The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Station manager James Steinbach talks about how Wisconsin Public Television is collaborating with educators to broadcast more music and performing arts events as part of its “Young Performers Series.”

June 27, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Wisconsin Public Television has always been a great source of information, entertainment and enlightenment for viewers who like and appreciate the performing arts. Over the years, The Ear has been a devoted fan of “Live From Lincoln Center,” “American Masters” and much more.

But now, with new equipment, the statewide PBS network is planning to bring viewers even more local arts coverage.

Despite his hectic schedule, WPT’s Director of Television and Station Manager James Steinbach, who oversees the six-station network, took time out to talk about future plans – and achievements over the past year, which the Ear has watched and liked very much — with The Ear.

Here is my Q&A with James Steinbach (below):

James Steinbach Director of Television in suit

Is WPT planning to change how it covers classical music and other genres of music or the performing arts? (The Jewel Box concert by the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in the Stoughton Opera House last summer comes to mind.) How will it change and what role does some new equipment make it possible?

Wisconsin Public Television has made a renewed commitment to covering the arts and classical music around Wisconsin, with a specific focus on our state’s talented young performers through a project called the “Young Performers Initiative.”

Our first “Venture Forward” capital campaign outfitted a new high-definition remote production studio, which has greatly expanded our ability to travel the state and capture what is important to the communities we serve. With enhanced mobility, we are able to visit concert halls, stages and schools to share the wonderful talent of our youth and their educators with our statewide audiences.

Are there certain events like the Madison Symphony Orchestra concert with the Naughton Twins, the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet and the Wisconsin School Music Association State Honors Concerts set up? Are specific broadcast dates and times set, and when are they?

We launched our “Young Performers Initiative” with the “State Honors Concerts” ( in February (below top) followed by the “Final Forte” ( (below bottom) in March and  “Live at Overture: The Naughtons” (  in April.

wpt wisconsin state honors concert 2-13 2

Wisconsin Public TV Final Forte 2012 logo

Most recent was our annual broadcast of the “UW Spring Varsity Band Show.” (  And in early June we featured “Spirited Songs: A Choral Celebration.” ( Also in June, we will be recording the 2013 Tommy Awards at the Overture Center for later broadcast. Check out for more broadcast details.

For the coming years, we have mapped out a potential production schedule to continue this commitment to featuring young artists on a regular basis. This is an ambitious and important effort for the station and our partners — Milwaukee Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin School Music Association.

Why does WPT want to do this?

The “Young Performers Initiative” provides a focus area through which to celebrate the vibrancy of Wisconsin communities, to raise awareness for the events they take pride in, and to inspire new generations of support and participation in these activities.

Despite economic headwinds, the arts remain an important part of Wisconsin life due to the unrelenting and collaborative efforts of arts proponents, educators and community leaders around the state. We want to shine a spotlight on these efforts, and celebrate the continued dedication and talent of Wisconsin’s young performers and those who inspire them.

WYSO rehesrsal Philharmonia Violins

The performances we share with viewers around the state are certainly inspiring. Equally inspiring is the work educators and young people do every day in their classrooms.

To support and enhance this work, we’ve partnered with Wisconsin School Music Association (a photo of its Waunakee headquarters is below) to develop and disseminate unique, effective and local classroom resources to complement existing arts curriculum.

These resources will include repurposed performance video featuring Wisconsin’s young artists, the state’s standards-based lesson plans, viewing guides and behind-the-scenes footage, including effective rehearsals, inspiring interviews and more.

We know from research that involvement in and simply exposure to the arts can offer a lifetime of inherent benefits for children, along with enriched academic and social skills.

They won’t all be musicians or dancers or actors, but they will be tomorrow’s engaged citizens, audience and supporters.

Wisconsin School Music sign

What else would you like to say about WPT’s past, present and future coverage of local classical music (and the live music) around the state or about other arts coverage? Are there specific plans for the Milwaukee, Green Bay, Appleton, Lacrosse and other areas of Wisconsin?

We have held listening sessions in almost all regions of the state to learn what’s important to each community. What are the events and concerts they are most proud of? We have plans to return to all the listed communities, and more in the coming years. We look forward to celebrating the events, people and places that bring the arts to life in Wisconsin.

What else would you like to add?

We know, with absolute certainty, that many young people across the state are practicing their hearts out with supportive parents, teachers and communities behind them. These hardworking and talented young people deserve to be seen, heard and recognized on a statewide scale. Great kids doing great things? Public television should be there!

Check out this video for more information about the Young Performers Initiative:

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