The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: Here is a shout-out for Susan Cook, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, who defended music education and music performance as part of the Wisconsin Idea that is now under attack by state Republicans. | February 20, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

If you attended the recent concert by the winners of the UW-Madison School of Music Concerto Competition, you heard something extraordinary besides terrific music by Johann Strauss, Francois Borne, Ernest Chausson, Charles Gounod, Sergei Rachmaninoff and UW-Madison graduate student in composition Adam Betz from the four soloists, two conductors and the UW Symphony Orchestra.

At the beginning of the concert Susan Cook (below), who is a respected musicologist and the relatively new director of the School of Music, stood before the large house and defended music education and music performance as part of the Wisconsin Idea.

Susan Cook 1  at Concerto 2015

That long-celebrated idea that was formulated in the Progressive Era – that the publicly funded university exists to serve all the citizens of the state –- is under attack from anti-intellectual, budget-cutting Republicans who are being led by presidential wannabe Gov. Scott Walker.

Clearly, Walker and the conservative Republicans are once again picking on public workers — this time university professors — as overpaid and underworked scapegoats.

In addition, they are insisting that the university has to do more to foster economic development with the implication that the arts and humanities are not doing their fair share compared to the sciences, the professions and engineering. Why not turn the UW-Madison into a trade school or vocational school?

So they seem determined to dismantle the great University of Wisconsin or reduce it to a second-rate institution. And they are annoyed and disapproving that UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank is playing politics right back at them by marshalling alumni and faculty, staff and students, to fight back against the record $300 million budget cut.

Too bad the state legislators don’t rank as high among state legislatures as the UW-Madison does among public universities. They should be taking lessons – not giving them.

Anyway, Susan Cook (below) eloquently defended music education and music performance. She pointed out the diversity of the students in the School of Music. She pointed out the national distinctions that the school and its faculty have earned. And she pointed out how many of the school’s teachers and performers tour the state, and even the country and world, to share their art and knowledge. Surely all of that fulfills the ideals of the Wisconsin Idea.

DSusan Cook 2 at Concerto 2015

In addition, the growing body of research studies show that music education plays a vital role in all education and in successful careers in other fields. But one doubts whether the Republicans will consider that as central to economic development -– even though businesses lament the lack of a prepared workforce.

Cook got loud and sustained applause for her remarks.

She deserved it.

Cook stood up and, as the Quakers say, spoke truth to power.

So The Ear sends a big shout-out to Susan Cook and hopes that all music fans will second her views and protest and resist what the governor and state legislature want to do to gut the UW-Madison.

Brava, Susan Cook!

The Ear says leave a Comment and show both the politicians and the School of Music that you stand with Cook and want to preserve the quality of the UW-Madison, in the arts and humanities as well as in the sciences and technology, to be maintained.



  1. As a UW alum I would be incredibly sad to see such suppression of education. Anyone that sees sufficiently many education institutes beyond Madison, in US or abroad, will see the incredible treasure the UW faculty has endowed the state and this nation.


    Comment by Kuang-Ching Wang — February 22, 2015 @ 6:14 am

  2. Lots of good ideas and comments here. My apologies to any who don’t like long posts (here’s a warning so bail out now if that pertains to you). Yup, Walker wants to do in not only public education, the arts and music at UW (turning it into a trade school) and programs like the Odyssey program, but Wisconsin Public Radio and TV, the poverty institute at UW and everything we hold near and dear.

    In an earlier post, I mentioned that Walker sat side by side with ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani when Rudy made his infamous, incendiary attacks on president Obama, saying the President does not “love his country”. I noted that Walker pretty much brushed off those attacks and kept some distance from them but Walker now apparently is also questioning the President’s patriotism. As a progressive, I have also criticized the President’s policies but never his patriotism.

