The Well-Tempered Ear

Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will build a new $25 million home on East Washington Avenue

June 24, 2021
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following major announcement to post:

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) has announced plans to construct a new $25 million-building in the 1100 block of East Washington Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin.

The new home will occupy three lots and will replace the historic Avenue Bar (below)

The new music center will continue WYSO’s vision to expand instrumental music education and performance opportunities for young people of diverse backgrounds and inspire excellence and a lifelong connection to music.

More than 500 young musicians from communities throughout southern Wisconsin currently participate in WYSO’s programs. 

This 500 percent growth in student numbers since the organization’s founding is driving the need for facilities large enough to support both the organization’s programs and its mission of providing transformational musical experiences and opportunities.

For more information about WYSO, go to its home website:

The purchase of the property and the kick-off of WYSO’s capital campaign have been made possible by two lead gifts totaling $18 million from Pleasant Rowland and Jerry Frautschi, who have long been supporters of the organization. 

The planned 40,000 sq. ft- building will provide state-of-the-art rehearsal spaces sized for full orchestras; a room designed for percussion including a world-class array of percussion instruments; rehearsal rooms perfect for ensembles and chamber music; a piano laboratory; and small teaching studios for private lessons.

The building will also hold all of WYSO’s current orchestra and Music Makers programs, administrative offices, a music library— and provide opportunity to grow. 

But the building will NOT contain public performance spaces. WYSO will continue to rent and use venues that already exist.

Since the fall of 2020, the organization – which used to be located in the UW-Madison School of Music — has been without a home base and has pieced out its program in different facilities throughout the Madison area. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear the WYSO Youth Orchestra give a virtual and socially distanced performance last year of the finale of Rossini’s Overture to “William Tell.”) 

This new building will allow all of WYSO’s programs to thrive under a single roof and provide the space, location, resources and connections necessary for WYSO to become a key collaborator in a growing youth arts community.

WYSO’s new home will be around the corner from the newly constructed Madison Youth Arts (My Arts), creating a vibrant youth arts synergy on the near east side. (An architect’s renderings of the exterior and interior theater are below.)

Located on a major transit corridor for easy access with adequate parking, the building will be in proximity to area performing arts venues, with space for WYSO’s programs and community events. 

Says WYSO’s Executive Director Bridget Fraser: “Thanks to the incredible generosity of Pleasant Rowland and Jerry Frautschi, musicians of all ages will have state-of-the-art rehearsal facilities to call home. It’s a dream come true!”

WYSO has partnered with Urban Assets, city planners with experience in real estate development; Strang, an integrated architecture, engineering, interior design and planning firm with a history of designing for the civic and cultural sectors; Talaske Sound, experts in architectural acoustics; and J.H. Findorff & Son, a local construction firm passionate about youth education and the arts. 

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Classical music: The Winter Concert Series by the Madison Youth Choirs next Saturday and Sunday feature the theme of “Resilience” with guest artist Tony Memmel

December 2, 2018
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IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement to post:

This semester, the Madison Youth Choirs welcome guest artist Tony Memmel, a singer-songwriter and guitarist whose story of ingenuity and resilience will inspire young singers and audience members alike.

Born without a left forearm or hand, Memmel (below) taught himself to play guitar by building a homemade cast out of Gorilla Tape, and has become an internationally acclaimed musician, thoughtful teacher and ambassador for young people with limb differences. (You can hear Memmel talk about  himself in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

On this coming Saturday night, Dec. 8, and Sunday afternoon, Dec., 9, at the Middleton Performing Arts Center that is attached to Middleton High School at 2100 Bristol Street, Memmel will join the Madison Youth Choirs in a Winter Concert Series called “Resilience” because it focuses on the ability to overcome challenges both visible and invisible, and along the way discover the limitless possibilities that exist inside each of us.

Here is the schedule:

Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7:00 p.m. – Purcell, Britten, Holst and Ragazzi choirs

Sunday, Dec. 9, at 4:00 p.m. – Choraliers, Con Gioia, Capriccio, Cantilena and Cantabile choir

Tickets will be available at the door, $10 for general admission; $5 for students 7-18; and free for children under 7.

