Category Archives: The Juilliard School

The benefits of a double major; Musicians Health Symposium; Brass Fest III recap; November guest artists

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
October 18, 2016

Music + Athletic Training double major a “huge opportunity” for SOM student

Robert Medina is now a graduate, but his UW-Madison legacy will live on in a new video that highlights his choice to major in both jazz trumpet and athletic training. “I saw this huge opportunity,” says Robert Medina. “I’ve been able to switch around the order in which I take classes to accommodate the athletic training program.”  There are jobs for people with such skills, says Andrew P. Winterstein, athletic training program director. “There’s athletic trainers now who work with Cirque du Soleil, with ballet companies, touring Broadway shows.”  Click to watch video.


Musicians Health Symposium will offer insight into common health disorders faced by musicians

On Friday, October 21, the School of Music will present a Musicians Health Symposium featuring a panel of doctors and therapists experienced in many kinds of common ailments faced by musicians. These include performance anxiety, disorders involving hearing, movement, and voice, and much more. Students and faculty are strongly encouraged to attend, and the public is welcome. 3650 Humanities, 12-4:45 PM. Learn more at this link.
http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/musicians-health-symposium/


Upcoming guest artists at the School of Music in November – Free and Open to the Public

Steven Ebel, a tenor who discovered his vocal talents at UW-Madison and followed them with a successful international singing and composing career, will offer master classes and a concert on November 14, 15 and 16. He’ll teach classes on stage fright and breathing strategies, and offer lessons.
http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/steven-ebel-tenorcomposer/

Laurie Smukler, a violinist and teacher at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, and the Conservatory of Music at Bard College, will visit on November 18 and 19 for a series of master classes and a concert with Victor Asuncion, piano and UW-Madison Professor Soh-Hyun Altino, violin. The program will include Prokofiev’s Sonata for two violins, Op. 56; Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending; and Brahms’s Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108.
http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/distinguished-guest-artist-residency-laurie-smukler-violin-free-event/
Smukler’s 2015 master class at Juilliard was a hit.  Read about it here.


Brass Fest III popular with high school students, audience

High school students from twelve area schools were welcomed to the stage of Mills Hall for our third Brass Fest, where they performed a beautiful rendition of Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzon duodecimi toni, written in 1597. The schools represented included Madison West High School; Madison East High School; Middleton High School; Kromrey Middle School; Edgewood  High School; Pewaukee High School; Mount Horeb High School; Clark Street Community School; Sun Prairie High School; St. Ambrose School; Cedarburg High School; Madison Memorial High School; and a homeschooled student.

The two days of Brass Fest III featured the acclaimed Stockholm Chamber Brass (in its first-ever tour of the States), along with the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and advanced college musicians. The first concert featured Stockholm Chamber Brass (read this review by local blogger and critic Greg Hettsmanberger) and the second night offered the full complement of musicians performing works by Brian Balmages, Dmitri Shostakovich, Gustav Mahler, and Anthony Di Lorenzo, among others.

Comments from high schoolers ranged from “it made me more aware of higher level playing” to “it helped us grow as musicians.”

See more photographs from Brass Fest III at this link:
http://www.music.wisc.edu/brass-fest-iii-with-stockholm-chamber-brass/

Hear the music of Brass Fest on our SoundCloud site. First up: The Gabrieli. Click here if graphic fails to load.

Limited edition T-shirts still available, only $3.00! Send an email to the editor with your request. frontofshirt


New webpages on our site

Music master classes: a page listing master classes at the School of Music. Master classes are open to the public and provide insight for performers and audience members alike.

Meet our Students
Emily Borley, a senior double majoring in literature and music education, tells about her journey at the School of Music, including an unexpected tragedy early in her final year.