    For readers here, I’ve also written something called “The Love Expert” which explores the factual basis for Rudy’s claim to be an expert on that subject (it too is long):

    “Since Rudy Giuliani claims to be an expert on “love” (along with his partner at the billionaires tables in NYC, Scott Walker who has also now weighed in on the subject of the President’s “love for his country”)) let’s look at Rudy’s “love life”:

    1) Rudy has been married 3 times;

    2) His first marriage, to Regina Peruggi, was annulled because Rudy “discovered” years later that she was his 2nd cousin (rather late discovery for such a probing mind and for a person of “family values”) and so that he could marry a television personality (who was much better looking and younger)

    3) his second marriage lasted not very long. He claimed (on Father’s Day in 1996), to be going to a ball game with his son but instead was bonking his communications secretary in the basement of City Hall in NYC;

    4) still in his second marriage, “Love Expert” Rudy Giuliani “met Judith Nathan, a twice-divorced sales manager for a pharmaceutical company, in May 1999 at Club Macanudo, an Upper East Side cigar bar. The “love expert” took the initiative in forming an ongoing relationship that was kept secret for almost a year. To keep his relationship with Nathan from public scrutiny, beginning in summer 1999, Giuliani had the costs for his NYPD security detail charged to obscure city agencies (accurate entries would have shown the Mayor having weekend visits to Nathan who lived in Southampton, New York) Causing later further controversy for the Mayor, in early 2000, Nathan began getting city-provided chauffeur services from the police department.”

    If this sounds like a t.v. soap opera, it gets worse, much worse. The “love expert” Giuliani, in 2000, stopped wearing his wedding ring, At a public press conference (and while having an adulterous affair with someone else) the ex-Mayor announced that he and his wife: “we’ve grown to live independent and separate lives”.

    However, this was news to his legally married wife, who publicly pointed out that Rudy was having an affair with one of his staff. Then, the “love expert” moved out of Gracie Mansion (the Mayor’s official house in NYC) and into a gay couple’s apartment (see he really IS a love expert and open-minded!) and later divorced his 2nd wife. In 2001, his lawyer argued that the “love expert” was impotent; he also was forced to pay his ex almost $7 million (so the “love expert” knows the price of ‘love’).

    5) In 2003, the “love expert” married for the third time. He is estranged from his children, who refuse to meet him.

    6) Rudy, likely to protect his love “thing”, avoided the draft (as so many warmongers have) getting 6 deferments, including getting a federal judge to create a special exemption for him. So although he is/was a “love expert” and “loves his country” he fought very hard not to have to fight in the Vietnam war.

    All of these happenings are well documented by the New York Times, the New York Post etc. Sources for “The Love Expert” include (citing 268 sources); and the very recent column by Wayne Barrett, “What Rudy Giuliani Knows About Love” (which also exposes Rudy’s mafia background)

    I know this might seem inappropriate for a column that dwells on classical music. However, I’m hoping the readers and the webmaster realize that Walker/Rudy and others pose a frontal assault on not only music, but on what most of consider to be ‘civilized’.


    Comment by fflambeau — February 21, 2015 @ 9:01 pm

  3. Note: I wrote a recent post about Walker, his attack on the Wisconsin Idea, and the Odyssey Program, which gives needed opportunity to disadvantaged, usually ethnic minorities in starting higher education. What I didn’t include was that the director of the program, Emily Auerbach, was a friend from the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, which has greatly enriched the lives of over 5000 young Wisconsinites. The orchestra, as well as the Odyssey Program, is what the Wisconsin Idea is all about!

    I didn’t want to write about it for a couple of reasons: The New York Times had come out two days ago with an op-ed piece about Governor Scott Walker and his attempt to reinvent the Wisconsin Idea, which is often expressed by the maxim, “the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state.” The Washington Post had weighed in as well, as did Bloomberg. So why add my voice to others—louder and more powerful?

    But there was something missing, I felt, in the debate. It would be easy to think that the Wisconsin Idea was merely a phrase, or that it had stopped being put into practice. In fact, the idea is alive and well as exemplified in the Odyssey Program, as anyone dropping by the Goodman library on the south side of Madison, Wisconsin, on Wednesday evenings during the academic year could see.

    What is the Odyssey Project? It’s a program started by Professor of English Emily Auerbach of UW-Madison; the program offers six credits of course work at the UW to 30 nontraditional students, many of whom are impoverished, homeless (on occasion), experiencing depression or domestic abuse or even in prison. A large number of the students are ethnic minorities.

    What makes the program remarkable? Odyssey targets the marginalized: People who have been told and have come to believe that they were not suited for an academic career. The program is academically rigorous, with the students reading and discussing Plato, Whitman and other seminal thinkers and writers of Western civilization.

    At the same time that the program refuses to “dumb down” to the students, it also recognizes that the students bring special needs to the program: Childcare is provided, as well as a full meal before the class. Textbooks and course material are included, since most of the students would be unable to afford standard university texts. And Auerbach refuses to give up on students, which perhaps accounts for a phenomenally high retention / success rate. How high? Of last year’s thirty students, all thirty students completed the course.

