The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education Q&A: Conductor Tom Buchhauser offers tips about music education and young people. This weekend, Buchhauser will retire after 30 years with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), which perform their annual Bolz Family Spring Concerts this Saturday and Sunday afternoons on the UW-Madison campus. Plus, Wednesday is the deadline to sign up for the Make Music Madison festival on June 21. | May 14, 2013

REMINDER: Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 15, is the deadline for signing up to take part in the inaugural Make Music Madison festival that will take place outdoors and citywide on the summer solstice, Friday, June 21. The Ear loves the idea and hopes classical musicians will be well represented in the offering of FREE concerts. Here is a link to the festival’s home webpage where you can sign up and also find out what other groups and individuals are participating. Plans call for four open-mike acoustic pianos, probably located at fire stations around town, to be part of the event; but signing up for them is not required:

Make Music Madison logo square

By Jacob Stockinger

One of the annual rites of spring in the Madison area is to be amazed once again at how well elementary, middle and high school students can play great music.

That talent will go on display this Saturday and Sunday afternoon when the various orchestras and ensembles of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will perform concerts to help raise money for the large non-profit educational program. (Below, WYSO director Bridget Fraser introduces last year’s concerts.)

WYSO Bridget Fraser thanks sponsors, parents

The two-day event includes the final concert by conductor Tom Buchhauser (pronounced Buckhauser) who is retiring after working for 30 seasons with WYSO.

Here is the schedule:

All concerts are held on the UW-Madison campus in Mills Concert Hall
of the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, in Madison.

Concerts generally last about 1-1/2 hours. Dress is casual and informal. Children are welcome. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for young people 18 and under, and are available at the door 45 minutes prior to each concert.

Call the WYSO office at (608) 263-3320 for up-to-date concert and ticket information. Or check out this website:

For general information about WYSO, including its impressive record of community service since its founding in 1965 by educating over 5,000 young people from more than 100 communities in southcentral Wisconsin, visit:

WYSO Logo blue

On Saturday, May 18 at 1:30 p.m., WYSO will introduce the first joint concert to feature the Percussion Ensemble, Brass Choirs and Harp Ensemble (below top, middle and bottom, respectively). The varying styles of the groups will provide a diverse selection of repertoire, from Wagner’s “Siegfried’s Funeral March” to “Sunlight” by jazz fusion artist Pat Metheny.

WYSO Percussion Ensemble 2012

WYSO Brass Choir

WYSO Harp Ensemble 2011

At 4 p.m., WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta (below top), will perform pieces including Richard Meyer’s “Carpe Diem,” and Paul Creston’s “Five Little Dances.” The Concert Orchestra (below bottom, in a photo by Krystal Stankowski)) will follow with selections from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and several contemporary selections.

WYSO Sinfonietta

WYSO Concert Orchetsra by Krystal Stankowski

On Sunday, May 19 at 1:30 p.m., WYSO’s Youth Orchestra (below) — which toured and performed in Prague, Budapest and Vienna last summer —  will shine the spotlight on four talented Concerto Competition winners, who will perform as soloists with their orchestra. Their pieces include Ravel’s Tzigane, Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Haydn’s Oboe Concerto in C Major, and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major.

WYSO Youth Orchestra Violins

At 4 p.m., WYSO expects a sold-out house as it welcome hundreds of alumni, music teachers and community members as to celebrate the memorable career of conductor Tom Buchhauser, who will lead the Philharmonia Orchestra (below) for the last time.

WYSO Philharmonia Tom Buchhauser 2011

The concert will feature audience favorites including Verdi’s Nabucco Overture, and Sibelius’s “Finlandia.” Concerto Competition winner Audrianna Wu will also perform the first movement of Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in F Major.

A public reception to honor Tom Buchhauser — who is conducting “Greensleeves” in a YouTube video at the bottom  — will follow the concert.

These concerts are generously supported by Goldstein and Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family, and Dane Arts with additional funds from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. This project is also supported in part by additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the State of Wisconsin, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tom Buchhauser (below, in a photo by Jon Harlow) recently granted an email Q&A to The Ear:

Tom Buchhauser close up Jon Harlow

Can you briefly introduce yourself and summarize your career?

I guess my career started out by accident when I entered high school. I went to Lane Tech (a school of 5,000 boys) in Chicago with the idea of becoming a math teacher. They had a great math department. I majored in music so I could take four years of math but not have to take the shop classes. (I had been taking piano lessons since age five from a neighborhood lady.

I did go to the Chicago Musical College in 7th and 8th grade for piano and theory.) This is when Carl Blum (father of Rich Blum, former violist of the UW Pro Arte Quartet and Madison Symphony Orchestra) started me on cello. By my junior year I had changed my mind about the math teacher and wanted to pursue music.

(Thirty years after Carl Blum started me on cello, his grandson George was in the Memorial High School Orchestra and playing the Beethoven violin concerto on our concerto concert.) The Blum’s were good friends of the Crietz’s as Lowell’s father was orchestra at Austin High School in Chicago. Lowell had joined the Pro Arte Quartet in 1955. During Christmas break of my senior year, Carl arranged for me to audition for Lowell at his parents home just a few mile from where I lived. Lowell accepted me and even got me an out-of-state scholarship to the UW-Madison. I entered the School of Music in 1957 (the same year that Rich Blum joined the Pro Arte).