Alumni News:

Christian Elser, William Wielgus


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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Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra violinist Leslie Shank to join UW

The School of Music welcomes violinist Leslie Shank as visiting assistant professor of violin next fall, replacing Felicia Moye who has taken a position at McGill University in Montreal. Shank is a longtime member of the 55-year-old Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, one of the world’s most renowned chamber ensembles, known for its adventurous programming, commissions and world premieres. This week, the orchestra will premiere a new viola concerto composed by Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis.

Leslie Shank
Leslie Shank

Leslie is well-known to the musicians of Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet, who recommended her appointment. “I couldn’t be happier to welcome Leslie Shank to the UW School of Music this coming fall,” says David Perry, Pro Arte violinist. “Her performance and master classes in recent years have been inspirational, and it will be great for our students to benefit from her broad range of experience on a more regular basis.” Pro Arte violist Sally Chisholm praises Shank’s “wonderful and boundless energy.”

For her part, Shank is thrilled to have the opportunity to work at UW-Madison. “Phenomenal musicians come out of UW,” says Shank, which is not true of all universities, she adds. “I’m honored to be invited to join such amazing faculty. People would give their eyeteeth to be able to work in that department.” Hear Leslie perform in this audio clip from Minnesota Public Radio.

Shank will commute to Madison while maintaining her role as a violinist in St. Paul. She hopes to bring UW’s violinists to the Twin Cities for concerts, she adds.

Ms.Shank has been a member of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra since 1984 and was assistant concertmaster for 24 years. She gave her New York recital debut at Carnegie’s Weill Hall as a winner of the Artists International Competition, and was twice re-engaged to perform on its Special Presentation Series. Shank has also performed as soloist with many orchestras, including the Seattle Symphony, the National Orchestral Association (also serving as concertmaster), and the Racine Symphony. Her recital at the celebrated Dame Myra Hess Series in Chicago was broadcast on WFMT radio. She has also appeared with the Baltimore Symphony as guest associate concertmaster, and with the Indianapolis Symphony as guest concertmaster.

Ms. Shank currently serves as concertmaster of the “Music in the Mountains” Festival in Colorado, and has performed at numerous other festivals including Aspen, Grand Teton, Mainly Mozart, Marlboro, Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, Orcas Island Festival, and the Britt Festival, where she served as concertmaster of the festival orchestra. As a member of the prestigious Musicians from Marlboro, she performed several concerts throughout the East Coast. Additionally, she plays both violin and viola as a member of the Hot Dish Trio with pianist, Susan Billmeyer, and clarinetist, Karrin Meffert-Nelson.

On disc, Leslie can be heard on two Centaur releases, Recital for Violin & Guitar, with her husband, classical guitarist Joseph Hagedorn, and the Bartok Violin Sonatas with pianist Heather MacLaughlin. Ms. Shank’s interest in Bartok’s Violin Sonatas resulted in a trip to Hungary with pianist Heather MacLaughlin to study those works and was supported by a grant from the General Mills, Dayton Hudson and Jerome Foundations. The Shank-MacLaughlin Duo also received the prestigious McKnight Artist Fellowship for Performing Musicians.

Leslie received bachelor and master of music degrees from The Juilliard School. Her teachers were Shirley Givens, Felix Galimir, and Dorothy Delay.

Pro Arte Quartet to Premiere Work by Belgian Composer

Mernier Composition Brings Pro Arte Quartet Full Circle

NOTE: This concert and associated events has been postponed to March 1, 2014. We apologize for any inconvenience.

by Michael Muckian

Belgian composer Benoît Mernier writes music he says communicates with audience members in a variety of ways. He believes firmly that there is no single right way to experience music providing audience members are open to its messages.

Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3, commissioned by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet as part of its ongoing centennial celebration, embraces a lyrical path that takes the composer in new directions.

The Pro Arte Quartet.  Left to Right:  David Perry, Suzanne Beia, Sally Chisholm and Parry Karp.
The Pro Arte Quartet.
Left to Right:
David Perry, Suzanne Beia, Sally Chisholm and Parry Karp.
Photograph by James Gill.

