News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
March 8, 2017
Faculty Ensembles combine with Lincoln High students for a memorable concert
On February 9, two School of Music faculty ensembles – the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and the Wingra Wind Quintet – traveled to Wisconsin Rapids, the home of the Mead Witter Foundation, for a special concert to thank them for their support of the school of music. The two ensembles, plus the Wind Ensemble from Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids, performed a side-by-side concert at the Performing Arts Center of Wisconsin Rapids after the students were coached by ensemble faculty and UW-Madison conductor Scott Teeple.
Mead Witter School of Music Professor Marc Vallon discusses a fingering with a Lincoln High School Wind Ensemble bassoonist.
Professor Mark Hetzler sits in with the Lincoln High School trombone section during a rehearsal for the Mead Witter Thank You Concert on February 9, 2017.
Assistant Professor Tom Curry worked with the Lincoln High School Percussion Ensemble as part of the educational clinic.
Afterwards, music engagement and outreach coordinator Beth Larson received this note from Jeanne Olson, director of bands at Lincoln High School: “Thank you so much for all of the time you spent organizing that event, my students loved it and learned so much! I had them write a reflection this week, and they were very positive and many listed countless things that they learned from the professors sitting in with them and then working with the small groups!! It was a very successful event!” Photographs by Beth Larson.
Irving Shain Woodwind-Piano Duo Competition Winners to perform this Saturday
Meet Yasha Hoffman, Russian Studies and composition double major
Yasha Hoffman, a Minnesota native, grew up with parents of Soviet/Russian heritage and as a young child, fell in love with Russian folk songs. “One of my favorite activities was putting on ‘concerts’ for my parents where I’d loudly sing Soviet children’s songs and bang on the piano,” he says. He loves the breadth of opportunity offered by classes at UW-Madison. Read more about Yasha Hoffman.
“Performing the Jewish Archive” project continues worldwide
UW-Madison professor Teri Dobbs in Israel, Jordan, Michigan, and Vienna (upcoming)
This past January, Professor Teri Dobbs, a member of the Performing the Jewish Archive team, spent two weeks in Israel and Jordan. During her time there, she was a guest at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, together with colleagues from UW-Madison’s Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies. In addition, she conducted research in the Yad Vashem Archives, met with musicology/music education colleagues to discuss the possibility of future projects within Israel, and met with the family of piano prodigy and composer, Josima Feldschuh (d. 1943).
Professor Dobbs will present several conference papers this coming semester, most of which pertain to her work with Performing the Jewish Archive. Her paper, “Music Education and the Holocaust: So What?” was heard at the New Directions in Music Education Conference: “Musicking Equity: Enacting Social Justice Through Music Education,” Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, February 17. Dobbs has been invited to present more two papers, one in collaboration with soprano and PtJA performer Elizabeth Hagedorn of Vienna, at the 25th European Association for Music in Schools/6th European International Society for Music Education regional conference, JOINT (AD)VENTURE MUSIC: Network as a Challenge for Music Educators, at the University Mozarteum, Salzburg, Austria, April 18 – 22, 2017. Learn more here.
March 12, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall. UW Symphony with alumnus Anthony Georgeson, bassoon, conducted by James Smith. Georgeson is principal bassoon with The Florida Orchestra in St. Petersburg. Georgeson will play the Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B flat major, K. 191. Other works will include Un Sourire pour Orchestre by Olivier Messiaen and Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. This is the penultimate opportunity to see longtime conductor James Smith, who will retire this spring after 34 years at UW-Madison. His final appearance as conductor will be on April 9.
March 14, 6:30 PM, Morphy Hall. Emery Stephens, baritone, guest artist recital. Free concert.
Stephens is assistant professor of voice at Wayne State University in Detroit. Prof. Stephens will coach student singers and pianists in African-American songs and spirituals and perform with students in a recital, with Professor Martha Fischer as collaborative pianist.
The Midwest Graduate Music Consortium – Presenting Original Research and New Compositions
Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1, Memorial Union and Mead Witter School of Music. Free events.
The Midwest Graduate Music Consortium (MGMC) is a joint venture organized by graduate students from Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. MGMC encourages the presentation of original research and the composition of new music by graduate students around the country. The 21st annual meeting will include paper sessions, a new music concert, and a keynote address. For the new music concert, seven composers’ works were chosen from a nationwide call for scores. The ensemble Sound Out Loudwill perform the new works, each a world premiere. All of the composers will be in attendance. Find the schedule and concert program at this link: Midwest Graduate Music Consortium
University Opera’s “Turn of the Screw” receives warm reviews
“Much of the overall success of the show begins with decisions by Ronis (and executed by costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park) to resist all temptation to make the specters of Quint (former valet of Bly’s master, who is far removed from the action of the story) and former governess Miss Jessel in any way ghoulish. Alec Brown and Anna Polum, in the roles on Friday night, looked fully human—and that’s just fine. The otherworldliness—and palpable evil—that they exude is in the music and the libretto itself,” wrote Greg Hettsmanberger in his blog, What Greg Says.
