The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: How do two scientists became award-winning supporters and funders of music education? Meet the Inhorns of Madison.

January 30, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

In December, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras made Stanley and Shirley Inhorn Lifetime Trustees – an honor bestowed on very few people – in recognition of their 40 years of service to WYSO.

Several other things make the award especially timely and newsworthy.

One is that WYSO will hold an open rehearsal this Saturday in Mills Hall starting at 10 a.m. Music students, families, and teachers are invited to come and see what WYSO has to offer. 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.  For reservations, call Nicole Sparacino at 608-263-3320 ext. 11. 


Then at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10, members of WYSO’s Youth Orchestra, along with the Madison Youth Choirs and other groups and individuals, will perform Wisconsin and Madison premieres of the Holocaust-based oratorio “To Be Certain of the Dawn” by St. Paul composer Stephen Paulus in Overture Hall at the Overture Center. (Tickets are $15 for adults, $7 for students.)

 For information about both events, reservations or tickets, call 608 258-4141 or visit:

In addition, just last week WYSO announced this year’s winners of the Marvin Rabin Awards, named for the man who founded WYSO in 1966. The Madison Ballet’s W. Earle Smith won the award for Artistic Achievement Award by an Individual and the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Education and Community Engagement program won the award for Artistic Achievement by an Organization.

For more details, visit:

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 will tour to Prague, Vienna and Budapest in July 2012; and has toured to Canada, Japan, Scotland, Spain, France, Colorado, Iowa and Washington, D.C., in the past.

As they usually do, Stanley and Shirley Inhorn collaborated on answering questions about the involvement with music education and WYSO for The Ear:

Can you give short capsule biographies with the highlights of your personal and professional lives?

Both Shirley and Stan came to Madison in 1953.  A graduate of the University of Iowa, Shirley pursued graduate study in Physiological Chemistry.  Stan, a graduate of Western Reserve University and Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons came to do an internship and residency in pathology at Wisconsin General Hospital (now University Hospitals).

After they married in 1954, Stan was called to the Navy as a shipboard medical officer. When his ship was decommissioned, instead of going to Japan Shirley discontinued her graduate training and joined him in San Diego.

Upon returning to Madison, Stan completed his residency and joined the faculty of the UW, where he became a professor of pathology and preventive medicine and also director of the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene.

What is your reaction to the WYSO honor of being made Lifetime Trustees?

To say that we were surprised is an understatement.  At the beginning of the January board meeting, WYSO President Charlotte Woods made the announcement and presented us with a beautifully inscribed Waterford plate recognizing our 40 years of service.

Our involvement with WYSO for these many years reflects our recognition of the vital role that WYSO plays in sustaining classical music for talented youth in south-central Wisconsin.

What are the various music groups you work with and what do you work with them.

Shirley and Stan have both been involved with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Stan played violin in the MSO in the 1960s and 1970s under the baton of Roland Johnson (below). He later joined the MSO Board and has chaired its marketing and education committees.

Shirley was invited to membership in the Women’s Committee of the MSO, predecessor of the MSO League, and served in numerous roles including editorship of the newsletter and directory, membership recruitment, and education. One of her favorite tasks has been to serve as a docent in the public schools to prepare young students for attendance at the MSO youth concerts (below).

We have been major donors to WYSO, MSO and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. We also currently serve on the Committee for the Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) centennial celebration. Our focus on classical music stems from recognition that current entertainment outlets neglect this important art form. By our example, we hope to energize others to support classical music performance and education.

How and why did you get involved in working with music groups? What kind of role has music played in your lives and careers?

Shirley is a pianist who also played the marimba in high school and college ensembles.  it is not surprising, therefore, that our three children received piano lessons. Stan had played in a string quartet in college, and he transferred his love of this art form to his children.

Our eldest, Lowell, chose to play the violin in grade school and our daughter, Marcia, chose the cello. We encouraged our youngest, Roger, to play the viola. Thus the Inhorn quartet was formed. Shirley was their accompanist when they went to competitions on their individual instruments. It is satisfying to know that Lowell and his wife, along with their two children have formed their own string quartet.

Music has played a major role in our lives.  We have performed as amateur musicians throughout the years.  Music has been significant in our volunteer efforts, our charitable contributions, our leisure activities and in our friendships.

What makes your work with WYSO so important and different from the other commitments?

WYSO affords an opportunity to interact with students, their parents, school and private music teachers, wonderful musicians who serve as conductors and coaches for WYSO, board members, and the public who support the organization.

In its early days, WYSO operated with a very small staff, necessitating substantial volunteer involvement. We firmly belief that the WYSO experience develops qualities of dedication and discipline that will serve the students throughout their lives.

We are always pleased when WYSO members go on to careers as professional musicians. But we also know that the WYSO experience is formative for those who go into other careers, as was the case for our three children.

In addition, we are confident that WYSO is helping to build future audiences for symphonic music.  Lastly, WYSO is an important advocate for the school music programs that are threatened as schools face fiscal crises.

What do you want other people to know about doing such work with community and arts groups?

Our philosophy regarding volunteer activity is to first determine the organizations that meet your primary interests and afford you greatest satisfaction.  Direct your efforts to those that provide the most fulfillment, and stay the course for the duration. Recognize that in every organization there will be issues with which you disagree.  It is important, however, to seek solutions rather than abandoning the ship.

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