Tag Archives: Mead Witter School of Music

Name a Seat Campaign in Full Swing; Leckrone to step down after 50th year; New Faculty; Bernstein Tribute Concert

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music

University of Wisconsin-Madison
455 North Park Street, Madison Wisconsin 53706
http://www.music.wisc.edu/

WELCOME TO A NEW ACADEMIC YEAR!


New opportunity, ending December, 2018: Name a seat in the new Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall!

From individual chairs and sections of chairs to educational venues and prominent gathering spaces, opportunities remain to support the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music’s Hamel Music Center, pictured above. Join us as we usher in a new era of music at UW-Madison.
Click here to learn more!


Please note: Our annual print brochure was mailed mid-August. If you are not already on our mailing list and you’d like to receive a copy, click here to send your snail mail address.


Special announcement: UW Band Director Mike Leckrone announces upcoming season will be his last

Mike Leckrone.

Michael Leckrone, 82, longtime marching band director has announced that he will step down at the end of the 2018-19 academic year, which will be his 50th season. Leckrone made his decision several weeks ago but delayed sharing it publicly until he could meet with students. “I wanted the band to know first,” he says. “Any other talk, any other planning — that came second.” The university will conduct a national search for a new director.
Read the full story here.


NEW FACULTY AT THE SCHOOL OF MUSIC

Nadia Chana

In January, after serving as the inaugural winner of the Robert Walser and Susan McClary Fellowship, Nadia Chana will join the school of music as assistant professor of ethnomusicology.  The award is given to Ph.D. candidates, seeking to diversify the field of scholars working in American music. She writes: “I grew up in Edmonton/Amiskwaciwâskahikan singing in choirs (and everywhere else), a context that directly shapes my work, however invisibly. My current research focuses on climate crisis and relations among Indigenous activists, non-Indigenous settlers, and nonhuman actors in Northern Alberta and the California Bay Area. Fuelled by the urgency of climate crisis, I ask: what can healthy relationships between humans and the more-than-human world – plants, animals, water, land – look and feel like? And what role do practices like listening, walking, and even singing play in transforming these relationships?” Read about Nadia.

Margaret Butler joins the school of music as visiting associate professor of musicology. Most recently, she was associate professor of musicology at the University of Florida. Her research on eighteenth-century opera explores a range of top including theatrical production practices and administrative models, stylistic fusion and reform,exoticism, and iconography.
Read about Margaret.

More new faculty

Andreas Oeste, assistant adjunct professor of oboe
Julia Rottmayer, adjunct professor of voice
Trevor Baca, visiting assistant professor of musicology
Read about all our current and new faculty here.

Meet Brian Heller, new facilities director
L-R: Brian Heller, new School of Music facilities director; Ben Sonnentag, JPCullen project engineer; and Tim Bizjak, JPCullen project manager.

In February, Brian Heller joined the Mead-Witter School of Music as facilities director.  Most recently, he was director of the Clemens Fine Arts Center at a college in Paducah, Kentucky, and has held a number of positions in non-profit theaters and arts centers in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington D.C. and Minnesota. He is a 1998 graduate of the Bolz Center at the Wisconsin School of Business.

 

 


(Right: A horn quartet performed at the Mead Witter Graduation, Hooding & Awards Celebration in Mills Hall, May 11, 2018. L-R; Rachel Feit, Spencer Koscik, Patrick Hines, Dayfdd Bevil.)


STUDENT/ALUMNI NEWS

“Music despite pain”: Doctoral pianist perseveres through tough odds
Kangwoo Jin, a student of Professors Jessica Johnson and  Christopher Taylor, was diagnosed with hemophilia when a child in South Korea, and must inject himself with blood-clotting protein several times a week. He’s managed to win ten piano competitions nonetheless. Read full story in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Alumnus winner
Matthew Lee, a 2017 graduate from the studio of violinist Associate Professor Soh-Hyun Park Altino, was a winner of the 2018 Jan and Beattie Wood Concerto Competition at Brevard Music Center. Matthew was the only violinist winner in this year’s competition, which included a performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto, first movement, with the Brevard Music Center Orchestra on July 29. Matthew is currently pursuing a masters degree of music in violin performance at University of Texas at Austin.

Women Took Center Stage
LunART, an arts festival centered on women, was held in Madison in late June to great success. The founder was Iva Ugrćič (above), a DMA graduate in flute. Both the Wisconsin State Journal and Isthmus weekly ran preview stories about the event, which drew hundreds of patrons and featured composers, musicians, dancers, actors, and more.


FACULTY NEWS

The Chicago Composers’ Consortium offers a fresh selection of compositions at a concert on September 23, 3 PM, at North Shore Baptist Church, 5244 N. Lakewood Avenue, Chicago.
(Suggested donation: $15 accepted at the door.) One of these, The Violinists in my Life, was written by faculty composer Laura Schwendinger and will be performed by alumna Eleanor Bartsch.


FEATURED SEPTEMBER CONCERTS

Please note: to buy tickets at the door, day of show, please arrive early to prevent long lines!

Music of Leonard Bernstein – A 100th Birthday Tribute

Saturday, September 15 @ 8:00 pm – $7 – $17
Celebrating the music of Leonard Bernstein in this 100th anniversary year of his birth. With Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes, piano and voice; Paul Rowe, baritone; and Cheryl Bensman-Rowe, soprano. Featuring the Arias and Barcarolles for two singers and pianists as well as songs from the Broadway and art song repertoires.
Learn More/Buy Tickets

39th Karp Family Opening Concert
Tuesday, September 4 @ 7:30 pm – Free
Featuring Parry Karp, violoncello; Christopher Karp, piano; Frances Karp, piano; Alicia Lee, clarinet; Suzanne Beia, violin; Katrin Talbot, viola.

Faculty Jazz Sextet
Thursday, September 6 @ 7:30 pm – Free
Featuring Alex Noppe, trumpet; Les Thimmig, saxophones; Louka Patenaude, guitar; Johannes Wallmann, piano; Nick Moran, bass; Matt Endres, drums.