Doctoral cellist Andrew Briggs performs with Middleton Community Orchestra
At the March 1 concert of the Middleton Community Orchestra, cellist Andrew Briggs played two works by Antonin Dvorak: Silent Woods, Op. 68, No. 5,and Rondo in G minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 94. “Briggs played both of these with affectionate sensitivity. Currently finishing his doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, he is an artist with an already expanding reputation and a great future,” wrote reviewer John Barker.
On Monday, March 27, Andrew will perform a lecture/recital on his dissertation project, “Piatti and the Body: An Integrative Approach to Learning and Performing the 12 Caprices, Op. 25.”
News and Concert Highlights from the UW-Madison School of Music – Feb. 29, 2016
University Opera presents its spring 2016 show:”Transformations”
Transformations, a 1970s chamber opera that explores serious psychological themes through the re-telling of Grimm’s fairy tales, will be staged March 11, 13 and 15 by UW-Madison University Opera. The opera was written by Conrad Susa based on poetry by Pulitzer-Prize winner Anne Sexton, who suffered from mental illness and depression, and took her own life in 1974 at age 45.
‘It’s a challenging and compelling piece of music theater,” said David Ronis, director. “It’s a great vehicle to teach skills to young opera singers, and stimulating thought and dialog across the university and community.” While the opera is dark at times, it contains much humor as well.
Sexton’s writing was often confessional and overtly feminist. Her champions included Maxine Kumin, Robert Lowell, and Sylvia Plath. Transformations was commissioned of Susa in 1972 by the Minnesota Opera, known for its interest in contemporary works. The libretto includes eight cast members who play multiple roles from the fairy tales; the plot involves a middle-aged witch who is transformed into a young beauty pulled into a nightmare.
Transformations is conducted by graduate assistant conductor Kyle Knox.
Performance dates, times and prices:
Friday, Mar 11 @ 7:30pm (Pre-show discussion, 6 PM)
Sunday, Mar 13 @ 3:00pm
Tuesday, Mar 15 @ 7:30pm
General Admission: $25; Seniors: $20; Students: $10
Tickets available at the Memorial Union Box Office. Also available at the door.
Transformations is a thought-provoking and complex opera that benefits from thought and discussion. Join us for a pre-show discussion at 6:00 PM in Music Hall, March 11, with noted University scholars: Lynn Keller – Professor of Poetry, UW-Madison Thomas DuBois – Professor of Scandinavian Studies, Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies,UW-Madison Laura Schwendinger – Professor of Composition, School of Music, UW-Madison Karlos Moser – Emeritus Director of Opera, UW-Madison
David Ronis – Interim Director of Opera, UW-Madison
Moderator: Susan Cook, Director, UW-Madison School of Music
Selected Concert Highlights, March 2016
The Hunt Quartet. Sunday, March 6, 6:00 PM, Morphy Hall, free and open to all. The Hunt Quartet is the graduate string quartet at UW-Madison, comprised of Paran Amirinazari, violin; Clayton Tillotson, violin; Blakeley Menghini, viola; and Andrew Briggs, cello. The quartet will play music of Beethoven, Webern, and Schubert. Funding is provided by Dr. Kato Perlman and the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
UW Chamber Orchestra
Wednesday, March 16, Mills Hall, 7:30 PM. The UWCO, conducted by James Smith, will perform works of Bela Bartok, Elliott Carter, and Einojuhani Rautavaara, one of Finland’s most important composers. Rautavaara’s style has been influenced by Orthodox liturgical music and Finnish fiddlers and is both Romantic and mystical; read about him at this link.
“Le Domaine Musical”
Friday, March 18, Morphy Hall, 8:00 PM. Free concert. An homage to the late composer Pierre Boulez, featuring music of Pierre Boulez, Anton Webern, Claude Debussy and Johann Sebastian Bach. Performers drawn from School of Music faculty as well as students.
On Saturday, February 20th, the clarinet studio and Wesley Warnhoff, adjunct professor of clarinet, hosted its first “Clarinet Day,” including Warnhoff and students performing works by Francis Poulenc and Eric Mandat, master classes with high school students, and chamber music sessions with college and high school students working side by side. The day concluded with the group attending a stunning performance by the UW Wind Ensemble conducted by Professor Scott Teeple. Warnhoff plans to turn this into an annual event; check back next year!
