The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical Music: Award-winning conductor and music educator Tom Buchhauser of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras will retire at the end of this season. | September 21, 2012

ALERT: University of  Wisconsin-Madison trombone professor Mark Hetzler (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) will perform a FREE concert on the Faculty Concert Series this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. He will be joined by pianist Vincent Fuh, bassist Nick Moran and percussionist Todd Hammes for an evening of progressive rock, jazz and electro-acoustic modern classical music. The program will feature works by Nels Cline, Mark Engebretson, Madison composer John Stevens, Henry Cowell and the Dub Trio.

By Jacob Stockinger

For the past 30 years, cellist-conductor Thomas Buchhauser has served as an exemplary music educator for thousands of students who have played in the ranks of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

But at the end of the 2012-2013 season, Buchhauser will retire and bring to a close his career as WYSO’s associate music director.

In addition to his 30 seasons conducting WYSO’s Philharmonia Orchestra, Buchhauser taught at Madison Memorial High School and Jefferson Middle School from 1966-1999; played cello for Madison Symphony Orchestra for nearly 20 years; served on the faculty of the National String Workshop for 10 years; and directed ensembles for the University of Wisconsin School of Music Pre-College Institute, the Madison Community Orchestra and the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Steenbock Young Artist Concerto Concerts. 

Buchhauser (below, conducting the WYSO Philharmonia Orchestra in a photo by Cheng-Wei-Wu) has received numerous awards for his excellence in teaching, including the Wisconsin Music Educators Conference Distinguished Service Award (1983), the National School Orchestra Association Director of the Year Award (1993), the American String Teachers Association Outstanding Service Award (1993), the Rabin Youth Arts Award (2001), and has scholarships named in his honor by the WSMA Honors Project, WYSO, and Madison Memorial High School.  In 1999, Madison Metropolitan School District named the Memorial High School auditorium the “Thomas E. Buchhauser Auditorium.”

According to a statement from WYSO, Buchhauser’s masterful conducting along with his kindness and wit have endeared him to multiple generations of students who have taken his lessons to heart. WYSO founder Marvin Rabin (below, a reception when he won a lifetime achievement award last year from the Wisconsin School Music Association) confirmed this legacy, stating, “Tom’s presence has made a positive and striking difference in the lives of so many music students and teachers. We are very fortunate and grateful that Thomas Buchhauser has contributed so profoundly to our community.”

Upon announcing his decision to retire, Buchhauser told WYSO: “I have had many teachers and experiences that have shaped my life as a musician, teacher and conductor but none so profound as Marvin Rabin’s coming to Madison in 1966 to start WYSO and David Nelson asking me to be Associate Music Director of WYSO in 1983. It has been an honor to be part of such a great organization and I will be forever grateful to WYSO for all that it has given to me.”

Here is a sample of Tom Buchhauser at work — you can find others on YouTube— conducting a 2011 performance by WYSO’s Philharmonia Orchestra of “Greensleeves”:


  1. I am 62 and remember Thomas Buchhauser teaching at Memorial. We all loved him very much as a music conductor and as a human being. I loved being in the pit orchestra for our school Musicals. I also played violin in the orchestra. I graduated in 1978.


    Comment by Dianne Hess — November 12, 2022 @ 2:50 am

  2. Tom has been a tremendous advocate for young musicians and a WYSO treasure for so many years. Saturday mornings won’t be the same!


    Comment by Bridget Fraser — September 21, 2012 @ 11:29 am

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