The Well-Tempered Ear

Why isn’t music education in Madison better, ranked higher? 

May 16, 2023

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 attract new readers and subscribers to the blog.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear saw where the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation recently announced its annual list honoring cities, school districts and individual schools in the U.S. for outstanding music education.

Here is a brief explanation:

“Now in its 24th year, the 2023 Best Communities for Music Education program recognizes 830 school districts and 78 schools across 43 states for the outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders and their support for music education as part of a well-rounded education for all children.”

Here is link to the overview of the award program:


I figured with its active music life, Madison should be, even must bet, on the list.

And I did find Madison.

But it was Madison New Jersey — not Wisconsin.

I found no mention of Madison, Wisconsin.

It disappointed me, since study after study shows the importance of music education in academic achievement.

It also perplexed me.

How could music education not be noteworthy in a city that is home to nationally famous Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (below is UW’s Hamel Music Center)? 

In a city with Edgewood College’s music department?

With the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra — all of which have educational outreach programs?

With the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, the Willy Street Chamber Players, the Madison Bach Musicians, the Oakwood Chamber Players and so many other chamber music and early music groups? 

Where the statewide, nationally recognized Wisconsin School Music Association is located in nearby Waunakee

In the same city where the pioneering Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (below) has been located for 57 years and is building an impressive new headquarters with teaching facilities and a concert hall on East Washington Avenue?

Take a look for yourself. 

Here is a link to the list which can be filtered and narrowed down alphabetically by state, city, school district, school and past history:

In Wisconsin you will find Dousman, Richland Center and Salem listed. But not Milwaukee or Green Bay or LaCrosse or Eau Claire or Appleton.

And no Madison.

What explains it?

What do school boards and administrators have to say about it?

What role do budget cuts, curriculum and staffing priorities play?

Is the list somehow biased?

Does not being named to list jibe with the reality of music education in public schools in Madison and nearby communities?

Why isn’t music education in Madison better and more noteworthy?

What do teachers, parents and students themselves have to say about the problem — and the solution?

The Ear wants to hear.

Going live! Here are some links to newly announced summer concerts and 2021-22 seasons

June 15, 2021

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 attract new readers and subscribers to the blog.

By Jacob Stockinger

Get out your datebooks.

Now that the pandemic is fast abating, at least locally, music groups and music presenters in the Madison area have been announcing a return to live music and their new seasons and summer events in a relentless way.

The Ear had been out of commission since mid-May until this week. But in any case, The Ear was overwhelmed and just couldn’t keep up with a separate post for each one.

Still, he thought it might be helpful to be able to check the dates, performers, programs, tickets and other information in one place.

Remember that the Madison Early Music Festival is no more. It has been absorbed into the regular music curriculum at the UW.

Please know that many groups – including, but not limited to, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music (below is the UW Symphony Orchestra — masked, socially distanced and virtually streamed — during the pandemic), University Opera, Edgewood College, Just Bach, Grace Presents, the Salon Piano Series, the First Unitarian Society of Madison, Bach Around the Clock, the Festival Choir of Madison, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir and the Madison Bach Musicians – have not yet released details of their new seasons.

But most of their websites say that an announcement of their new season is coming soon.

There are also some trends you may notice.

Many of the groups are raising prices and persistently seek donations as well as subscribers, no doubt to help make up for the loss of revenue during the pandemic.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra have reduced the number of concerts or start later.

Some have simply rescheduled events, like the Wisconsin Union  Theater closing its season with soprano Renée Fleming. And the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s new season is largely the same one they were planning to have to celebrate the Beethoven Year in 2020-21.

The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, the Middleton Community Orchestra and the Willy Street Chamber Players all have pop-up concerts and scheduled outdoor concerts in parks. Some have also scheduled individual mini-concerts or personal sessions.

If you look at programs, you will see an emphasis on Black composers and performers by almost all groups. (The Madison Symphony Orchestra has scheduled “Lyric for Strings” by George Walker, below. You can hear it performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

What is most disappointing is that no group seems to have announced a special concert or event to pay homage to the public ordeal, health care workers and victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ear keeps thinking a performance of a suitable requiem (by perhaps Mozart, Faure, Brahms, Verdi or Britten) or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony would have been an appropriate way to start the in-person season and, at the same time, acknowledge the more than 7,000 deaths in Wisconsin and almost 600,000 deaths in the U.S. and almost 4 million worldwide as of now. Maybe even Barber’s overplayed Adagio for Strings would suffice.

Finally, very few groups seem to be offering online virtual concert attendance as a possibility for those listeners who found that they actually enjoyed at least some the  music in their own homes and at their own times.


Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in free live and for-pay recorded concerts

Middleton Community Orchestra’s summer concerts at Fireman’s Park (below) in Middleton:

Madison Bach Musicians summer workshops (below):

Concerts on the Square with limited paid admission at Breese Stevens Field (below):

Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers):

Madison Opera and Opera in the Park (below):; and

Wisconsin Union Theater:

Willy Street Chamber Players (below) at Orton Park:

If you know of more entries or have observations to make about these, please leave word and, when possible, a link in the comment section.

The Ear wants to hear.

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