New on SoundCloud: Hear Martha Fischer, Wes Warnhoff and Jamie-Rose Guarrine perform “The Shepherd on the Rock” at last January’s annual “Schubertiade” concert. Fischer is prof. of piano and collaborative piano at UW-Madison. Guarrine received her DMA at UW-Madison and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Cellist Andrew Briggs earns ovation from Middleton Community Orchestra audience
“I must say that he gave me about the most satisfying experience of it that I have ever heard.” Reviewer John Barker, in his review of the MCO’s Feb. 24 concert, in which Briggs, a UW-Madison graduate student studying with Prof. Uri Vardi, played Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. “The reason for that is not only his playing skill but also his natural rapport with an audience: He communicates.” Click to read the full post at The Well-Tempered Ear.
A Delightful Comedy to Usher Out a Veteran Director
Photographs by Max Wendt
Madison, WI – Veteran director William Farlow’s final opera takes the stage in University Opera’s spring production of Hector Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict. Sung in French with English surtitles by Christine Seitz, the work will be given three performances—Friday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 13 at 3:00 p.m. and Tuesday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m. All shows will be presented at the Carol Rennebohm Auditorium in Music Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
“My time here has been the most extraordinary and rewarding of my career,” says Farlow. “One of my greatest joys has been to help develop young singers for the professional world,” he says. Those singers include James Kryshak, Emily Birsan, and Jamie van Eyck.
For his last show, Farlow has chosen a delightful comedy, full of friendly trickery and an unlikely match made in heaven. The storyline is modeled on Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, telling the story of a young man who scoffs at love and marriage. “Women are as “gentle as a thistle,” he thinks, but in the end, he is convinced (or is it hoodwinked?) into marrying Beatrice. “The opera ends with a duet, as Beatrice and Benedict admit their true feelings. OK, they concede, they really are in love, at least for today. Perhaps they’ll be enemies again … but not until tomorrow” (National Public Radio, 2009: read more here.)
The opera’s overture is also justly famous. In this video clip, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra is joined by conductor Peter Oundjian in Berlioz’s Beatrice et Benedict: Overture, performed in February, 2011 at the Sydney Opera House.
During his sixteen seasons with University Opera, Farlow has brought to life over thirty opera productions and an equal number of scenes performances. His career has taken him to Scotland, Mexico, Canada, and throughout the United States, and has worked with artists such as Placido Domingo, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Carlo Maria Giulini. Click here for a feature story about William Farlow.
The current show cast includes undergraduate and graduate students as well as alumni from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, supported by the UW Symphony Orchestra under the direction of James Smith. The roles of Béatrice and Bénédict will be performed respectively by Lindsay Metzger and Daniel López-Matthews, and the role of Héro will be portrayed by Anna Whiteway. Erik Larson will appear as Don Pedro, and Jordan Wilson will perform the role of Claudio. The cast will be joined by University Opera alumni Benjamin Schultz and Kathleen Otterson, whowill perform the roles of Somarone and Ursule. Schultz currently works as the assistant director of the School of Music, and Otterson is a senior music instructor at Edgewood College and also serves as music director at Christ Presbyterian Church. Her local career is marked by appearances with Madison Opera and Madison Savoyards, and she is a member of the UW Opera Props Board of Directors.
Chorus members includes Arren Alexander, Aimee Teo Broman, Emi Chen, Tia Cleveland, Kyle Connors, Meg Huskin, Jennifer Kuckuk, Kirsten Larson, William Ottow, Michael Ward, Eric Wilson, and Fred Younger.
Production and music staff includes assistant conductor Kyle Knox, costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park, technical director and set designer, Greg Silver, lighting designer Steven M. Peterson, scenic artist Liz Rathke, vocal coach and musical preparation Thomas Kasdorf, and chorus master Susan Goeres.
Tickets are $22.00 for the general public, $18.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00–5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings. Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance. The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.
In an effort to help patrons find parking on campus, the Campus Arts Ticketing office is offering prepaid parking permits for a guaranteed parking spot on the evenings of ticketed UW arts events for $5. Preorder your permit online at http://arts.wisc.edu/map (5 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee) or call (608)-265-ARTS (3 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee).
University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Its mission is to promote professional training and practical performing experience for student singers, conductors and pianists and, when possible, provide opportunities for student designers, actors and dancers. For more information, please contact Christina Kay at email@example.com. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.
Join us for a post-concert reception at Tripp Commons! Seating limited: Tickets $10 per person. Buy them here.
