The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Four major retirements this spring could put the UW-Madison School of Music in a staffing bind and could further hurt the standing of the university | December 19, 2016

By Jacob Stockinger

Merry Christmas!


Happy New Year!


Just as the first semester is coming to an end, The Ear has learned that four major retirements in the spring will put the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music staffing and teaching in a bind that poses some major challenges.

Three of the retirements are by major performers. The fourth is by a major scholar, a musicologist and music historian.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

  • John Aley (below), professor of trumpet. Aley, who has a national and international reputation and who once played with the American Brass Quintet, is also the principal trumpet of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and plays in the Wisconsin Brass Quintet. He plans to continue to reside in Madison and to continue his MSO duties one season at a time.

For more information, go to:

john aley color

  • Lawrence Earp (below), professor of musicology. Since 1984, Earp, a trained bassoonist, has taught courses about and researched music and composers across the entire history of Western classical music.

For more information, go to:



  • Stephanie Jutt (below), professor of flute. Jutt, who is principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, also is co-founder and co-artistic director of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

Jutt plans to move to her native New York City to live, but says she will continue her duties with the MSO and the BDDS.

For more information, go to:

Stephanie Jutt CR Dick Ainsworth

  • James Smith (below), professor of conducting, who has led the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra, the UW Chamber Orchestra and is the music director of the University Opera. Earlier this year, he announced his retirement as the longtime music director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

Smith, a one-time professional clarinetist, plans to move into a new house he has built in Cross Plains where he will work on his repertoire and pursue stints as a freelance guest conductor.

For more information, go to:

UW Chamber Orchestra, James Smith, conductor

All four have served the UW-Madison and area music-lovers well indeed and for a long time.

The bind for the music school is that, thanks to the boa constrictor-like choke hold on the UW-Madison’s budget and staffing by Gov. Scott Walker and his anti-intellectual, anti-education cronies in the Legislature and on the Board of Regents, tenured faculty do not usually get replaced by tenure-track positions. Instead the school has had to offer most new teachers non-renewable three-year stints as adjunct professors.

True, there is a long of talented people out there looking for jobs. So adjuncts are not necessarily inferior performers or teachers. But who wants to be moving around every few years and starting over?

As far as The Ear understands it, in the long-term the move to adjuncts is not good for the students, especially graduate students, for other faculty members and for the reputation of the School of Music, which has managed to secure major funding support for construction and physical plant projects but much less support for staff and scholarships.

Clearly, it introduces an element of instability and insecurity that hardly seems helpful in the competitive academic market place.

In any case, The Ear congratulates all the retirees on their distinguished careers and thanks them for so many years of public service and so many enjoyable hours of performing  and understanding great music. They will be missed.

Feel free to leave your own comments and reactions in the COMMENT section.

No doubt the future retirees would like to hear from you.

And The Ear too wants to hear.


  1. Congratulations to the 4 musketeers! Enjoy your next steps in life and come back and visit sometime! We’ll all miss you, but will keep motoring on. It would indeed be great for the University to step up to the plate with hiring tenure track replacements, but our adjuncts so far have been wonderful performers and teachers so that’s been a plus. We have a clarinet tenure track search this year, but truly need many more.

    Comment by James Doing — December 22, 2016 @ 10:11 am

  2. Sad to see these 4 great professors leave. I agree that the atmosphere created by the Republicans and their huge cuts to the UW have hurt the UW. The head of the WI Assembly, Robin Vos, has even said, on WPT’s Here and Now, that he thinks the arts are unnecessary. He thinks the UW and Tech schools should be teaching job skills. Gov. Walker and the Republicans even tried to get rid of the Wisconsin Idea last year, and then tried denying they did that.

    I used to play in the UW Gamelan for many years. That is no longer being taught because of budget cuts, So the beautiful Javanese Gamelan is sitting and gathering dust in the basement of the Humanities Bldg.

    Comment by Genie Ogden — December 20, 2016 @ 11:00 am

  3. I am a graduate of the UW School of Music and have been fortunate to spend much of my adult life gainfully employed as an orchestral musician – owing in no small part to the outstanding education and opportunities I received once upon a time during my undergraduate years. I am also a grateful giver to my alma mater.

    But I won’t give the SOM a dime.