“My favorite instrument is the voice, because the singing voice is the most expressive of all instruments,” says Mernier, who studied organ and composition at the Royal College of Music in Liege, Belgium, and records for the European label Cypres. “The song is the model for all instrumentalists, and theoretical treatises in ancient music tell the players to imitate the voice in their performances.”

Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3 will receive its world premiere by the Pro Arte on Friday, March 1 at Mills Concert Hall in the Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus. The 8 p.m. event is free and open to the public, with no tickets required.

The March concert will be preceded by a dinner and an open rehearsal during which the composer will coach the Pro Arte as they prepare for the premiere of the work, composed in honor of the quartet’s Belgian heritage. Please check back for more details.

New Chamber Work Taps Pro Arte’s Belgian Roots

The Quatuor Pro Arte of Brussels, first formed in 1911-1912, was performing at the Wisconsin Union Theatre on the UW campus on May 10, 1940, when Belgium was overrun and occupied by Nazi forces, turning three of its original four musicians into war orphans. By October of that year, the group had officially become the UW Pro Arte Quartet, making it the first artist ensemble-in-residence at any university in the world. Pro Arte also is the world’s oldest continuously performing string quartet.

Benoit Mernier
Benoit Mernier
Photograph by Bernard Coutant.

In addition to the Mernier premiere, the concert will include Haydn’s String Quartet in D Major Opus 20, No. 4, composed in 1772, and Bruckner’s String Quartet in F Major, written in 1879. Frequent Pro Arte collaborator and violist Samuel Rhodes, a member of the Juilliard String Quartet, will perform with the Pro Arte’s four musicians on the Bruckner composition.

Linear Structure, Musical Flow

Mernier’s 25-minute composition consists of nine specific movements, all of which have a compositional relationship with each other. Some movements are distinct and deliberate, while others flow into one another in an attempt to create a multi-dimensional structure, the composer says.

“The structural idea is to have a sort of linear music that moves in different directions,” Mernier says. “But at the end of the work there is a global sensation, like a story with different chapters. It will be up to the listener to structure and unify the different parts of the story.”

Mernier, who also writes opera, finds composing for a string quartet challenging, since there is only one family of instruments, limiting the voice of the composition. Employing different musical styles, from pizzicato to arco and playing sul ponticello (on the instrument’s bridge) or sul tasto (on the fingerboard), has helped the composer broaden the work’s tonal appeal.

“When you compose a string quartet, you are faced with a pure musical phenomenon,” Mernier says. “You can’t be on the periphery; you must be in the heart of things.”

Mernier’s experience writing for voice shows through the finesse applied to his string quartet, according to David Perry, one of Pro Arte’s two violinists.

“I was not surprised to hear that Mernier’s favorite instrument is voice, as there is extensive use of portamenti and glissandi,” says Perry. “I have never encountered a piece with more specific gradations of sul ponticello, or bowing close to the bridge for different shades of sounds with lots of high overtones. This technique can result in some unusual, and often beautiful colors.”

Mernier’s style and status among his European musical colleagues helped Pro Arte choose him for its fifth centennial commission. Based on the composition and its challenges, the quartet’s choice was a good one, says Sally Chisholm, Pro Arte’s violist.

“The many quick changes of sonorities from our most intimate to our most electrifying are exciting techniques that demanded much practice,” says Chisholm. “The required virtuosity of string writing in the second half of the quartet is quite challenging. Paganini would be a warm-up for some of the viola writing!”

A New CD, A Belgian Tour

Performances of Pro Arte’s four previous centennial commissions by American composers William Bolcom, John Harbison, Walter Mays and Paul Schoenfield will be issued this fall on Albany Records. The release date is on or around Dec. 1.

The Mernier commission represents the first non-U.S. composer in the centennial series. It also brings the Pro Arte full-circle to its Belgian roots, a course that will include several concert dates in Brussels in May 2014. The Belgian connection is something that makes the String Quartet No. 3 a very special work, Mernier says.

