The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Music professor John Schaffer is retiring from UW-Madison. A benefit jazz concert on Saturday, June 1, will celebrate his career as a teacher and former director of the Mead Witter School of Music

May 23, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

Professor John Schaffer (below), who served as the director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music for 15 years from 1997 to 2012, is retiring this summer.

A jazz concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, at Full Compass Systems, located at 9770 Silicon Prairie Parkway in Verona,  will celebrate his retirement. Details and ticket information are below.

Here is a summary of his major achievements, as compiled by a colleague:

During his tenure as director, John Schaffer:

• Raised more than $10 million for music scholarships, including the Paul Collins graduate fellowships and the Steenbock undergraduate scholarships, more than doubling all student support.

• Secured funding for three endowed professorships: Pro Arte Quartet first violinist David Perry; piano virtuoso and Van Cliburn International Piano Competition bronze medal winner Christopher Taylor; and acclaimed jazz pianist Johannes Wallmann.

• With then-chancellor John Wiley, he launched plans for the new performance facility – the Hamel Music Center — that will open this fall, and raised more than $20 million in private funds for its construction.

• Established the School of Music’s inaugural Board of Visitors, which actively connects the school with a broad community worldwide as it continues to serve in an advisory and support capacity.

• Built strong relations with community organizations including the Madison Symphony Orchestra by establishing the joint residency of the Hunt Quartet – creating further student funding opportunities – and the Independent String Teachers’ Association.

• Established the Perlman Piano Trio (below), an undergraduate scholarship opportunity funded by Kato Perlman.

• Recruited faculty professors/performers with national and international reputations.

• Collaborated with the UW Foundation and Alumni Associations to present UW student performers throughout the country and world.

• Expanded student musician performances across campus, and established the twice-annual Chancellor’s Concert Series.

• Oversaw the planning for the 100th anniversary of the Pro Arte Quartet, the school’s flagship ensemble-in-residence since 1938.

• Established the School of Music recording label, which during its active run released close to 50 albums of faculty artists.

• Created the Wisconsin Center for Music Technology, and was the founding editor of the journal Computers in Music Research.

• Revitalized the Jazz Studies program at UW-Madison that has expanded with additional faculty, new student jazz ensembles and the establishment of a major in jazz performance.

• Was actively involved in music administration on the national level by serving multiple terms on the board of directors of the National Association of Schools of Music, the national accrediting organization. He spent more than a decade training accreditation teams, and performing accreditation reviews of music schools and conservatories throughout the country.

• Served on numerous local boards including those of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Country Day School, the Isthmus Jazz Festival, and the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival.

Schaffer’s own academic work in music theory focused initially on analysis of contemporary and non-tonal music, and in artificial intelligence applications in music theory. When he returned to the faculty from being director, he re-focused his teaching on the history, theory and performance of jazz and developed new courses in the discipline and regularly coached student jazz ensembles.

After a 40-year career in academia, Schaffer is retiring to pursue other interests. For the time being, he plans to remain in the Madison area. Initially trained as a classical guitarist, his performance emphasis long ago evolved to playing jazz bass, and he’ll still be heard gigging around town, playing frequently at venues and series such as Otto’s, Capital Brewery’s beer garden, Delaney’s Steak House, Coda Cafe and the North Street Cabaret.

“The biggest reward over all my years as an educator and administrator is the impact I’ve had on the thousands of students I’ve been privileged to teach and encounter,” says Schaffer. “It’s been immensely gratifying.”

Schaffer’s contributions to music in the greater Madison area will be recognized at a benefit concert, sponsored by the Greater Madison Jazz Consortium, on Saturday, June 1, at 7:30 p.m. at Full Compass Systems, 9770 Silicon Prairie Parkway in Verona. UW-Madison Chancellor Emeritus John Wiley will offer commentary and perspective. Light refreshments will be served.

Tickets for the benefit concert are $30 at the door, $25 in advance online. A limited number of student tickets are available at $15. VIP tickets are $150 and include reserved, best-in-house seating, a private pre-concert reception at 6 p.m. and other benefits.