Faculty Recital: Soh-Hyun Altino, violin
Sunday, September 9 @ 3:00 pm – Free
This concert will feature works for violin and piano by women composers, including Beach, Chaminade, Clarke, and L. Boulanger. With pianist Jeannie Yu.

Our Full Concert Calendar

calendar

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August. To receive the brochure, please send your postal address to the School of Music.



You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

Awards Ceremony May 11; Hunt and Pro Arte Quartets team for final concert; An Inside Look at the Hamel Music Center

Thursday, May 3, 2018

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
455 North Park Street, Madison Wisconsin 53706
http://www.music.wisc.edu/

Graduation Ceremony; Students Win Awards; Pro Arte and Hunt Quartets team up at Chazen; Community Music Lessons to be featured on 1550 AM; New Hamel Music Center Photos

More acoustic circles, a defining feature of the new hall.

School of Music to celebrate graduates on Friday, May 11

You are invited to help us honor our 28 undergraduate and 54 graduate students receiving diplomas this spring, summer and next fall and to thank the donors who support our students.  And, of course, we recognize the many additional undergraduate and graduate students chosen to receive awards given throughout the years by our generous donors.

We’ll also feature music from a talented horn quartet.

Friday, May 11, 2:00-4:00 PM, Mills Hall. A reception will follow in the Humanities Courtyard; in case of inclement weather, we will hold it in Mills Lobby.

Congratulations to graduate cellist Kyle Price, undergraduate vocalists Claire Powling and Miranda Kettlewell, and graduate pianist Eric Tran

At the annual Schubert Club Student Scholarship Competition, held at Augsburg University in St. Paul this spring, graduate cellist Kyle Price won first place in the strings Level 4 category (ages 24 through 28); Claire Powling won first place in the voice category, level 1 (ages 18 throuhh 21); and Miranda Kettlewell won honorable mention in the same category. The competition awards a total of over $50,000 annually to young musicians to be used for further musical education. As a first prize winner, Price performed with other winners at the Ordway Concert Hall in St. Paul in March. Price has studied with Professor Uri Vardi and will receive his DMA this summer. Powling and Kettlewell study with Professor Mimmi Fulmer.

In March, at the inaugural Music Teachers National Association–Stecher and Horowitz Two Piano Competition in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, pianist Eric Tran and his piano partner Nathan Cheung won first place, earning a prize of $5000 and a recording for New York City’s WQXR radio station, to be aired in July. The pair, who have performed for years as the Happy Dog Duo, also won both first prize and the Abild American Music Award at the 2017 Ellis Duo-Piano Competition, hosted by the National Federation of Music Clubs. Tran studies with Professor Christopher Taylor.

Pro Arte and Hunt Quartets team for Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet

On May 6 at 12:30 PM, the Pro Arte Quartet and the Hunt Quartet, the graduate string quartet of UW-Madison, will join at the Chazen Museum of Art to perform one of the best-loved works in the classical repertoire: Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat Major, op. 20.
The Pro Arte will also perform Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15 in G major, D. 887, op. 161. The Pro Arte Quartet is comprised of David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violins; Sally Chisholm, viola; and Parry Karp, cello.

The Hunt Quartet, 2017-2018. L-R: Kyle Price, cello.; Vinicius “Vinny” Sant’Ana, violin; Blakeley Menghini, viola; Chang-En Lu, violin. Photograph by Katrin Talbot.
The Pro Arte Quartet. L-R: Cellist Parry Karp; Violinist Suzanne Beia; Violist Sally Chisholm; VIolinist David Perry.

The Hunt Quartet is the graduate string quartet for the Mead Witter School of Music. As project assistants within the School of Music, the Quartet performs concerts at the School of Music, University events, as well as community outreach. Members work closely with faculty, including the Pro Arte Quartet, and with Professor Uri Vardi as their principal coach. The Quartet is also the integral part of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s “Up Close and Musical” program, visiting area schools to teach students about fundamentals of music and the string quartet. The Hunt Quartet is generously sponsored by Dr. Kato Perlman and the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
This year’s members have been Kyle Price, cello; Vinicius “Vinny” Sant’Ana, violin; Blakeley Menghini, viola; and Chang-En Lu, violin. This marks the final appearance for Kyle, Vinny, and Blakeley, as they will receive their doctoral degrees.

Audio of the concert will be broadcast live over the Internet in cooperation with Audio for the Arts, and also supported by Dr. Kato Perlman. The concert is free and open to the public; Chazen Museum of Art members may call 608-263-2246 to reserve seating. Click here to access the live audio broadcast.

Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen is a monthly music concert performed in the museum’s Brittingham Gallery III on the first Sunday of every month excepting January. Performances begin at 12:30. The gallery seats approximately 100 people; admission is free and first-come, first-served. Please note that Gallery III and the adjacent Gallery II are closed on Sunday before the performances for setup and rehearsal.

Community Music Lessons holds recital of all-age students

On April 29, students taking private music lessons through the Community Music Lessons program joined together to give a one-hour recital showcasing their growth and achievement throughout the semester. Having a performance to work toward is so important as a growing musician because it gives the student a feeling of accomplishment and purpose. Eighteen students performed before a supportive and encouraging audience of over 50 people. — Cayla Rosché, coordinator, Community Music Lessons.

Community Music Lessons will be on the radio! On May 26, talk show host Carol Koby will host retired doctor and budding violinist Tim Shaw, his teacher Paula Su, and CML coordinator Cayla Rosché on her show, All About Living, a weekly interview program which airs Saturdays at 10 AM on AM 1550 and 97.7 FM (also streamlined online here).  Carol Koby is a former women’s director and reporter for WITI-TV Channel 6 in Milwaukee and consumer advocate for WKOW-TV in Madison. She also moderated the Picture of Health cable television series for University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.

