The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Music ranks in the nation’s Top 30 overall and in the Top 10 for music education. Plus, WYSO’s Youth Orchestra and Concerto Competition winners perform Beethoven, Schubert, Walter Piston and Alexander Arutiunian on this Saturday afternoon. | March 27, 2015

ALERT: Just a reminder that this Saturday afternoon, the top-ranked Youth Orchestra (below) of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will perform under conductor James Smith at 1:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street.

The program includes: The Suite from “The Incredible Flutist” by Walter Piston; and the first and second movements of the Symphony No. 8  “Unfinished” by Franz Schubert.

Also included are the winners of the WYSO Concerto Competition. Trumpeter Noah Mennenga will perform the Trumpet Concert by  Alexander Arutiunian. Pianist Theodore Lau will play the third movement of the Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, O;. 37, by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for young people 3-18. For more information, call (608) 263-3320 or visit

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

Spring Break starts tomorrow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

So The Ear wants students and faculty to leave on a positive note and then return with renewed energy and dedication, knowing that the UW-Madison School of Music  still ranks relatively high (No. 24) among the nation’s top 30 public and private schools for overall programs and even higher (No. 10) for music education in an informal blog survey.

UW logos

To be sure, the UW-Madison School of Music is facing a lot of complex challenges.

Those challenges range from finding enough scholarship money to compete in recruiting outstanding students to finding enough money to recruit and retain outstanding faculty.

And some of the challenges look to be made worse through budget cuts and policy changes proposed by the Republican-dominated legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker (below), though we will have to wait to see the final outcomes.

Scott Walker 1

But the politicians sure are sending out signals that they want to treat the world-class university more like a trade school than a star player in the liberal arts, the arts and the humanities. They just don’t see those fields as adding much to economic development.

As if economic development is the bottom line for everything of personal and social value.

And as if the so-called STEM subjects -– science, technology, engineering and math – are the only relevant academic fields for the public to support.

Besides, study after study shows the relevance of music education to success in other fields. (Below are the UW Symphony Orchestra and UW Choral Union.)

Missa Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra

So before anyone starts fooling around and making major changes and cuts, it is good to be reminded of what a precious educational, cultural and economic resource the UW-Madison remains, as a world-class learning institution.

But it won’t take much negligence or wrong-headed tinkering for the UW to drop out of the ranking.

So here they are to read and then think about how to best protect the great university that the state of Wisconsin has.

First comes the overall ranking (No. 24) among private and public Schools of Music, which, if The Ear recalls correctly, has dropped over the past decade:

And then comes the ranking (No. 10) in the specific area of music education in a less prestigious blog poll done by an individual:

Thoughts, anyone?

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. Thank you, ms/mr fiore, for the points made in your March 27th post. I especially appreciate your point #4, in that music “involves simultaneously learning a new language and the mathematics of physics and sound organized in time and space.” Perhaps this is one reason some career musicians are former math majors.

    Comment by Ginny Moore Kruse — March 30, 2015 @ 10:58 am

  2. First sign of real fight Ive seen from anyone at the UW, my alma mater. My sole connection with the Music School was singing in the Mens Glee Club 62-65. Give em H*ll!

    Comment by Ted Voth Jr. — March 28, 2015 @ 6:06 pm

  3. Terrific column and very good comments. It is going to take the people of Wisconsin saying “NO” to stop Walker and his tactics.

    Question: what musical piece would be appropriate to play for Walker? “Taps”? Does the Boy Scouts have a theme song?

    Comment by fflambeau — March 27, 2015 @ 8:32 pm

  4. Here is the letter I sent to every member of the Assembly Committee on Education (no one answered). N.B. item 4 regarding music education.

    When I wrote to object to Assembly Bill 1, the response I received complained of hearing only criticism of the bill, and asked if I had any better ideas for solving the problems of Wisconsin’s public education. I have quite a few, and I offer them here:

    1. Recognize and acknowledge that our education problems weren’t created overnight, and they won’t be solved overnight. Private voucher schools, if faced with the wide range of problems our public schools must deal with, won’t succeed any better because the roots of the problem are societal, and schools can’t solve them; we have to address the societal problems.

    2. Make K-12 education a field bright young people want to go into. That means first and foremost, treating educators as respected professionals, not as the scapegoats for everything that’s wrong with our education system (very little of which is actually in their control). Provide full college scholarships for high-achieving high school students to major in education in exchange for a commitment to teach for a given number of years.

    3. Provide mechanisms for adequate funding of public education. Our children are our future; why would we want to minimize the costs of something so critically important?

    4. Recognize that some areas regarded by some as ‘frills’ are not frills. Don’t cut funding for music, for example — it involves simultaneously learning an entirely new language, and the mathematics and physics of sound organized in time and space. An avalanche of studies are demonstrating that children who study music and learn to play an instrument are gaining intellectual ability and self-discipline in all other areas as well. If legislators don’t believe educators about this, ask neuroscientists.

    5. Provide under-performing parents with support and guidance in parenting skills — this should begin the day an infant is born and continue through the school years.

    6. Establish family-friendly employment laws so that parents have the resources, time and energy to provide a home environment in which their children can flourish.

    7. Create and expand programs to ensure that poor children receive adequate nutrition, health care and a roof over their heads. How can they learn when they’re hungry, sick and/or homeless? We can invest in them now, or pay a lot more later — when they enter the criminal justice system.

    8. Teach the public that ‘elite’ is not a dirty word. Americans once were proud to think of our country as elite — the best in the world. We are rapidly losing ground globally to countries that emphasize and invest in high-quality education. If we think ‘elite’ is undesirable, how can we motivate our children to become the best they can be? They want to become elite professional athletes because that confers status and recognition. Please use the power of the media — to which you have access — to promote intellectual achievement as the most exciting and worthwhile thing young people can aspire to. Create recognition and award programs for academic achievements conferring as much attention and status as school athletics does.

    America cannot thrive if the goal of education is teaching ‘job skills.’ We must teach children to think, question, experiment and contribute to the sum of human knowledge. We cannot survive as a nation of serfs and lords — that day is long gone.

    Comment by slfiore — March 27, 2015 @ 11:16 am

  5. Thank you for writing about music education and the University. It’s terrible what Gov. Walker wants to do to the University. Since he’s so busy running around the country and world in his quest to be president, it’s possible that the Republicans in the Legislature might join the Democrats and reject his budget, some are sounding unhappy about it, after hundreds of people testified against it at the 4 hearings around the state. We are lucky to have Rep. Chris Taylor and other Democrats who are holding hearings for those who could not make it to the 4 official ones. Let’s hope the budget is rejected. I would miss having a world-class University, and especially all of the wonderful music concerts.

    Comment by Genie Ogden — March 27, 2015 @ 8:54 am

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