For more information, go to: http://www.jazzinmadison.org/event/jazz-junction-benefit-concert-for-the-jazz-consortium-full-compass/

For tickets, go to:https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4236134


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Classical music: Two FREE chamber music concerts on Thursday and Friday nights at the UW-Madison feature quartets and quintets by Mozart, Boccherini, Schubert, Dvorak and Weinberg

March 26, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

Chamber music fans have something special to look forward to this week with back-to-back evening concerts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music that mix famous and well-known works with less familiar ones.

THURSDAY NIGHT

On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Pro Arte Quartet will perform.

The program features six miniature “Evening Songs”  (1865) – also called “Cypresses” — by Antonin Dvorak; the String Quartet No. 5 in B-Flat Major (1945) by Mieczyslaw Weinberg; and the String Quartet in B-Flat Major “Hunt,” K. 458 (1784), by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. (You can hear one of Dvorak’s “Cypresses” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Members of the Pro Arte Quartet (below, from left, in a photo by Rick Langer) are: violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.

For more information about the unique and dramatic history of the critically acclaimed Pro Arte Quartet, the longest active string quartet in the history of music, go to:

https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/pro-arte-quartet/

FRIDAY NIGHT

On Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW-Madison cellist Uri Vardi (below) will be joined by several faculty colleagues, one of his students and his son for an evening of three quintets.

In addition to Uri Vardi, the performers include: clarinetist Amitai Vardi (below); pianist Christopher Taylor; violinists David Perry and Soh-Hyun Park Altino; violist Sally Chisholm; cellist James Waldo; and double bassist David Scholl.

The program includes: the Quintet in C major, assembled from other quintets by Johann Lauterbach, by Luigi Boccherini, a contemporary of Mozart; the famous Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the well-known “Trout” Quintet by Franz Schubert.

For more background, go to: https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/uri-vardi-quintets-students-friends-and-family/


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Classical music: Sunday brings the winners’ concert of the UW Concerto and Composition Competition plus a harpsichord recital

March 9, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

Two more noteworthy concerts will take place this coming Sunday, March 10.

UW-MADISON CONCERTO AND COMPOSITION COMPETITION

On Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the annual winners’ concert of the UW-Madison Concerto and Composition Competition will take place.

The concert features the UW Symphony Orchestra (below top) under conductor Chad Hutchinson (below bottom) with four instrumentalists, one singer and one composer. All are current students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music.

Admission is $12, but free to students, children, music majors, faculty and staff.

Well-know works on the program include: Adalia Hernandez Abrego and Jiawan Zhang playing the Concerto for Two Pianos in D minor by Francis Poulenc; Richard Silvers playing the first two movements of the Violin Concerto in A minor by Antonin Dvorak; soprano Cayla Rosché singing the first and third songs of the “Four Last Songs” by Richard Strauss; and Chia-Yu Hsu playing the Concertino for Bassoon and Orchestra by Marcel Bitsch. In addition, there will be the world premiere of “Fanfare for Orchestra” by student composer Anne McAninch.

To learn more about the concert, and to see photos and videos of the performers who discuss themselves and the works they will play, see the YouTube video below and go to:

https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/symphony-showcase-concerto-winners-solo-with-the-uw-madison-symphony-orchestra/

HARPSICHORD RECITAL

Earlier on Sunday afternoon is a concert that should appeal to early music fans: At 3 p.m. the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will present the fifth Annual Mark Rosa Harpsichord Recital.

The performance features harpsichordist Jason J. Moy (below), with special guests bass violist Katherine Shuldiner and baroque violinist Kangwon Lee Kim.

The all-French baroque program is called “The Angel, The Devil and The Sun King: Music and Rivalry in the Court of Louis XIV” and features works by Marin Marais, Antoine Forqueray, Jacques Duphly and Jean-Philippe Rameau.

Tickets will be available at the door: $20 for general admission, $12 for seniors, students and veterans.

Moy is director of the Baroque Ensemble and a harpsichord instructor at the DePaul University School of Music. He has performed across the United States, Canada and Europe, including every Boston Early Music Festival since 2013.