The Community Music Lessons (CML) program, founded in 1968 under the auspices of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, provides college students with valuable experience teaching applied music lessons for children and adults. Lessons are provided by undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the School of Music who are overseen by individual faculty members, an experienced graduate coordinator, and a staff supervisor. Lessons are taught on campus, in the Mosse Humanities Building.

The Hamel Music Center – on the INSIDE!

On April 25, Mead Witter facilities director Brian Heller, publicist Katherine Esposito and photographer Michael R. Anderson were ushered around the Hamel Music Center by project manager Tim Bizjak and project engineer Ben Sonnentag, both UW-Madison engineering graduates. (Sonnentag also played trumpet in several UW Jazz ensembles.) We hope you enjoy our gallery of brand-new photographs, which will also be uploaded to this site.  Many thanks to Tim and Ben for the tour, and to Brian for the precise captions.

Our Full Concert Calendar

calendar

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August. To receive the brochure, please send your postal address to newsletter editor..


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

Music Lessons after 55; Remembering Irv Shain; Perlman Concert April 14; Student Creates & Conducts

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music


University of Wisconsin-Madison
455 North Park Street, Madison Wisconsin 53706
http://www.music.wisc.edu/

Reminder: The UW Wind Ensemble concert this Saturday, April 7, will be streamed live. The start time is 7:30 PM. Click here for the link.
A panoramic view of the Hamel Music Center under construction, March 2018
The Hamel Music Center, March 18, 2018. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

 

 

 

 

 

Music Lessons after 55!

Retired physician Tim Shaw has a new hobby: taking violin lessons from UW-Madison doctoral student Paula Su. “I’m lucky to have found Paula as a violin teacher,” he says. “She inspires me.” Shaw, who’s currently practicing the well-known tune, “Danny Boy,” says he discovered the Community Music Lessons program via an online search.

Tim Shaw and Paula Su. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

Paula writes: “I was born in Taiwan, and I completed most of my education in Taiwan. After my master’s degree in violin performance and chamber music at University of Michigan, I played in Civic Orchestra of Chicago and also taught in the String Preparatory Academy in University of Michigan. Knowing that I enjoy teaching and also have some experience, Professor David Perry recommended that I join the CML program. The students in this program are very diverse. Some of them are undergraduate college students, some are PhD students, some are Epic employees, Tim is a retired doctor.”

“It is really fun to interact with different ages of people from different backgrounds. I draw much inspiration from my students and can also view myself through the teaching process.”

The Community Music Lessons program was founded in 1968 to help college students acquire experience teaching applied music lessons for children and adults. Lessons are provided by undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the School of Music who are overseen by individual faculty members, an experienced graduate coordinator, and a staff supervisor. Lessons are taught on campus, in the Mosse Humanities Building.

The program plans an informal recital on Sunday, April 29 in Morphy Hall from 3:00 to 5:00 PM.

Farewell and thank you to Irving Shain

Chancellor Irving Shain with the UW Symphony Orchestra, undated photograph.

Last month, we bade farewell to former Chancellor Irving Shain, who passed away on March 6 at the age of 92. Chancellor Shain was a champion of the piano, founding both the Shain Piano/Woodwind Duo Competition (recent concert on March 4) and the Beethoven Piano Competition, now in its 33rd year with a winners’ recital concert scheduled for April 15 at 3:30 PM in Morphy Hall. His contributions to the School of Music were significant. We have missed his presence at these concerts and we remember him with fondness.

Read more about Chancellor Shain at this link

Annual Perlman Trio concert April 14

With Kangwoo Jin, piano; Luke Valmadrid, violin and viola; Micah Cheng, violoncello; Suzanne Beia, violin; and Chang En Lu, violin.

Saturday, April 14, 3:30 PM, Morphy Hall.

The Perlman Piano Trio is comprised of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is generously supported by Kato Perlman who loves the magnificent piano chamber music repertoire. Members of the group are chosen on the basis of their outstanding work in the chamber music program at the University.

The program will include Haydn’s Piano Trio in C Major, Hob. XV:27; Schumann’s Piano Trio no.1 Op. 63; and Brahms’s Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25.

Student recitals in abundance

Morphy and Mills Hall and other venues (many off-campus) are now packed with student recitals.  Upcoming performers include pianist Eric Tran, a recent winner of our concerto competition; Zachary Pulse, an oboist incorporating electro-acoustic methods into his music; and singer Talia Engstrom, performing music by Grieg, Mozart, Rossini, and others. See events calendar here.

Student at the podium

Flutist Anna Fisher-Roberts was inspired to create her own orchestra, and will present her first concert on Sunday, April 15 at 3:30 PM in Mills Hall. The program consists of one work: Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

Anna Fisher-Roberts (left, with flute) and members of the Milwaukee High School of the Arts in an outreach concert, Spring 2017. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

“This project has been an exciting and enlightening journey,” writes Anna. “I came to music school intending to become a conductor, but since there are no undergraduate conducting programs, it’s difficult to get podium experience. I decided to put this project together mainly to get some time in front of an ensemble, but also for the opportunity to conduct Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, one of my favorite pieces in the orchestral repertoire. This 13-piece orchestra is entirely Mead Witter students, and is run solely by me and the members of the ensemble.

“I have been soaking up as much conducting as I possibly can; I’ve been taking a conducting class since the beginning of the school year and took over conducting the flute ensemble in January. It’s very different being on the podium than sitting within the orchestra! I am looking at the music in a very different way than I do as a flutist, thinking about how to communicate gesturally and soundlessly to convey musical ideas. Throughout this process, I have had the privilege to work with conductors at the university: Scott Teeple, Chad Hutchinson, and Beverly Taylor. All have generously set aside time to help me to learn the score, and Dr. Hutchinson and Professor Teeple have even reviewed my video footage of my rehearsals and helped me to improve my rehearsal strategies and baton technique. I have also requested and welcomed suggestions from the musicians about how I can be more helpful to them as a conductor, and they always have excellent advice. As I continue in my career, I want to stay in touch with the musicians in my ensembles, to make the music as evocative as it can be.