    Many of these professors named are certainly approaching an age when retirement is reasonable, and I wish each of them well. In almost every case, I’d hazard the issue isn’t workload. Performance faculty like Aley and Jutt carry no obligations beyond teaching their applied studies, playing in a chamber group, and chipping in with an occasional instrumental fundamentals class for music education majors. They’re not really being asked to do anything different than what they were doing ten years ago.

    But when a school begins hemorrhaging resources, and the result is that you can’t recruit the same caliber of students or in the same quantity, it undoubtedly makes you think twice about whether it’s time to start the pension checks rolling in. And Smith is the guy who stands at the bottom of the hill and has to take the brunt of all those lousy decisions. His orchestras are a mere shell of what they once were, and that’s not on him. The kids on stage are way, way less talented now.

    In many instances, the UW SOM has shed full-time faculty with considerable national and international reputations for the easy out of hiring adjunct assistants with little to no reputation. The end result is that the best music performance candidates – you know, the ones that then go out and win jobs in major orchestras and forge solo and chamber careers that help to cultivate the institution’s prestige and identity – stop considering UW as an option. And then they go on and have great young students, and they tell their students to stay away from UW as well.

    Nobody’s picking UW for a new concert hall – especially when students have to continue spending most of their days in the rusty death trap that is Humanities for personal practice and academic classes. When it came to music programs, there was no shame in fighting for the bronze medal in the Big Ten behind Northwestern and Indiana. But UW is well behind Michigan now, and increasingly can’t keep up with schools like Maryland, Rutgers, Iowa, and Illinois that have newer facilities and a stronger commitment to their faculty.

    What’s happened at the UW SOM over the last ten years borders on criminal, and goes to show how quickly one can tear apart something that took generations to build. The gap between the UW SOM and its former peers gets bigger and bigger with each passing year.

    Give it a little more time, and UW-Madison will be no different than UW-Oshkosh or UW-Eau Claire. It’ll just be a music school designed to crank out K-12 music teachers with passable performance skills.

    Comment by UWSOMAlum — December 20, 2016 @ 12:07 am

    • Sounds like sour grapes.

      I’ve watched (and heard) people from the School of Music for years and see little or no change, if anything, the school seems to me to be getting stronger. And I think most students of music would chuckle at your notion that somehow Michigan has slipped by us: they are older, have a much bigger endowment, and have always been there, and ahead of Northwestern too (as is Indiana).

      You also sound like you’re out of the loop: “Nobody’s picking UW for a new concert hall – especially when students have to continue spending most of their days in the rusty death trap that is Humanities…” That building is slated for demolition and has been for some time.

      And sorry, I don’t think that newer students are way below the quality of years ago: that sounds like sentimental nonsense.

      Comment by FFlambeau — December 20, 2016 @ 1:10 am

      • Let’s see…

        – Replaced tuba legend John Stevens with a glorified TA whose biography is comprised of a long list of regional, per-service orchestras he’s played with.

        – Felicia Moye scampered off to McGill where she gets paid in Canadian funny money. And then our big coup was stealing a faculty member from the University of Memphis to replace her? Seriously? That’s where we’re shopping for artist-level faculty these days?

        – Replaced one of the greatest ever horn pedagogues in Doug Hill with a guy who butchered Strauss 2 with the Chamber Orchestra a few years ago. That was ghastly. Shall we bet on whether any of Dan Grabois’ students will ever win a major gig? But hey, at least that was a tenure-track hire.

        I’d spot you that some of the changes in the last ten years were a push. People like Linda Bartley and Bill Richardson were horrible recruiters anyway, and it showed. Bartley barely had a clarinet studio to pass to the new guy when she retired. And then he left for the same gig at the University of Missouri, so let us all chew on that. Rather be teaching in Columbia, Missouri? Yeah, that’s the kind of move some of us thought we’d never see.

        But again, it all says a lot about how the rest of the music world sees UW right now. UW isn’t a destination institution for faculty anymore. And a school that isn’t a destination for faculty will never be a great destination for students.

        Oh, and Humanities? “Slated for demolition?” Cute.

        In the 2005 master plan, it’s listed in phase 3 of removal projects, from 2019-25. And now?

        In the 2015 master plan, it’s listed in phase 3 of removal projects, from 2029-35.