One of Chicago’s most sought-after early keyboard specialists, Moy was recently named artistic director of Ars Musica Chicago. He also plays as part of the Dame Myra Hess International Concert Series at the Chicago Cultural Center. Madisonians may be familiar with his playing from his appearances with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

You can hear him discuss playing the harpsichord and talk about its modern history in the YouTube video below. For more information, go to: www.jjmoy.com

Kangwon Lee Kim (below) is a versatile violinist on both baroque and modern violins. She is familiar to Madisonians as the concertmaster and assistant artistic director of Madison Bach Musicians. She has also given recitals throughout the U.S. and in Korea, Canada, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Norway and the Czech Republic.

Katherine Shuldiner (below) graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory in viola da gamba. She performs regularly with other early music specialists, and ensembles such as the Bach and Beethoven Experience, VOX3 Collective and the Newberry Consort. She has taught at the Whitewater and Madison Early Music Festivals. www.kateshuldiner.com


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Classical music: Superstar soprano Renée Fleming and pianist Emanuel Ax headline the 100th anniversary of the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Concert Series next season

March 4, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following major announcement to post about the Wisconsin Union Theater, which The Ear calls “the Carnegie Hall of Madison” for its long and distinguished history of presenting great performing artists.

The Wisconsin Union Theater (below top, with Shannon Hall below bottom) is delighted to announce the schedule for its 100th Concert Series during 2019-20.

In this celebratory year, we introduce two exciting additions: A transformative gift by Kato Perlman establishes the David and Kato Perlman Chamber Series, ensuring the world’s best chamber ensembles continue to perform as a regular feature of the Concert Series.

Additionally, two Concert Series performances will take place in the Mead Witter School of Music’s new Hamel Music Center (below). We look forward to increased collaborations with the school of music.

The 100th anniversary series was curated by the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Performing Arts Committee, with wife-and-husband advisors pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel (below, in a photo by Tristan Cook), who are celebrated musicians and directors of several festivals of classical music and also serve as co-artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. (You can hear them performing music by Johann Sebastian Bach in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The first season of this distinguished series was in 1920-1921, and featured soprano May Peterson, violinist Fritz Kreisler and pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch.

Nineteen years later, in 1939-1940, the series moved to the newly opened Wisconsin Union Theater. The first season in the Wisconsin Union Theater featured bass singer Ezio Pinza, cellist Emanuel Feuermann, violinist Joseph Szigeti, pianist Robert Casadesus and, the highlight, contralto Marian Anderson.

Through these 99 years, numerous renowned, accomplished and prominent classical musicians have played in the series, the longest continuous classical series in the Midwest. Some made their debut here and continued returning as their fame rose.

See this article for an interview with former WUT director Michael Goldberg about the history of the series.

The schedule for the 100th Concert Series, including the inaugural David and Kato Perlman Chamber Music Series, is:

Oct. 6 – A cappella choral group Chanticleer, Hamel Music Center. Program To Be Announced

Nov. 2 – Pianist Emanuel Ax (below), Shannon Hall. All-Beethoven program, including Piano Sonatas Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

Dec. 6 – The Kalichstein, Laredo and Robinson Piano Trio (below), Shannon Hall. “Canonic Etudes” by Robert Schumann; Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor by Felix Mendelssohn; and Piano Trio in B-flat major “Archduke” by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Jan. 25, 2020 – The Escher String Quartet (below), featuring David Finckel, Shannon Hall. Quartets by Franz Joseph Haydn, Fritz Kreisler and Franz Schubert.

March 5, 2020 – Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center – featuring David Finckel, Wu Han, Paul Neubauer and Arnaud Sussman, Shannon Hall. Sonatine by Antonin Dvorak; Piano Quartet by Josef Suk; Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25, by Johannes Brahms.

March 7, 2020 – Wu Han with the UW Symphony Orchestra, Hamel Music Center. Program TBD.

March 28, 2020 – Violinist Gil Shaham (below) with pianist Akira Eguchi, Shannon Hall. Program TBD.

May 2, 2020 – Special Gala Concert with Renée Fleming (below). Shannon Hall. Mixed Recital.

All programs are subject to change.