“In the history of modern music, the Pro Arte Quartet is very important,” Mernier says. “I know the commission is a very great symbol.”

The Madison-based quartet agrees with the composer, citing Mernier’s work as a strong contribution to its long tradition of commissioning and premiering new work. Pro Arte’s list includes Samuel Barber’s famous Adagio for Strings, which the quartet premiered in Rome in 1936.

“Just like the other four commissions, this new work represents a beautiful and serious addition to the chamber music repertoire,” Chisholm says.

In addition to Chisholm and Perry, current musicians in the Pro Arte include violinist Suzanne Beia and cellist Parry Karp.

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No “girly music” here: UW’s Schwendinger releases new CD on Centaur label

“Talent to burn.” That’s how Barnaby Rayfield referred to UW’s Laura Schwendinger, composer of contemporary classical music, in his January 2013 feature story about her in Fanfare, the classical music magazine. And that was before her new CD had come out.

Centaur Cover 2 for mini cover

Now, with its debut on Centaur Records, the advance reviews are in, and very positive.  While Rayfield had referred to Schwendinger’s music as “not girly music” (meant as a compliment),  Fanfare’s Colin Clarke said: “I would go further and add an emphatic this is ‘so not girly music.’ Punchy, imaginative, subtle, stirring, evocative … all these terms apply. She studied with John Adams, which doesn’t seem to have harmed her much. Schwendinger’s music is worth more than anything Adams has churned out so far.”

Schwendinger’s CD, “High Wire Acts,” is comprised of a five-movement chamber work of the same name performed by the Oklahoma-based ensemble Brightmusic, as well as “Nonet,” performed by the Chicago Chamber Musicians;“Sonata for Solo Violin,” played by Katie Wolfe; and “Two Little Whos,” performed  by husband and wife team Beth Ilana Schneider-Gould and Matt Gould. “High Wire Acts” was composed in 2002, and also has been performed by eighth blackbird, the Grammy-winning new music ensemble, among many other groups.

In his Fanfare review, Rayfield offered his views of why “High Wire Acts” works so well.  “…It is her unusual pairing of instruments that intrigues; flute and cello, violin and guitar. Poise, structure, lyricism. ‘Nonet’ is a riot of colorful trills, with Schwendinger’s demonstrating a wonderful ear for clarity of texture and balance. The second movement (suitably tagged ‘Tenderly’) is an assured and poised work of beauty and color that really ought to be better known.”

In a review of eighth blackbird’s performance, Chicago Tribune music critic JohnVon Rhein wrote: ” ‘High Wire Acts’ achieved more by attempting less. Inspired by the wire circus figures of sculptor Alexander Calder, the four character portraits, with their high twitterings, undulating arpeggios and rippling figurations, evinced an acute sonic imagination and sure command of craft. The piece was beautifully played by eighth blackbird.”

The Washington Post’s Joe Banno also enjoyed “High Wire Acts,” performed in Washington D.C. at a Kennedy Center concert of the Left Bank Concert Society.  He wrote, “[Schwendinger’s] harmonically free-ranging, tintinnabulary scoring — with its canny use of violin harmonics and flute phrases played directly into the open piano, to suggest aerialists in flight — evokes Stravinsky’s early ballets.”

Schwendinger, who came to UW from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2005, is savoring this moment, which dates to 2002 when she first wrote High Wire Act. “It’s taken ten long years but it has left me with a sense of accomplishment. I’m proud and honored to be in such company.” she says. Over the years, she’s won many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Academy in Berlin Prize (she was the first composer ever awarded the prize), and a Romnes Faculty Fellowship from UW-Madison. In 2010, her music colleagues nominated her for a Pulitzer Prize in composition.

Many iconoclastic chamber groups have performed Schwendinger’s music, including the Europe-based Arditti Quartet, which premiered a string quartet in 2003, and now the “alt-classical” JACK Quartet out of New York City, frequent performers at (Le) Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village.  With JACK, she’s now recording two quartets, financed by two grants from NewMusicUsA and Ditson.