“I plan to continue my conducting ventures this summer, starting with the Vienna Summer Music Festival Conducting Institute. This is a three-week program where I will work with conductors in front of a live orchestra, as well as take classes and have private lessons. In August, I will attend the Lyceum Music Festival in Utah as a conducting student of Kayson Brown, a conductor with whom I’ve worked in festivals before and who I greatly respect. For next year at UW-Madison, I would also like to create and conduct another student ensemble. I hope that this will be a continuing tradition, as it’s a wonderful opportunity for students interested in conducting to learn and receive feedback.”


Our Full Concert Calendar

calendar

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August. To receive the brochure, please send your postal address to newsletter editor..


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

“Sounding Beckett” with Cygnus Ensemble; Jazz at UW 50th Birthday; Wind Ensemble Concert April 7 to be livestreamed

March 15, 2018

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music

University of Wisconsin-Madison
455 North Park Street, Madison Wisconsin 53706
http://www.music.wisc.edu/

“Sounding Beckett” – The Intersection of Music and Drama, featuring the Cygnus Ensemble

Friday, March 23, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall.

An event focused on music inspired by the Nobel Prize-winning playwright, Samuel Beckett. Featuring a concert by New York’s Cygnus Ensemble, instrumental master classes, a lecture and panel discussion with Patricia Boyette, UW-Madison professor of theatre & drama and Laura Schwendinger, UW-Madison faculty composer and professor of composition.

Samuel Beckett


With its pairs of plucked strings, bowed strings and woodwinds, Cygnus has a precedent in the Elizabethan “broken consort.”
  The members –Tara Helen O’Connor, flute; Robert Ingliss, oboe; William Anderson and Oren Fader, classical and electric guitars/mandolin/banjo; Calvin Wiersma, violin; Susannah Chapman, violoncello–are all virtuoso players with a great wealth of experience with some of our most cherished musical institutions, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Metropolitan Opera Chamber Players.

Read more here.


Celebrating a milestone with students, faculty and special guest, trumpeter Marquis Hill

This April, UW-Madison’s annual Jazz Week will celebrate the 50th anniversary season of the UW Jazz Orchestra, the first jazz ensemble at UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music.

Jazz Week 2018 will feature performances by the UW Jazz Orchestra, the UW Jazz Composers Group, the UW Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, the UW High School Honors Jazz Band, and a faculty jazz quartet, all to be joined by special guest trumpet soloist Marquis Hill, the winner of the 2014 Thelonious Monk Competition.

Hill is a Chicago native who now makes his home in New York City. “His music crystallizes the hard-hitting, hard-swinging spirit of Chicago jazz,” writes Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune. “Hill commands a nimble technique, a fluid way of improvising and a pervasively lyrical manner.”


Marquis Hill

UW’s Jazz Week 2018 features three concerts:

  • Tuesday, April 24: Marquis Hill with the UW Jazz Composers Group and the UW Contemporary Jazz Ensemble. Morphy Hall, 7:30 PM. Free concert.
  • Thursday, April 26: Marquis Hill with a faculty jazz quartet led by pianist and Director of Jazz Studies Johannes Wallmann with Les Thimmig, saxophones; Nick Moran, bass; and Matt Endres, drums. Morphy Hall, 8:00 PM. Ticketed concert: $15 adults, $5 non-music majors.
  • Friday, April 27: Marquis Hill with the UW Jazz Orchestra and the UW High School Honors Jazz Band. Music Hall, 8:00 PM. Ticketed concert: $15 adults, $5 non-music majors.

The UW High School Honors Jazz Band is an auditioned 18-member big band for high school students from about a dozen Madison-region schools who are looking for an additional opportunity to perform advanced jazz repertoire.

To buy online, click this link.

You may also purchase in person or at the door. For more information about ticketing and parking options, click here.


“We don’t want THAT word uttered in OUR school”: Listen to our audio stories on SoundCloud about the history of jazz at UW-Madison and at American colleges. With university saxophonist and professor Les Thimmig, who arrived at UW-Madison in 1971, just as the jazz program was getting started. To listen, click the icon below.

Speaking of jazz:

Alumnus trumpeter Eric Siereveld releases debut CD

In 2015, trumpeter Eric Siereveld was wooed from New York City to become the instructor of jazz trumpet and director of the Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble at the School of Music. In 2017, with a brand-new DMA under his arm, he returned to New York City to pursue a multi-pronged career, including performing with his Organic Quintet, working as a private instructor at the United Nations International School in Manhattan, gigs on and off Broadway, and playing in many small groups and big bands.

He’s just released his debut CD, titled “Walk the Walk,” on Shifting Paradigm Records.

Eric writes: “As a DMA student at UW-Madison, I was provided the opportunity to pursue the musical endeavors that I felt a personal connection to. Under the guidance of tremendous professors like Johannes Wallmann and John Aley, they taught me to focus my energy toward musical pursuits that were both professionally and artistically fulfilling. It’s with that spirit that I approached this debut recording. This album reflects the creative spirit and artistic integrity at UW. The compositions on “Walk the Walk” are deeply rooted in the musical process I was going through while completing my DMA. I am particularly proud that this album was recorded, mixed and mastered in Madison and Milwaukee. Without the support of my professors and colleagues at UW and Madison, I do not believe this recording would have been as successful. I hope my teachers, mentors and colleagues at UW-Madison enjoy this recording and that the university shares this album with incoming DMA students. “Walk the Walk” is an example of the type of creative thinking that the DMA program at the Mead Witter School of Music allows its candidates to pursue.”


April 7 Wind Ensemble concert to be livestreamed on YouTube

The UW Wind Ensemble. Photograph by Megan Aley.

