized 62 high school teachers.
Anderson has directed the concert band, wind ensemble and symphonic band while also teaching AP music theory at Verona High School since 2006. Additionally, he directs pep band, oversees rehearsals for school musicals and organizes tours around the country for all of the band students.
Note: Eric is the son of the School’s very generous volunteer photographer, Mike Anderson!
UW’s Pro Arte Quartet surmounts travel difficulties to successfully complete its planned tour of Belgium
String quartet members aren’t generally known as lawbreakers, but due to new federal regulations about international shipments of ivory (intended to protect endangered African elephants), the Pro Arte’s Sally Chisholm and Parry Karp, who each own old instruments with tiny amounts of ivory in them from long-deceased elephants, found themselves briefly detained at the Brussels airport at the beginning of their Belgium tour in late May. The tour was intended to commemorate the quartet’s 100th birthday and origination in Belgium. (Read earlier Fanfare post here.)
Tour manager Sarah Schaffer explained to Belgian authorities that the quartet had received special permission to travel with their instruments, obtained through the intervention of Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, but it took a few hours before Chisholm and Karp were allowed to leave, instruments in hand.
They had a concert scheduled for that very night, so their release was just in time.
Prior to their departure, Madison music blogger Jake Stockinger (“The Well-Tempered Ear”) asked Schaffer and the musicians to write blog posts about every step of the tour, which was well-received. The tour is now over, but the stories live on and can be found here:
Chelcy Bowles, professor of music, Van Hise Outreach Teaching Award
Bowles is one of ten to receive this year’s Distinguished Teaching Awards, an honor given since 1953 to recognize the university’s finest educators. Chancellor Rebecca Blank will present the awards at a ceremony to be held in conjunction with the Teaching and Learning Symposium from 4:30 to 6 p.m. May 19 at Union South in Varsity Hall. The event is sponsored by the Wisconsin Alumni Association in conjunction with the Office of the Secretary of the Faculty.
Bowles is nationally and internationally renowned as one of the foremost experts on lifelong learning and engagement in music and the arts. She has developed and taught a variety of non-credit courses for adult learners and has been instrumental in the founding of music outreach programs at the state, national and international levels. Among the many initiatives she has spearheaded is the Madison Early Music Festival, now in its 15th year, which is approaching its 15th year and draws artists from around the world to showcase medieval and Renaissance music.
Professor Anthony Di Sanza, School of Music, Kellett Mid-Career Award
This award is intended to recognize and support mid-career faculty, seven to twenty years past their first promotion to a tenured position. The Kellett Mid-Career Awards were created to provide needed support and encouragement to faculty at a critical stage of their careers and are made possible by the research efforts of UW-Madison faculty and staff. Technology arising from faculty and staff research is licensed to industry by the patent management organization, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Fund (WARF). Income from successful licenses is returned to the Graduate School to fund a variety of research activities throughout the divisions on campus.
Professor Laura Schwendinger, School of Music, Vilas Associate Award
The Vilas Associate Award Program is made possible by the generosity of the Vilas Trustees. The award provides summer salary support and a flexible research fund for two years to non-tenured and tenured faculty.
Schwendinger will also be in residence at three festivals this summer, at Yaddo Artists Retreat in Saratoga Springs NY, the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus in Schwandorf, Bavaria and at Moulin à Nef Studio Center in Auvillar, France. In addition she will be a faculty composer at the Bennington Chamber Music Conference. Alumnus composer Thomas Lang (MM ’07, DMA ’11) will be the composer fellow.
Professor Jessica Johnson wins American Music Teacher Article of the Year Award
MTNA’s American Music Teacher Article of the Year Award is presented to the author of an outstanding feature article written expressly for the AMT. This year’s award is presented to Jessica Johnson, NCTM, for her article “Feeling The Sound: Reflections On Claiming One’s Own Musical Voice.” The article was published in the August/September 2013 issue of American Music Teacher magazine, the official journal of the Music Teachers National Association.
This article investigates how multi-sensory learning and use of whole-brain processes may enhance our practicing and teaching, leading us to a more artistic, authentic experience. It explores how the use of imagery, metaphor, fantasy, intuition, imagination and instinct nurtures the discovery of one’s own musical voice. Read the article:“Feeling the Sound.”
