The Well-Tempered Ear


  1. As a WYSO alumna (1970 – 1975), all I can say is that this is one of the worst things that ever has/will happen to the organization.

    For a variety of reasons, but the most important one being that WYSO was set up to be a way for both the HS students AND the university students to get the chance to broaden their horizons, and learn from each other.

    As Marti Young mentioned above, the Wisconsin Idea is being torn apart.

    Marv Rabin is probably spinning in his grave right now.


    Comment by bratschespeilerin — April 22, 2020 @ 9:06 pm

  2. “The Well-Tempered Ear” has passionate readers who clearly love the UW, the School of Music, WYSO and the people they serve. It is good to read their perspectives. Thanks for providing a forum for input.
    I have been an advocate for each of these organizations for over 50 years: from the beginning of WYSO in 1966 as one 80 member orchestra that rehearsed on the stage in Music Hall, to the 2020 WYSO program of five orchestras, several special large ensembles, a chamber music program, master classes, sectionals and WYSO Music Makers that together overwhelm the UW Humanities Building each Saturday. Thoughtful people have taken the time to make wise, strategic decisions. The UW has been an important facet of the process. The move to McFarland is another step in a continuous evolution of a great organization.


    Comment by Mike George — April 21, 2020 @ 1:47 pm

  3. It’s nice to see the interest in this news Jake. Thank you for posting. WYSO has been in negotiations with the UW for a couple of years. There are many reasons why this move provides security for the WYSO program.
    We have outgrown the spaces generously provided to us for 54 years. Mills Hall is slated to become a lecture hall beginning in January of 2021 presenting a significant disruption to the program. Recent pre-college policies at the UW would introduce a level of oversight and uncertainty that would adversely affect our programming. And finally, after a two year transition, WYSO would be required to pay for use of the facilities. WYSO is deeply grateful to the UW for the past support and is working to develop continued artistic partnerships with the faculty going forward. I hope this helps.
    Bridget Fraser, WYSO Executive Director.


    Comment by Bridget Fraser — April 20, 2020 @ 3:09 pm

  4. I am very sorry to see the WYSO move away from the UW.

    It would be nice to hear more about why the WYSO wanted this, and why the University let it happen. It’s true that limited parking is a psychological (and occasionally actual) barrier to attending events on campus. But crowded parking lots on nights like that are a sign of the vibrancy of a campus and a downtown people want to be in. Ample parking alone doesn’t seem like enough of a reason. If it is, I wish the solution had been to build more parking on campus.

    The sense that the Wisconsin Idea is in retreat becomes harder to refute after this. So, a full explanation of reasons could be helpful, even necessary. I just hope I’m missing something.


    Comment by David Ryan — April 20, 2020 @ 11:59 am

  5. I have recently retired to the Madison area and am grateful for all the opportunities offered by my alma mater, the UW. I lived through a very difficult time at Penn State (think Sandusky scandal) as School of Music director, trying to find ways to continue to support those music organizations serving minors who were using our campus facilities – to protect the children and also the adults who worked with them. It has become even more complicated (think Michigan State) to continue such partnerships. I do understand that community organizations may chafe at university policies for accommodating minors on campus (as I did), but a high school environment is probably a safer one for such programs. In this case, it may also be a better one, with good parking and fewer competing activities for space.

    It is my understanding, however, that although they could have remained on campus, this was a decision that WYSO made. I hope that this decision will be a good one for the organization and that it will continue to thrive. I also hope that the School of Music will receive accolades it deserves for its long partnership with WYSO.


    Comment by Sue Haug — April 19, 2020 @ 5:42 pm

  6. This is not good. Except for students in the McFarland area. WYSO was started by Marvin Rabin, a music professor at the UW. I was in grade school in the 1960s when he started the strings program in Madison schools. I wanted to take part, but was already taking piano. Both of my daughters were in WYSO. They both started playing violin in 4th grade. They are both still playing, in Make Music Madison. Many of the coaches for the chamber groups are UW students and music teachers from Madison. The chamber concerts were not in Mills Hall, but in Morphy. Their rehearsals were in various rooms in Humanities. The tryouts for the orchestras were also in various rooms in Humanities, and students used the practice rooms on the first floor. So I don’t understand why Mills is a major problem. I hope WYSO will survive. It was a wonderful experience for my daughters.