At UW, Schwendinger directs the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, which offers UW musicians opportunities to play newer music; at last spring’s concert, the program included a performance of Schwendinger’s “The Violinists in My Life” by Eleanor Bartsch, a 2011 SOM grad and current member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, to whom the first movement was dedicated. Bartsch will return to UW this fall as a Collins Fellow, working toward her master’s degree.

Laura Schwendinger and Eleanor Bartsch, following Eleanor's performance of "The Violinists in My Life," composed by Laura, at Mills Hall last spring.
Laura Schwendinger and Eleanor Bartsch, following Eleanor’s performance of “The Violinists in My Life,” composed by Laura, at Mills Hall last spring. Photo by Katherine Esposito.

It’s not the first time UW-Madison has been featured prominently. Last year, Albany Records released “Three Works,” a CD of three concertos for, separately, cello, violin, and flute, performed by a student and faculty Sinfonietta and the UW-Madison Chamber Orchestra conducted by James Smith.  The soloists were Matt Haimovitz on cello, Curtis Macomber on violin, and Christina Jennings on flute.

Future UW collaborations include a recording of “Song for Andrew” (a quartet performed in 2010 by the New Juilliard Ensemble and premiered by UW’s Sally Chisholm and Young Nam Kim in Minnesota) with professor/pianist Christopher Taylor, plus a recording of the song “Sudden Light” with the JACK quartet and soprano alumna Jamie Van Eyck.

Schwendinger also sponsors visits by other notable performers of contemporary classical music; for this next year, those will include two appearances by musicians from the Center for New Music at the University of Iowa as well as Michael Norsworthy, clarinet professor at the Boston Conservatory and another champion of new music. (The CNM is scheduled to perform at Mills on September 21 and April 11;  Norsworthy on October 20.)

Working on “The Violinists in My Life” was an “amazing experience,” says Eleanor Bartsch. “I feel a special connection to the piece, not only because the first movement was written for me, but also because through Laura’s unique musical language, I feel I am easily able to express my own personal voice.”

Learn more about Laura at her website:  http://www.lauraschwendinger.com/

Listen to clips of her music: https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/lschwendinge/web/soundfiles4.html

In 2008, a profile of Laura was published in Isthmus. “Composer at Work” by David Medaris, Isthmus, 2008.

In this YouTube video about the American Composers Orchestra, Schwendinger contributes her thoughts on new music and the “reinvention” of the orchestra.

Remembering Janos Starker: Memorial Concert Sunday, June 9, Mills Hall

Written by Cathy Spann.

On Sunday, June 9, the National Summer Cello Institute (NSCI), a summer program affiliated with the UW-Madison School of Music, will present a free special tribute concert to Janos Starker, one of history’s greatest cellists and teachers, who died in Bloomington, Indiana on April 28, 2013.  Starker was professor of cello at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University from 1958 until recently.  He also had served as principal cellist of many major symphony orchestras: Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, Dallas, Budapest, and the Budapest Philharmonic.

An obituary of Starker was published in the New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/arts/music/janos-starker-master-cellist-dies-at-88.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

The Wall Street Journal called Starker’s death “the end of cello’s golden age.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324266904578461103567260348.html

Uri Vardi, cello professor at the UW-Madison School of Music and the artistic director of the NSCI, who studied at Indiana with Starker from 1972-1975, said  Starker helped him to confront the gaps in his performance and cover the pedagogical topics required for mastery. “After three years, I had an amazingly clear view of how to continue to grow as a cellist and of what professional teaching meant,” he said. With Starker’s recommendation, Vardi then entered the Yale Masters program with Aldo Parisot.

Janos Starker at Eva Janzer conference Bloomington, IN 2004
Janos Starker at the Eva Janzer conference in Bloomington, Indiana, 2004.