Last April, a unique concert, “Fusions,” devoted to an amalgam of Jewish and Arab art music with musicians and collaborators Uri Vardi (cello), Taiseer Elias (oud) and Menachem Wiesenberg (piano) was held in Mills Hall. The concert was recorded; a video is below.Videography and editing by Robert Lughai.
Classical Revolution presents UW students performing at a pub…
Tomorrow, Thursday, Feb. 20, Classical Revolution Madison will be back with a jam-packed show of classical and contemporary favorites at Brocach Irish Pub on the Square (7 W Main St.) on Thursday, February 20th at 7 pm. From 7-8 pm, CRM will present a dynamic program featuring works by Brahms, Shostakovich, Haydn, and more. Then, from 8-9 pm, they will open up the floor for anyone who wants to sight read or jam, so come with your fiddle or the sheet music of your favorite chamber work if you would like to join in on some casual music making.
Performers will include Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet (who recently soloed in our Symphony Showcase; see note below); and Thalia Coombs, Teddy Wiggins, Tony Oliva, Keisuke Yamamoto and Nathan Giglierano, violins; Marissa Reinholz, Mikko Utevsky and Mara Rogers, violas; Zou Zou Robidoux, Chris Peck, Tori Rogers and Rachel Bottner, cellos.
…meanwhile, pianist Christopher Taylor reveals his program for February 28 in Mills Concert Hall
On Friday, February 28 at 8 pm, in his only Madison appearance this year, celebrated pianist Christopher Taylor will perform the Sonata no. 6, op. 82 (1939) by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) and the Symphony no. 3 in E♭ Major, op. 55 (“Eroica”) by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), as transcribed by Franz Liszt (1811-1886). The concert will take place in Mills Concert Hall and is free.
Taylor writes: “I find altogether exhilarating the opportunity to re-experience works that inspired me even before taking my first piano lesson. Although, needless to say, a pianist cannot hope to duplicate the precise effect of Beethoven’s orchestrations, the attempt to simulate a few of them gives rise to endlessly fascinating pianistic possibilities. Virtually every technical resource of fingering, voicing, articulation, and pedaling (even the middle pedal, a device that Liszt himself lacked till late in his career) proves useful in these mighty transcriptions. While tonight’s version of the Eroica can obviously never displace the original form, I do hope that the pairing of a single musician with one versatile instrument can produce a fresh view of this immortal work, whose turbulent historical genesis and juxtaposition of heroism, tragedy, and redemption complement the Prokofiev so aptly.” Read full program notes here.
That Special Something: Susan C. Cook on what made the Beatles so legendary
In case you missed it, February 9 was the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Beatles in America, a day that went down in history as either the best or the worst example of popular music at the time. “Visually they are a nightmare, tight, dandified Edwardian-Beatnik suits and great pudding bowls of hair. Musically they are a near disaster…”– Newsweek. (William F. Buckley called them “god awful.” Read more quotations in the LA Times.)
Well, those pudding bowls of hair caught on, didn’t they? In a session with “Live at Five’s” Mark Koehn and Susan Siman at NBC’s Channel 3, our director and music historian Susan C. Cook talked about how the Beatles finally won us over. Click the link to watch.
Violin grad on how he’s preparing for master’s auditions
After graduating in 2011, Clayton Tillotson spent a year in Toronto at The Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory in Toronto, where he received an artist diploma. Then he took a year off.
“I’m currently a first violinist with Orchestra Iowa and The Quad City Symphony,” he writes.
“I was originally reluctant to take this year away from school, but ultimately thought it would be better than the massive debt I would have accumulated had I accepted offers from Master’s programs last year. It’s turned out to be a fantastically productive and empowering year though. Realizing that I can actually solve problems and make progress on my own has been one of the best discoveries I’ve ever had.”
Now he’s back on the audition circuit, and recently sat down with Minnesota Public Radio to talk about how he prepares. “He recently Googled teachers from the universities where he would like to get a master’s degree in violin performance, and taped their photos up in his practice room,” writes the author. ” ‘I just wanted to see what their faces look like,’ he said. ‘I’m really glad that I did, because some of them are pretty scary-looking people.’ ” (Perish the thought!) Read the story here.