    An essential part of the program is building ties and support among students, as is evident in the video below. And what happens to the students? A significant number go on to register at the UW or other universities.

    The program, now in its twelfth year, has reached over 300 people—many of whom have changed their lives and become productive and successful members of society. Nor has the program gone unnoticed nationally: Last November, Auerbach was given the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in Orlando. This award honors “significant contributions to increasing diversity and access in the public higher education community.”

    As you can see in the video below, both the students and the faculty are enriched by the program, the genesis of which came from Auerbach’s own parents, since both had been poor, and both had attended Berea College, whose mission was to give an education to deserving students who otherwise would not have been able to attend a university.

    Perhaps most telling is the remarkable aspect of the program is the cost; according to an article last year in The Capital Times:

    Costs for each student, including tuition and books, while in the two-semester Odyssey course is about $4,200….

    …The money comes from a patchwork of sources: the UW College of Letters and Science and the Division of Continuing Studies for overhead and staff time, along with about 900 private donors, foundations and individuals, for tuition, textbooks, supplies and other expenses.

    Read more:

    And so the program scrapes by, relying on the “900 donors, foundations, and individuals.” $4200 dollars a year for a student, plus a lot of devotion from the faculty, plus follow-up expenses for the alums seems like a more than reasonable amount of money to spend, especially since lives are changed, and the alums go on to become productive, tax-paying members of society.

    From a business point of view, this is money well spent. But how is Wisconsin spending much of its money?

    Sadly, Wisconsin has the highest rate of black male incarceration among the states: 12.8% versus a national average of 6.7%. In 2012, Wisconsin spent more that $800 million on its prisons; the average cost per inmate per year was nearly $38,000.

    From a business point of view, spending substantially less on education than on incarceration—and achieving markedly better results—is a no-brainer. So why isn’t Walker embracing the Odyssey Program, expanding it, making it available on other campuses in the UW system?

    In proposing to change the Wisconsin Idea, Walker was cynically playing on a stereotype too frequent in the state: That the professors are doing “irrelevant” work by concerning themselves with Plato and Whitman. What should they do instead? Address themselves to the “needs of the workforce,” which suggested that professors teach coding, rather than the theoretical math that might lead to breakthroughs in, for example, artificial intelligence.

    But it was more than that, since the Wisconsin Idea had brought many progressive ideas to the nation: Primary elections, worker’s compensation, direct election of US senators and progressive taxation, or the idea that the rich should pay more than the poor. Walker’s attack, then, was a partisan attempt to rewrite the state’s distinguished history.

    And to this writer, it was more. By preferring to spend outrageous amounts of money on incarceration of black men instead of spending modest amounts of money to offer them a path back into our society…,well, I can only think of one word….



    Comment by Marc Newhouse — February 21, 2015 @ 10:25 am

  4. Having had far too much experience with sociopaths I feel somewhat qualified to say that’s what we’re up against with Walker, and it’s dangerous to underestimate him — he is ambitious and without a conscience. His arrogance apparently leads him to think he is — or will be — accepted into the 1% club if he furthers their agenda. He would never be, he’s a tool, he just doesn’t know it.

    I have only dim hope that anything will stop his slash-and-burn march through Wisconsin. At some point the people will rise up, but how much will have been destroyed before enough people decide to rebel? But we have to try to save our state. Above all, VOTE! I’m as disappointed as anyone in the weakness of the Democratic Party, especially in Wisconsin, but consider the alternative. If you possibly can, do whatever you can to get other people to the polls. Voter suppression tactics, especially gerrymandering, have rigged our elections in favor of the far-right, so every single one of our votes is critical.


    Comment by Susan Fiore — February 21, 2015 @ 9:26 am

  5. Fflambeau is dead right!


    Comment by buppanasu — February 21, 2015 @ 3:00 am

  6. Jacob, last year during a reception following a UW-Madison music school concert which I attended, I had the good fortune to meet and chat with Prof. Cook. She is not only a dedicated backer of music but exudes a supportive humility that is a true delight. What Gov. Walker’s doing to education in Wisconsin in general & the university system in particular is an outrage. That a college dropout like him is exercising such authority over what is a truly world-class system of higher education stands logic on its head. He is rapidly joining a number of corrupt politicians like Joseph McCarthy. How otherwise rational Wisconsin voters can elect people like these is beyond the pale.


