Tag Archives: Clocks in Motion

New Building Named for Hamels; Concerto Winners Solo Feb. 8; Christopher Taylor Recital; Did you know…

HappyNewYear2015

To Friends of the School of Music,

We thank you so much for all your support and enthusiasm in 2014 and look forward to 2015 — a year that will include a major groundbreaking for a new music hall! We hope you are just as excited as we, and that you will join us this spring for one of our many inspiring concerts.

 

NEW MUSIC BUILDING NAMED AFTER PAM AND GEORGE HAMEL

In early December,  UW-Madison announced that the new music performance center at the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue will be named in honor of Pamela Hamel and her husband, UW-Madison alumnus George Hamel (BA’80, Communication Arts). Pamela is a member of the School’s Board of Visitors. Read the full story here.

We thank the Hamels for their generosity! If you would like to join them with a gift of your own, you may do so at this website.

 

 

MEET JOHN WUNDERLIN: BACK IN SCHOOL AT 50

At the School of Music’s “Horn Choir” concert at the Chazen Museum of Art last month, one could easily discern John Wunderlin from the swarm of horn players on the stage.

John Wunderlin. Photo by Katherine Esposito.
John Wunderlin. Photo by Katherine Esposito.

He was the only one with gray hair.

Last fall, business owner Wunderlin, 50, returned for a master’s degree in horn, studying with Daniel Grabois, assistant professor of horn. We asked John to tell us what inspired him to study music after all these years. Read the interview here.

CONCERTO COMPETITION WINNERS IN CONCERT WITH UW SYMPHONY: FEB. 8

Five talented students are winners of our annual Concerto Competition and will perform with the UW Symphony Orchestra in our “Symphony Showcase” concert, Sunday, Feb. 8, in Mills Hall. The concert will begin at 7 pm and will conclude with a free reception. We hope you will join us for what is always a joyous and unique event! Tickets for adults are $10.00 and will be available at the door or in advance at the Union Theater Box Office. Students are free. Ticket info here.

L-R: Keisuke Yamamoto; Anna Whiteway; Ivana Ugrcic; and Jason Kutz.  Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.
L-R: Keisuke Yamamoto; Anna Whiteway; Ivana Ugrcic; and Jason Kutz. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

Our winners and the works they will perform are:

Jason Kutz, piano, a master’s candidate studying with collaborative pianist Martha Fischer. Kutz, who also performs and composes jazz music, is a native of Kiel, Wisconsin, and studied recording technology and piano at UW-Oshkosh. He will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43.

Ivana Ugrcic, flute, a doctoral student and Collins Fellow studying with flutist Stephanie Jutt. A native of Serbia,  Ugrcic has performed as a soloist and chamber musician all over Europe, and received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from University of Belgrade School of Music. She will perform Francois Borne’s  Fantasie Brillante (on Themes from Bizet’s Carmen).

Keisuke Yamamoto, violin, an undergraduate student of Pro Arte violinist David Perry, earning a double degree in music performance and microbiology. Keisuke, born in Japan but raised in Madison, received a tuition remission scholarship through UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic, and also won honors in Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Bolz Competition, among others. He will perform Ernest Chausson’s Poème Op. 25.

Anna Whiteway, an undergraduate voice student, studying with Elizabeth Hagedorn, visiting professor of voice. Whiteway is a recipient of a Stamps Family Charitable Foundation scholarship as well as the Harker Scholarship for opera. Whiteway, who was praised in 2013 for her singing in University Opera’s production of Ariodante, will star in the Magic Flute this spring. For this night’s performance, she will sing Charles Gounod’s Je veux vivre (Juliette’s Aria).

Our composition winner this year is graduate student Adam Betz, a Two Rivers native who wrote a work titled Obscuration. Betz received his undergraduate degree from UW-Oshkosh, where he was named Outstanding Senior Composer. He also holds a master’s degree from Butler University in Indianapolis.

CATCH CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR IN HIS ONLY SOLO MADISON APPEARANCE- JAN. 23

Pianist Christopher Taylor will take the Mills stage on Friday, January 23, 8 pm, in his only solo Madison appearance this year. He will perform Johannes Brahms’ Sonata no. 3 in f minor, op. 5; William Bolcom’s Twelve Etudes; and Beethoven’s Symphony #6 as arranged by Franz Liszt. Tickets for adults are $10.00 and will be available at the door or in advance at the Union Theater Box Office. Students are free. Ticket info here.

