The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) perform their annual Winterfest concerts this Saturday afternoon — with guest clarinetist Amitai Vardi — and on Saturday, March 2

February 15, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO, below is the Youth Orchestra) will present the Diane Ballweg Winterfest Concerts this Saturday, Feb. 16, and Saturday, March 2, in Mills Concert Hall in the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street in Madison, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music.

WYSO orchestras will perform pieces by Carl Maria von Weber, Antonin Dvorak, Georges Bizet, Sergei Prokofiev, Richard Wagner, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Manuel DeFalla, Johann Strauss, Modest Mussorgsky  and others.  For a complete program listing, go to: https://www.wysomusic.org/diane-ballweg-winterfest-2019-repertoire/

“These are wonderful works and the orchestras are progressing beautifully in rehearsal,” said WYSO music director Kyle Knox (below). “It looks to be a memorable concert series.”

Guest clarinetist Amitai Vardi (below) will perform Weber’s Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 26,  with the Youth Orchestra during their Feb. 16 concert. (You can hear Weber’s Concertino in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Amitai Vardi — his father Uri Vardi teaches cello at the UW-Madison — is a WYSO alumnus who grew up in Madison. He performs regularly with the Cleveland Orchestra and is currently a professor at Kent State University in Ohio.

“WYSO was the first orchestra I ever played in,” Vardi said. “The experience developed my listening skills, knowledge about ensemble playing, love for orchestral music, and taught me how to be a well-rounded musician.”

Concert tickets are available 45 minutes prior to each concert, and are $10 for adults and $5 for youth 18 and under.

Visit www.wysomusic.org to learn more about the various orchestras and about the WYSO program.

WYSO students travel from communities throughout southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois each weekend throughout the concert season to rehearse on the UW-Madison campus.

Each orchestra performs three concerts per season, with additional performance opportunities available to students, including ensembles and chamber groups.

Diane Ballweg Winterfest Concerts

Saturday, Feb. 16 in Mills Hall
4 p.m. Youth Orchestra
With guest artist Amitai Vardi, clarinet

Saturday, March 2, 2019, Mills Hall
11:30 a.m. Opus One and Sinfonietta
1:30 p.m. Concert Orchestra
4 p.m. Philharmonia Orchestra and Harp Ensemble


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Classical music: Kyle Knox is the new music director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras

April 29, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

Kyle Knox has been named the new music director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO).

Knox (below), who was a clarinetist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestras and then studied conducting as a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music, will assume his duties on July 1.

Knox, will also conduct the Youth Orchestra (below), the most senior performing group in WYSO.

The move is likely to please many disappointed fans of Knox, who has won praise for conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the University Opera and the Middleton Community Orchestra but who was passed over as the successor to UW Professor James Smith (below) when Smith retired.

Smith was also the acclaimed longtime music director of WYSO. For the past year Randal Swiggum (below), the music director of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, has been the interim music director of WYSO and conductor of the Youth Orchestra.

In the latest WYSO newsletter, Knox, a longtime Madison resident who is married to Madison Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Naha Greenholtz, writes:

“I am so looking forward to my first year as Music Director at WYSO, beginning July 1, 1918. Even in the short time I’ve spent at Saturday rehearsals, it is clear this is a first-rate youth orchestra program. Top to bottom, each ensemble offers a special opportunity for music-making and artistic growth. I am lucky to be joining such a vibrant artistic and administrative team.

“Our 2018-2019 season will feature great orchestral and chamber works from all eras. In addition to our stellar roster of sectional and chamber music coaches, the students may have the opportunity to work with world-class guest artists and soloists. It should be an exciting season of music-making.

“As a teenager, music had a transformational effect on my life. I owe much of my personal and professional development to my time playing in youth orchestra and the many wonderful teachers I met as a result.

“Even now, almost 20 years later, the relationships I formed during those years continue to be among the most meaningful in my life. Something about sharing a stage with other people, working toward a collective goal, leaves a special imprint on my mind. (Below is Kyle Knox conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra.)

“For the students, I hope that your time at WYSO is enriching and helps add meaning to your lives, both as artists and people. It is an honor for me to be a small part of that journey.

“I look forward to getting to know everyone in the WYSO family over the coming months.”

For more background and information about WYSO, which is more than 50 years old and has reached thousands of students from more than a hundred communities in south-central Wisconsin, and about the upcoming spring concerts in May, go to:

https://www.wysomusic.org


Classical music education: Maestro Jim Smith to retire from the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras after 30 years

August 5, 2016
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received that following announcement to share from Bridget Fraser, the executive director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO)

Dear WYSO Members and Families:

For the past 30 years, WYSO’s Music Director James Smith (below) has served as an exemplary conductor and music educator for thousands of students who have played in the ranks of WYSO’s Youth Orchestra.

At the end of the 2016-2017 season, Mr. Smith – who also directs the conducting program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music — will bring his inspiring career with WYSO to a close.

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

(NOTE: Smith will conduct WYSO’s eighth annual FREE Concert in the Park this coming Wednesday night. Here is a link with details about that event:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/08/04/classical-music-education-the-annual-free-concert-in-the-park-by-the-wisconsin-youth-symphony-orchestras-wyso-marks-its-15th-anniversary-this-coming-wednesday-night/

In addition to his 30 seasons conducting WYSO’s Youth Orchestra, Mr. Smith has overseen the tremendous growth in the WYSO organization.  During his tenure, the Philharmonia (below), Concert, Sinfonietta and Opus One orchestras were added to the program and outstanding leadership was chosen to lead each ensemble.

Tom Buchhauser Conducting Philharmonia Jon Harlow

WYSO Board of Director’s President John Walker confirmed this legacy stating: “During the course of his tenure with WYSO, Mr. Smith had a positive impact on the musical education of a mind-boggling number of students, both directly through their experiences in the Youth Orchestra, and indirectly through his influence on the other WYSO orchestras.

“While numerous students have gone on to successful musical careers, a large portion of the students have become leaders in their professions and communities. Mr. Smith has instilled an innate love of music and the arts in his students, recognizing that the arts transcend language, unifying us all and lifting the human spirit.”

WYSO rehesrsal Philharmonia Violins

Upon announcing his decision to retire, Mr. Smith shared:  “Please know that I will always cherish the memories of outstanding students, wonderful colleagues and a first class administration.  I have enjoyed every moment with the members of the WYSO family — students, faculty, staff and members of the Board of Directors.”

It has been an honor for me and for the entire WYSO staff to work with Jim Smith on behalf of this great organization. We will forever be grateful for his musical gifts and for his passion and dedication to the WYSO organization. We will treasure this final season with Mr. Smith and celebrate his unwavering efforts to embody the WYSO mission of enriching lives by providing transformational music experiences and opportunities.

The WYSO leadership is engaged in planning a search for the next WYSO Music Director and will share details as they become available.

 

 


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