The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Flutist and activist Iva Ugrcic is Musician of the Year for 2018

December 31, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The classical music scene in Madison is so rich that it is always a challenge to name a Musician of the Year.

There are just so many deserving candidates. One obvious example is conductor John DeMain, who is completing his 25th year of outstanding stewardship in directing the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Opera.

But part of the intent behind such an honor is not just to recognize well-known figures. It is to encourage a broader awareness of those people who do a lot for local classical music but who often fly under the radar for many people.

That is why The Ear is naming flutist and activist Iva Ugrcic (below) as the Musician of the Year for 2018.

As both a performer and entrepreneur, Ugrcic is always very busy broadening her varied career. Being both a player and an activist, she is making a difference, musically and socially, that deserves to be recognized and supported.

Serbian by birth and educated in Belgrade and Paris, she came to Madison where she completed her doctorate in flute performance and also took business courses at the UW-Madison Business School.

She is a first-rate performer who has won a national prize for performing. While at the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music, she won both the concerto competition (below) and the Irving Shain competition for wind instruments in duets. (You can hear her amazing technique in the YouTube video at the bottom. In it Ugrcic performs “Voice” for solo flute by the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu.)

She now plays with the Black Marigold Wind Quintet and Sound Out Loud, both of which are based in Madison and both of which devote themselves to contemporary composers and new music.

This year, Urgcic also soloed with the Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in a photo by John W. Barker), performing to critical acclaim a relatively unknown concerto by 19th-century composer Carl Reinecke.

This year, Urgcic also took over as artistic director of the Rural Musicians Forum, which brings classical music, jazz, world music and ethnic music, played by outstanding performers to the Spring Green area, often at the Taliesin compound of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

But perhaps her most long-lasting contribution is her founding and now directing the LunART Festival that, in the same year of the Me Too movement, sought to present an all-women event that featured composers, performers, visual artists and writers.

Such was its inaugural success in 2018 that it won a national prize from the National Flute Association and a second festival will take place from June 9 through June 9, 2019.

2019 will also see the release of her second solo recording devoted to the music of the contemporary Romanian composer Doina Rotaru, even while she is working on a recording of “Beer Music” by contemporary American composer Brian DuFord.

And all that is just the beginning for such a promising talent. We will be hearing much more from her and about her in years to come.

To see her impressive biography, as well as updated activities, video and audio clips, photographs and other information, go to: https://www.ivaugrcic.com/bio

Here is one more thing that speaks to The Ear. It feels important, even necessary, to recognize the positive contributions of an immigrant at a time when the current “America First” administration under President Donald Trump seems so paranoid and negative, so xenophobic and afraid of foreigners.

The U.S government should be less intent on condemning or stigmatizing immigrants, whether legal or undocumented, and should put more emphasis on their contributions and on the long and distinguished history they have in the United States.

Iva Urgcic is yet another example of the talent we Americans stand to lose if we do not accept and encourage the gifts that immigrants bring in so many ways — from the arts, medicine, education and technology to everyday life and work.

Please join The Ear is expressing gratitude and congratulations to Iva Urgcic.


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Classical music: Founder Bruce Croushore explains how the “Grace Presents” series of FREE concerts came about and what it offers for the future.

July 17, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Bruce Croushore is leaving Madison this month.

Croushore founded Grace Presents, a monthly FREE concert series that features performances of eclectic music. He agreed to answers questions about his role as a local music entrepreneur or amateur impresario.

Croushore, a retired corporate attorney, and his wife Michele Hilmes, who retired last month from her position as Professor in the Communication Arts Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are moving to New York, where they met and married 38 years ago and where their daughter, her husband and their infant grandson live.

Bruce Croushore

What motivated you to start Grace Presents?

It occurred to me for years that Grace Church’s historic and beautiful nave or sanctuary (below top) is the right size and has pleasant acoustical properties for music performed by soloists and small ensembles.