Last November, Taylor performed Bach’s Goldberg Variations at New York’s Metropolitan Museum on their historic double-keyboard Bösendorfer piano designed by Emáuel Moór. In Madison, Taylor not only performs and tours with the world’s only Steinway double-keyboard piano (owned by UW, and also designed by Moór) but holds a patent on a third double-keyboard piano, this one with electronic components.

The Wall Street Journal published a story about Taylor and the Met Museum’s unique piano. Read it here.

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: A SECOND “SCHUBERTIADE” WITH FISCHER & LUTES- JAN. 30

The Music of Franz Schubert
Our first Schubertiade, January 2014. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

 

A Schubertiade is an intimate “house concert” featuring the songs (known as “lieder”) and chamber music of Franz Schubert. In the 19th century, Schubertiades became a popular form of informal entertainment among his friends and aficionados of his music, frequently with drink and food, and often with Schubert himself at the center. Nowadays, Schubertiades are often much larger multi-day affairs held in swank European locations.

Our Schubertiade, the brainchild of UW-Madison collaborative pianist Martha Fischer, will be presented on the Mills Hall stage festooned with chairs, rugs, and lamps. Join us! Friday, January 30, 8 pm, Mills Hall. Tickets for adults are $10.00 and will be available at the door or in advance at the Union Theater Box Office. Students are free. Ticket info here.

Performers will include Fischer; her husband, pianist Bill Lutes; her brother, cellist Norman Fischer of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music; singers Jennifer D’Agostino, Cheryl Bensman Rowe, Daniel O’Dea, Joshua Sanders, Michael Roemer and Paul Rowe; and violinist Leslie Shank. The program will include songs set to the poems of Friedrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Mayrhofer, and will be capped by two Polonaises for piano duet, played by Fischer and Lutes.

Read a review of last year’s Schubertiade on the local blog, The Well-Tempered Ear.

GRADUATE COMPOSITION STUDENT WINS FIRST PRIZE IN COMPETITION

Congratulations to Sin Young Park, whose composition “Three Preludes for Piano” was recently selected as the winner of the 2015 Delta Omicron Triennial Composition Competition.  Read more here.

GRADUATE FLUTIST ADVANCES TO FINAL ROUND OF ASTRAL ARTISTS COMPETITION

Mi Li Chang. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.
Mi Li Chang. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

2014 concerto competition winner Mi Li Chang has advanced to the final round of the national Astral Artists Competition and will play in the final round on January 8 in Philadelphia. The mission of Astral Artists, which was founded in 1992, is to “discover the most promising classical musicians residing in the United States, assist their early professional career development, and present their world-class artistry to the community through concerts and engagement programs.” Congratulations and best wishes, Mi Li!

Click here for Alumni News:  Scott Gendel

FACULTY TROMBONIST WINS $30,000 CREATIVE ARTS AWARD

And congratulations to Mark Hetzler, 2015 winner of the $30,000 UW-Madison Arts Institute Creative Arts Award, which recognizes and honors extraordinary artistic projects and endeavors of the highest quality carried out by tenured members of the UW-Madison arts faculty in the areas of Art, Communication Arts, Creative Writing, Dance, Environment, Textile and Design, Music Composition and Performance, and Theater and Drama.

DID YOU KNOW…that our new website has a page devoted just to PARKING?

We created a page just to make it a bit easier to visit the SOM. In a nutshell: Weekday parking is not free, but evening and weekend parking sometimes IS free and not that far away. It’s complicated, however, so your best bet is to click here and read!

(Editor’s note: For over six or seven years, the editor routinely visited the School of Music by car, attending concerts and WYSO rehearsals. She always paid for parking, but recently did some digging and learned that UW-Madison actually offers free parking at nights and on weekends. After realizing this, she sighed deeply at the thought of how much money she could have saved had she known…. but now she offers the same information to all our loyal readers as a reward for reading to the end of this newsletter post.)

LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

This fall, our alumni percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion put its own spin on a famous holiday tune while demonstrating the [somewhat variable] dance skills of its members. Thanks for the laugh, Clocks!

 

 

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Brass Fest, Pro Arte World Premiere, “Showcase Series” launches with faculty voice recital

NEW FESTIVAL TO SHOWCASE LYRICISM AND POWER OF BRASS MUSIC

Audiences will be treated to some of the most beautiful and thrilling brass music ever written–including  “Quidditch,”  composed for the movie “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” by legendary composer John Williams– at a six-day all-brass festival October 8-13 at UW-Madison.

Other works to be performed include “Elegy,” by Pulitzer-Prize winner Kevin Puts, and “Four Sketches,” by trumpeter and composer Anthony Plog. Plog will also be in residence for two days of the festival.