These concerts are generously endowed by the Diane Ballweg Performance Fund with additional support from our sponsors, American Girl’s Fund for Children, BMO Harris Bank, Dane Arts with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, The Evjue Foundation, Inc., charitable arm of The Capital Times, the W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation, and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. This project is also supported by the Madison Arts Commission and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.

About Madison Youth Choirs (MYC): Recognized as an innovator in youth choral music education, Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) welcomes singers of all ability levels, annually serving more than 1,000 young people, ages 7-18, through a wide variety of choral programs in our community.

Cultivating a comprehensive music education philosophy that inspires self-confidence, personal responsibility, and a spirit of inquiry leading students to become “expert noticers,” MYC creates accessible, meaningful opportunities for youth to thrive in the arts and beyond.

For more information about supporting or joining MYC, go to:


SATURDAY, DEC.  8, at 7:00 p.m. Concert (featuring MYC Boychoirs)

Combined Boychoirs with Tony Memmel

“Clenched Hands, Brave Demands” by Tony Memmel

“Though My Soul May Set in Darkness,” text by Sarah Williams, composer unknown


“Who Can Sail” Scandinavian Folk Song, arr. Jeanne Julseth-Heinrich

“Hine Ma Tov” Hebrew Folk Song, arr. Henry Leck


“Jerusalem,” poem by William Blake, music by Sir Hubert Parry

“This Little Babe” from A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten


“Keep Your Lamps,” traditional spiritual, arr. André Thomas

“Out of the Deep” by John Wall Callcott

“Shosholoza,” Traditional song from Zimbabwe, arr. Albert Pinsonneault

Combined Boychoirs

“Angels’ Carol” by John Rutter

Tony Memmel

Selections to be announced


“Wie Melodien” (Op. 5, No. 1) by Johannes Brahms

“The Chemical Worker’s Song” by Ron Angel, arr. after Great Big Sea

“Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight” by Abbie Betinis

Combined Boychoirs with Tony Memmel (below)

“America to Go” by Tony Memmel

SUNDAY, DEC. 9, at 4:00 p.m. Concert (featuring MYC Girlchoirs)

Combined Girlchoirs with Tony Memmel

“Clenched Hands, Brave Demands” by Tony Memmel


“Be Like a Bird,” Text from Victor Hugo, music by Arthur Frackenpohl

“Art Thou Troubled” by George Frideric Handel

“Blustery Day” by Victoria Ebel-Sabo

Con Gioia

“Bist du bei mir” by Johann Sebastian Bach from “The Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach”

“I Heard a Bird Sing” by Cyndee Giebler

“Ask the Moon” from Three Settings of the Moon by Ron Nelson

“I’ll Overcome Someday” by C.A. Tindley

“We Shall Overcome” arr. by Marie McManama and Con Gioia

“i shall imagine” by Daniel Brewbaker, text by e.e. cummings

South African National Anthem by E.M. Sontonga and M.L. de Villiers


“Resilience” by Abbie Betinis

“Be Like the Bird” by Abbie Betinis

“Esurientes” from Magnificat in G minor by Antonio Vivaldi

“And Ain’t I a Woman!” by Susan Borwick, adapted from a speech by Sojourner Truth

Tony Memmel

Selections to be announced by Tony Memmel


“Vanitas vanitatum” by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck

“Chant for a Long Day” by Stephen Hatfield

“Wir eilen mit schwachen doch emsigen Schritten”(from BWV 78) by Johann Sebastian Bach

“The Storm is Passing Over” by Charles Albert Tindley, arr. Barbara Baker


“Ich weiss nicht”(Op. 113, No. 11) by Johannes Brahms, text by Friedrich Rueckert

“Widmung” (Op.25, No. 1) by Johannes Brahms, text by Friedrich Rueckert

“I Never Saw Another Butterfly” by Charles Davidson

Combined Choirs with Tony Memmel

“America to Go” by Tony Memmel

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Classical music: Music Makers for young children gives its FREE debut concert as a WYSO group this Sunday afternoon. Plus, you can hear violin sonatas by Mozart and Brahms FREE on Friday at noon

November 16, 2017
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ALERT: This Friday’s FREE Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features violinist Tyrone Greive, retired UW-Madison Professor and former Madison Symphony Orchestra concertmaster, with pianist Michael Keller in the Sonata in E Minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Sonata in G Major by Johannes Brahms. The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.