Subscriptions will be available starting March 18, 2019. Subscribers benefits include: access to the best seats, 20% off the price of single tickets, no order fees, a free ticket to Wu Han’s performance with the UW Symphony Orchestra, and the opportunity to be first to purchase tickets to Renée Fleming’s 100th Anniversary Gala Concert.

Find more information about the series and the artists at www.uniontheater.wisc.edu. Subscriptions will be available on March 18 at www.artsticketing.wisc.edu.


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Classical music: Prize-winning harpsichordist Joseph Gascho will perform J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, Scarlatti and Rameau this Saturday night

February 23, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

Joseph Gascho will give the Fourth Annual Mark Rosa Harpsichord Recital at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday night, Feb. 24, in the Landmark Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive.

Gascho (below), who won the Jurow International Harpsichord Competition in 2002, will perform works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Domenico Scarlatti and Jean-Philippe Rameau. (Except for the three-part “Ricercar” from J.S. Bach’s “The Musical Offering” — heard in the YouTube video at the bottom — no specific works have been mentioned.)

The featured instrument is the elegant 18th-century style French double-manual harpsichord made by Mark Rosa in Madison in 1979.

Admission is at the door: $20 for the genera public, $10 for seniors and students.

In 2014, Gascho joined the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance in 2014 as an assistant professor. Gascho enjoys a multi-faceted career as a solo and collaborative keyboardist, conductor, teacher and recording producer.

Featuring his own transcriptions of Bach, Handel, and Charpentier, his recent debut solo recording was praised in the American Record Guide for “bristling with sparking articulation, subtle but highly effective rubato, and other kinds of musical timing, and an enviable understanding of the various national styles of 17th and 18th century harpsichord music.”

As a student of Webb Wiggins and Arthur Haas, he earned masters and doctoral degrees in harpsichord from the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Maryland, where he also studied orchestral conducting with James Ross.

Recent highlights include performing with the National Symphony at Carnegie Hall, the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra, and conducting Mozart’s “Idomeneo” for the Maryland Opera Studio.  He has also conducted numerous operas from Monteverdi to Mozart for Opera Vivente.

At the Oberlin Conservatory’s Baroque Performance Institute, Gascho conducts the student orchestra, coaches chamber music, and teaches basso continuo. A strong proponent of technology in the arts, he has used computer-assisted techniques in opera productions, in a recent recording with the ensemble Harmonious Blacksmith and percussionist Glen Velez, and in his continuo classes.


Classical music: This weekend brings two major piano recitals – by UW-Madison virtuoso Christopher Taylor and Italian duo-pianists Roberto Plano and Paola Del Negro – plus a public piano master class

September 20, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

As you have already seen from this week’s postings so far, this coming weekend is loaded with conflicting concerts.

One result is that events that would normally receive separate postings must be combined.

Such is the case today, with previews of two very appealing piano concerts plus a master class.

SATURDAY

This Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the celebrated UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below), a bronze medalist in the Van Cliburn Competition, will perform a terrifically well-planned recital that is a classic case of contrast-and-compare, and reveals how music begets more music.

Here are some notes from the School of Music about the program:

“Christopher Taylor’s conceptual program features Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, arranged by Franz Liszt.

Over 175 years later, New York City-based composer John Corigliano would use Beethoven’s Seventh to inspire his Fantasia on an Ostinato. (You can hear the famous slow movement with the “ostinato,” or continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm, that inspires it in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

On the second half, Taylor will feature two takes on the title “Moments Musicaux” or Musical Moments: first, he will play Franz Schubert’s version, published in the last year of his life (1828); then he’ll perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s version from the start of his career.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for non-School of Music students and children. Ticket information is here.

SATURDAY and SUNDAY

On Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m., as part of the Salon Piano Series, the Italian husband-and-wife piano duo of Roberto Plano and Paola Del Negro (below) will hold a FREE and PUBLIC master class with local students at Farley’s House of Pianos, 6522 Seybold Road, on Madison’s far west side near the West Towne Mall.

Then on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m., in the main showroom at Farley’s, the duo will perform.