Livestreaming in the Humanities building has always been a challenge, but new technology has made this a bit easier. So, on April 7, set your dials (a/k/a your browser URLs) to the School of Music’s YouTube page. There, you’ll find the UW Wind Ensemble with conductor Scott Teeple overseeing a concert of music by emeritus composer John Stevens, Francis Poulenc, Cindy McTee, Gustav Holst and Gerard Schwartz.  Livestream Link Here

Click now, and set a reminder for April 7!


Our Full Concert Calendar

calendar

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August. To receive the brochure, please send your postal address to newsletter editor..


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

Student Recitals – Alumni News – Steve Miller Jets In – Kudos for Recent Concerts – Hunt Quartet in Stoughton – EARS goes to the Science Festival

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music

University of Wisconsin-Madison
455 North Park Street, Madison Wisconsin 53706
http://www.music.wisc.edu/

Student Recitals November & December

Our calendar is brimming with free student recitals, and the public is always welcome. Just click our calendar link and type “recital” in the search box for November and December. Bottom: Poster for senior Eleni Katz’s bassoon recital with pianist Kangwoo Jin, Friday, November 3 at 6:30 PM in Morphy Hall.


Steve Miller jets into Mills Hall

Our recent “Careers in Music” session with rocker Steve Miller – who also guest conducted the UW Marching Band at the Homecoming game on October 21 – drew about 40 young engaged music students, a few old-timers, and a few young wannabe rock stars, too. Miller described his unique path to stardom – starting in his parents’ Milwaukee living room visiting with famed guitarist and family friend Les Paul – fielded questions about music streaming, and exhorted students to be independent and to own their own work.


Praise for performances

Recent productions of the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra, UW Strings with David Kim, University Opera’s “Kurt Weill” Cabaret, and the Pro Arte Quartet & Wingra Wind Quintet collaboration each garnered enthusiasm from local writers. Scroll down to read excerpts and click on full reviews.

New faculty conductor Chad Hutchinson makes an impressive and promising debut with the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra. “The ambitious program that Hutchinson put together says a lot about his priorities and instincts, and about his confidence in himself and the abilities of his student players, who performed superbly.”   Read the review in The Well-Tempered Ear, a classical music blog.

Hear the UW Symphony this Saturday, November 4, performing Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.

David Kim Bares His Heart and Soul (Musically and Otherwise). “The UW players exhibited tremendous alertness and shading of phrasing. Principal cellist James Waldo had numerous passages of delicate interplay with Kim, and particularly in the “Spring” concerto, first-chair first and second violinists Kaleigh Acord and Thalia Coombs respectively, also flourished in some brief spotlight moments.” We thank the UW-Madison Anonymous Fund for supporting Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim’s visit. Read the review in What Greg Says, a classical music blog.

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University Opera stages “compelling and engaging” production of Kurt Weill songs. “Throughout the evening I was unaware of the passage of time, which is one of my acid tests for a good performance. Likewise, I felt fully engaged.” Read the review on The Well-Tempered Ear.

Next up for University Opera, in February: Puccini’s La Bohème in the Memorial Union’s Shannon Hall.

Sarah Kendall in Le Train du Ciel from A KURT WEILL CABARET. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

The UW Pro Arte Quartet and Wingra Wind Quintet prove exceptional partners in a joint all-Schubert concert. They performed Schubert’s Octet with faculty bassist David Scholl.  Faculty flutist Timothy Hagen opened the program with variations for flute and piano, D. 802, on Schubert’s song, Trockne Blumen. Read the review on The Well-Tempered Ear.

Next Pro Arte Quartet concert: November 5, Noon, Chazen Museum.

See the Wingra Wind Quintet: November 5, 3 PM, Mills Hall.

Our Full Concert Calendar

calendar


Alumni News

J. Griffith Rollefson. Photograph by Kathleen Karn.

In alumni news, musicology PhD J. Griffith Rollefson saw his book, “Flip the Script,” published by the University of Chicago Press. He writes, “Hip hop is unique both in its directness and in the depth of its contradictions. We simultaneously laud hip hop as the ultimate politically conscious music and decry it as the most vapid commercial expression of materialism, sexism, homophobia, and violence. Something’s gotta give with this contradiction – and I think I offer some good, and potentially illuminating answers in the book.” Read our interview with Griff here.


Hunt Quartet to perform in Stoughton Opera House

The Hunt Quartet, UW-Madison’s graduate string quartet, performs nearly every week or more at area schools and venues. Next Monday, November 6,  see them at the Stoughton Opera House as part of their Music Appreciation Series. 3:00 PM.  The Hunt Quartet is funded by the School of Music and the Madison Symphony Orchestra as part of their “Up Close and Musical” outreach program.

The Hunt Quartet, 2017-2018. L-R: Kyle Price, cello.; Vinicius “Vinny” Sant’Ana, violin; Blakeley Menghini, viola; Chang-En Lu, violin. Photograph by Katrin Talbot.

Play a Theremin and a Moog Synthesizer at the Wisconsin Science Festival

Associate professor Daniel Grabois will make electro-magnetic waves this Friday from 6 to 8PM at the Discovery Building Atrium, 330 North Orchard Street, as part of the Wisconsin Science Festival. The new Electro-Acoustic Research Space, Room 2401, will also be open on Saturday, November 4 from 4PM to 5:30. Bring an instrument to play!

To read news coverage of the new EARS studio, check our Media page.

Below: Students experiment with a theremin at the inauguration of the EARS open house on September 15.


The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August. To receive the brochure, please send your postal address to newsletter editor..


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

A musical thank-you to the Mead Witter Foundation; Shain Woodwind-Piano Duo Winners Announced; New Music Premieres & Papers at Musicology Consortium: “Jewish Archive” Project Continues Worldwide

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.

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

Irving Shain, former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Photograph by Jeff Miller, university communications.

March 11, 4 PM, Morphy Hall.

This years’ duo winners are Rayna Slavova, piano with Chia-Yu Hsu, bassoon; and Kangwoo Jin, piano, with Eleni Katz, bassoon. The four will perform their winning selections at a free concert this Saturday.  Learn about the winning musicians and download the program.