Written by Nicole Tuma, graduate flutist and concert assistant, UW-Madison School of Music
For most UW-Madison students, winter break is a time for new beginnings. A time to put away that heavy textbook you’re so sick of lugging to the library and replacing it with another – hopefully lighter – one. A time to take one last glance at the comments your professor made on your term paper and start gathering your energies before researching the next. For pianists Sung Ho Yang and Seungwha Baek, flutist Mi-li Chang, clarinetist Kai-Ju Ho, and violinist Madlen Breckbill, however, this is not the case. These five School of Music students will be spending part of their break preparing for the “Symphony Showcase,” a concert that presents some of UW’s finest young musicians in solo performances with the UW Symphony Orchestra. For most, this process began over the summer, when they chose their repertoire for October’s Concerto Competition preliminaries.
On Saturday, February 8th, at 7 pm in Mills Concert Hall (note: this concert was originally scheduled for 8 pm) all five winners will be featured in performances with maestro James Smith with graduate conductor Kyle Knox and the UW Symphony Orchestra in an exciting evening of stylistically diverse concertos propelled by these students’ talent and energy. A sixth winner, composition undergraduate student Daria Mikhailovna Tennikova, will have her winning work, Poema for Saxophone and Orchestra, performed by the symphony and saxophone soloist Erika Anderson.
The concert is free and will be followed by a celebratory ticketed reception at Tripp Commons at the Memorial Union, featuring hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Tickets will be $10 per person. (Space will be limited! Reserve your spot early atthis site.)
For Kai-Ju Ho, a clarinetist from Taiwan, performing with the symphony will be a dream come true, she says. “I remember the first time I heard this concerto was on a recording when I was a freshman. I swore that one day I’d play it!”
Concertos, with their exhilarating combination of soloistic pyrotechnics and dedicated ensemble playing, are some of the jewels of the orchestral repertoire, and the opportunity to perform a concerto with an orchestra is an experience that musicians truly savor. For woodwind lovers, this year’s Symphony Showcase concert will be a real treat, as it will include two of the most popular woodwind concertos: Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto(1948) and Jacque Ibert’s Flute Concerto (1934). The Copland was written for and premiered by Benny Goodman and has an irrepressibly jazzy second movement, while the Ibert is a crowd-pleasing work that alternates dreamy, languid passages with a bubbly, lighthearted finale infused with Spanish dance rhythms and a hint of jazz. There will also be two piano concertos on February’s program, Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in Eb Major(mid-1800s) and Sergei Prokofiev’sPiano Concerto No. 3 in C Major (1921). Both are technically brilliant works that marry their composers’ mature styles with youthful themes composed years earlier, when Liszt and Prokofiev were students. Finally, there will be a performance of the first movement of Samuel Barber’s beloved Violin Concerto, a lyrical masterpiece that violinists and audiences have loved since its 1941 premiere.
All five solo pieces are incredibly beautiful but incredibly difficult; how will these performers prepare? All are experienced in performing many kinds of repertoire, in solo recitals, small chamber groups, large bands and orchestras, even jazz combos, but all agree that preparing a concerto—another beast altogether – requires a distinct approach. In the first place, the sheer volume of sound needed to project over a large orchestra is daunting, compared with what’s needed to play with a single piano, according to Mi-li Chang, a doctoral candidate and UW Collins Fellow from Taiwan.
Merely playing louder isn’t enough to ensure that the soloist soars over the orchestra, however; clear musical ideas are needed as well. A cohesive performance happens only when the soloist, conductor, and orchestra hear the music in the same way, but there’s no time in rehearsal for a soloist to explain her thoughts. Therefore, says clarinetist Kai-Ju Ho, a fellow graduate of the Taipei National University of the Arts, she must perform so clearly and convincingly that the orchestra understands and can follow her interpretation.
Lastly, because of the sheer number of people and instruments in an orchestra–for this concert, about 85–and the vast array of pitches, sounds, and colors in a complicated piece of music, concerto soloists need to spend a great deal of time studying the full score, says Kai-Ju. They must know what’s happening in the orchestra at every moment in a piece so that he or she can adjust note lengths, volume, and phrasing to fit in with the orchestra’s sound.
For solo pianists, who more often perform unaccompanied, concertos pose a particular challenge. Instead of simply playing and hoping the orchestra will catch them, soloists need to actively collaborate with the orchestra , says SeungWha Baek, who is currently a doctoral student in collaborative piano and a member of the Perlman Trio, a student string trio funded by UW benefactor Kato Perlman. Brilliant technique is not enough: “This piece won’t happen without respecting [the] ensemble,” she says.