By Jacob Stockinger

Want to see where music and social justice meet?

WYSO Music Makers (below) will give its inaugural concert as a part of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras on this Sunday, Nov. 19, at UW-Madison Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall on Bascom Hill, at 4 p.m.

The program includes pieces by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Harold Arlen and more. (No specific titles were provided.)

Admission is FREE.

Free parking is available on Sundays in the nearby Grainger Hall garage.

The Madison Music Makers program was acquired by WYSO in July of 2017. Currently directed by accomplished violinist Paran Amirinazari (below), WYSO Music Makers aims to enrich and develop the music skills of children from all backgrounds in an inclusive, non-competitive environment. (You can hear more background about Music Makers in the YouTube videos below and at the bottom)

“We are proud of each of our students’ progress, their positive attitudes, the kindness they bring to class and show each other, and their openness to the changes this year,” said Amirinazari (below), a UW-Madison graduate who plays with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Willy Street Chamber Players and is the concertmaster of the Middleton Community Orchestra. “We are so proud they have chosen music as part of their voice.”

For more information about the program, call the WYSO office at (608) 263-3320, or e-mail Paran Amirinazari at

WYSO Music Makers is supported by the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation

Classical music: Tonight is that start of six weekly Concerts on the Square with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and guest artists under conductor Andrew Sewell. Here’s what you need to know

June 28, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight marks the first of this summer’s Concerts on the Square, performed by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) and guest artists under the baton of music director Andrew Sewell.

The FREE community event was first proposed by famed “American Girl” dolls creator, businesswoman and philanthropist Pleasant Rowland decades ago when she worked downtown and lamented how abandoned the Capitol Square got after dark. This is the 34th season of the popular Concerts on the Square. Each concert now draws tens of thousands of listeners.

The concerts will take place on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square. They run from 7 to 9 p.m. on six consecutive Wednesdays (rain dates are Thursdays). But of course people gather hours earlier to socialize and picnic.

Although pop,rock, folk and film music is often featured, tonight’s program is mostly classical – composers are Leonard Bernstein, Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Otto Nicolai — and performing will  be this year’s winner of the WCO teenage concerto competition. She is violinist Emily Hauer (below) and she hails from Appleton, Wisconsin, where she has studied at the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music.

Here is a link to all you need to know about tonight, from the programs and a performer’s detailed biography to vendor menus, the way to volunteer and the ground rules for concert etiquette:

You can see and hear a sampler of Concerts on the Square in the YouTube video at the bottom.

For future planning, here is a link to all six concerts with similar information:

Should you want to know more about WCO maestro Andrew Sewell (below),  music director since 2000 — and who has also just been named the music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony in California — here are some profiles and interviews that make for good reading while you wait for the music to start.

Here is an excellent profile done by Sandy Tabachnik in 2014 for Isthmus:

And here is some background about the New Zealand-born Sewell, who became an American citizen 10 years ago, along with links to other news stories about his latest appointment:

And from the “Only Strings” blog of Paul Baker, who hosts a show of the same name on WSUM 91.7 FM, the student-run radio station at the UW-Madison, here is an interview with ever-gracious Sewell:

Classical music: The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music names its new performance and rehearsal hall after wealthy alumni donors George and Pamela Hamel.

December 8, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

“Here we go again,” wrote a friend and colleague, referring to the issue of privately funded naming rights of public buildings and the current nationwide penchant for favoring names identified with big money over names identified with history or public service.

He was referring to the long planned new performance and rehearsal space at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. (Below top is a sign, below middle is an exterior view and below bottom is an interior of a small recital hall, the last two in architectural renderings). It will be built on the corner of University Avenue and Lake Street, next to the new wing of the Chazen Museum of Art.

UW new music hall sign

uw hamel performance center exterior

Hamel Music Hall interior Holzman Moss Bottino Architects and Strang Architectsl

And the friend was comparing it to my own post, and reader reactions, about renaming the Wisconsin Union Theater as Shannon Hall (below) to honor the wealthy patrons who helped so much with the restoration and renovation of that cultural landmark.