Meet Yasha Hoffman, Russian Studies and composition double major

Yasha Hoffman.

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).

Teri Dobbs
Professor Teryl Dobbs. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

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.

Read about prior Performing the Jewish Archive events in Madison, 2015-2016.


Selected Upcoming Events

Anthony Georgeson. Photograph by Thomas Bruce.

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. 

James Smith, orchestra conductor.
James Smith, orchestra conductor.

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.

Emery Stephens

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 Loud will 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

Sound Out Loud

University Opera’s “Turn of the Screw” receives warm reviews

Katie Anderson (Governess) and Anna Polum (Miss Jessel) in ”The Turn of the Screw.” Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

“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.

Andrew Briggs

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.”

Morphy Hall, 6:30 PM. Free.


Our Full Concert Calendar

calendar

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


Brass Fest III popular with high school students, audience

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

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

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

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

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

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


New webpages on our site

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

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


Alumni News:

Christian Elser, William Wielgus


The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

University Opera presents Verdi’s Falstaff, re-envisioned in Hollywood, 1930

As part of the worldwide commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, University Opera will present Verdi’s final masterpiece, Falstaff. Based on material from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV, and Henry V, Falstaff is a wild, comic romp. In the UW-Madison production, updated to Hollywood in 1930, Falstaff is a has-been silent movie actor, out of work with the advent of the “talkies,” holding onto his former glory and living beyond his means at the Chateau Marmont. Now a petty criminal, Falstaff puts the make on Alice Ford and Meg Page in an effort to bilk their husbands of money. The ladies, incensed at his audacity, hatch a plot to give Falstaff his comeuppance. But not before Mr. Ford, (a movie studio executive in the UW production) acting on his own ill-founded suspicions, gets involved and complicates matters. At the end, all are reconciled as both men are taught their respective lessons.

falstaffad

Falstaff will be presented in Italian with English supertitles for three performances, November 11 at 7:30 pm, November 13 at 3:00 pm, and November 15 at 7:30 pm in Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus. Directed by David Ronis with James Smith conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra, the production will involve over 90 UW singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew. This production opens just one week after the national traveling exhibit of Shakespeare’s First Folio arrives at the Chazen Museum of Art.

Buy tickets here.

Following the success of the panel discussion before University Opera’s production of Transformations last spring, Ronis will again be assembling a panel of colleagues to discuss Falstaff on Friday, November 11 at 6:00pm in the Music Hall, admission free. Featured panelists include:

Joshua Calhoun, Assistant Professor of English, UW-Madison

Cabell Gathman, Lecturer, Dept. of Gender and Women’s Studies, UW-Madison

Steffen Silvis, Dramaturg and Doctoral Candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, UW-Madison

David Ronis, Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, UW-Madison

Susan Cook, Pamela O. Hamel/Music Board of Advisors Director of the Mead Witter School of Music, Moderator

Paul Rowe, Professor of Voice at UW-Madison, will sing the title role amidst a cast featuring current students and a couple of guest alums. The principal ladies’ roles will be filled by Yanzelmalee Rivera and Sarah Kendall (Alice Ford), Courtney Kayser and Talia Engstrom (Meg Page), Emily Weaver and Claire Powling (Nannetta), Rebecca Buechel and Jessica Kasinski (Quickly). The men in the cast will be alum Brian Schnieder and guest artist Richard Schonberg (Ford), José Muñiz (Fenton), Wesley Dunnagan (Dr. Caius), Jiabao Zhang (Bardolfo) and alum Benjamin Schultz (Pistola). Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor, with musical preparation by new professor of opera and vocal coaching, Dr. Daniel Fung, Chan Mi Jean, and chorus master, Christopher Boveroux.

The physical production will be designed by Greg Silver. Costume design is by Sydney Krieger, and Hyewon Park, lighting design by Kenneth Ferencek, props design by David Heuer, and the production stage manager will be Alec Brown. The production staff include Erin Bryan, operations manager for University Opera; Jimmy Dewhurst and Daniel Lewis, master electricians; and Ethan White, lighting board operator.

Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 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.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact opera@music.wisc.edu. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.

 

Christopher Taylor to Debut New Piano

From the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
September 13, 2016

In a marriage of the Baroque and the modern, celebrated UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor will debut his much-anticipated new electronic double-keyboard piano this October 28, performing J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.”

The “Variations” is an 80-minute work once dubbed a “Rubik’s Cube of invention and architecture” that Bach wrote for a double-keyboard harpsichord.

Not by coincidence, Taylor will play Bach’s “Rubik’s cube” on a brand-new piano that could be described in much the same way.

Named the “Hyperpiano” by Taylor, it is actually three instruments – two of them ordinary concert grands, the third a special double-keyboard console designed by Taylor – connected by a riot of sensors and wires, with a mechanism that feels nearly normal for the performer but offers sonic possibilities that are unique.

Click here to view images of the “Hyperpiano” in development at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery “fab lab”

Taylor developed the piano over several years in a laboratory at the Morgridge Institutes for Research, assisted by many faculty and technicians who trained him to machine new parts using computers and guided him as he designed 60-odd circuit boards that make the instrument run. In addition, Taylor wrote several thousand lines of computer code that manage sensing and communications. In 2014, Taylor received United States patent # 8,664,497 B2 for the “Hyperpiano.”

Taylor entering the "fab lab" at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.
Taylor entering the “fab lab” at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

His inspiration to develop it came from another unusual instrument that he inherited shortly after coming to UW-Madison in 2000, a double-keyboard piano made by Steinway in 1929.

Johann Sebastian Bach was known as a composer who welcomed new concepts in musical instruments. Accordingly, Taylor says, Bach designed the Goldberg Variations for the most deluxe instrument of his day, a double-keyboard harpsichord with a four-and-a-half octave range. Today, musicians often perform the work on a regular piano, but must generally “resort to tricks, compromises, fudging or outright studio chicanery to play all the notes as Bach wrote them,” as writer Tom Huizenga wrote in his blog, “Deceptive Cadence.”