    Comment by Genie Ogden — April 19, 2020 @ 10:57 am

  7. Good morning,Jake,

    The WYSO move sounds like a practical move, but is symbolically and ideally very sad. -The Wisconsin idea is being lost. -Along with that, the university moves one step further from rural and outlying peoples’ lives, something it can ill afford right now.It needs all the visibility it can get in order to receive funding support across the state. -The UW Madison connection gave WYSO a legitimacy, a gravitas that it will lack moving to a high school base.A WYSO player spent time on campus, both in rehearsals and often with individual lessons with faculty -UW School of Music faculty were approachable. Wow. -The faculty and the campus setting gave WYSO players a bigger picture. WYSO wasn’t just another high school or middle school music contest or solo ensemble thing. -Seeing college music students all over, practicing , living a musician’s life on campus, provided a real role model for years beyond high schools.

    To clarify where I am coming from, my daughter, a student in a small rural school where only band was available, auditioned into WYSO and played throughout her years in school. John Ailey was her individual instructor. Our weekly trips to the campus for lessons and /or rehearsals, , the hours I spent watching rehearsals of the (two at the time) orchestras, the itme we spent afterwards “bumming” on campus and State Street. They were all very good for a child not growing up in the Madison Metropolitan School district. And I suspect they were good for all, even the kids who grew up at West. Going to West didn’t necessarily imbue those experiences. Going to East, even for a middle class child, didn’t grant those experiences.

    Then we move on to people who have even less exposure to a university. There are many in Madison.Many are people of color or with less “advantages” . I wish those kids could be rehearsing on a college campus where they would see a variety of people, types, races, nationalities making music. Finally, public transportation? Not all parents have time, money, free time to drive a child to WYSO in McFarland. (please don’t tell me about the difficulty of parking – there are always spaces somewhere)

    This may seem like a social issue rant, and it is in many ways. But it all goes back to the Wisconsin Idea and what it has inherently promised people of this state. Music is just one of the directions it could lead.and educate people.

    Thanks for giving me your Ear, Jake,

    Marti Young

    On Sun, Apr 19, 2020 at 12:02 AM The Well-Tempered Ear wrote:

    > welltemperedear posted: “PLEASE HELP THE EAR. IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG > POST, SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE IT or TAG IT (not > just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw > potential audience members to an event. And you might even a” >


    Comment by martha g young — April 19, 2020 @ 9:52 am

    • Yes to all of this, in addition to my previous comment about transportation. As a high school WYSO student, being in a campus environment really let me envision that I could become a music major at UW Madison. It also made it easy for me to take private lessons from School of Music students and to access and feel comfortable at a lot of campus concerts while considering my own college options.


      Comment by Kia Karlen — April 19, 2020 @ 12:45 pm

  8. I worry about transportation and access for students and staff who do not own cars, and what that will do to WYSOs efforts to diversify their student base. As a high school WYSO student, I used Madison Metro to get to rehearsals, and I know a number of current WYSO/Music Makers staff and student families who do not own cars. I hope that some transportation options come with this move, especially since the Madison Music Makers program has done such great work to engage families from more diverse socioeconomic communities.


    Comment by Kia Karlen — April 19, 2020 @ 8:13 am

  9. Three words: win,win,win.


    Comment by Kathleen H Otterson — April 19, 2020 @ 7:25 am

  10. Whaaa—?! Campus and schools are closed till fall 2020 and what pray tell would Mills be used for until they tear down Humanities?! Typical UW foolishness. Good for McFarland I guess. Fairly close and free parking.


    Comment by BillieJ — April 19, 2020 @ 12:43 am

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