The program features: “Pictures from the East” (Bilder aus Osten), Op. 66, by Robert Schumann; Burgmein’s (aka Ricordi) Suite “Les amoureux de Colombine”; Johannes Brahms’ Hungarian Dances 1-5; “The Moldau” by Bedrich Smetana; and Brahms’ Sonata for Two Pianos, Op. 34b, which later became his famous Piano Quintet.

Tickets are $45 for the public and $10 for full-time students.

For more information about tickets and biographies of the performers, go to: http://salonpianoseries.org/concerts.html

You can also call (608) 271-2626.


Classical music education: The University of Wisconsin School of Music ramps up its annual student concerto competition concert this Saturday night with a gala reception.

February 4, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

For years, the University of Wisconsin School of Music has held a student concerto competition. The winners then get to perform a  movement (or, in some cases  opera arias ) from a large concerto or a complete short concerto with the UW Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by John W. Barker), which in recent years also premieres a new composition by a student composer.

UW Symphony Orchestra 2013 CR John W. Barker

This year, however, the UW School of Music is heightening the public profile of the FREE concerto concert and turning it into an important event.

It has scheduled the performance on a Saturday night instead of a weekday night. And it has added a paid post-concert reception, with hors-d’oeuvres and a cash bar, to be held at Tripp Commons in the UW-Madison Memorial Union from 9 to 11 p.m. All proceeds will fund student scholarships. Tickets are $10 and can be bought here. http://www.arts.wisc.edu/

In short, the annual concerto competition winners recital, has been renamed the “Symphony Showcase.”

Says Susan C. Cook (below, in photo by Michael Foster), the new director of the UW School of Music: “The artistry and hard work of our students is something we wanted to celebrate — not only as a School of Music but with our enthusiastic concert-goers as well.”

Susan C. Cook UW SOM BW CR Michael Forster Rothbart

The concert will take place at an early start this coming Saturday night, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. – NOT 7:30 or 8 p.m. – in Mills Hall. Admission is FREE.

This year’s concert has a very appealing and diverse program, and will feature five instrumental soloists (below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson).

UW concerto winners 2014 Michael R. Anderson

Pianist Sung Ho Yang (above middle), who studies with Christopher Taylor, will perform in its entirety Franz Liszt’s exciting and virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat Major. (You can hear Lang-Lang perform its on the last night of the BBC Proms Concerts in 2011 in a popular YouTube video at the  bottom.)

Seungwha Baek (above, second from right), who studies with Martha Fischer, will perform the first movement of Sergei Prokofiev’s dazzling Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major.

Flutist Mi-li Chang (above far left), who studied with Stephanie Jutt, will perform the first and second movement of Jacques Ibert’s playful Flute Concerto.

Clarinetist Kai-Ju Ho (above far right), who studies with Linda Bartley, will perform in its entirety Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, composed for jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman.

Violinist Madlen Breckbill (above second from left), who studied with David Perry (first violinist of the UW’s Pro Arte Quartet) will perform the first movement of Samuel Barber’s neo-Romantic Violin Concerto.

A sixth winner, composition undergraduate Daria Tennikova (below top, inn a photo by Kathy Esposito), who studies with Stephen Dembski and Laura Schwendinger, was added to the program in late December. Tennikova’s original work, “Poema” for Saxophone and Orchestra, will be performed by soloist Erika Anderson (below bottom).

Daria Tennikova CR Kathy Espoito

 Erika Anderson

All pieces will be accompanied by the UW Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra will perform under the direction of conductors James Smith (below top) and graduate assistant Kyle Knox (below bottom). The orchestra will also play Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Russian Easter” Overture.

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

Kyle Knox 2

You can read more (including biographies of each performer and the pieces they will perform) on the UW School of Music’s outstanding new blog Fanfare!

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Classical music: UW oboist Marc Fink to retire in May and brass player John Stevens will step down as director of the University of Wisconsin School of Music this August, then retire as a composer and tuba professor in 2014.

October 28, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has learned that University of Wisconsin School of Music director John Stevens (below) will step down as director of the school next summer and retire completely from the university one year later.

Stevens is also a well-regarded composer and arranger. He is a tuba and euphonium player who performs with the Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below, in the middle of the photo by Katrin Talbot) which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this season.

