The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: Retiring UW-Madison and Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras maestro James Smith gets the monthly ‘Making a Difference’ award from NBC TV Channel 15

December 29, 2016
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ALERT: In yesterday’s post about the upcoming house concert of keyboard music by Trevor Stephenson, The Ear listed the wrong date in the headline. It was corrected, but The Ear apologizes and feels a correction is still needed for those who missed it: The concert is on Friday, Jan. 6, at 7 p.m. For more information, go to:

By Jacob Stockinger

It comes as welcome and heart-warming news at a time when so much news is negative, accusatory and depressing.

Maestro James Smith (below, in a photo by Michael Anderson) — who has been conducting the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra, the UW-Madison Chamber Orchestra and the University Opera as well as the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras for 32 years — has received a fine piece of community recognition.

UW Chamber Orchestra, James Smith, conductor

Smith has just received the monthly “Making a Difference” award from NBC TV Channel 15, which also broadcast once again three times WYSO’s traditional concert “Sounds of the Season” on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

james smith Jack Burns

Here is the 3-1/2 minute video, which includes an interview with Smith as well as testimony from a former student who has gone on to have a professional career in music, about the NBC award:–408450735.html

Such recognition is nothing new for Smith, who has won many honors as well as the esteem of his colleagues, his students and his audiences.


Six years ago, The Ear named Smith as ‘Musician of the Year’ for 2010:

Here is that post:“musician-of-the-year”-for-2010/

WYSO 50th James Smith conducting

More recently, The Ear talked about Smith’s upcoming retirement and his post-retirement plans in a post about four major people who will retire this spring from the UW-Madison School of Music:

The Ear loves Smith’s reply when he was asked by anchor John Stofflet of NBC for advice to his successor:

“Learn from the students,” said Smith, a trained professional and concertizing clarinetist who turned to conducting.

The Ear, who was a longtime teacher himself, knows the truth of that answer.

Thank you and bravo, Maestro Smith.


Classical music: Local and national stars — plus the audience — will shine at the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s three Christmas concerts this weekend.

December 3, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

As it does every holiday season, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) has placed a lot of gifts under its Christmas tree — its musical offerings, so to speak, borrowing from the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Some will be expected old favorites, some will will be welcome surprises — and they will all get unwrapped this weekend.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

National vocalists and Madison community chorus members – as well as the audience – will all get a chance to shine when Conductor John DeMain (below, in his Santa hat in a photo by Bob Rashid) and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) kick off the holiday season with the much-loved tradition of the Madison Symphony Christmas concerts this weekend.

DeMain Santa Bob Rashid

The concerts are in Overture Hall on Friday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 8, at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall.

Tickets are $16.50 to $82.50 each, available at and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concerts at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Full-time students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at:  On advance ticket purchases, students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall.

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

The concerts will celebrate the holidays with a banquet of “main courses” – music by Felix Mendelssohn, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and George Frideric Handel.

But like any good feast, lighter fare will as be served – from holiday favorites to rocking Gospel selections – topped off with the audience adding its voice to carols at the end. Concert highlights include:

Soloists Melody Moore (soprano. below top) and Nathan Stark (bass, below bottom in a photo by Paul Sirouchman), who are accomplished national operatic singers, and principal cellist Karl Lavine. Moore recently sang the role of Tosca in the Madison Opera production of the same name.

Melody Moore NoCredit

Nathan Stark  CR Paul Sirouchman

Madison Symphony Chorus (below in a photo by Greg Anderson), directed by Beverly Taylor, with its 125 members, who come from all walks of life to combine their artistic talent;

MSO Chorus CR Greg Anderson

Madison Youth Choirs (below), directed by Michael Ross, which combines young voices for a memorable experience;

madison youth choirs

Mt.  Zion Gospel Choir (below), directed by Leotha Stanley, which uses jazz, blues and gospel harmonies to “raise the roof” in creating captivating music;

Mt. Zion Gospel Choir

And as a finale, audience members will join in the singing of carols.                                                    

The Madison Symphony Orchestra is marking its 88th concert season in 2013-2014 by celebrating John DeMain’s 20th anniversary as music director. The Symphony engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ series that includes free concerts, and widely respected education and community engagement programs.

In addition, Club 201 has a reservation deadline of tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 4, for the Christmas concert on Friday night. Club 201 is a premier cultural outing for young professionals in Madison and is meant to meet people with similar interests in a friendly and fun environment.  Our next event is on Friday, Dec. 6 and the evening starts with a concert that has become a yearly Madison tradition, “A Madison Symphony Christmas” at 7:30pm in Overture Hall.  This is followed by a post-concert party at Fresco with Triple MMM radio’s Jonathan Suttin, members of the orchestra, hors d’oeuvres, desserts and holiday drink specials.  Only $30 covers the concert and party and the deadline for reservations is Wednesday, Dec. 4.  Tickets can be purchased or by calling (608) 258-4141.

Club 201

For more information, visit: You can also listen to Maestro John DeMain discuss the concert in an interview, at the bottom posted in a YouTube video, that he did for the local TV station and NBC affiliate, WMTV Channel 15

Major funding for this holiday concert is provided by American Printing Company, Nedrebo’s Formalwear, John W. Thompson and Jane A. Bartell, BMO Private Bank, Hooper Foundation/General Heating & Air Conditioning in celebration of Hooper Corporation’s 100th Anniversary, Maurice and Arlene Reese, and an Anonymous Friend with additional funds from Colony Brands, Inc., Hans and Mary Lang Sollinger, and the Wisconsin Arts Board.

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