The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras announce 2010 Rabin Youth Arts awards

February 20, 2010
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is some news, via an edited press release:

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) Board of Directors has announced the 2010 Rabin Youth Arts Awards recipients.

Michael George (below), who currently serves as Executive Director of the Wisconsin School Music Association, has been designated the winner for artistic achievement, and the Madison Jazz Society is this year’s winner for philanthropic support.

Two special recognition certificates will also be presented this year.  They will be received by Dr. Gary Lukes, an optometrist from Spring Valley, Wis., and Barbara Schrank, a music education advocate from Madison, Wis.

The awards will be presented by Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton at Arts Wisconsin’s Arts Day, March 3, 2010 at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison. (Below is a picture of last year’s winner Dr. Dayle Quigley (center)  WYSO founder Marvin Rabin (left) and  Wisconsin First Lady Jessica Doyle (right).)

A large, statewide group of nominators submitted numerous deserving individuals and organizations, representing all arts mediums.

Michael George (below) has influenced music education on both the state and national levels.  Currently serving as Executive Director of Wisconsin School Music Association, Wisconsin Music Educators Association and the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music, George began his career as an instrumental music educator in Dodgeville.  Over the past 50 years, his career has also included positions with the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and as Fine Arts Coordinator for Madison Metropolitan School District.

During his leadership of WMSA and WMEA, Mike has been instrumental in the creation of numerous programs benefiting music teachers and students across the entire state and also in the creation of the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music.

George continues to work passionately and tirelessly to serve the cause of music education.  He has a thoughtful manner that garners the respect of teachers, administrators, legislators and politicians.  His creativity is endless and his dedication to arts education like no other.  The impact he has made on arts education in Wisconsin has placed the state at the forefront of educational models and highly regarded by peers.

The Madison Jazz Society (MJS) was formed in 1984 to provide a common meeting ground for all persons interested in jazz;  musician, listener, collector.  MJS endeavors to preserve, encourage and stimulate interest in jazz music; to foster and advertise creators of jazz music; and to exchange helpful information which may be instructive or entertaining to members. MJS is an all volunteer organization which relies solely on donations from its members and other supporters.

Over 25 years, MJS has awarded nearly $70,000 in grants to schools all over the state of Wisconsin.  They have provided funding for more than 35 schools across the state of Wisconsin to assist with the purchase of music and equipment, sponsor national level clinicians, enable participation in jazz festivals, and support statewide and national travel.  MJS has also awarded over $15,000 in additional scholarship funds to high school students entering college to study music with an emphasis on jazz and for high schools students to attend summer jazz music camps.

Dr. Gary Lukes has influenced numerous children through his founding of the Spring Valley Stagehands Theatre program in Spring Valley, Wisconsin.  His gentle teaching and wonderful work ethic has shaped children, turning them into people who are more confident with themselves and encouraging of others.

Located in a small valley with a population less than 1,000,  Lukes started the program in 2004 with the musical “Pippin.”  He spent hours in the theater designing, building and painting sets and updating sound and light equipment.  When it came time to cast and teach the roles, Lukes seemed to perform miracles with inexperienced young actors.  Indeed, he changed their lives forever.  The success of the show was so broad, the community begged him to continue the program with different musicals.  The children who participate are growing into confident adolescents with a passion for theatre arts and the people involved in them.  Dr. Lukes’ efforts have touched and enriched the entire community. 

Barbara Shrank is recognized for her advocacy work in string music education in the Madison Metropolitan School District. She has worked tirelessly to preserve music education opportunities as the school district has faced significant budget cuts and thus decreases to the string music course offerings.

Her strong belief in the importance of music education for all, particularly those who are not financially able to pursue it outside the school setting, has led her to lobby the MMSD school board to protect and support the educational rights of all children.

In 2002, when the demise of the fourth-grade strings program (see below) seemed imminent, Schrank helped in collecting and analyzing research and historical data about elementary strings, music education and the district’s budget and financial decision making.

Schrank’s strategic emphasis has been community-based.  She works diligently to get information out to the community and encourages local citizens to communicate with the school board, voicing the desires of the community regarding educational value.  Her leadership, dedication of vast amounts of time, and her tireless, committed efforts have led to more support for music education and preservation of music courses. 

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, located in Madison, Wisconsin, presents the Rabin Youth Arts Awards in honor of their founding conductor, Dr. Marvin Rabin, as a means to honor those who follow in his footsteps.  The awards are a forum for promoting quality youth arts programs and honoring those who work diligently to provide arts opportunities for children throughout Wisconsin.  They also serve as a means to elevate awareness in our community about the importance of arts education for all children.

Now celebrating its 43rd season, WYSO membership has included more than 5,000 young musicians from more than 100 communities in southern Wisconsin.  WYSO, currently under the artistic direction of James Smith, includes three full orchestras, a string orchestra, a chamber music program, a percussion ensemble, a harp ensemble and a brass choir program.

For more information, visit

All four recipients sound like extremely worthy recipients, and The Ear sends out best wishes and congratulations to all four and to WYSO for their wisdom in making such choices. They represent model citizens in their support of music and the arts for young people and local communities.

Do any readers have comments to leave in the way of information or good wishes and congratulations to the award recipients?

Posted in Classical music

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