Watch “In Medias” Brass Quintet performing “Four Sketches” by Anthony Plog, to be performed by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet on Wednesday, October 8.

Jessica Valeri
Jessica Valeri , SOM alumna, now plays horn with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

The festival will feature world-renowned brass musicians performing four concerts, and master classes on all the brass instruments—from trumpet to tuba and everything in between. Students and the general public are encouraged to attend. Guest musicians include virtuoso solo tubist Oystein Baadsvik of Norway; renowned trumpeter and brass composer Anthony Plog; the Western Michigan Brass Quintet; the UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Brass Quintet; and San Francisco Symphony Orchestra horn player  Jessica Valeri (BM, UW-Madison, 1997). Click here for the full schedule. All events free to the public except “Brass Alchemy” headline concert, October 11, which is ticketed.

Featured concert: “Brass Alchemy,” October 11, 8 PM, Mills Hall. Click to learn more. A full contingent of our soloists, guests, and students presenting dramatic and inspired works of John Williams, Morten Lauridsen, Juan Colomer, Ennio Morricone, Scott Hiltzik, Kevin Puts, Anthony DiLorenzo, and an original work of Baadsvik’s, “Fnugg.”  School of Music professor Scott Teeple will conduct.   Tickets for the general public are $25; UW music majors with ID are free; other students, $10.00.  Ticketing info here. 

Oystein Baadsvik
Oystein Baadsvik

Says John Aley, lead organizer and longtime professor of trumpet as well as principal trumpet of the Madison Symphony Orchestra: “Brass instruments are so much more expressive than many people assume. While brass players take great delight in the excitement of filling a concert hall with grandeur and power, it is the lyrical quality of each these instruments that touch the heart of the listener.”

For a full calendar of Celebrate Brass! events, click here. 

PRO ARTE QUARTET PRESENTS ITS FINAL CENTENNIAL WORLD PREMIERE

Composer Pierre Jalbert’s “Howl” for clarinet and string quartet will receive its world premiere by the Pro Arte Quartet on Friday, Sept. 26, at the Wisconsin Union Theater on the UW-Madison campus. The event, free and open to the public, will be the first classical music concert to take place in the historic theater’s newly refurbished Shannon Hall.

The 8 p.m. concert will be preceded by a 7 p.m. concert preview discussion with Jalbert in Shannon Hall. In addition to Jalbert’s composition, the evening’s program includes the String Quartet No. 2 in A Major (1824) by Juan Crisóstomo Arriga and the Clarinet Quintet in A Major (1791) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The concert will be repeated Sunday, Sept. 28, at 12:30 p.m. in Gallery III at the Chazen Museum of Art, also on the UW-Madison campus. Joining the Pro Arte for both concerts will be clarinetist Charles Neidich, a regular member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and noted guest performer with orchestras and string quartets worldwide. Read about the inspiration behind the commission here.

PROFESSOR STUDIES HOLOCAUST CHILDREN’S OPERA

Teri Dobbs
Teri Dobbs

Hans Krása’s operetta Brundibár became indelibly associated with the Holocaust when the score was smuggled into the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and a production was mounted that lasted for more than 55 performances. Sung and acted by children, Brundibár was held as an example of the cultural programming offered to Jews at the Terezín “show camp” during the 1944 International Red Cross visit and the subsequent propaganda film, The Führer Gives the Jews a City.  Associate Professor of Music Education and Jewish Studies affiliate Teryl L. Dobbs recently returned from a sabbatical trip to Prague and Terezín (the Czech name of the garrison town where the Theresienstadt camp was located), where she studied the history of the operetta. Read the full story here.

“SHOWCASE SERIES” CONCERTS TO HIGHLIGHT STUDENT/FACULTY MUSICIANS

Each concert $10.00;  season passes available for $60.00; students free. Proceeds to the School of Music. Please note:  Only seven concerts are ticketed– Most concerts at the School of Music are still free!

Seven student/faculty concerts will be “showcased” this year, starting with a all-faculty voice recital on November 2.  Professors Mimmi Fulmer and Elizabeth Hagedorn, sopranos; James Doing, tenor; and Paul Rowe, baritone, each will sing. The program will include a premiere of a new work by composer and UW professor Les Thimmig, “White Clouds, Yellow Leaves,” a cantata on poems of ninth-century China.

Christopher Taylor
Christopher Taylor

Other “Showcase” concerts will include a solo recital by pianist Christopher Taylor on January 23. (On Nov. 21, Taylor is also engaged to perform JS Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; in April, he will perform Liszt and Bach with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.)