Having attended concerts in churches in cities in the US and in Europe, I figured Grace -– a lovely and peaceful space ideally situated (below bottom) on Madison’s Capital Square and on the music venue axis from Monona Terrace to Overture Hall and on to Mills Hall -– is perfectly suited for a concert series.

MBM Grace altar

grace episcopal church ext

How did you piece together Grace Presents?

To put it together, I figured the series first needed the support of Grace’s clergy, staff and lay leadership, which came quickly and unanimously in March of 2011, with some caution about staff time demands.

Next, I held a meeting of several folks I knew in Madison’s music community to seek their input on feasibility, frequency, format, timing and programming. Their questions and comments helped launch the series, which in a fit of rare creativity I dubbed, “Grace Presents.”

How is Grace Presents managed and operated?

Out of the planning meetings arose a task force without whose support and hard work the Grace Presents series would not have advanced. Members of the task force worked diligently, not only at the concerts but also in start-up efforts to negotiate a mission statement and work out processes and procedures.

More goes on behind the scenes in organizing and presenting a concert series than one might imagine. I feel the scheme we devised suits our purpose well.

In a stroke of fortune, Laura Weiner (below) came on board as our first program coordinator. Laura is a gifted horn player who was working at the time on a Master’s degree at the UW-Madison School of Music and who was a leader in the “Classical Revolution” movement in Madison.

Laura Weiner

She brought the energy, organizational skills and musical connections Grace Presents needed in its inaugural season. (Below are violinist Laura Burns, of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and pianist Jess Salek playing the complete violin sonatas of Johannes Brahms, whose “Liebeslieder” Waltzes can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Laura Burns Jess Salek Brahms Grace Epis

Did the series take off as you had hoped?

That first experimental season began in June 2011 and met with success. We tried different days of the week and different times of the day. We also experimented with varied programs, from a UW-Madison student brass quartet to Caravan, a local gypsy swing band.

Very importantly, we stuck to the guiding principles of charging no admission but paying an honorarium to all performers and keeping the music secular and eclectic. The quality of the performances was outstanding and attendance was gratifying.

Over the years, the task force realized that noon on Saturdays, especially when the Dane County Farmers’ Market is open, works best, as does keeping the concerts between 45 and 60 minutes long.

Scheduling was and remains a challenge because of conflicts such as events at the Overture Center and around the Capitol Square, as well as Badger football games. We surveyed the first concertgoers – and we have surveyed all that followed – and found that diverse programming has wide appeal.

Grace Presents sign

What did you learn over Grace Presents’ seasons?

Despite satisfying turnouts and positive comments on the surveys, we learned quickly that Grace Presents could not be sustained by free-will donations tossed into a basket at the concerts.

With Laura Weiner’s diligence in researching and writing a proposal, we had the good fortune to obtain a grant from Dane Arts near the end of the first season. That grant, along with a few generous individual donations and gifts from Grace Church, allowed us to meet our obligations. Funding for the following seasons came from the same sources. (Below are the Madison Bach Musicians performing a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach.)

MBM Grace cantatas ensemble

What does the future look like for Grace Presents?

The 2015 season line-up features many gifted musicians who perform a wide variety of music genres. Some members of Grace Presents’ voluntary task force attend Grace Church and others do not.

This is in keeping with the series’ mission of offering quality yet informal performances of secular music to the broader Madison and Dane County community, at no charge.

It also provides an attractive, historic and acoustically pleasing space to artists who perform a wide range of music and who are paid a decent honorarium.

The current program coordinator, Andrea Mauch (below), has the drive, charm and savvy required to move the series to the next level. She is talented in using the Internet and social media to promote Grace Presents. I am especially grateful to Andrea and to task force members Lynn Morgan (the current chair), Tino Balio, Bill Foote, Kia Karlen and Ginny Shannon for all they do to keep the Grace Presents concert series going strong.

They’ll do a great job maintaining the series on a sound footing. I pray it remains for years to come “a masterpiece of eclecticism,” as John McPhee once described Bill Bradley’s graceful hook shot.

Andrea Mauch - long scarf color

For more information, you can go to this link:

http://gracepresents.org

 

 

 


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