Stevens, who joined the UW in 1985 and directed the School of Music 1991-1996 before doing so again last year, announced his decision in an email late last week:

Dear School of Music Faculty and Staff,

My apologies for the general email but, after a great deal of consideration I decided that it was best to communicate the following to everyone at the same time.

I am writing to inform all of you of my intention to retire from the university/School of Music following the 2013-14 year.

I have also decided that I wish to go out the way I came in – as a musician and teacher. Therefore, I will step down from my position as Director of the School of Music at the end of August, 2013 and spend my final year on the faculty in my position as Professor of Tuba and Euphonium. I have discussed this with Dean Sandefur and Associate Dean Zaeske, and they are supportive of these plans.

By the end of this year I will have spent 25% of my time on the faculty as the Director. It has been a pleasure to do so, and I continue to be honored to serve the School of Music in a leadership role. Of course I will continue to work as hard as possible on behalf of the school and will do everything I can to facilitate a smooth transition to the next Director.

Due to the high volume of emails I receive daily in my roles as administrator and professor, I would very much appreciate it if you could not respond to this with an email reply.  Thank you very much.

John Stevens, Director, UW School of Music

For a full biography and discography of this impressive musician – who is also a very congenial and amiable guy — visit his profile at the UW School of Music website. Here is a link:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/faculty/bio?faculty_id=2

My guess is that Stevens will continue to do guest appearances and especially to pursue composing (below, composing at him home). At bottom is  the Tuba  Quartet on YouTube playing his moving “Benediction,” which was played at the recent funeral for Paul Haugan, the late principal tubist for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Stevens’ retirement could also be part of the wave of retirements that will hit the UW School of Music – even with a new home for the school about to be built — as Baby Boomers age and as UW budgets become tighter and hiring freezes take curtail recruitment of new faculty. Many of the current UW faculty joined around 1985 and are approaching the 30-year mark.

This is the second retirement from the UW School of Music The Ear has earned of so far this year. Oboist Marc Fink (below), who performs with the Wingra Woodwind Quintet and in principal oboist of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will retire at the end of this season. A non-tenure track, temporary instructor is slated to replace Fink.

The Ear worries what all this means for the quality of the teaching and performing at the UW School of Music, but time will tell.

John Stevens may not want an email reply, but you can leave a message for him or Marc Fink in the COMMENT section of this blog.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music education Q&A: Richard Mumford retires today as the Concert Manager and Director of Public Relations at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. He talks about his duties and his future plans.

August 10, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

You may not know him by sight, but chances are almost certain that if you attend concerts in Mills Hall (below) or other concert venues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, you have seen Richard  “Rick” Mumford.

For the past 13 years, Mumford has been the Concert Manager and Director of Public Relations for the school, where more than 300 concerts and events are presented each season.

Mumford recently spoke via email to The Ear about his duties and his plans for the future.

When and why are you retiring, and what are your future plans?

I’m retiring on Friday, August 10.  I’ve held this position for 13 years — longer than any other in my career.  It seemed like the right time to take a breather for a few months or more and decide what I’d like to do next.

In the meantime, I expect I’ll be playing the organ from time to time (my previous and sometimes concurrent vocation), taking advantage of the freedom to travel a bit more and pursuing other activities at home and in town.

What should the public know about what your duties involved?

I’m a generalist at heart, and this position tested that calling to the utmost!  No two days were alike, which made it more interesting.

I handled communications for the school with the public, the media, campus offices, and alumni; was the point of contact for guest artists, once they had been invited by a faculty member; and oversaw the production of brochures, advertisements, the alumni magazine and all printed programs for the Faculty Concert Series and Guest Artist Series.

I worked closely with other staff at the school and related departments in my capacity as concert manager.  And I worked with affiliated groups such as Opera Props and the School of Music Alumni Association and collaborated with the Wisconsin Alumni Association, UW Foundation, University Communications and UW Arts Institute.

What was the best or most enjoyable part of your job?