    Comment by buppanasu — February 21, 2015 @ 2:45 am

  7. Is there a transcript of Cook’s remarks? This UW grad- a career music educator – would appreciate
    learning what she had to say.


    Comment by Jane Frazee — February 20, 2015 @ 1:31 pm

    • The concert was recorded, so if there is not a transcript, there may be a way to get one. The UW School of Music recording engineer may be able to help you out.


      Comment by Steve Rankin — February 20, 2015 @ 5:11 pm

  8. yes, that was a heartening moment at a wonderful concert–thanks for writing about it so eloquently!


    Comment by Mary Gordon — February 20, 2015 @ 1:16 pm

  9. As part of his ruthless divide and conquer strategy our corrupt, lying governor chooses his victims very carefully. He knows how to turn his supporters against the UW. I think the way for the UW system to respond to the $300M castration, rather than with hundreds of debilitating cuts, is to simply eliminate the entire UW Extension System in one fell swoop and see how quickly Wisconsinites find out what the Wisconsin Idea means to us all.


    Comment by Marius — February 20, 2015 @ 8:36 am

    • Agree with you on Walker but I think the tactic of eliminating Extension might work into Walker’s hands. People like Steve Nass(ty) would love that.

      Perhaps threatening to eliminate certain campuses, however, would work, in the same way that when military bases are threatened to be closed, those political representatives in the area affected rally around them because of the economic implications of closure. I’ve often wondered how the people of Whitewater could support Nass who has been a vicious opponent of higher education for many years.

      What has to happen in this struggle is to keep on the offensive against Walker. Just a day or so ago, Walker sat next to Rudy Guiliani, the ex Mayor of NYC, when Guiliani made some truly offensive remarks about President Obama (questioning his patriotism). In fact, the event was a fund raiser for Walker and Walker has not disassociated himself from Guiliani’s remarks. That is a pressure point that can be used because Guiliani’s remarks were way over the top. The CEO of Starbuck’s has condemned those remarks but they need now to be tied to Walker as well.

      It is also important for members of our other party to speak out against what Walker is doing. I have not heard much from the likes of Tammy Baldwin; Ron Kindt; the ex Governor, Jim Doyle; Mary Burke; Russ Feingold, etc. Burke, in particular, could point out that Walker never outlined this course of action before the election so he hardly has a mandate to carry it out.

      Silence in the face of this onslaught is complicity.


      Comment by fflambeau — February 20, 2015 @ 12:28 pm

  10. Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID


    Comment by Daniel Petry — February 20, 2015 @ 6:51 am

  11. It is terrible what Walker wants to do to the UW. And I thank Prof. Cook for speaking out.
    There are actually some Republicans who do not support all of the cuts, or they say they don’t. Both Sen. Nass and Rep. Vos graduated from Whitewater, which is at the top of the list of percent cuts to their budget.

    I am glad my rep. is Chris Taylor and Sen. is Fred Risser, both Dem.s and both have spoken out against the cuts, which the other dems have done as well. Unfortunately the dems are the minority in both houses, especially the Assembly. So some Republicans will have to vote against the cuts. If Walker would take the federal healthcare money and/or the Menominee offer to pay for the Bucks arena, along with being able to have the casino, the UW cuts could be eliminated.

    To the previous wroter, both Obama and Hillary went to public schools. A cousin was in high school with Hikarry in Park Ridge Ill.


    Comment by Genie Ogden — February 20, 2015 @ 1:25 am

    • Obama never went to a public school. Not even one day. He attended a private school in Indonesia and the exclusive (and very expensive, Punahou) school in Honolulu. In fact, the lady who was taking care of him in Hawaii was a VP of the Bank of Hawaii. He went on to attend all private (and exclusive and expensive) universities including Columbia and Harvard Law School. He has almost nothing in common with 99% of blacks and 99% of whites either. And he never fought for anything (civil rights; against war; poverty, etc.). He and his campaign staff sold the country, and especially liberals in the Democratic party, a false bill of goods.

      You are right about Hillary. She did indeed attend public high schools in Illinois but never attended a public university.

      I do think it is important to have public servants who have spent a significant amount of their education in the public school system.

      I’m afraid that I don’t think the Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature will easily buck Gov. Walker because he is the horse they are riding. And the Koch money that supports all of them is tied to this attack too.