Later in January, pianists Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes will be joined by cellist Norman Fischer of Rice University plus students and faculty for a second “Schubertiade”  of chamber music. In early February, join us for a captivating evening of solo student performances as we present our annual concerto winners concert (the “Symphony Showcase”). A reception will follow this concert. Learn about all these special events here.

Our concerto winners relaxed at last year's post-concert reception. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.
Our concerto winners relaxed at last year’s post-concert reception. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

Tickets for the general public are $10.00, and a seven-concert “pass” is available for $60.00. Students from all schools are free with identification. To save on service fees, buy in person at the box office or on the day of the show. Ticket info here.

INHORNS RECEIVE AWARD FROM MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

The inaugural DeMain Award for Outstanding Commitment to Music will be awarded to philanthropists Stan and Shirley Inhorn by the Madison Symphony Orchestra League at its fifth annual gala banquet at the Madison Concourse Hotel on Friday, Sept. 12. Named after music director John DeMain, the annual honor will go to an ardent supporter of the MSO and Madison-based music in general. The Inhorns are longtime and much-appreciated supporters of the UW-Madison School of Music. Read more here.

TANDEM PRESS ANNOUNCES NEW FRIDAY FALL JAZZ SERIES

Beginning this September, Tandem Press will host a concert series featuring several student ensembles from the UW-Madison School of Music’s Jazz Program under the leadership of Johannes Wallmann, Director of Jazz Studies at UW-Madison, and Les Thimmig, Professor of Saxophone.

      • UW Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, September 26,  5-7 pm
      • UW Jazz Composers’ Septet, October 24, 2014 – 5-7 pm
      • UW Blue Note Ensemble & the Latin Jazz Ensemble, November 21, 5-7 pm

Tandem Press is located at 1743 Commercial Avenue in Madison. Concerts are free and open to the public.  Free parking is available, and refreshments will be served.

invited

Tandem Press is one of only three professional fine art presses operating within a university in the United States. Founded in 1987, it is affiliated to the UW-Madison Art Department in the School of Education. Each year, a select number of internationally renowned artists are invited to participate in Tandem’s artist-in- residence program, where they collaborate with a team of master printers assisted by UW students to create exclusive editions of prints.  Tandem prints hang in museums and corporations throughout the United States and Europe. This program is made possible with support from the Brittingham Fund.

ALUMNI PERCUSSION ENSEMBLE PRESENTS CONCERT AT GRACE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Contemporary chamber ensemble Clocks in Motion brings new music, new instruments, and new sounds to the Grace Presents concert series Saturday, Sept. 20 at 12:00 p.m. with a program that highlights the power and diversity of percussion music. Their free program will include Marc Mellits’ new mallet quintet, “Gravity”; “Music for Pieces of Wood” minimalist pioneer Steve Reich; “Drumming Part 1”, also by Reich; “Four Miniatures,” an original composition by Clocks in Motion member Dave Alcorn; and “Third Construction”, by John Cage. Grace Church is located at 116 W. Washington Avenue, on the Capitol Square.

Formed in 2011, Clocks in Motion began as an extension of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Graduate Percussion Group, and now serves as the ensemble in residence with the UW-Madison percussion studio. In August, the group released its debut studio album, titled Escape Velocity,  recorded in Madison, WI, at Audio for the Arts and available as both a digital download and hard copy.  Links to purchase both digital and hard copies of the album can be found at Clocks in Motion’s website. 

Alumni Notes

1964 alumnus F. Gerard Errante releases new CD

For a complete rundown of events this year at the School of Music, click here.

For parking information, click here. 

 

Meet Filippo Santoro, composer and new music DMA

Before coming to UW-Madison in 2009 as a recipient of a University Fellowship to study composition with Prof. Stephen Dembski, Filippo Santoro studied with renowned Italian composers Luciano Pelosi and Boris Porena and was inspired by teachers Franco Donatoni and Bruno Maderna. A native of Rome, Santoro received a master’s in composition as well as diplomas in piano performance and chamber music from the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome in 1998 and 2007; holds a master’s degree  in music and semiotics from the University of Bologna (2002); and a master’s degree in composition from the State University of New York, Binghamton (2009).  His work Arioso Mistico for soprano and orchestra was a winner of the 2010 UW-Madison Concerto Competition.

Filippo Santoro
Filippo Santoro

Last week, Filippo received his DMA from UW-Madison, with a dissertation project that included writing a collection of new chamber works that engage nearly every corner of the School of Music.  We asked him to talk a bit about his life, his work, and his plans for the future.