I enjoy working with designers and others on publication projects.  I like communicating with the guest artists that are scheduled to perform, to try to give them the assurance that, in spite of being part of a huge campus, the school wants them to be pleased with logistical and promotional arrangements.

I have been enormously privileged to have a long succession of highly capable and motivated graduate students to assist the concert office in its day-to-day operations.

And of course, there’s the music—to be able to hear world-class musicians (the faculty) and the excellent student ensembles in concert is a joy. (Below is the Pro Arte String Quartet playing last year in Mills Hall at the UW.)

What was the most difficult part of the job?

Probably keeping track of details!  With so many “moving parts,” there are bound to be changes to personnel, programs, halls, etc., that need to be corrected as soon and as widely as possible.

I’m in constant fear that through an oversight, something will appear in print or online with an inaccurate date, time or name.  I try to be zealous about this, and it has probably cost me some of the sparse remaining hair on my head.

Who will take over your duties at the School of Music for the coming season?

We are waiting for official confirmation of an interim public relations and concert manager who should begin work in a couple of weeks if the position is approved.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

A few things.

One, the audiences who attend the school’s concerts are fantastic! They are engaged, attentive and supportive of the school’s mission.

Two, the school’s alumni are a true resource, providing continuity through their help recruiting new students and by keeping in touch with their alma mater. Their achievements make the university’s reputation shine even more brightly.

Three, if anyone has a spare million or two, the school could use it to marvelous effect to help build its new facility!  But in truth, smaller gifts are the lifeblood of the university as well.  (This is not my jurisdiction exactly, but I think I can risk going out on a limb at this point!)  Scholarships, graduate assistantships and fellowships, research and travel support, residencies by guest artists and scholars, Mills Music Library  (below), Summer Music Clinic — all benefit tremendously by the good will and good works of our donors.


Classical music: Let us now praise the young soloists and young composer who will be spotlighted at the University of Wisconsin School of Music’s annual FREE concerto competition concert this Friday night.

February 9, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

There is something heroic and stirring about a concerto that pits a single soloist against a big orchestra. So student instruments dream of the day and wait a long time for the big chance to perform a concerto.

Concertos are an exciting music genre to play and to hear, as you hear this Friday at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall when the annual FREE UW concerto competition winners will perform with the UW Symphony Orchestra (below, with the UW Choral Union) under James Smith and David Grandis.

I say that as someone who played the piano in a concerto competition when I was 16 (Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15) and lost to a 12- or 13-year-old who played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488, very beautifully.

When friends find that out, they often said “I’m sorry you lost.”

But they shouldn’t be.

Concerto competitions do much more than declare winners.

In my case, the contest showed me exactly what needed to know: I didn’t have either the talent or temperament for a performing career. And it was better to have learned it sooner rather than later, after I had invested a lot of hard work, time and money in unrealistic fantasies of success.

But these young people at the University of Wisconsin School of Music have been tested in public performance before and I think their credentials speak well for them. The only thing I don’t like is that they perform movements, not entire concertos. But if that weren’t the case, the concert would last much longer.

I also like that singing is included. (That wasn’t the case in my day, as I recall.) And I like that less familiar instruments (like the marimba) get a chance to compete with the piano, strings, winds and brass. Finally, I like the young talent for composition is presented to the public.

It all reflects well on the teachers and teaching. In fact, the students at the UW School of Music just seem to get better and better as the years go by. I haven’t al these winners, but I have heard the piano in an absolutely first-rate and riveting performance of Beethoven’s final sonata, Op. 111 in C minor. So I assume the standards for winning were very high indeed.

Here is the UW press release with complete details

You don’t have to wait until after the concerts to applaud such persistence, hard work and talent.

UW SYMPHONY CONCERT FEATURES COMPETITION WINNERS

The UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of James Smith (below) will present its annual concerto and composition competition winners this Friday at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall.

Admission is FREE and open to the public.

Five students were selected as winners in this year’s competition. Four will perform as soloists with the orchestra: Alice Bartsch, violin; Michael Roemer, baritone; Jeongmin Lee, piano; and Brett Walter, percussion.  In the separate category for composition, Youn-Jae Ok won for “Mi-Ryen,” which will be premiered by the orchestra on this same program.