Preparing a concerto for performance requires a great deal of energy, which for these performers is not acquired in the practice room, but outside of it. And each has his or her own style. Madlen Breckbill, an undergraduate violinist from Madison, derives hers from interesting conversations, eating delicious food, seeing beautiful sights, and watching theater. Meanwhile, Kai-Ju enjoys cooking food from Taiwan and hiking in national parks (she has visited nine of them in the three years she’s been in the United States). “I like the peaceful moments and the amazing scenery,” she says. Mi-li spends time running or walking around Madison’s lakes, and Sung Ho, who formerly practiced piano eight hours a day, is now a member of the Hoofers Sailing Club and the UW cycling team. The extra hours once spent at the piano are now taken up reading scores, running and bicycling, windsurfing. He thinks all this has helped him to avoid injury. “My life has changed because of it. I lost twenty pounds; in every day, I feel more happiness.”
The students know they’ll forever treasure their time on stage as soloists with the UW Symphony; many musicians are never fortunate enough to experience it. And if the audience responds with smiles or tears, as happened once as Sung Ho rehearsed with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, the hard work of preparation is fully compensated.
About the Performers:
A native of Seoul, Korea, pianist SeungWha Baek is currently in the doctoral program in collaborative piano at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studies with Martha Fischer and is a teaching assistant. As of this fall, SuengWha is the pianist in the advanced student ensemble, the Perlman Trio, at UW-Madison.
Ms. Baek has a masters degree in accompaniment from Northern Illinois University where she studied with William Goldenberg and also received a certificate in performance. Prior to that, she earned a bachelor’s degree in music from SookMyung Women’s University in Seoul and a master’s in piano performance at the same university, where she studied with MiJeung Park. While at Northern Illinois University, she performed in many recitals for instrument and voice and served as accompanist for a production of “Little Women” with the NIU Opera Workshop. In 2007, SeungWha was a winner of the Northern Illinois University concerto competition and was an accompanist at the 2007 V.O.I.C. Experience program (led by Mr. Sherrill Milnes in Orlando, Florida) and the 2009 Quartet Program (directed by Charles Castleman at SUNY-Fridonia).
Pianist Sung Ho Yang was born in Seoul, Korea and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in the School of Music with Christopher Taylor. Mr. Yang graduated from Sun-Hwa Arts School in Seoul and attended Seoul National University. In 2004, he transferred to New England Conservatory of Music in Boston with his professor, Wha Kyung Byun, and later earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as a graduate diploma, from NEC. Mr. Yang has performed in master classes for Russell Sherman, Klaus Hellwig, Sergei Dorensky, and Vladimir Feltsman. He has also attended the Contemporary Music Festival in New Paltz, New York: New Music Mannes at New York, and the International Summer Academy at the Mozarteum, Salzburg.
Sung Ho Yang has won top prizes at the Florestano Rossomandi International Competition in Italy and at the Johann Nepomuk Hummel International Piano Competition in Slovakia. He is also a winner of the Beethoven Piano Competition at the UW-Madison School of Music, sponsored by former UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain. In his native Korea, he won the Segye-Times Piano Competition and the Eum Youn Competition, and was sponsored by the Kum Ho Cultural Foundation for two solo recitals in Seoul in 2002 and 2003. As a concerto soloist, Mr. Yang debuted with the St. Petersburg Radio Symphony Orchestra in St. Petersburg, Russia, performing Liszt’s Totentanz and with the Slovak Philharmonic orchestra in Bratislava, Slovakia, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3. Mr. Yang’s repertoire ranges from Rachmaninoff’s Six Moments Musicaux to Boulez’s Second Piano Sonata, and includes all of Liszt’s piano concerti. Mr. Yang currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin, where he has joined the UW cycling team and the Hoofer Sailing Club.
Madlen Breckbill, a senior at UW Madison, began playing the violin at age four with Suzuki Strings of Madison. In her early years, Madlen participated in Sonora Strings of Madison, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, WYSO chamber ensembles and the WYSO Ambassadors. In middle school, Madlen studied with School of Music artist-in-residence and Pro Arte Quartet violinist Suzanne Beia; in high school she studied with Gene Purdue (now School of Music visiting assistant professor of violin). In 2011, Madlen attended the Madeline Island Music Camp, leading to an invitation to perform with her quartet at the Landmark Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the summer of 2012, Madlen and her quartet members were winners of the Meadowmount School of Music quartet competition. This past summer, Madlen served as concertmaster for the Kent/Blossom Music Festival chamber orchestra, under the baton of James Feddeck, for a performance at the Blossom Music Center, followed by a side-by-side performance with the Cleveland Orchestra.
At UW-Madison, Madlen performs with different chamber groups each year, including the Perlman Trio in spring 2013 for a performance of the Brahms Piano Quintet. Madlen studies with Pro Arte violinist David Perry and receives coachings and lessons from the many talented and kind music professors at UW-Madison.