Schwendinger’s “High Wire Act” receives critical acclaim in San Francisco
Faculty composer Laura Schwendinger’s work “High Wire Act” was included in a recent program of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, a program that intentionally included works devoted to “serious fun,” as they called them. “The circus that the Wonder Pets were saving was the one imagined up by Laura Schwendinger for the composition that preceded Horowitz’. Interpreted by the same performers on their same instruments, the piece was a five-movement suite entitled High Wire Act. All but one of the movements were inspired by wire depictions of circus scenes designed by Alexander Calder. The other remaining movement recalled the composer’s own memory of a bird caught under a circus tent that could not find a way to escape,” wrote critic Stephen Smoliar. Read the full story here.
Symphony Showcase “reimagined” proves popular
On February 8, the annual concert of the UW Symphony Orchestra featuring concerto competition winners was held in Mills Hall, to a packed crowd and ovations for every performer. Rechristened the “Symphony Showcase,” it was favorably received by many, including local blogger Jacob Stockinger, who wrote: “If you weren’t there -– well, you probably should regret it. You missed out on a lot of fun and a lot of beautiful music-making by a very impressive group of talented students.” Read the full story here.
Pro Arte’s Sally Chisholm to perform February 23 in a 90th birthday tribute to former Minnesota Orchestra conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
The Chamber Music Society of Minnesota plans a night of premieres and favorites to honor legendary maestro Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who conducted the Minnesota Orchestra from 1960 to 1979 and did so again recently after the end of their bitter lockout. “I will be principal viola for the orchestral works on the second half of the program, and violist in the string quartet premieres by Gunther Schuller, John Harbison, and Steven Stucky, ” Sally writes. Read the news release here.
For the full calendar of concerts and events at the school, click here.
The UW-Madison School of Music enters a new era this month with the appointment of Professor Susan C. Cook as its new director. Cook, a musicologist and previously the academic associate dean for the Arts and Humanities in the Graduate School, replaces Professor John Stevens, who will retire next spring after a distinguished 29-year career as UW-Madison professor of tuba. Directors are elected for a five-year term, but Stevens, who also held the position from 1991 to 1996, decided to retire at the end of this academic year.
Prof. Cook, who began her musical studies as a harpsichordist, will be only the second woman to serve as director of the school of music. She is also the former executive director of the UW-Madison Arts Institute and briefly served as interim director of the University Press. She joined UW-Madison in 1991 after earning a Ph.D. in musicology at the University of Michigan and teaching at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Among Cook’s areas of interest are American music and dance, issues of gender and music, and women in the arts. She has served on the boards of the American Musicological Society, the Society of American Music, the Society of Dance History Scholars and the Madison Cultural Arts District. She co-edited the award-winning collection Cecilia Reclaimed: Feminist Perspectives on Gender and Music (1993, University of Illinois Press) and most recently Bodies of Sound: Studies Across Popular Music and Dance (2013, Ashgate). She is the author of Opera for a New Republic (1988, University of Rochester Press), an exploration of the 1920s Zeitoper (topical opera) and its primary exponents, Ernst Krenek, Kurt Weill and Paul Hindemith. Her essay “Watching Our Step: Embodying Research, Telling Stories,” on the gendered and racialized meanings of ragtime social dance won the Lippincott Prize from the Society for Dance History Scholars. She has also held the Walt Whitman Chair in American Culture Studies as part of the Fulbright Distinguished Teaching Program in the Netherlands.
Cook can sometimes also be heard giving pre-concert lectures prior to performances of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
Susan agreed to answer a few questions about her life, her interests and her appointment as School of Music director.
Do you own an iPod, and if so, what’s on it?
“Funny you should ask. Even with my research and teaching interests in contemporary music and music and recorded sound, I only got an iPod last semester in order to better teach my class on Music and Ethnicity in Wisconsin. So, mostly what’s on it are materials for that course—everything from various kinds of polka, to field recordings of British Isles ballads to contemporary powwow and klezmer.