Shannon Hall UW-Madison

Plans for the new music hall, with construction to begin in 2015, had already been unveiled. Here is a link to that Sept. 29 announcement and the many reader comments:

Now we learn about the major donors. They are George and Pamela Hamel (below), who live in the San Francisco area where he heads a venture capital firm — what else? They come from several generations of UW-Madison alumni and they generously gave $15 million as a lead gift.

Pamela and George Hamel

All well and good, and a big, hearty thank you from all of us, and especially from music fans, is in order.

But you still have to wonder.

After all, the other major UW-Madison music halls — Mills Hall, Morphy Hall, the Raymond Dvorak lobby – are named after men who served the UW-Madison School of Music.

But of course back then the state was willing to pay for public education and not privatize it out to the wealthy.

And isn’t it nice that we have Overture Hall and the Overture Center instead of Jerry Frautschi Hall and the Jerry Frautschi Arts Center. Frautschi (below) and his wife, fellow philanthropist Pleasant Rowland serve as outstanding role models, and sure know how to show good taste in a civic-minded way. They put the emphasis on help, not ego.

Please, could the other members of the very wealthy class show some sensitivity and taste? And could UW officials and state legislators please do the same? What about a nice big bronze plaque honoring the donors with the names going to the educators and public workers? Would that suffice?

Maybe the faculty, alumni and students could vote on what to name such new buildings. That would be refreshing at a time of the Wealth Gap and Income Inequality.

And The Ear has a question: Are there incentives and major business advantages and tax breaks to giving such a big donation to a non-profit music education institution?

Anyway, here is a link to the official news release about the new hall and its name. It also has details about what performance spaces and other features the hall will contain:

And at bottom is a YouTube video about the new music hall.

What do you think of the rights issue?

Who would you name the new music hall after?

The Ear wants to hear.

Classical music Q&A: Maestro John DeMain discusses this weekend’s opening concerts of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 89th season. Music by Richard Strauss, Frank Martin and Camille Saint-Saens will be played with MSO principal players spotlighted.

September 15, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

This coming weekend will bring the opening of the 89th season of the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below), which was founded in 1925 and how has 91 players.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

By design, there will be no special guest soloist and no standard masterpiece –- say, a symphony or concerto by Haydn or Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms.

The works, chosen to highlight to Overture Concert Organ, will feature German composer Richard Strauss’ late Romantic tone poem “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” best known for its opening which served as the fanfare for Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Also featured are Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds, which was last performed by the MSO about 30 years ago); and French composer Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 “Organ.”

Wisconsin Public Radio host Anders Yocom (below) will provide a free 30-minutes prelude discussion that starts one hour before the performance.

anders yocom studio  head shot cr Jim Gill

Season tickets are still on sale with a 50 percent discount for new subscribers. And single tickets are now on sale, while rush tickets will also be available.

Tickets price run $16-$84.

Here is a link to the MSO site about the opening concert, with links to other information and ticket reservations:

You can also call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141 or visit

Here is a link to program notes by MSO trombonist J. Michael Allsen (below), who also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater:

J. Michael Allsen Katrin Talbot

The performances, under the baton of longtime music director and conductor John DeMain, will take place in Overture Hall on Friday night at 7:30 p.m; Saturday night at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

The Juilliard School-trained John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), who came to Madison from heading the Houston Grand Opera and is starting his 21st season in Madison, recently granted an interview about the opening concert to The Ear:

John DeMain full face by Prasad

What makes this season and especially this first concert special to you?

This 2014-15 season is especially important because it marks the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 10th anniversary in Overture Hall. Being able to perform in this specially designed hall has been a game changer for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

I can never adequately thank Jerry Frautschi for his incredible gift of the Overture Center for the Arts, and his spouse, Pleasant Rowland, for her additional endowment support and the gift of the Overture Concert Organ.

I have purposefully chosen a program for our first concert, on Sept. 19, 20 and 21, that is designed to explore the sonic power, as well as the subtlety, of Overture Hall (below).

Overture Hall

What would you like to say about the pieces on the program?

I purposefully do not have a guest artist on this first concert program because I like to focus attention on our wonderful orchestra and its principal players.

