The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Young people need more music education. WYSO’s Fall Open Rehearsal for students, parents and teachers is this Saturday

October 21, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear, as loyal readers know, is a big fan of music education and arts education in general for young people.

Hence today’s focus in today’s post.

This Saturday, Oct. 23, music students, families and teachers are invited to come and see what Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO, below) has to offer at the Fall Open Rehearsal.

The event will begin at 10 a.m. with a meet and greet featuring breakfast snacks in the Strelow Lounge of the UW’s Mosse Humanities Building. Guests will be able to talk with WYSO staff and parents of current members, and will get a chance to tour WYSO’s four orchestras in rehearsal.

After the tour, guests will have an opportunity to speak with current WYSO members in a Q&A session. All instrumentalists are welcome and students who play viola, bassoon, low brass, horn, and oboe are especially encouraged to attend.

Since 1966, WYSO has been providing excellence in musical opportunities for more than 5,000 young people in southern Wisconsin. WYSO includes three full orchestras and a string orchestra, a chamber music program, a harp program, a percussion ensemble, and a brass choir program.

The orchestras rehearse on Saturday mornings during the academic year, perform three to four public concerts per season, and tour regionally, nationally and internationally. The Youth Orchestra toured to Eastern Europe in 2005 and has toured to Canada, Japan, Scotland, Spain, France, Colorado, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. in the past.

UW Humanities Building, is located at 455 N. Park Street, Madison. Contact Nicole Sparacino, WYSO Communications Manager at 608-263-3320 x 11 for more information or to RSVP (though that is not required).

Bridget Fraser (below), the new director of WYSO of as last month, recently agreed to an e-mail interview with The Ear. Here it is:

How does the current crisis in art education in the schools affect the mission and practicalities of WYSO?

WYSO must brainstorm ways to take a leadership role and work with schools to partner in bringing music education opportunities to students. The dwindling opportunities for music education in schools are a crisis that is probably not going away anytime soon. As WYSO considers how it can serve the young musicians of our region as well as bolster participation in its own programs, consideration of this critical issue will be a focus.

Why is music education important for middle school and high school students? What does it accomplish?

It’s not just important for middle and high school students. It’s important for all ages! And the answer is really very simple — success in school, in society and in life. The arts are essential for children to develop 21st century skills to become innovative, creative and successful global citizens.

What is the state of WYSO at the beginning of this season? How many students do you have? How are the finances? And how is the staffing?

WYSO is currently in a very stable position. There are 330 students enrolled in the program. We ended last fiscal year with an unexpected surplus as a result of the departure of two administrative staff members and careful management of expenses, giving us a cushion of funds to allocate to important projects.

The board is exploring various ideas for allocation of the surplus including increasing the operating reserves, establishing an instrument replacement fund, bolstering scholarships and revisiting our touring program.

WYSO has been very fortunate to have the passion and commitment of both Joe Bernstein as Operations Manager and Nicole Sparacino as Communications Manager to see them through the transition to a new Executive Director. I am very impressed with their knowledge and professionalism. They are skilled at what they do and are anxious to add to their knowledge base. And of course our artistic staff, among the finest in the country, is doing wonderful work with the students.

Why did you want and take the job of executive director of WYSO?

When I saw the posting for the position on the League’s website I was immediately intrigued with the possibility of making a career change. I loved my work with the Mendelssohn Center in Rockford, but it was time for a change.

I love orchestral music and I am passionate about music education. After meeting with the search committee it was clear that my skills and their vision would be well aligned. I am feeling very good about my decision!

What programs do you like most in WYSO and what do you plan to do to expand or develop them in the future?

I think it will take a full year to “live through” each WYSO program before I can intelligently recommend any changes or developments.

Are there new things or changes you intend to make?

Well, it is early days but I have started the process of working with the Board to begin a strategic planning process. Out of the strategic planning process will come innovative ideas to carry the organization forward.

What is the hardest challenge facing WYSO right now?

The two hardest challenges that many youth orchestras face are recruitment and fund development. We are fortunate to have a great group of parent volunteers that work very hard on both of these issues.

I am looking forward to meeting with my Youth Orchestra colleagues at the League of American Orchestras Youth Orchestra Division meeting in Milwaukee, where we will share challenges and brainstorm possible solutions to these challenges.

Posted in Classical music

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