“Before a recent airline flight I did load up a number of discs of Ravel’s piano works and music by the Québécois band “Le Vent du Nord,” who played recently at the Fête de Marquette festival on the east side of Madison.
What instruments do you play?
“As a fulltime musicologist here, I perform in the classroom, in public lectures and on paper through my scholarship. As a child, I started with piano and violin, but in college switched my keyboard interests to the harpsichord, studying with Max Yount at Beloit College. I continued harpsichord study in graduate school with Edward Parmentier and taught harpsichord as part of my first job at Middlebury College. Since coming to Wisconsin, I’ve played for my own enjoyment. I just purchased a new violin so I can start learning fiddle tunes—I’m trying to learn by ear to improve my skills to play for contra dances.
As a musicologist and music historian, what are your particular musical interests?
“I just co-edited a volume of essays on popular music and dance with a dance historian at Temple University, Sherril Dodds. Many of the contributions focus on international contemporary dance and music practices. My contribution is one of the few historical ones, examining an aspect of ragtime dance c. 1910 and its relationship to the emergence of the recorded sound technology. Ragtime dance has preoccupied me for some time, and I’m currently working on a book about it that examines why it was considered a dangerous activity, especially for women, and how women literally used the dance floor to negotiate new social roles for themselves. I’m utilizing lots of archival sources here at the University, which makes the work especially interesting as I explore how faculty and administrators confronted student leisure behaviors they found ‘eccentric’ and even ‘disgusting.’
What do you want to do as director?
“I know it sounds like a cliché, but I want to help insure that the School of Music can maximize all its resources so it continues to be the best 21st century institution it can be. I want the School to be part of larger University-wide conversations about the important roles music study and the arts in general play in a public institution like ours; we need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to be where we want to be five, ten, 15 years from now. In the short term, I want to make sure our new dean of the College of Letters & Sciences and our new chancellor, know how well we fulfill the University’s educational mission and how beautifully we embody the Wisconsin Idea of contributing to the state, nation and world.
Why did you want this job?
“I actually enjoy the challenges of administrative work. For the past six plus years I’ve been the academic associate dean in the Graduate School for the arts and humanities. I oversaw critically important research competitions for faculty and staff and had an active role in shaping processes related to funding opportunities for graduate students and other aspects of the graduate education. That work gave me a big picture of the university especially as I worked side by side my fellow associate deans who represent the social, biological and physical sciences. They had different ways of doing their teaching and scholarship yet we all shared a common goal of research and educational excellence. I’ve learned a lot about how departments large and small carry out their work and how they function both separately and as part of a larger whole. I was also able to take part in nationwide conversations about the role of public higher education and the changes and challenges facing graduate education across the board. I was ready for a change, and when John Stevens decided to step down early, it seemed like an appropriate time to take my administrative experience back to the place I love most.
What do you think the SoM brings to the University and State?
“I’m especially proud of the quality of teaching we have here and the high level of professionalism demonstrated by our faculty and staff in all they do. Everyone works very hard and is deeply committed. It’s become standard now in Universities to call for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to what we do—I want to communicate with the University and others how the SoM has been a model of that kind of “mixed methods” approach for decades through its combination of studio and classroom instruction. We approach the study of this activity and thing we call “music” from lots of different ways, learning through performance, research and study. Music students learn the value of daily practice, something they can bring to all parts of their life, as well as learning how the experience of music has shaped past practices and beliefs and continues to shape ideas and relationships in the present time. We’ve increasingly taken a global approach to the musical experience as well, which I hope to foster as music is an especially powerful way to engage with other cultures. We provide our audiences, which of course includes the citizens of our state, with powerful experiences of pleasure and opportunities to better understand what it means to be human.
What are your favorite courses to teach?
“I love teaching and especially enjoy having a balance of music majors and non-majors as well as graduates and undergraduates. I especially enjoy teaching my American Music survey because there are so many ways I can relate aspects of the course to what students have experienced. It gives me the opportunity to put the US into a larger dialogue with the rest of the world. It’s also a course that changes every time I teach it in response to new things I’ve uncovered in my own research and new things that have happened, such as who’s won a Pulitzer prize or what new ensemble or individual is of particular interest to the students.”