The Hyperpiano will allow Taylor to overcome those obstacles. “I can recreate effects more like what Bach imagined, even while producing at the same time completely novel musical results,” Taylor says.

Taylor was a bronze medal winner in the 1993 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, at which he performed the Goldberg Variations, among other works, on a standard single-keyboard Steinway. He also holds a degree in mathematics from Harvard University.

The concert will take place on Friday, October 28, at 8 PM in Mills Hall, Humanities, 455 North Park Street. There will be one intermission.

Tickets for adults are $18; for students, $5. They may be purchased at Campus Arts Ticketing or in person at the Memorial Union Box Office.

Patrons are advised to arrive early. Seating is general admission.

Mills Hall seats 700, of which 100 seats will be reserved on a first-call basis for music students, staff and faculty.


Christopher Taylor’s “Hyperpiano” Creates New Musical Possibilities

By Michael Muckian

“I would never be content as a pianist to play the same half-dozen pieces the same way year in and year out,” Taylor explained. “In piano literature, we have a vast array of great compositions, but we are always questing for new variety.”

Christopher Taylor grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where his father taught physics at the University of Colorado and his mother was a high school English instructor. The family owned a piano and Taylor initially was taught to play by a neighbor down the street.

The casual lessons didn’t last long; by age 10, the young pianist was playing Beethoven. By high school he was composing music.

While music was his first love, Taylor also proved gifted in mathematics, a field that seemed to offer a more stable career path. The young pianist chose to follow that thread, graduating summa cum laude in mathematics from Harvard University in 1992.

During those same years, Taylor also studied piano under Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he began to attract the attention of the East Coast classical music community. In 1990, at the end of his sophomore year, Taylor won the University of Maryland’s William Kapell International Piano Competition, and later that same year made his performance debut in Alice Tully Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

However, Taylor’s watershed moment came in 1993 at the age of 23, when he earned a bronze medal at the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, for his performances of works by Beethoven, Boulez and Brahms, as well as Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” now a standard part of his repertoire. For the young mathematician-slash-pianist, the competition win sealed his fate.

Christopher Taylor performing in Mills Hall, Feb. 2015. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.
Christopher Taylor performing in Mills Hall, Feb. 2015. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

“I had sat on the fence between music and mathematics for many years, but the bronze medal made the decision for me,” Taylor said. But while his musical career had become ascendant, he kept up his math and computer studies. “I didn’t want to put the other parts of my brain on ice.”

The newly minted concert pianist, who would go on to earn critical accolades such as “frighteningly talented” (The New York Times) and “a great pianist” (The Los Angeles Times), knew that his mathematics training went far to inform and support his music.

Both disciplines draw on similar mental skill sets, Taylor explained, noting that hours of piano practice can provide the necessary rigor to solve a complex mathematical proof.

“Music performance is more visceral than math, but when I’m performing I am definitely using the logical part of my brain,” he added. “Mentally understanding a piece of music is essential to surviving a performance.”


Following the Van Cliburn competition win, Taylor became a touring musician. His new wife wanted to pursue her doctorate in musicology at the University of Michigan, so the couple moved to Ann Arbor while Taylor spent weeks on the road playing several dozen concerts per year across the U.S. and in Europe.

Life on the road proved strenuous for the young pianist, who became known for his intense, sweat-soaked, highly physical performances. Eventually, Taylor decided he might want to teach. When the University of Wisconsin offered Taylor a faculty position in 2000, his family moved to Madison.

At UW-Madison, Taylor came across a prototype that would prove the foundation for his new invention. And he can credit a little known Hungarian composer for the introduction.

Emánuel Moór, who during his life composed five operas, eight symphonies and other orchestral works, is best remembered today as the inventor of the Moór Pianoforte, a double-keyboard instrument that attempted to replicate the benefits of the harpsichord and organ in the piano format. It boasted a two-tiered keyboard, but space within the cabinet allowed for only 76 keys on the top tier instead of the usual 88. The layout of the 164 keys allowed one hand to stretch across a range of over two octaves at once, creating a richer and fuller sound.

Watch a video of Taylor describing his plan for a new piano.

Moór was a professional colleague of composer Maurice Ravel and cellist Pablo Casals, both of whom championed his work, including his pianoforte. Despite such celebrity support, many musicians considered Moór’s instrument more of a novelty and found it difficult, if not impossible, to play.

European manufacturers produced about 60 pianofortes during the 1920s, including one made in 1929 in Hamburg, Germany, by Steinway. Until very recently, that particular instrument occupied a corner of Taylor’s cramped office in the Mosse Humanities Building.

The Moór pianoforte found its way to UW-Madison after Danish pianist Gunnar Johansen became the university’s artist in residence in 1939. Enthralled with the strange instrument, Johansen lobbied university donors until they broke down and bought it for him on the condition that its ownership revert to the university upon the pianist’s death.

By the time Johansen died in 1991, interest in the pianoforte had waned. It lay in storage for 14 years until Taylor rediscovered it in 2005. He performed on the pianoforte in dozens of concerts across the country, eventually getting a feel for the instrument and gaining notoriety for his performances. In 2007, the New York Times interviewed Taylor and created a video about the piano. In 2010, while he was in Washington, D.C. for a performance, the Kennedy Center created its own version.

“It’s clever as a musical contrivance, but it’s a little unwieldy and feels strange under your fingers,” Taylor said, noting that corresponding keys on both keyboards end up striking the same string. “You have to work very hard to play the keys because of the Rube Goldberg mechanism that connects them with the hammers.”

Around 2009, having studied the levers, rods, and platforms lurking inside the Moór piano, Taylor decided there might be a better way, a way that would take advantage of 21st-century technology. He began to draw up blueprints, discussed his ideas with a number of experts, and eventually received a grant from the UW Arts Institute to pursue them further. In early 2012 he approached George Petry, a prototyping manager at the Morgridge Institute for Research, to talk about his idea, an idea that much later would be named the “Hyperpiano.” Petry thought Taylor was nuts.

