The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Wednesday night, four teenage soloists compete in this year’s Final Forte competition with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Attend it live for FREE, or watch and hear it live on PBS Wisconsin and Wisconsin Public Radio

February 23, 2020
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Wednesday night, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. in Overture Hall, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below in a  photo by Peter Rodgers), PBS Wisconsin and Wisconsin Public Radio will present the 14th annual “Wisconsin Young Artists Compete: The Final Forte.”

The concert of four teenage concerto competition winners features the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) led by Associate Conductor Kyle Knox (below).

The concert is FREE and open to the public. But audience members must register in advance, and arrive by 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26, prior to the beginning of the live broadcast. Reservations are required. Call (608) 257-3734 or go online to register at

Doors open at 6:15 p.m. and close at 6:45 p.m. due to the live broadcast. The event runs until 8:30 p.m. No tickets will be issued at the door. Seating is general admission in select areas of the concert hall.

The four finalists (below, in a photo by James Gill who did all the contestant photos) were chosen from 10 semi-finalists in November.

They are:

Jessica Jiang (far left), who will perform the first movement from Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. (You can hear the Prokofiev movement, played by Martha Argerich, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Jonah Kartman (far right), who will perform the first movement from Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No 3.

Emily Hauer (third from left) who will perform the first movement from Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor.

Pianist Michael Wu (second from left) who will perform Liszt’s “Totentanz” (Dance of Death).

Videos to introduce each finalist are now available for viewing online.

Jessica Jiang:

Emily Hauer:

Jonah Kartman:

Michael Wu):

Rebroadcast dates on the Wisconsin Channel (WPT-2) will be Friday, March 6 at 8 p.m. and 11p.m.; Saturday, March 7, at 3 p.m.; and Thursday, March 12, at 3 a.m.


Jessica Jiang (below) is a junior at Madison Memorial High School. She took up the piano at the age of four and currently studies with Bill Lutes, Emeritus Professor at the UW-Madison Mead Witter School of Music. Jessica received the Steenbock Youth Music Award in the 2018 Bolz Young Artist Competition and took second place in Division III of the National Steinway and Sons Piano Competition in 2019.

Emily Hauer (below) is a home-schooled senior from Appleton. She began violin lessons at the age of two and currently studies with Ilana Setapen, associate concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Emily won the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Young Artist Concerto Competition in 2017 and is currently in her fourth year as the concertmaster of the Fox Valley Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Jonah Kartman (below) is a home-schooled senior from Glendale. He has been playing the violin for 13 years, and currently studies with I-Hao Lee at DePaul University’s School of Music. Jonah was a finalist in the 2019 Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Audrey G. Baird Stars of Tomorrow competition, and a two-time winner and scholarship recipient in the Civic Music Association of Milwaukee Competition.

Michael Wu (below) is a senior at Sun Prairie High School. He began piano lessons at age five, and currently studies with Bill Lutes, Emeritus Professor at the UW-Madison Mead Witter School of Music. Michael received the Steenbock Youth Music Award in the 2017 Bolz Young Artist Competition and took first place in Division III of the National Steinway and Sons Piano Competition in 2018.


This competition has captured an enormous following and numerous honors, including an Emmy nomination, First Place in the “Special Interest” category from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association in 2007, and the fifth most-watched program in the February 2007 Nielsen ratings. The 2008 broadcasts reached more than 60,000 viewers and listeners in the Madison market alone and the 2009 broadcasts reached an estimated 200,000 statewide.

The Final Forte is funded by major support from Diane Ballweg, Stephen Morton, W. Jerome Frautschi, A. Paul Jones Charitable Trust, Julie and Larry Midtbo, Fred and Mary Mohs, and Elizabeth Olson, with additional support from Bell Laboratories, James Dahlberg and Elsebet Lund, Kato Perlman, Cyrena and Lee Pondrom, Sentry Insurance Foundation, Darcy Kind and Marc Vitale, Dr. A. Beyer-Mears, Nick and Judith Topitzes, the Focus Fund for Young Performers, and Friends of PBS Wisconsin.