Tell us about your dissertation project.
My dissertation is a collection of five works, one hour of music, that I call Modules. They can be seen as a whole or as independent works.

In these works I explore four different notions of modularity that I refer as “dynamic modularity,” “static modularity,” “interactive modularity,” and “on-stage modularity.” The concept of “dynamic modularity” appears in Per Quattro, my work for flute, clarinet, bassoon and double bass, comprised of sections that performers arrange in a different order each time they perform it. In my two pieces entitled Duplum for two cellos and two percussionists (see video below), I use “static modularity” in that there are also unique sections but these sections are performed in a fixed order that creates the overall form of the piece. “Interactive modularity” appears in Re-mote for solo bassoon and applied technology, in which the order of the sections of the piece is determined by the audience in real time through the aid of interactive web-based technology. Finally, I engage “on-stage modularity” in Cleave, a work for two percussionists, flute, bass clarinet, viola, double bass, trumpet, tuba, harp, mandolin, which combines the concepts of static and dynamic modularity.

What inspired you to become a composer?
Becoming a composer was a slow but natural process for me. I started as a performing pianist and I played a lot of chamber music in Italy. I think I became interested in writing music while I was playing with other musicians.

Tell us about a piece or project you have worked on recently.
I have been fortunate to collaborate with several fantastic performers here in Madison. I have been collaborating with Clocks in Motion, the School of Music alumni percussion ensemble and was one of the first composers to be commissioned by the group. It is beautiful to see how truly devoted they are to performing new music and to promoting new works. The commissioned piece is named Duplum and will be featured on their debut album “Escape Velocity” to be released in June. I also had a terrific experience working with Marc Vallon, professor of bassoon here at UW-Madison. I wrote him a long piece in which the audience participates in the performance through the aid of live technology. I am also writing a work for Kostas Tiliakos, visiting professor of oboe, and I am particularly excited since four other faculty professors will participate in this project.

How do you approach the process of starting or writing a piece?
I like to use a metaphor to describe it: imagine that an architect is commissioned to design a building. 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. I strongly believe that the music I write now reflects a biological process and that it somehow resembles the way plants grow. Sometimes I wait until I feel an urgency to write the piece I have in mind. After that, the most interesting part is the collaboration with the performer in which we determine how to convey musically complicated ideas within the score.

Who have been your influences as a composer and why?
Initially everybody! In my years in Rome at Santa Cecilia Conservatory, I had multiple interests. Of course, late Italian music played a role in my understanding of new music such as that of Berio, Sciarrino, Nono and Maderna. I was lucky to study with teachers who believed that there was no understanding of new music without an understanding of composers like Ravel, Bach and even Monteverdi.

How has your work as a composer influenced other parts of your life or vice versa?
Writing music is what I do and therefore I may have the tendency of seeing and finding music in other parts of my life. I think it is called “professional deformation.”

You are not only a composer but also a composition teacher. What is your approach to teaching composition?
I tailor my approach to the needs of the particular student I’m working with. Regardless of who the student is, however, I believe that clarity and transparency are critical components to teaching composition. This is particularly true for the teaching of young students who are looking for models to begin with. With students who are more advanced, I always think of myself as an active observer, who helps the student to find what he/she is looking for. A renowned Italian teacher, Franco Donatoni, said once that composition cannot be taught and that therefore one should strive only to stimulate in the student an attitude of inventiveness. I embrace this fully and I think that stimulation for a composer often means to search for ideas within the scores of other composers.

What do you see as the most important skills for a composer to have?
I’d say the ability to nurture curiosity in the listener. The role of a composer/artist is always to reveal something beyond what we already know.

What do you want your students to take away?
I want my students to understand, first and foremost, that what they do as composers should express something of who they are as individuals. All the rest should come naturally.

What do you hope to achieve through your music?
Basically, my music reflects the way I see the world, but I hope that it can also reflect and/or enhance the way others see their own.

Why do you think people have difficulty in understanding contemporary music?
This is something that has always sounded paradoxical to me. Understanding contemporary music shouldn’t be more difficult than understanding contemporary painting or architecture. The question for me is how to make new music available to be “explained” in the same way other form of arts are. If more so-called “classical” concerts programmed contemporary works alongside other less recent works, the audience would begin to see contemporary music as the product of a natural musical evolution. Doesn’t that happen to anybody who goes to a museum and walks from one historical island to another? Naturally, this person will begin thinking about connections and relationships between different artistic eras. I think performers and composers have a moral responsibility to encourage such an approach in their audiences. I believe new music should be “by definition” more interesting than any other music since it depicts where we are coming from, who we are in the moment and where we are possibly going in the future.