Vardi maintained contact with Starker throughout his life and found him always supportive of former students and cellists everywhere.

In 1996, Starker came to Madison for a residency in which he conducted a cello master class and performed a duo recital with Vardi which included the Boccherini Sonata for two cellos. A recording of their Boccherini performance is available at this website:

https://uwmadison.box.com/s/1dwu4ihkjq6q99wi37o9

Starker also contributed to the formation of the Wisconsin Cello Society, founded in 2000.

To commemorate Starker’s life and mark his loss, participants in the National Summer Cello Institute will give a concert in his honor on Sunday, June 9th at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall.  Entitled “A Tribute to Janos Starker,” the program will feature two sarabands of Bach, duos by Bartok, David Popper’s Requiem for three cellos and piano (a cello choir version), Julius Klengel’s Hymnus for twelve cellos, and an arrangement by Laszlo Varga of Bach’s 5th Cello Suite for cello choir.  Additionally a video interview of Starker filmed in 2012 and excerpts of IU’s 75th Birthday Tribute will be shown. Performers will include Vardi, cellist and professor Timothy Eddy of the Juilliard School and the Orion Quartet, as well as about twenty cellists from this year’s cello institute.

Called the “King of Cellists” in Joyce Geeting’s 2008 biography, Starker was born on July 5, 1924 in Budapest, Hungary, the third son of Sandor and Margit Starker.  His older brothers were violinists so his parents gave him a cello.  Deemed a child prodigy at an early age, Starker gave his professional debut at age 14.

World War II intervened and by its end all of the family had been interned in Nazi concentration camps.  Starker and his parents survived.  Working his way to Paris as a tradesman after Liberation, Starker was able to resume a career as a professional cellist.  His breakthrough came in 1947 performing Zoltan Kodaly’s Sonata for Solo Cello.  His recording of the sonata, previously thought unplayable, won him the Grand Prix du Disque and international fame.

Soon after this success, Starker immigrated to the United States.  He held principal cellist positions with major symphony orchestras and in 1958 accepted the teaching position at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.  Along with teaching, Starker embarked on a career as a concert soloist performing solo with the world’s major symphonies and in chamber recitals world-wide.

Over the next 30 years, he recorded over 165 works for cello on labels such as Angel, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, London Mercury, and RCA Victor, among others.   His recorded works include the major cello repertoire.

Early in his teaching career, Starker published An Organized Method of String Playing and in 2004 a memoir, The World of Music According to Starker (Indiana University Press).

“Starker was the perfect combination of a great artist/performer and an extremely dedicated teacher who felt that his main mission in life was to teach,” says Vardi, adding that Starker understood what professional cello playing entailed.  With a surgeon’s ability to diagnose and cut to the core of a cellist’s problem, Starker was very direct in his remarks and instruction.  Though his comments could be painful to the recipient, they were the essential tools needed for improvement.

Video from Medicitv.com

Vardi’s path to Starker came through the recommendation of Gabriel Magyar, cellist of the Hungarian String Quartet. Vardi met Magyar in 1972 in a summer festival in Holland.  Magyar  described the crux of Starker’s teaching method and philosophy:  It is not enough to be an intuitive performer, the essential method of playing the instrument–the physical requirements, musicality, phrasing– must be consciously known and understood by the cellist.  It was this concept of the combined importance of performance and teaching  that resonated with Vardi.

In 1979 at Indiana University, Starker established the Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center to honor and promote comradeship among cellists internationally.

Starker’s lifetime achievements are numerous, and include performance, teaching and mentoring awards, including the Tracy M. Sonneborn Award for distinction in teaching at Indiana,  five honorary doctorates and the title of Honorary Professor of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest.  He is considered one of the greatest cellists and teachers of the cello in history.

For more information about the National Summer Cello Institute, see  http://www.yourbodyisyourstrad.com/main/2013_National_Summer_Cello_Institute.html