      I think it imperative that UW seek funding elsewhere, both privately and on the more local level as I have indicated. Something like a Dane County “room tax” that went exclusively to the university would seem to me, anyway, to make lots of sense. It is, after all, the businesses and people in Dane County and the surrounding region that benefit most from the university (and share its values more intensely than other areas of the state).


      Comment by fflambeau — February 20, 2015 @ 4:00 am

    • Genie, I don’t want to sound completely negative and so thank you for your email and supporting UW. We need more good people (from all parties) to do so.

      It would be nice to see Hillary Clinton, who appears to be the likely Democratic nominee, address Walker’s anti-educational agenda. I’d like to see other national Democratic leaders do the same. Perhaps Gov. Brown of California would be a good person to address this situation, because he inherited a terrible economic and fiscal situation from The Terminator, and managed to somehow completely turn it around. California was really on the edge of insolvency. He did cut back on education but is now throwing lots of state money back into education, unlike Walker. That’s wise.

      What UW has going for it in spades is the university community (staff; faculty; students; administration, etc.) and the local community. It also has a huge group of alumni not only statewide but nationwide and internationally who believe in it.

      We are lucky to have a leader like Chancellor Blank who has shown that she is not afraid to stand up and speak out and also people like Prof. Susan Cook. These people need and deserve out support.


      Comment by fflambeau — February 20, 2015 @ 4:29 am

  12. Great column in support of a most worthy cause: the UW School of Music and the UW Madison itself.

    I think what annoys Walker and his minions (and the billionaires who pull their puppet strings) is the very fact that UW (and yes, Wisconsin Public Radio) have been SO successful (and despite Scrooge-like funding over the years). Because, according to their Reaganite ideology, anything related to the state is tainted and second or even third rate. Obviously, UW and its many schools, have undercut that very irrational idea. So, according to the Walkerites, it must be done in for ideological reasons, and also because it (like labor unions) tends to support the opposition through money and votes. Note that the Republican governor of Illinois has proposed changes there that are very much in line with Walker’s.

    It’s kind of sad that the Democrats, meanwhile, have been relatively quiet on this subject. But then, Obama, for one, never attended a public school in his entire life and Hillary spent most of her time in private schools too. We need leaders, of all parties, to stand up for both UW and the School of Music, and for the broader notion of public schooling and learning, and yes, the arts and humanities.

    Kudos to Prof. Cook for doing that and also to this web site.


    Comment by fflambeau — February 20, 2015 @ 12:57 am

    • Here are some things that average Americans can do to stop the kind of nonsense that Walker and his ilk are promoting:

      1) Organize and speak out. Like Prof. Cook did. Write letters to the editor, to web sites and your representatives.

      2) take the message to the outside world. Iowa has a very fine system of public education (as do most Midwestern states). Walker is riding high in the polls there (probably, because a lot of people have no idea of what he’s really up to). Get the word out. If you have friends, or colleagues there, let them know. If you can, get yourself and others down there and talk to some average Iowans about Walker. He’s a bully; and like many bullies, he will back down if met forcefully (that’s why the GOP recently lashed out at Chancellor R. Blank accusing her, of all things, of engaging in “Washington politics”, because she too “spoke truth to power”.

      3) keep the pressure up on Walker and his allies. Some of that might be through legal means (law suits) as well as citizen investigations of potential wrongdoings and whistle blowing. If you know someone in a position of legal authority, press them to take action against what is going on (and I’m sure there is a lot of illegal activity hidden in the background). Expose it.

      4) the Wisconsin legislature wants to cut the UW System budget? Recall that these are the same people who just recently granted themselves a hefty per diem allowance. Use fire against fire: if a budget cut is good anywhere shouldn’t it be against the bloated legislature and political system, now entirely controlled statewide by one party? Advocate cutting salaries and expenditures for the politicians. There (and in the defense department) is where the real fat is anyways. Make these arguments.

      5) go more local. Perhaps it is time for UW Madison to turn MORE to the counties that directly benefit from its presence (Dane and surrounding counties) and the City of Madison for revenue. Maybe there should be other, more local ways of raising money for the UW Madison than the State and these means should be explored.

      6) support public education and the UW Madison in particular. Open up your pocketbooks and purses.

      I’m sure there are many, other meaningful strategies that can be successfully employed. Make no mistake about it: Walker & Co. do not want to just cut the UW budget, they want to completely gut and destroy the entire system as we know it.


      Comment by fflambeau — February 20, 2015 @ 1:20 am

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