What are your plans now?
I intend to continue to work with ensembles and performers who are engaged in my music language and I am keen to explore and promote new avenues for composer and audience interaction through technology. Based on the concepts described in my dissertation, I plan to start working on a book that describes the integration of compositional methods and theories of natural systems. I also plan to publish analyses of the late works of Franco Donatoni to further explore the concepts of figura and growth.

 

 

Faculty and alumni concerts send the semester out in style

The semester is winding down: we’ve got snow on the ground, there’s a nip in the air, and students are stocking up on cans of Red Bull and 5-Hour energy shots. (Not something we recommend, but we acknowledge.) But before we say farewell to the fall concert season, we’d like to  suggest a couple more that might be a nice alternative to usual holiday fare. Both are bold, brassy, sometimes even cacophonous, and altogether exciting.

The first is the School of Music’s resident percussion ensemble, Clocks in Motion, which concludes its fall season this Friday, December 13 with two world premieres at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 330 N. Orchard St. (7:30 pm, tickets $15/$10 students). On the program:  the Percussion Duo, a brand-new work composed by UW SOM alumnus Tom Lang (who now lives in Minneapolis as a professional composer), written for piano and one percussionist playing a stacked keyboard setup of marimba with vibraphone.  “The music really treats the piano as a percussion instrument,” says percussionist Sean Kleve, a founder of Clocks in Motion. “Piercing attacked notes in extreme registers of the piano punctuate silence throughout the music. The first and last movement of this three movement piece are quite rhythmically complex and it challenges the two performers to line up unison attacks exactly together.”

The second premiere will be Allhallows, a major work in three movements for five performers composed by John Jeffrey Gibbens. According to Gibbens, the title “is an archaic synonym for the feast of All Saints on November 1, and evokes associations with the onset of winter in Wisconsin, including the commercial holiday of Halloween, the beginning of the new year in the Celtic calendar, the liturgical function of All Saints, elections, and Armistice, now Veterans’ Day. These occasions address our sense of the closeness of uncanny events to everyday life.” Clocks in Motion premiered the first movement of Allhallows in September 2012 and will now premiere the rest of the piece on this upcoming concert.

Their closer will be Iannis Xenakis’ surround sound percussion sextet, Persephassa (1969).  “This is an unbelievable experience for audience and performers alike. As one of the foundational pieces in the percussion repertoire, Persephassa is just as shocking now as it was the day it was written,” says Kleve.

The Isthmus Brass
Decked out for the season: The Isthmus Brass

Next on our Christmas list is Isthmus Brass, an ensemble formed in 2009 under the direction of renowned tuba professor John Stevens (who retires in May but will continue to conduct this ensemble). The group, comprised of a who’s who from the UW brass faculty and alumni, includes professors of trumpet and trombone John Aley and Mark Hetzler, plus Dave Cooper (DMA), trumpet, Jon Schipper (BM), trumpet, Ricardo Ameida (BM), horn, Dylan Chmura-Moore (DMA), trombone, Mike Forbes (MM), tuba, Keith Lienert (DMA in progress), percussion, as well as Doug Lindsey (trumpet), Mike Dugan and Mark Hoelscher (trombone).

Next Tuesday, Dec. 17, the group will perform a benefit of holiday tunes for Porchlight, a charity for the homeless, at the First United Methodist Church, 203 West Wisconsin Ave., at 7:30 pm. The concert is free but donations to support the Porchlight mission are appreciated.

Hear the Brass on their newly released CD, “An Isthmus Brass Christmas,” now available at Amazon and other music outlets.

Stretching sonic boundaries with Third Coast Percussion

To most of us acclimated to the world of strings and symphonies, the concept of “percussion ensemble” is somewhat foreign. Percussionists play drums in rock’n roll bands and the timpani in an orchestra. Or, at least that’s what many have thought.

Third Coast Percussion.
Third Coast Percussion.
Photo by Saverio Truglia

That’s slowly changing, however. In Madison, we have our own Clocks in Motion, an ensemble formed only in 2011 with its roots in UW-Madison.  And in Chicago, the group Third Coast Percussion, formed in 2005, has vaulted to the fore, with a brand-new residency at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center and three CDs, including a retrospective of John Cage and the new “Unknown Symmetry,” which contains a work, “Common Patterns in Uncommon Time,” commissioned for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Taliesin.