In the spring semester of 1962, Art Becknell went full-time to the UW and recommended that I take over the orchestra/string classes at Wisconsin High School, even though I was still finishing my student teaching. I got my student teaching credit and $50 a month. (I took five years on my BM because of a double major -– Music Education and Music Theory & History.) I stayed at Wisconsin High in 1962-63 while going on for my Masters. From 1963 to 1966 I taught at Madison Central and in 1966 I went to the new Memorial High School (below). And I stayed there until I retired in 1999.

Memorial High School

Why are you retiring? Where will you live and what will you do after retiring?

I am retiring because I think 51 years of teaching and conducting is enough. While I still look forward to going to WYSO every Saturday, I think it is time to have a new and younger person. I also wanted to be able to give WYSO a full year’s notice so they could find the right person take over. (Editor’s note: Buchhauser will be succeeded next year by Michelle Kaebisch (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.)

I will remain in Madison as this has been my home for 57 years and it is such a wonderful place to live. All my friends are here and there is so much to do and hear musically. I have no special plans in mind, but I’m sure I will keep busy. I will continue to be on the MSO Education committee and sing with and be librarian for the church choir. Hopefully I can spend even more time in the garden.

Michelle Kaebisch WYSO cr Katrin Talbot

What was the best part of working so many years with WYSO?

Of course the best thing about being with WYSO all these years has been the kids. They have been so dedicated to developing their skills, accepting the challenging music and bringing that music to life. Being part of a team of such wonderful conductors and educators, including Jim Smith, Mark Leiser, Christine Eckel (and Lygia Topolovic before Christine), for so many years has been incredible.

We all agree that WYSO is all about the kids, and that the focus is on music education. We are very supportive of each other and are great personal friends.

WYSO had a huge impact on the growth of the Memorial High School orchestra program. When Memorial opened there were three string students in the high school. When I retired there were 155 strings students in three orchestras. Hundreds of Memorial music students were in WYSO and brought back to the high school orchestra the advanced skills and musicality they received from being part of WYSO. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of WYSO, which has contributed to my career. (Below is a photo by Jon Harlow of Tom Buchhauser conducting.)

Tom Buchhauser Conducting Philharmonia Jon Harlow

Can you tell us the programs you will conduct for the Spring Concerts and what would you like audiences to pay special attention to?

The spring concert will be:
Verdi’s Overture to “Nabucco,”  Strauss/Davis’ “Allerseelen,” the first movement of Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 5, Sibelius’ “Finlandia” and Dmitri Shostakovich’s First Ballet Suite.

Our piano soloist is Audrianna Wu (below, in a photo by Lloyd Schultz) a 7th-grader at Jefferson Middle School. She is FANTASTIC!!!

Audrianna Wu CR Lloyd Schultz

Have you picked up any secrets or tips about educating young people, musically or otherwise, that you would like to pass on?

I think the most important thing for being a teacher is that you have a passion for your subject and that you love the kids. In music you are generally teaching different age groups at different stages of musical ability and you have to adjust your expectations and vocabulary from class to class.

The first 10 years at Memorial, I taught 4th grade through 12th sometimes going from a Beethoven Symphony at the high school to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in the 4th grade in 20 minutes. You have to understand that to a 4th-grader playing “Twinkle, Twinkle” is like a high-schooler playing a Beethoven symphony.

I have always had respect for my students and that respect was given back. I laughed at them, they laughed at me and we all laughed together. Music is very demanding, but you can still have fun while working hard. I never had challenges for seating but rather emphasized that we were there to make music not occupy a chair.

The only challenge was between the student and what the composer put on the page. When we needed to go to two orchestras there was a freshman and a grade 10-11-12 orchestra and then three orchestras, freshman, sophomore and 11-12.

wyso violas

What do you think is the way to get classical music to appeal to more young people today?

I never found it hard to get the kids to like classical music. They love playing a concerto grosso by Vivaldi or Corelli in the middle school years. If you give them good music to play and you are excited about it, they will get excited about it also.

I think the hardest job of a conductor is choosing music that will advance the students’ technical skills, enhance their musicality, and will be music that they will like and also that an audience will enjoy hearing in a concert.


  1. […] Classical music education Q&A: Conductor Tom Buchhauser offers tips about music education and yo… […]


    Pingback by Are Classical and Jazz Music Going To Die Soon? The Survey | My Musical Talent — May 20, 2013 @ 11:22 am

  2. Thanks for a well-deserved tribute to Tom Buchhauser – because of his work thousands of people will have music in their hearts and minds forever.

    Mike George


    Comment by Mike George — May 14, 2013 @ 8:24 am

  3. Tom Buchhauser is a wonderful example of what is RIGHT about public education. Thousands of students had an opportunity to be in his classes, not just for a year but for multiple years. Tom inspired the students. This encouraged students to aspire to study privately and to join the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra program, one of the best in the United States. I know Tom contributed to this reputation. How fortunate we are to have had him educate so many in this area for all these years. Tom had the respect of the faculties, the students, the parents and the community. Thank you, Tom, for all you gave and continue to give us. Best wishes on your retirement.


    Comment by Renee Farley — May 14, 2013 @ 7:59 am

  4. […] Classical music education Q&A: Conductor Tom Buchhauser offers tips about music education and yo… […]


    Pingback by A Matter of Communication | My Musical Talent — May 14, 2013 @ 3:32 am

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