Mili Chang is a doctoral student in flute performance and a Paul Collins Wisconsin Distinguished Fellow, studying with Stephanie Jutt. She has won a number of competitions, including the Irving Shain Woodwind/Piano Duo Competition with pianist Kirstin Ihde in 2012 and the Taipei National University of the Arts Soloist Competition Concert in 2010 at Taipei, Taiwan. In Madison, Mili performs in many ensembles, including UW’s Collegium Musicum, the Helios Quintet and the UW orchestras. A committed music educator, Mili is a frequent coach with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra chamber program, and has coached band and orchestra sectionals and a wind quintet at Daan Junior High School in Taipei. A native of Taiwan, Mili holds a master’s degree from Taipei National University of the Arts and a bachelor’s from National Taiwan Normal University. Mili’s flute teachers have included Jinny Hwei-Jin Liu from the Manhattan School of Music and Li-Man Sung from the Koninklijk Conservatorium in Brussels.
Kai-Ju Ho is a native of Taipei, Taiwan and holds a bachelor’s degree from Taipei National University of the Arts in Taipei, Taiwan, where she studied with Wei-Leng Chen, principal clarinetist of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra. She then received a master’s degree in clarinet performance from the University of Texas-Austin where she studied with Nathan Williams. She is now pursuing her doctoral degree in clarinet performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying with Linda Bartley.
Kai-Ju Ho is an avid performer in recital and solo appearances, orchestra playing and chamber music. She has received numerous awards, including first prize in the 2012 International Clarinet Association Young Artist competition, the 2007 Taiwan Clarinet Competition, and the 2006 Taipei Symphony Orchestra Young Artist concerto Competition. In 2010, Kai-Ju Ho joined the Chimei Philharmonic Orchestra and performed in China (Beijing, Ningbo, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Guangzhou). In 2006, she was a member of the Taipei Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Kai-Ju Ho has played in many master classes, including those with Florent Heau, Lei Fan, Paul Meyer, Kenneth Grant, Hakan Rosengren and Mark Nuccio.
Daria Mikhailovna Tennikova was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She began taking composition lessons from Natalia Karsh of the Composers Union of Saint Petersburg, but initially chose to focus on piano rather than pursuing a career in composition, receiving an associate degree in piano performance and pedagogy from St. Petersburg’s Mussorgsky College of Music in 2008. Her work received its first public performance at the college when her “Three Lilies” for soprano and piano was played as part of a final accompaniment exam. Daria moved to the United States in 2009 and began devoting more time to composition. In 2010 she began pursuing a bachelor’s degree in composition at UW-Madison, studying with professors Laura Schwendinger and Stephen Dembski.
Poema for Saxophone and Orchestra is Ms. Tennikova’s most recent composition, and her very first work for orchestra. She says, “I began thinking
about writing a piece for soloist and orchestra last spring. Originally I wanted it to be for a piano soloist, and I wrote the main theme with something “Russian” in mind. Later in the spring of 2013, I heard Erika Anderson play Anthony Caulkins’ saxophone piece at a concert. I was moved by her wonderful performance to write my piece for saxophone soloist. I wanted Erika to play it, so I asked her if she would be interested in collaborating and, being both a wonderful person and a great musician, she agreed to play without even hearing the music! I am very grateful to her for giving my piece a beautiful performance!”
It was a chance meeting and a bright idea, hatched at a summertime party in Madison celebrating a baby’s birth. Voice professor Mimmi Fulmer, former UW Opera director Karlos Moser, and Nathaniel Stampley and proud papa Jamie Schmidt, two alumni now with successful careers on Broadway, got into a lively chat. Mimmi had a thought: how about a reunion concert this fall?
It was vintage Fulmer: enthusiastic and lively, said Stampley. “She’s been that way since I first met her when I was 16 years old” as a teenager from Whitefish Bay attending the Summer Music Clinic, he said. “She’s an amazing person. Nothing much has changed! Next thing I knew, I was coming to Madison in September,” he added, laughing.
Over the past fifteen years, Stampley (BM, voice, 2008) and Schmidt (BMusEd & piano, 1996; MM, conducting, 1998) have risen to the top of their professions, Schmidt as a pianist and conductor for singers and musical theater, Stampley as a Broadway singer and actor. Stampley, fresh off a run as the understudy to Norm Lewis’s “Porgy” in the New York City show, “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess,” was scheduled to play that lead part in the national tour this fall. And Schmidt, who hails from the Madison area, was beginning his third year as the associate conductor for the national tour of “The Lion King.” He could fly in from Pittsburgh, taking a couple of days off from the Lion King. The timing was perfect. They agreed to come.