Third Coast will visit Madison in October 9 and 10. Events include a seminar on commissioning new works and the business of chamber music: booking performances, writing grants and professionalism (Oct. 9, noon to 1:15 pm, Morphy Hall),  followed by a free concert the same evening in Mills Hall at 7:30 pm. On the following day, they’ll offer a master class from 12:15 to 2:15 pm in Room 1321.  All events are free and open to the public and are sponsored by the university’s Vilas Trust.

The program includes Fractalia by Owen Clayton Condon (a former member of TCP); Mallet Quartet by Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Reich; Third Construction by John Cage; and Resounding Earth (commissioned work) by Augusta Read Thomas.

[Please note: Clocks in Motion will open its season this Saturday, Sept. 21, with a free interactive concert in Mills Hall at 3 pm. Bring your keys, cell phone and coin stash! ]

“Third Coast Percussion is one of the most exciting and successful young percussion groups in the United States,” says Tony Di Sanza, professor of percussion and sponsor of TCP’s visit. The members of Third Coast Percussion —Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore—hold degrees in music performance from Northwestern University, the Yale School of Music, the Eastman School of Music, the New England Conservatory, and Rutgers University.

We asked David Skidmore a few questions about TCP.

Can you tell me some history of percussion ensembles?

A very good question! The concept of a group of musicians playing percussion instruments goes back hundreds, maybe thousands of years to African drum ensembles and countless other indigenous cultures for whom percussion was all-important. The idea of a percussion ensemble such as ours, which reads notated music and is more akin to a string quartet than a culturally-specific drum ensemble, is much more recent. The first music for our type of ensemble was written in the 1920s and 30s. John Cage formed a touring percussion ensemble in the 1930s and 40s that was short-lived. In 1962 the first full-time professional percussion ensemble was formed. This group, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, is still playing concerts. A wonderful ensemble called Nexus was formed in Canada in 1971, and they also still play concerts. More recently, So Percussion formed in 1999. To my knowledge, So Percussion and Third Coast Percussion are the only two percussion ensembles in the states who employ their musicians full-time, which is a big step towards continuing to raise the level of performance and visibility of this exciting art form.

“Percussionists-in-residence” seems like a new concept. Are there others like you at other universities?

Actually our title, technically, is “ensemble-in-residence.” While it goes without saying that our chosen instruments go a long way toward defining who we are as an ensemble, our relationship with the University of Notre Dame and their DeBartolo Performing Arts Center focuses more broadly on the relationship between the performing arts and the campus at large. We are not teaching a studio full of percussion students (Notre Dame already has a wonderful percussion instructor); instead we are performing around campus and in the surrounding community, creating collaborative projects that link the performing arts at ND to the college of engineering and college of arts and letters, and in general spreading the word about the amazing creative work being done in the performing arts at Notre Dame.

I imagine that being a percussionist in an orchestra is a bit like being a trumpeter (except when playing Mahler!); you can practically read a book while waiting for your next measure. Is this one of the reasons driving the formation of percussion ensembles?

Haha – yes. We have many friends, mentors, and colleagues who make a wonderful living playing in symphony orchestras as percussionists, but for the four of us in Third Coast, chamber music was a more natural fit. It’s true that you play “more notes” in a chamber ensemble than in a symphonic percussion section, and you get to be master of your own destiny both artistically and administratively. In other words, we have much more of a say about the music we play, the concerts we play, the projects that we undergo than the average symphonic percussionist. We also have to do all the work though!

Can you tell us a bit about the composers on your program?

Owen Clayton (Clay) Condon was a member of Third Coast Percussion for many years and writes beautiful and exciting music for percussion. Much of this music is inspired by his other passion: composing electronic music, which he has done in collaboration with video artists, sculpture, and architecture. Steve Reich is perhaps one of America’s best known living classical composers. He was stuck early on with the label of “minimalism,” but this doesn’t always do justice to the incredibly groovy, exciting, and powerful music that he writes, which happens to work very well on percussion instruments. John Cage was likewise one of the most important creative figures of the 20th century. Cage’s influence spread beyond just music to all of the arts, where he was part of a shift in how artists think about every aspect of creating a new work of art. Finally, Augusta Read Thomas is one of the most sought-after composers working today. She was composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for nearly 10 years, and has written music for most of the major orchestras of the world. But her chamber music is equally powerful, and the piece we are performing of hers entitled Resounding Earth was commissioned for us and premiered by us last September. It is her first piece of music for percussion ensemble, and features over 125 bells from all over the world.