In Richard Strauss’ magnificent tone poem, Also sprach Zarathustra (used as the iconic music of Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey), special focus will go to the violin solos by our Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below), who never fails to move us with her gorgeous playing. (You can hear the irresistible opening fanfare by Richard Strauss at bottom in a popular YouTube video that has almost 3 million hits.)

Naha Greenholtz [playing

Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments will shine a spotlight on soloists, many of whom have also taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:  Stephanie Jutt, flute; Marc Fink, oboe; Joseph Morris, clarinet; Cynthia Cameron-Fix, bassoon; Linda Kimball, horn; John Aley, trumpet; and Joyce Messer, trombone.

And last but certainly not least on the program is Camille Saint-Saëns’ magnificent Symphony No. 3, the “Organ Symphony”. Personally, I will never forget the first time we played it at Overture Center’s opening weekend, and we had to encore that incredible last movement! The Overture Concert Organ and its curator and organist, Samuel Hutchison (below, in a photo by Joe DeMaio), have earned a special place in the musical life of our community.

Sam Hutchison with organ (c) JoeDeMaio

Have you decided on any short-term or long-term plans for your next decade in Madison with the Madison Symphony Orchestra?

Long-term, I hope to revisit the symphonies by Gustav Mahler (below) and continue to expand the overall repertoire of the orchestra and continue to present the best of our living American composers to our audiences.

Gustav Mahler big

Working together with the wonderful MSO staff and particularly our violinist and Education Director Michelle Kaebisch (below), I’m hoping we can grow our very unique and broad-based outreach programs to the community.

Michelle Kaebisch WYSO cr Katrin Talbot

I’d also love to see us expand the Beyond the Score initiative. That January 2014 multi-media concert of Antonin Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony (below) with actors and videos, and the Symphony met with great success.

Bottom line: I always want, and can envision, the Madison Symphony Orchestra becoming an even more vital presence for ALL the citizens of Madison and the surrounding region as we contribute to our city and the arts.

MSO Dvorak

What out-of-town guest stints will you do this season? Other major plans?

In October 2014, I’m opening the Long Beach (California) Symphony Orchestra season, and then conducting a concert of American composers with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in Feb 2015. In the 2015-16 season, I’ll return to the Kennedy Center.




Classical music Q&A: Maestro John DeMain talks about this weekend’s opening concerts of his 20th anniversary season as music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Plus, pianist Jeffrey Siegel opens Keyboard Conversations with an all-Beethoven program at 7:30 tonight in Mills Hall.

September 24, 2013
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A REMINDER:  Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Wisconsin Union Theater presents pianist Jeffrey Siegel (below) who will start his new season of Keyboard Conversations with “The Glory of Beethoven.” The program will conclude with a Q and A. Among the  works on this program will be the “Teresa Sonata” Op. 78,  (who was she and why did Ludwig van Beethoven compose this for her?) and the final Piano Sonata in C Minot, Op. 111, written after deafness enjulfed the composer. Here are ticket prices: General Public is $32 ; Memorial Union Member is $28; UW-Madison Faculty and Staff is $28; Non UW-Madison Students are $28; UW-Madison Student (with ID) is FREE; Youth is a Family Savings Event ofF $14 with purchase of an adult ticket and a limit of 2 youth tickets per adult ticket.


By Jacob Stockinger

True enough, officially the new music season started on Labor Day with the 36th annual Karp Family Concert. It proved to be a memorable evening of varied chamber music. Ad there have been some memorable chamber concerts and recitals since then.

But for many listeners, the season doesn’t really get underway until some BIG group with a BIG sound starts performing BIG works before a BIG audience.

That will happen this weekend when the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) will open its season-long tribute to mark the 20th anniversary of music director and conductor John DeMain’s tenure with the orchestra.

mso from above

The program – done without a soloist – features three major and well-known orchestral works: Aaron Copland’sAppalachian Spring”; Richard Wagner’s “Prelude and Love Death” to the opera “Tristan und Isolde”; and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.”

Performances are in Overture Hall of the Overture Center and take place on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday night at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

Wisconsin Public Radio host Anders Yocom (below) will give Prelude discussion of the program one hour before each performance.

anders yocom studio  head shot cr Jim Gill

And here is a link to the program notes by the always enlightening and accessible J. Michael Allsen, who plays trombone in the MSO and teaches at the University fo Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Single tickets are $13,50 to $82.50. For more information about the concerts and tickets, visit:

In advance of the concert, Maestro John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) graciously granted an email interview to The Ear:

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Why did you decide to open the season without the usual piano or violin soloist?