“I thought Chris was crazy because I knew this was going to be so much work,” Petry said. “I have a lot of students coming in who have never built anything before who say they want to build a space shuttle. I thought this was Chris’s space shuttle.”

But Petry gave Taylor the benefit of the doubt, and also a corner in the Morgridge Institute’s Advanced Fabrication Laboratory – better known as the “fab lab” — inside the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery building on University Avenue, a home where engineers and inventors collaborate to build prototypes of their ideas. And Petry started to teach Taylor how to use all the computer-operated machines.

Another important teacher was Giri Venkataramanan, a professor in the UW-Madison Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who served as a high-level consultant to the project. “His motivation was sky-high and it sounded like he knew what he was doing,” Venkataramanan said.


At first blush, the Hyperpiano’s double-keyboard console – what Taylor calls the “input device” – looks like a contemporary upright piano that is thicker in girth than normal. It features a two-tiered keyboard with 176 keys total along with five pedals. Hidden inside the cabinet, behind the keys, are two sets of standard mass-produced piano hammers.

But that is where similarities to a regular piano end. There are no strings for these hammers to strike, and Taylor admits that their only function is to mimic the feel of playing a normal single-keyboard piano. In fact, in the absence of strings Taylor had to create special foam bars for the hammers to strike, designed to replicate an ordinary instrument’s behavior but create as little “banging” noise as possible.

“Even building a conventional piano that works is a very difficult process in itself,” says Robert Hohf, a professional piano technician who aided Taylor. “The keyboard orientation and the alignment of parts is unbelievably complicated.”

And with the Hyperpiano, the complications only increased.

Designing an instrument that contains twice the normal number of keys and twice as many hammers, aligning everything inside a single wooden frame, took a massive amount of re-engineering, Taylor says. Each of the 176 keys in the Hyperpiano has a unique shape that had to be specially carved by a router, which got its directions from multiple computer programs written by Taylor.

To actually make music, the double-keyboard console contains electronic sensors that read the movement of the keys during each stroke, then send coded electronic impulses via wires to two player-piano mechanisms called “Vorsetzers.” (First developed in the early twentieth century, Vorsetzers were mechanical key-pressing contraptions that could be attached to the keyboards of ordinary pianos.) The Vorsetzers are affixed to any pair of pianos one has handy, which, in theory, could be some distance away. Thus the motions of the pianist’s fingers on one part of the stage are transmitted instantaneously to produce music emanating from two other parts of the stage.


Taylor plays Prokofiev

Timing everything so that the music would sound like music—not a jangle of disparate noises – was another hurdle Taylor had to surmount. Taylor’s new technology solves that problem: it senses a fraction of a millimeter of motion as soon as a key is pressed. The sensors immediately send the data to the Vorsetzers, which move the corresponding key the same amount at exactly the same time.

“It involved a lot of software jujitsu to make this happen,” he said. But in the end, “everything is choreographed to deliver the final notes in real time,” he explained.


The Hyperpiano could afford some novel performance opportunities, says Taylor: “For starters, it will be capable of everything the Moór piano can produce: far-flung chords beyond the grasp of ordinary human hands on ordinary pianos, intricate counterpoint where the hands mingle in the same register (effects that would cause impossible traffic jams on a single keyboard), and, with the aid of an extra fourth pedal, sonorities reinforced by extra tones one octave higher than the keys the pianist is actually pressing.

“But it will offer customized behaviors beyond these,” he continues. “The ability to reinforce the pianist’s keypresses with any number of additional notes, so that the motion of a single finger produces an elaborate harmony; novel hybrid sonorities obtained by combining different pedaling patterns on the two subsidiary pianos; repeated notes faster than what ordinary pianos permit; and the interesting spatial effects that will result when the two subsidiary pianos get rolled to different parts of the stage.”

Taylor is eager to produce new arrangements and compositions that take advantage of these musical novelties. “I’m in discussions with a number of composers about the possibility of their contributing to a new chapter in the piano literature,” he says.

With the end of the project in sight, the pianist says he’s pleased with the outcome of his years of work, even as he adjusts to new variations in sound and performance.

“I’m delighted to find that the final product is matching my initial vision pretty closely,” Taylor says. “There is still some tweaking that needs to take place — software refinements mostly — in order to ensure that as a pianist I have the level of musical control that I need. This work may prove challenging, but as in the past I am very determined to overcome the remaining obstacles.”

Venkataramanan agrees and also is thinking ahead to the piano’s next iteration.

Scientists, unfortunately, are never satisfied.

“As a problem-solving exercise, this has been pretty impressive,” the engineering professor says. “But he still runs wires between his keyboards. The next phase would be to do this on a wireless basis and using Cloud technology.”

 

Mr. Taylor is eager to acknowledge the invaluable help he received from a large number of collaborators over the past five years. Apart from piano technician Robert Hohf, machinist George Petry, and EE Professor Giri Venkataramanan, these individuals include: Rock Mackie and Kevin Eliceiri, the former and current directors of the Morgridge Institute for Research, who were amazingly welcoming hosts during his four-plus years in the Fab Lab; UW-Madison piano technician Baoli Liu; Justin Anderson at WARF and Callie Bell of Bell Manning LLC, who shepherded the patent application process; Kevin Earley, who built the wooden housing for the input console; Convenience Electronics of Madison (in particular Betsy Vanden Wymelenberg), who custom assembled the instrument’s many wires and cables; Calvin Cherry, Nate Hess, Brian Urso, and Ryan Solberg, whom Taylor employed to solder together circuit boards and who contributed greatly to his EE education; UW-Madison’s Bill Sethares, along with Terence O’Laughlin and Alberto Rodriguez of Madison College, who put Taylor in contact with the aforementioned companies and employees; and the UW Arts Institute, former chancellor John Wiley, and Paul Collins, who provided moral as well as financial support.

 

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


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