And the master class?
We plan to frame it around the process of commissioning Augusta Read Thomas, as we will be featuring her piece Resounding Earth on the concert. We can hit on many important aspects of commissioning and one example of how a timeline of commissioning a work can unfold, from the initial idea to fund raising, discussing parameters of the piece (including what instruments can be used and other logistics), workshopping the piece with the composer during the composition process (a particular focus of ours now stemming directly from the project with Gusty), premiering the piece, recording it, continuing to perform the piece.

Taylor Skiff, Dave Alcorn

Two more notable students from the School of Music.

Note from the editor: I first met Taylor Skiff when he was still in high school – (or maybe it was middle school). His teachers took note of him even then. It has been a real pleasure to watch him and many others from his group of friends grow both personally and professionally. Best wishes to Taylor and all those who leave us this year!

 

(From Uri Vardi) Taylor Skiff is one of the most outstanding cellists I have had in my cello studio at UW-Madison. He has a very strong passion for music, an impressive work ethic, and a strong motivation and drive to be the best cellist he can be.

Taylor Skiff
Taylor Skiff. Photo by Tori Rogers.

While studying with me, Taylor has won several competitions and has had the opportunity to perform many concertos with orchestra. In 2008 he won Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artist Competition, and performed Bloch’s Schelomo with the Milwaukee Symphony. Later that year he performed Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. In 2010, Taylor won the UW-Madison Concerto Competition and performed Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme with the UW Symphony Orchestra. In 2011, the Perlman Trio, of which Taylor was a member, performed the Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Middleton Community Orchestra.

Taylor auditioned for graduate school at Juilliard, Mannes, Peabody, and Eastman and was accepted with scholarship to all of them. He will attend Juilliard for his MM degree

Taylor shared some thoughts:

“My time at the UW School of Music was one of the most significant periods in my life. Apart from my growth as a cellist and musician, the school has allowed me to grow a lot as a person. When I first arrived at UW-Madison, I had serious doubts as to whether or not I had made the right college choice. I had been homeschooled for all of my pre-college years and was a fairly independent person. While I was involved in youth groups at my church, played in numerous sports leagues, and was a five-year member of MYSO (Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra), having to transition to a school of over 40,000 students was a jarring notion. The UW School of Music made the transition manageable. Even though the University is enormous, the School of Music is quite small in comparison. From day one, the faculty made an effort to get to know me and was always willing to go out of their way to help me grow as a musician and as a person. The familial environment that the school offered also made it easy to interact with colleagues and eventually make new friends. I greatly cherish the relationships that I have built with my professors and fellow students over the past five years.

“Without question, the person who helped me the most during my time at the UW was Uri Vardi, my primary cello instructor. I had been taking lessons from Mr. Vardi since my junior year of high school—so, he knew me well even before I arrived on campus. In addition to providing technical and musical advice, Mr. Vardi and I would talk regularly about my personal concerns. He would constantly encourage me to push my limits and step outside of my comfort zone. Our conversations not only helped me grow as a person, but also as a cellist. Without his support, there is no way I would have ended up auditioning, much less enrolling at The Juilliard School.

“All in all, I feel that the UW School of Music has prepared me well for my future endeavors. If someone had asked me as a freshman that I would one day be going to school in New York, I would have thought they were crazy. The UW School of Music has helped me achieve goals that I never would have set for myself and challenged me to continue to raise the bar.”

(From Tony Di Sanza) Dave Alcorn, who just graduated with a master’s degree in percussion, is part of a contemporary percussion ensemble, Clocks in Motion, that serves as the ensemble-in-residence for the UW-Madison percussion studio.

Dave Alcorn
Dave Alcorn

A few thoughts from Dave:

“I grew up in Pittsburgh. In terms of choosing percussion, I think it was more that the instrument chose me. In third grade, the band teacher at my elementary school had me march down the hall while tapping my hands on my chest. She told me I had good rhythm and that I would make a good percussionist. I also looked up immensely to my older cousin who played the drums; I wanted to be like him. By sixth grade I was pretty sure playing percussion was what I wanted to do with my life.

“I chose UW for my masters degree because of Tony Di Sanza. I took a lesson with him before applying to the school and it was one of the best lessons I have ever had. Working with him has been very enjoyable over the past two years.

“I will be heading to Maine for the summer, where I am a percussion instructor at the New England Music Camp. At the end of the summer, I will be returning to Madison to continue working with Clocks in Motion, as well as teach private lessons and freelance.”

Later this summer, we’ll feature Clocks in Motion on our blog. Stay tuned!