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Classical music: The Madison Youth Choirs will celebrate their 10th anniversary tomorrow, Sunday, May 19, with a series of three spring concerts in the Capitol Theater at the Overture Center. In the summer of 2014, MYC boyschoirs will tour to Aberdeen, Scotland.

May 18, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Tomorrow, on Sunday, May 19, the Madison Youth Choirs will celebrate their 10th anniversary with a series of three spring concerts in the Capitol Theater (below) at the Overture Center.

Capitol Theater

1 p.m.: Performers are the Choraliers (below, in a photo by Elizabeth Chen), Con Gioia, and Capriccio girlchoirs.

Madison Youth Choirs Choraliers CR Elizabeth Chen

4:30 p.m.: Performers are the Purcell (below in  a photo by Karen Holland), Britten, Holst, and Ragazzi boychoirs.

Madison Youth Purcell and Britten Choirs cr Karen Holland

This concert features two newly commissioned works from Dan Krunnfusz, past Madison Boychoir Artistic Director, below.

Dan Kronnfusz

7:30 p.m.: Cantilena, Cantabile, and Ragazzi (high school ensembles). Below is a photo of Ragazzi by Karen Holland:

Madison Youth Choirs Ragazzi cr Karen Holland

Tickets are $10-$20 and available from the Overture Center box office (608) 258-4141, and at, or in person.

Highlights from the program include: “When David Heard” by Thomas Weelkes; “Five Hebrew Love Songs” by Eric Whitacre (below and at bottom in a YouTube video); music by Benjamin Britten, Felix Mendelssohn, Alice Parker, George Friderich Handel, and much more.

Composer conductor Eric Whitacre, in rehearsal and concert at Union Chapel, Islington, London

The Madison Youth Chorus will also celebrate the first-ever recipient of our Music Educator of the Year award, given to an area music teacher who has made a significant contribution to music education.

The group will recognize Mary Schmidt (below top in a self-portrait), a music teacher at Sun Prairie High School (below bottom, in a photo by J.H. Findorff and Sons) and Sun Prairie Middle School, and will celebrate her accomplishments at our concerts.

mary schmidt sun priaire CR Mary Schmidt

Sun Prairie High School J.H. Findorff and Sons


ABOUT the Madison Youth Choirs:

In summer 2014, MYC boychoirs will travel to Scotland for their first appearance at the invitation-only Aberdeen International Youth Festival.

Recognized as an innovator in youth choral education, MYC inspires enjoyment, learning and social development through the study and performance of high-quality and diverse choral literature. The oldest youth choir organization in Wisconsin, MYC welcomes singers of all ability levels, challenging them to learn more than just notes and rhythms. Singers explore the history, context, and heart of the music, becoming “expert noticers,” using music as a lens to discover the world. MYC serves more than 500 young people, ages 7-18, in 11 single-gender choirs.

In addition to a public concert series, MYC conducts an annual spring tour of schools and retirement centers, performing for more than 7,000 students and senior citizens annually. MYC also collaborates with professional arts organizations including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Ballet, and Madison Opera, while continually supporting and recognizing the work of public schools and music educators throughout the area.   

For more information, visit or write to the headquarters at 160 Westgate Mall, Suite I,  Madison, WI 53711.

Classical music Q&A: Pianist Laura Caviani talks about the ties between classical music and jazz before her upcoming concert and workshop in Madison this coming Sunday. Part 2 of 2.

September 5, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Fusion – the combining of different or contrasting art genres — is a big trend in classical music today as classical musicians seek to build both audiences and relevance.

It is a very postmodern cultural phenomenon.

One local example is the upcoming concert by pianist Laura Caviani. It is “From Bach to Bop” on Sunday, Sept. 9, with a concert from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and workshop from 6 to 7 p.m.

The concert will be held at the Brink Lounge (below), 701 East Washington Avenue., in Madison.

Concert Admission is: General public: $12 advance, $15 at the door on day-of-show; Students with ID, Members of Madison Music Collective and Madison Jazz Society: $8 advance, $10 at the door on day-of-show

Workshop Admission is FREE

Advance tickets can be purchased online at

The concert is sponsored by the Madison Music Collective, Mad Toast Live, Lillianis Restaurant, WORT-FM and the Improvisational Music Workshop.