Alice Bartsch (below) is a sophomore pursuing the Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance and studies with Felicia Moye.  She hails from Bloomington, Minnesota, and Bartsch’s past teachers include Ellen Kim and Young-Nam Kim.  She currently holds scholarships from the School of Music and the School of Music Alumni Association.  In addition to being a full-time student, Bartsch is a member of the first violin section of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and teaches violin privately. In high school, she was a finalist in the Minnesota Youth Symphony concerto competition.  She has participated in both the Northern Lights Chamber Music Institute and the Madeline Island Music Camp. Bartsch’s biggest aspiration is to perform in the pit orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera.  At this concert, she will perform all four movements of Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy.”

Michael Roemer (below) is currently pursuing the Master of Music degree in opera, studying with William Farlow and Julia Faulkner and holding a teaching assistantship in voice. He received the Bachelor of Music degree in voice performance at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he studied with Brian Leeper  A native of Brodhead, Wisconsin, he received an Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Wisconsin District in 2011.  In the same year, he performed with the Des Moines Metro Opera as an apprentice artist.  Last fall, he played the role of Marcello in University Opera’s production of “La Bohème” and next month, he will play the title role in the company’s production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” For the symphony program, Roemer will perform “Hai già vinta la causa . . . Vedrò mentre io sospiro” from “Le nozze de Figaro” by Mozart.  

Jeongmin Lee (below) is pursuing the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance and pedagogy, studying with Todd Welbourne and Jessica Johnson.  Originally from Seoul, Korea, she received the Bachelor of Music degree from Seoul National University, where she studied with Nakho Paik and Haesun Paik. She earned an artist diploma in piano performance at Oberlin Conservatory studying with Haewon Song and the Master of Music degree in piano performance and pedagogy at Northwestern University studying with Alan Chow and Marcia Bosits.  Lee is the recipient of the Perlman Trio scholarship from the School of Music.  She previously taught piano at Yanbian University of Science and Technology and music at Yanbian International Academy in China. Lee will perform the first movement (Allegro moderato) of Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major,” Op. 58.

Brett Walter is pursuing the Master of Music degree in percussion performance, studying with Anthony Di Sanza.  Originally from Grafton, Wisconsin, he received the Bachelor of Music degree in percussion performance from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he studied with Cheryl Grosso. He previously studied with Tom Fischer. Walter was a member of the 2007 Colts Drum and Bugle Corps and won second place in the Green Bay Civic Symphony Concerto Competition  In addition, he is a freelance musician and an active sectional coach with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. Walter will perform “Prism Rhapsody for Marimba and Orchestra” by Keiko Abe.

Youn-Jae Ok (below) is a candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition and has studied with Stephen Dembski and Laura Schwendinger.  His early schooling was in Korea and England and he completed the International Baccalaureate at the Chateau du Rosey in Switzerland.  Ok holds the Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music and the Master of Music degree from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of the Performing Arts. His teachers include Stacy Garrop, Daron Hagen, Joel Hoffman, Michael Fiday and Mara Helmuth.  Ok was the winner of the 2007-08 Roosevelt Wind Ensemble Competition for “Audacity” and was a regional winner of the 2008 SCI/ASCAP student composition competition for “Zest for Olive Salad.”  He is a repeat winner of the School of Music’s composition competition, having won in 2009 for “Vacillation.”  

Ok’s program notes begin, “The title of the piece, ‘Mi-Ryen,’ is an emotional state that describes a mixture of the following feelings: longing, nostalgia, lingering, regret and hovering. . . .  Mi-Ryen is perhaps a piece that describes an emotional state rather than expressing it, opening possibilities for audiences to link the described emotion to their current emotional state.  In other words, its intention is to evoke the listener’s emotions and not to impose emotion of my own.”

The new work will be performed under the direction of graduate assistant conductor David Grandis (below). Grandis will also open the concert with the Overture to Verdi’s “La forza del destino.”

A free public reception for musicians and audience will follow in Mills Hall lobby, sponsored by the School of Music Alumni Association. Mills Hall is located in the Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus, at the corner of Park Street and University Avenue.


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