The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: On Friday, June 21, the Summer Solstice, Madison will be filled with outdoors music by the first Make Music Madison citywide festival. But so far, no acoustic piano is available for pianists and more classical musicians of all kinds are needed to sign up by the deadline of May 15. | May 6, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

I can’t help it. The image of Jack Nicholson playing Chopin’s Fantasy in F Minor on the back of a truck during a massive freeway traffic jam in the film classic “Five Easy Pieces” keeps coming to mind. (The image is below.)

Five Easy Pieces

That is because the first Make Music Madison citywide festival be wide held on Friday, June 21, the summer solstice. It will mainly take place between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., although events are scheduled all day long. The city has chipped in $25,000 to make it happen. Public and private donations are also being sought.

Here is a link to the event’s main website with a list of venues and participants

Make Music Madison logo square

So far, according to organizers, the public response has been very good. And as one might expect, the offerings are heavy on rock, pop, hip-hop, folk, blues, roots and other kinds of music. All told so far some 125 musicians have signed up to create a continuous outdoor Wall of Sound as you wander around the city.

Here is a link to the festival’s main website with a list of the venues and music-makers signed up so far:

But curiously, what bothers The Ear is that no acoustic piano has yet been secured, and neither has a venue for acoustic piano playing, including classical music.

piano keys

One of the problems is that technically, everyone is suppose do play outdoors -– with the apparent exceptions of hospitals and airports. And that is a problem for heavy pianos, which also need tuning and regulating from a technicians. Can any piano technician volunteer to help out? (Below is a photo of live music at the Saturday morning west side Farmers Market.)

Farmers Market music

What about churches as piano venues? The Ear asks, like the Pres House (below) right off Library Mall where Wisconsin Public Radio used to hold the annual Bach Around the clock to celebrate J.S. Bach’s birthday?

BATC 3 Denise Taylor and Ellie Taylor violin

Or maybe they could use a UW concert hall, like Morphy Recital Hall (below) or the Mosse Humanities Building? Or the auditoriums at Capitol Lakes Retirement Center downtown or Oakwood Village West on the city’s far west side? Or even Old Music Hall at the foot of Bascom Hill?

Morphy Hall 2

Maybe one of the local piano stores could team up with a trucking store and provide the Jack Nicholson solution for Madison.

This much seems certain: It is odd for a music festival to leave out perhaps the most popular and populist instrument –- after voice — that so many young people and adults study, one that has such a huge repertoire and so many amateur and professional players devoted to it.  (See the YouTube video at the bottom of two men playing the piano outdoors in New York City.)

And if you have an idea about solving what I am calling The Piano Dilemma, including the possibility of you yourself singing up to play the piano, please contact the festival at the link above by the deadline of Wednesday, May 15.

Adds Michael Rothschild, a retired business school professor who is heading up the venture: “At this moment we don’t have any acoustic pianos, although we have been in discussions with someone re: the possibility of getting some. It’s pretty iffy right now, but on our list. Classical music certainly is welcome.  We seek all genres of music and all skill levels.”

Of course, you can also leave word or suggestions in the COMMENTS section of this blog for the organizers and other participants or venue owners of Make Music Madison to see.


  1. A few thoughts in response to several others from above:

    We welcome all genres of music. This certainly includes classical. If there don’t seem to be enough classical performers, it’s not because we rejected anyone, but, rather, because people haven’t signed up.

    We’d be happy to have the digital piano and pianists. Go to, sign up and then look through the list of venues. There’s lots of space still available, but sign up by May 15.

    We are outdoors because this is how the event has evolved around the world in over 450 communities. People should find us as they go through their daily lives without needing to go to an indoor space; lots of the day will offer music as people stumble through their normal routines. We are celebrating the summer solstice.

    Each venue has noted if they are able to accommodate artists in case of rain. Our exceptions to the outdoor rule cover rain, the airport (security), and places with differently-able listeners.

    We are working on creating parallel publicity for many of the indoor venues in the city. Clubs, bars, concert halls, but our focus is outdoors. I don’t know if this will happen.

    Finally, we now have four pianos that will be available in an open mike format. They will be at four fire stations; we’re still working on finding the ones with the most natural foot traffic. I’ll notify Jake as soon as this is set.

    Hope that all readers will join us either as performers or as audience.

    Michael Rothschild
    Organizer, Make Music Madison.