There has been a long-standing tradition in the past among many orchestras to open the season with an all orchestral concert that focuses on the great musicians who make up the orchestra.

I felt that on the occasion of my 20th anniversary with the Madison Symphony, this would be a good time to revive that custom and try it out here in Madison.

I wanted to share my anniversary with the orchestra, because they are my instrument, and without them, I wouldn’t be able to perform. I do hope that this can become a tradition.

Of course, “Scheherazade” throws a huge focus on our concertmaster, Naha Greenholtz (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson), as she represents the Princess Scheherazade through numerous violin solos throughout the piece. Other members are featured as well, notably the cello, clarinet, horn and bassoon.

Naha Greenholtz playing CR Greg Anderson

What did you choose to program these particular pieces? Can you walk us briefly through the program and tell us why they appealed to you:

The program has something for me: “Appalachian Spring”; something for music itself: “Tristan,” celebrating Wagner’s 200th birthday, and Something for the audience: “Scheherazade,” a dazzling crowd-pleaser.

I’m an America-born and America-trained musician. Copland (below) was our idol growing up. He stood for all that was American in the classical music world. He appealed to both musician and listener, and I wanted him to be on my anniversary program.

aaron copland

I’m an opera conductor as well, and Wagner (below) gave us dazzling works for the operatic canon that featured the orchestra in a major way. “Tristan und Isolde” is my favorite Wagner opera, so, again, I wanted the Prelude and Love-Death to be my anniversary choice on his 200th anniversary as well.

And lastly, I wanted a major work that showcases our incredible orchestra, with its virtuosic musicians on our glorious Overture Hall stage.

Actually all three works feature the orchestra in a spectacular manner, so it should be a real treat for the audience.

Richard Wagner

How healthy is the Madison Symphony Orchestra now in terms of finances, artistic achievement and audiences?

The Madison Symphony continues to draw broad support from our subscribers, single ticket buyers, and major donors. I’m particularly proud of the major increase in student attendees, and very proud of our educational programs interacting with our wonderful community.

I would encourage people who have not been to a symphony concert to take advantage of our 50% discount for first time subscribers and sign up. This season’s programs are rich and varied, and I think a first-timer will have a marvelous experience.

(Editor’s note: Until this Thursday, Sept. 26, the MSO is making a special offer that any new subscriber can receive 50% off on a subscription of five or more concerts. Details are at:

After that our regular offer to new subscribers is that they can save UP TO 50% off a subscription. (50% off when people subscribe to 7 or 8 concerts and 40% off when people subscribe to 5 or 6 concerts.)


What goals have you met in your 20-year tenure and what goals remain to be fulfilled?

My goals in the beginning were to increase the size of the audience by going to triple performances; increase the size of the string section; expand the repertoire; challenge the players, and lobby for a better performance space. (Below is Overture Hall, the permanent home of the MSO.)

These goals were not only met, but the results have far exceeded even my expectations. There is still much more repertoire to explore, ever-expanding educational opportunities to develop still more audiences for classical music, and the constant addition of major new performing artists that I would like to bring to our audiences.

Overture Hall

What conclusions about your 20-year tenure with the MSO would you like the audience to hear and take away from hearing this opening concert of your anniversary season?

I would like the audience to feel how blessed we are in this community to have such a fine orchestra that adores performing for its audience and is deeply committed to artistic excellence, and how worthy it is to continue to have great music enrich our lives in live performances that bring musician, audience member, and the music itself, together in a unique way.

MSO playing

And lastly, I am so grateful and forever indebted to Pleasant Rowland and Jerry Frautschi for giving us the Overture Center for the Arts. It is the thrill of my lifetime to be able to perform in this beautiful space. I also would like to add how much my lovely wife Barbara (below top), and my beautiful daughter Jennifer (below bottom) have loved living, growing up, and studying in this great city of Madison. Thank you from all of us to the community.

John DeMain and Barbara DeMain

John DeMain and Jennifer DeMain

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