So it’s a date. On September 22 and 23, the duo of Stampley and Schmidt will perform a show of Broadway tunes at Mills Hall at the UW-Madison School of Music. It’ll be a reunion of two close friends who first met each other as singers in the former Prof. Robert Fountain’s UW Concert Choir in the mid-1990s, and continued on campus for over three years, Nate singing, Jamie accompanying him on piano. That’s the plan for this one-time show, and they’ll follow the next day with a master class in Music Hall offering tips about music, singing, and careers.
Mimmi Fulmer has many fond memories of the two young men. “I first heard Nate sing when he was 16 years old, when he was auditioning for a Summer Music Clinic scholarship,” she said, in an email. “His star power was all there, even at that age: a glowing presence, warm and musical phrasing, and that voice! He brought that same vitality to his studies at Madison. I can remember clearly every performance he did in Opera Workshop and with University Opera–you don’t forget that kind of electricity.”
Jamie, who studied piano under Professors Todd Welbourne and Howard Karp, wound up conducting opera almost by accident after former opera director Karlos Moser offered Jamie a fellowship to pursue a masters degree with him. “It was the chance of a lifetime,” said Jamie. He said yes.
“Jamie did something invaluable to a career: recognize an opportunity and make the most of it,” Prof. Fulmer said. “When he graduated, he had the skills and experience to start his professional career as the founding Music Director for American Girl Place Theaters in Chicago. Since then, his career has taken him everywhere, as he remains the consummate musician and colleague that we all loved during his student days.”
Jamie and Nate shared a few thoughts about UW-Madison and the world of show business.
Jamie, who had intended to design cars as a mechanical engineer, changed his mind during his senior year of high school: “By this point, I had missed most audition deadlines to many music schools. The last place I wanted to go was UW-Madison, because I had spent my entire life in Madison, and wanted to get away and be free and be my own man. Fortunately, I had not missed the deadline to audition here, and my piano teacher at the time correctly thought that Todd Welbourne would be the right teacher for me. It was a fortunate, happy accident.”
Nate, on how he wound up in musical theater, as UW offers only opera: “I sort of fell into musical theater. It definitely was not the original plan.” But after graduating and returning to Milwaukee, he received an offer to return to perform in UW’s show, “Lost in the Stars,” by Kurt Weill, with Jamie conducting. One thing led to another, and he wound up in Chicago doing a variety of shows. “A couple years later, I got a random call for the national tour of ‘Ragtime,'” he said. “They asked, ‘Can you fly to New York?’ I did, and I got the job, in the ensemble. From that show, I got an agent.” By 2005, he was on on Broadway in “The Color Purple.”
Jamie, on his teachers at the School of Music: “My first four years of undergrad, I studied piano with Todd Welbourne; my final two years of undergrad I studied with Howard Karp, both wonderful teachers who gave me a solid technical and musical foundation at the keyboard. Karlos Moser was the Director of Opera, and he was the sole reason that I stayed on for my graduate work: he secured a Bolz Fellowship which funded my masters degree. His guidance was, and remains, invaluable to me, a true mentor and friend for life. My conducting studies during graduate work were with Jim Smith, one of the more thoughtful, seeking and accomplished musicians I have had the fortune to know and learn from.”
Nate, on how he manages to sing eight shows a week and still preserve his voice: “The biggest thing is rest. You have to get your rest, in order to have a quick turnaround, especially on a two-show day. We literally use our instrument all the time; we don’t have the luxury of putting it in a case. So the equivalent is just to be quiet. But what works for me may not work for everyone. Some people can go out and drink, and sound like a million bucks the next day.”
Jamie, on what it’s like to work on Broadway: “When I first began subbing shows on Broadway, I felt like a kid going on the big rollercoaster at Great America for the first time. It is not a university atmosphere, so there is no safety net, no excuse of being a student. You must nail it, or you are not asked to play again. So many things are learned on the fly: how to play a synthesizer with volume and patch change pedals (instead of a piano); how to follow the conductor through a video monitor (and adjust for latency); how to play as a rhythm section member rather than a soloist; and on and on. There are so many talented musicians in New York, of course– it is the ultimate destination for theater. Every time you play is an audition for someone, somewhere, perhaps years down the road. This was my path to my current position as Associate Conductor with the Lion King national tour; I was associate conductor for the Kennedy Center’s production of Ragtime, and did a lot of vocal coaching with the woman cast as Sarah. A couple of years later, I received a call to interview for Lion King. It turned out that her husband was the former Music Supervisor for Lion King worldwide. The circle of life, truly…”
Jamie, on how he wound up working with the likes of Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters, and how they keep going after so many years on the stage: “I conducted the Kennedy Center Spring Gala in 2010, and Liza was the emcee. We hit it off, and she hired me to conduct her symphonic tour shortly therafter, which led me to conduct the St. Louis, Atlanta, San Diego, Richmond, Indianapolisand Dallas Symphony Orchestras. She is a born entertainer, and I was excited for the chance to make music with her, especially with orchestras of that caliber. What keeps people like Liza and Bernadette going? I cannot presume to know them intimately, but it seems performing and entertaining is what they know, what they have spent their lives doing. Not to do it would be like not eating, it is what keeps their internal gears running smoothly.”
