The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Madison citizens and University of Wisconsin students link political activism and arts activism at Capitol protests | March 7, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

It should come as no surprise, I suppose, to learn that political activism and arts activism go hand in hand at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

If you doubt it, just recall the three weeks that the mass and massive protests at the state Capitol over Gov. Scott Walker’s so-called “Budget Repair Bill”  — the Kill Public Unions Bill —  have stayed in the headlines around the state, the nation and the world.

Then read this e-mail sent to me by a terrific performer and a great friend of this blog, pianist Jonathan Kuuskoski, who is one of the co-founders of the UW graduate student group NEW MUSE (below) , which stands for New Music Everywhere, and who is also an adjunct faculty member at Edgewood College in Madison:

Hi all-

Just wanted to share this video for one of the largest flash mobs in Wisconsin history, a performance of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from “Les Miserables” (which is celebrating its 25th anniversary) during the 13th day of protests at the Capitol!

The conductor is Jerry Hui, the co-director of New Music Everywhere (seen below on left, with me in the center and pianist Paolo Savvidou on the right). It was coordinated by Sarah Marty, of Forward Theater and Four Seasons Theatre, and involved hundreds of singers and instrumentalists.

Share with friends, post it on your Facebook walls, and spread the word!

By the way, this took place a few hours before the police were going to vacate the rotunda, but due to the huge numbers still in place, they let people stay



Reactions, anyone?

Encouragement? Should they do it again?


Praise or criticism?

Suggestions for appropriate classical works, which they usually perform. to match the protests and occasion?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music


  1. I’m in awe of the thousands of citizens who took the time, effort and expense to demonstrate against Gov. Walker’s “budget repair bill.” Walker is a college dropout who is trying to become the poster boy of union busting and it has clearly been a tactical error of immense proportions on his part.

    As Rachel Maddow explained recently on her TV news show, it had nothing to do with any budget, but was simply a mistaken effort to further the corportocracy released by the recent Supreme Court decision to permit any commercial enterprise to buy the U.S. government. The musicians who appeared at the Capitol demonstrations are to be commended for being naive enough to think it’s a good thing to have an American middle class.


    Comment by Larry Retzack — March 8, 2011 @ 10:53 pm

    • Hi Larry,
      Once again, you hit the nail on the head.
      I couldn’t agree more.
      It’s not about text but sub-text.
      Rob the p[ay and give to business.
      I just hope the Democrats wise up and start fighting tough. Maybe the 14 senators will help give the Dems some backbone.
      Some populist backbone.
      They have to start telling truth to power.
      And to the powerless.


      Comment by welltemperedear — March 9, 2011 @ 10:02 am

  2. Thanks for this, Jake–
    I forwarded the post to my sister Sue (whom you will of course remember). As a public school teacher, she needs all the encouragement she can find right now. She wrote back to thank me and said she’d passed it along to others.


    Comment by Ed Haertel — March 7, 2011 @ 10:43 pm

    • Hi Ed,
      Thank YOU for reading and replying.
      And please thank your sister Sue, whom, I do of course remember, for passing it along.
      It will help not only the blog, but also the cause.
      It is indeed a discouraging time right now for all sorts of public workers. I am glad I can help in this small way.


      Comment by welltemperedear — March 8, 2011 @ 8:12 am

  3. I wondered who organized this – thanks for sharing. It was thrilling! So now they’ve ruled that no musical instruments can be taken into the Capitol. Too subversive, I guess.


    Comment by Katleen McElroy — March 7, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

    • Hi Kathy,
      Too subversive, indeed. That’s the purpose of art.
      Remember the philosopher Herbert Marcuse, the teacher of Angela Davis, who argued that the etymological root of aesthetic has to do with sensual.
      And the sensual always subverts conservative, right wing values.
      As in so-called “family values.”
      Hope all is well.
      I wish David weren’t retired and in the thick of national exposure and coverage.
      Thanks for reading and replying.
      Best to you both in solidarity,


      Comment by welltemperedear — March 7, 2011 @ 7:25 pm

  4. What a wonderful and appropriate thing to do. Just watched the 25th anniversary celebration on Public Television and thought about Madison and then to find this today. Just perfect.
    Keep up the fight, it’s very important.
    Karen Taranto, Fair Oaks, California


    Comment by Karen Taranto — March 7, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

    • Hi Karen,
      Thanks for reading and replying with encouragement.
      I too watched the TV anniversary show and thought of what is going on here and of the flash mob.
      I’m sure the governor is singing “Bring Them Home.”
      Yours in solidarity,


      Comment by welltemperedear — March 7, 2011 @ 7:27 pm

  5. Jake: I was pleased to read about the involvement of “musicians doing music” in the current political activities in Madison. Of course, music has been used for millenia to raise and sustain the spirits of warriors of all sorts. And to transform the oppressed masses into warriors!

    I recently wrote to Bill McGlaughlin of “Exploring Music” to ask him to explore the music of Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. He has written popular and “classical” pieces related to the struggle by the people, against the government, for freedom in Greece. I find that music very moving. Any insight that folks can share about his music would be most appreciated. Stay Strong! ~ Fred


    Comment by Fred Meyer — March 7, 2011 @ 10:05 am

    • HI Fred,
      As always, thanks for being there, for reading and replying thoughtfully.
      I speak as a 1960s activist — yes, The Eat was teargassed several times on State Street — when I say these kinds of acts give me hope in hard times.
      Let’s see what others say while we spread the word.
      Yours in solidarity,


      Comment by welltemperedear — March 7, 2011 @ 10:13 am

  6. This Les Mis Flash Mob was absolutely wonderful. I do wish they would do it again, inside if that is ever possible, or even outside. It is terrific support to those of us protesting. Please thank the group for doing this.


    Comment by Karen Paulson — March 7, 2011 @ 8:58 am

    • Hi Karen,
      I am sure the organizers of the flash mob will read your comment.
      Perhaps they will plan another and let me know some detail or give me a confirmation.
      Maybe they will even choose some other music, including classical.
      Stay tuned.
      And thanks for reading and replying.
      Best regards,


      Comment by welltemperedear — March 7, 2011 @ 9:00 am

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