Pianist Laura Caviani recently spoke with The Ear via email about the links between classical music and jazz 

For you, what do classical music and jazz have in common?

Well, there’s the familiar quote by Duke Ellington (below): “There are only two kinds of music: Good and Bad”. As I get older, I really find this to be true. It does help to categorize music, because it makes us feel smarter. But in the end, either you like what you’re listening to, or you don’t.

When I analyze J.S. Bach, the chord progressions that reveal themselves to me feel so jazzy! His harmonic language is full of extensions and alterations. Yes, Bach (below) was truly a jazzer. Same with Debussy. Schumann feels more like folk music to me; his melody line is so simple and clear and strong. Embellishing that melody becomes a really fun challenge.

Do you see a trend of different genres of music closing the gaps between them, or at least being combined in live concert events? If so, why is that happening?

I think the advent of YouTube has brought our culture to this amazing time when everything is available to us in an instant. This is both good and bad, but the good part is that if musicians want to make comparisons between genres and/or performers, they can do so in a heartbeat. I think this new technology will connect unlikely musical collaborators in new ways and will bode well for the future of music, as long as we don’t take this new technology for granted.

Some of my favorite jazz pianists have also recorded classical works. One of my favorite jazz pianists, Keith Jarrett (below), recorded the Handel Suites, Bach and more. The hand independence that is required to play Baroque music is evident in his improvising. Clearly, his understanding of Classical music in general has informed his improvising and made him a better musician.

Actually, this is an important point:  I would argue that all classical musicians would benefit from learning how to improvise, just as jazz musicians can learn from classical musicians.

You are from the Twin Cities. Do you know Madison and its audiences and what do you think of them?

About my Wisconsin ties: I have so many fond memories of my times in Wisconsin. My first memories are from my times at Lawrence University, where I studied jazz with the great Fred Sturm (below). He’s back there teaching (after a brief stint at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY) and is, hands down, my all time top jazz mentor.

Shortly after graduating from LU, I spent a summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison completing a degree requirement, and have many fond memories of practicing in the music building. Kurt Dietrich was my unlikely mentor at that time, as he took the time to show me to the music library, where he played McCoy Tyner‘s “Passion Dance” for me. (He heard me practicing it like a Bach etude from a transcription book. Clearly I had never heard the recording before!) Hearing that recording, in that library, changed my life forever, and I knew then that I wanted to play jazz for the rest of my life.

Many years later, I remember meeting Joan Wildman (below) in Madison one weekend, while I was teaching jazz at UW–Stevens Point. She inspired me in that she was doing what I wanted to do: combining her own work with teaching and composing.

Finally, one my fondest Madison memories is adjudicating for one of the best high school jazz festivals in the country, which just happens to be in Madison’s backyard, at Sun Prairie High School, with Steve Sveum as the band director. Madison is so lucky to have such talent in the area.

More recently, I was just in Madison two years ago to celebrate the music of the great Mary Lou Williams, who would have turned 100 in 2010. Jim Doherty brought me in to work with some of the local high school jazz bands, and to perform with the U of WI Jazz Band. What talent I heard that day! Before that, I hadn’t performed in Madison since 1995 or 96, when the marvelous vocalist Debbie Duncan and I drove down in a blizzard to play at a small jazz club.

The fact that we made it was a minor miracle. Ben Sidran (below) was in the audience, and sat in. That was a memorable weekend.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I feel strongly that music must remain a priority in our schools. Retaining strong music (and art) programs is imperative to the well being of all students. There is overwhelming evidence that the skills students gain from their experiences in band, orchestra, choir, and jazz ensemble, help them as they mature into creative and contributing members of society, whether or not they go on and become musicians.

About the upcoming concert: Both Pete Whitman (below) and I are so looking forward to performing in Madison. We’ll be performing selections from our Bach to Bop program, along with original compositions by both myself and Pete.

Pete is a fine composer in his own right, and is on faculty at McNally Smith College in St. Paul, Minn. He plays a mean sax, and has performed with Glenn Miller and Woody Herman, to name a few. Pete and I also look forward to performing some of these pieces with your local bassist and drummer, John Schaffer and Rand Moore.

We are really looking forward to this concert.

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