Asked what advice he’ll offer to aspiring performers, Nate replied: “I honestly believe we all get a shot at making it. The biggest thing is knowing what you want, even if it’s pie in the sky, even if it’s ‘I want to be the lead in a Broadway musical,’ or ‘I want to sing at the Met in ten years.’ Go for it!”
“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.
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.
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.”
Ever go to a UW orchestra concert and wonder who that handsome male stranger is up on the podium? (We all know Prof. James Smith is handsome, but he’s not a stranger.) If it was fairly recently, it was likely David Grandis, a native of France who just finished his doctorate in conducting under Prof. James Smith. David has now left us for a promising career in the D.C. area, and has written a post to tell us about himself and his time at UW-Madison.
“I started my musical studies in France at the age of five, mostly solfège (sight-singing) at first, because a piano student at the conservatory wasn’t allowed to touch the keyboard before having done two years of theoretical training. Unfortunately, this completely destroyed my initial enthusiasm for this instrument. I then switched to trombone.
“After my high school diploma in performance, I decided to concentrate on conducting, and spent about ten hours a day on theory, voice, various instruments, and musicology. And, as conducting studies in France rarely give the opportunity to the students to conduct an orchestra, I created my own chamber ensemble. After I completed my BA in Musicology in France (University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis), I started to look for a master’s program somewhere in the US.
“I loved the USA, having been raised with a sense of gratitude toward this country because my grandfather was a general in the French army and fought with the American army during the Second World War.
“I decided to study with Donald Schleicher at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I met my wife. She and I spent a few years apart while I worked with a few orchestras in France; I then returned to the US and to do a graduate performance diploma at the Peabody Institute with Gustav Meier. His teaching was really interesting but I hated the atmosphere, the pushiness of some conducting students, the lack of commitment of the school toward its conducting students.
“I then worked with a couple of orchestras around Washington DC and also in France, but finally decided to go back to school for a DMA. I was growing more interested in an academic career because I’ve always thrived on the enthusiasm of students. I find them refreshing and inspiring.
(Click the link below to watch David Grandis conducting the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Samuel Barber’s Medea’s Meditation and Dance for Vengeance, March 2012. You might even recognize a few people in the audience!)
“Where to study for a DMA in conducting? I realized there weren’t that many programs around the US. I was a bit older and didn’t want to deal with a megalomaniac and/or dogmatic teacher (it actually goes together most of the time, like a doubly bad deal). Donald Schleicher recommended that I audition for James Smith at UW-Madison and I felt right away that it was the place to be. I’ve never felt so glad in my studies and the reality exceeded my expectations. UW-Madison has offered me my best experience in my entire journey. The staff, including Marina Drake, Todd Welbourne and Ben Schultz, has always been helpful and committed to my success and the program was designed to complete my knowledge in whatever needed to be completed. It was very flexible.
“I decided to minor in opera performance because I’ve always loved the lyric and because the opera program at UW is really exceptional; there is nothing comparable in French conservatories. William Farlow is a gem and the voice faculty has produced a lot of students who started a career on professional stages. (In fact, for my final DMA project, I focused on opera; more specifically, on the French style of opera singing. The book will soon be published in French and in English in both countries. The English title will be “The Voice of France: the Golden Age of the RTLN (‘Réunions des Théâtres Lyriques Nationaux’)” published by MJW Féditions, Paris).
“I also loved studying orchestral bowing technique with Felicia Moye, a great musician and so devoted to her students. And it was a privilege to hear the Pro Arte Quartet on a regular basis and to be reminded what music is all about by these tremendous artists.
“Last but not least: Prof. James Smith. He was the perfect teacher to finish my studies with. He was never dogmatic, always very pragmatic, with his feet on the ground, reminding me some fundamentals, suggesting different musical approach, awakening a hidden awareness of the sound. I am getting a bit abstract here but it is difficult to explain these kind of things in concrete terms. I love his intense musicality, his sophistication, his refinement and among the countless things I learnt from him, I finally started to understand how to rehearse by watching him.
“One last word: The students have also nourished me through their talent, their passion and their musicality. It will be painful to part with them, with this university, with this great town, but life must go on and musicians are rarely sedentary. I’m moving back to the East Coast this summer: I will be Music Director of the symphony orchestra at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA and Music Director of the Virginia Chamber Orchestra around DC.”