    Comment by Michael Rothschild — May 12, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

  2. Michael BB I hope you register as a site someplace and let people sign up to play your electronic piano. Maybe you should email the organizers to ask about where you could station it that you would have access to electricity.

    Also wanted to let you all know that Grant Billings of Billings Piano Gallery is willing to move four of the pianos he has to public spaces and he is working with the organizers to figure out where they will go. These are pianos that he acquires and redistributes to low income students in the fall. (Stay tuned, I will let Jake know when I know where they will be)

    RE indoor venues, I think MMM is willing to promote indoor concerts that are occuring in Madison on that day but their efforts are focused on making matches in the great outdoors.

    Comment by Karin Wolf, Madison Arts Program Administrator — May 6, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

    • Cool, I’ll register, and stay in touch. It does not matter to me where I play. My piano and I can go anywhere, and I can go anywhere there is an acoustic piano. MBB

      Comment by Michael BB — May 6, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

  3. The solution is both obvious and insufficient. A digital piano, of course. I own a Yamaha P140, with its own on-board speakers. All I would need to do 45 mins of classical piano music is an 110 outlet.
    But, I suppose this is not the solution the Ear, or anyone else, is looking for.
    Yet, for ease of delivery, weather-proof-ness, and sheer making-the-music-happen, one cannot find a better,easier, cheaper solution. If someone can direct me to where I could sign up, I’d be GLAD to do this little spot, wherever electricity is sold.
    I have done what amounts to solo recitals in small coffeehouses and the like on this instrument. It has a graded sustain pedal, rather than the on-off style so many digi-pianos have.
    I judge the artistic usefulness of this instrument by my own feeling about music whilst playing it. I can truly be with the music, either jazz or classical, when I perform with this instrument. It is also quite predictable in its touch and of course is always in tune. That is both its strength and its “weakness”, as the electronic and non-acoustic nature of the beast is the source of its portability, reliability, and also the reason many people will not agree with my stance here.
    Where do I sign up? MBB

    Comment by Michael BB — May 6, 2013 @ 8:56 am

    • Hi Michael,
      Sounds like a very good possible solution.
      I trust your word about the playability of the digital piano and whether it would satisfy the touch or feel that an acoustic piano offers pianists. I, for one, have never used a digital piano, so can’t say one way or the other.
      But it might just lute me to do a few Chopin Mazurkas, Schubert Moments Musicaux or J.S. Bach movements.

      As for signing up, go to the website for Make Music Madison through Google.
      Or check out the addresses and links in my original posting.

      Thank you, as always, for your detailed and helpful reply.
      And be sure to let all of us know how things turn out with registering and signing up for a venue as well as getting performers (pianist) to participate.


      Comment by welltemperedear — May 6, 2013 @ 11:11 am

      • Will do. I can sign up tomorrow morning. MBB

        Comment by Michael BB — May 6, 2013 @ 11:15 am

  4. You’re right about Humanities being a place for an outdoor piano. There are places that are covered – on the 3rd floor outdoor space, for example.

    Comment by Genie Ogden — May 6, 2013 @ 1:23 am

    • Hi Genie,
      You are right — there are some outdoor places.
      But I am not sure the UW School of Music would want to risk putting a piano outdoors.
      I don’t see why if a concert is FREE and people can just wander in at will, it can’t be included in the festival.
      The point is to be populist and popular, not strict.
      There is a place for special exceptions to the rule — and FREEE indoor concerts would be one of them, especially in the weather is bad that day and night.
      Thanks, as al;ways, for reading and replying so specifically and thoughtfully.

      Comment by welltemperedear — May 6, 2013 @ 7:51 am

  5. That also happens to be the date of our first MAYCO concert of the season (7:30 PM in Music Hall), which I attempted to list on the site before discovering that only outdoor performances were permitted.

    Comment by Mikko Utevsky — May 6, 2013 @ 12:04 am

    • Hi Mikko,

      Excluding a chance to see young people making great music for FREE in an accessible and historic place in Madison seems outright dumb or stupid to me.

      There should be a place in any citywide music festival for FREE concerts you that anyone can attend.
      They too are part of the fabric of our life.

      I hope festival organizers see this and change their minds and allow you in and to register.
      They should encourage the young musicians in the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra as well as young attendees and young residents of Madison and environs.

      In the meantime, can you also tell readers here more details about the concert, including the program and special soloists or whatever. You might also include info about your second concert in August.

      Let’s hope you prevail.


      Comment by welltemperedear — May 6, 2013 @ 7:57 am

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