        You wanna bet that it’s in phase 3 of the 2025 master plan, slated for removal from 2039-45? My money is on yes. It’s just another item on a capital projects wish list covered in failed dreams and fairy dust that UW can’t figure out how to pull off. They’re not replacing it until the city strips it of its occupancy permit – take it to the bank.

        Comment by UWSOMAlum — December 20, 2016 @ 2:05 am

    • Oh my gosh…stop the hating, spouting off nonsense, and revisionist history. Our students continually go off to successful careers and you have no clue how much work faculty put in on a weekly basis.

      Working at UW in the current climate of budget cuts and an antagonistic legislature is depressing enough without former students who are gainfully employed in the music industry totally dissing our program.

      By the way Wes Warnhoff left from our tenuous adjunct position to a tenure track position at a University he had deep family ties. Anything but a sign that UW is not a destination job.

      Comment by James Doing — December 22, 2016 @ 10:22 am

  4. This is indeed a disturbing trend in higher education. You hint at it in your article, but is it certain that they will all be replaced by adjuncts?

    Comment by rlbaldwin2 — December 19, 2016 @ 8:32 am

    • Thank you for replying.
      I agree with you that the trend is indeed disturbing.
      More than disturbing, it is also destructive of a world-class teaching and research university.

      I cannot predict what the administration and department will do with these vacancies.
      But if the past is any guide, some positions will NOT be replaced at all; some others will be replaced with adjuncts; and only one or maybe two will be replaced with a tenure-track position.

      Having fewer faculty members also seems to be adding to the stress that pushes some current faculty members, perhaps including this group, into retiring. Some professors just end up with too many students, too few resources and too much to do.

      It also doesn’t help that the governor and legislature seem to view public workers as freeloading enemies. Who likes to go unappreciated, especially when you have added to the worldwide reputation and prestige on the university where you work?

      I hope that answers your question.

      Best wishes,
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — December 19, 2016 @ 9:13 am

      • I think your post shows you are overreacting. Change is always threatening but it can be good for an institution.

        1) All of these retirements appear age-related; Prof. Smith is in his 70’s and announced his retirement long ago. Hard to see how “stress” is pushing this group into retirement. None of the photos I see are of younger faculty “moving on” to some other place. People do get old, you know.

        2) Adjuncts have become increasingly the norm not only at UW but at most universities worldwide. Many of them have the same economic problems that UW has.

        If handled correctly, this kind of turnover, which appears natural and due to age, is beneficial to an institution. It allows new, younger faculty, often with new approaches and ideas, to step in. It also allows some students of the retirees to take their positions and I strongly suspect that will be the case with the conducting position.

        I do share your and other people’s concerns with adjunct faculty.

        Comment by FFlambeau — December 19, 2016 @ 7:32 pm

  5. Great, appreciate column. Thanks for it.

    I would also like to extend my thanks to these wonderful musicians and music teachers. This is not their end nor that of the program.

    Let’s look at the optimistic side of things. These four wonderful people will be replaced (as much as that is possible) by other wonderful teachers who might bring new facets of musicianship with them. I suspect, for instance, that Prof. Smith will be replaced by one of his doctoral students, Kyle Knox, who was also a high level clarinetist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and has a Julliard background. He’s directed everything from opera to modern music at UW. That move would mean youth and vigor; and if I remember correctly, he is also married to the Concertmaster of the MSO. It would build more bridges with that orchestra and “kill two birds with one stone.”

    I’m not privy to inside information, so this isn’t written in stone or a given: this is just how I read the tea leafs and this is how I have seen the UW work in the past. It would also mean a cheaper replacement (Smith is a Full Professor).

    I’d like to see the incoming music scholar share a position with another department: perhaps history or film studies. I think funding for this kind of position would also be easier to get.

    The key will be to keep a high level of funding for this program and I think UW is fortunate to have the Chair that it does. I also suspect there might be some outside donors who might well be willing to attach their names to a chair, say, in trumpet or flute studies. Plus, with the new buildings and concert, performing areas, the program seems to be on a sound financial footing.

    I do agree with your point on adjuncts. They usually have less ties to an institution (naturally so) and less commitment. I hope the four are all replaced by tenure track positions.

    Comment by FFlambeau — December 19, 2016 @ 1:10 am

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