The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here is how the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) plan to continue lessons and performances this fall despite the coronavirus pandemic

August 29, 2020
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has just received the following updates from an email newsletter about the upcoming season of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO). Over more than 50 years, WYSO has served tens of thousands of middle school and high school students in southcentral Wisconsin and northern Illinois. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear the WYSO Youth Orchestra play a virtual performance from the past season of the famous finale from Rossini’s “William Tell” Overture.)

After many weeks of planning, and in consultation with Public Health Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) and the McFarland School District, WYSO is excited to announce a fall semester plan that will mark a safe return to in-person music-making—and our first season at the McFarland Performing Arts Center (below) https://www.wysomusic.org/the-wyso-weekly-tune-up-april-17-2020-wysos-new-home/

We had a brief delay last Friday when PHMDC released Emergency Statement #9 delaying in-person start dates for all schools in Dane County. We checked in with the Public Health agency and they re-affirmed that WYSO is not a school —and the 15 students maximum-sized groups outlined in this plan are absolutely perfect. It is time to set up the tents!

The WYSO season will begin on the weekend of Sept. 5, when the winds and brass students from all three full orchestras (Youth, Philharmonia and Concert) will begin their fall rehearsals outside under two enormous tents in the McFarland High School parking lot (below). The 60 winds and brass students will be divided into approximately nine or 10 cohorts, who will meet in two-hour blocks on Saturdays and Sundays.

With a single cohort of masked and socially distanced students spread out within the 40′ x 60′ tent, with “bell covers and bags” for their instruments, the season will not look like any previous WYSO Fall.

If you’ve not been involved in the new science of aerosol transmission, this whole scenario might seem very curious. The reasoning is simple: The winds and brass instruments have been singled out as more problematic since you have to blow into them to make music. The blowing releases more “aerosols,” the tiny droplets that can transmit the coronavirus.

However, researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder have recently released the first results from a five-month study and have found that the following actions bring down the transmission risk considerably:

  1. Social distancing 9 to 15 feet apart.
  2. Adding bell covers and bags (below) for the instruments (essentially the instruments have to wear masks as well as the students).
  3. Playing outside, which reduces risks due to the increased air circulation.

Because we are in Wisconsin, the “outdoor” location shortens the season for the winds and brass players so by beginning the season on Sept. 5 and ending on the weekend of Oct. 24, they can just squeeze in an 8-week cycle.

Meanwhile, the WYSO string and percussion players, approximately 300 in number and representing all five orchestras, will begin their fall season indoors on Oct. 17, after McFarland moves to a hybrid model for the school year.

The string players will be divided into 15-student cohorts by orchestra, with a wonderful mix of violins, violas, cellos and basses in each group, and with the groups spread throughout one wing of the high school in large music rooms and atriums.

The percussionists have been scheduled into the new Black Box Theater and they are excited to begin playing on the brand new marimbas and timpani so recently acquired by WYSO through a gift from an incredibly generous anonymous donor.

Everything has been carefully scheduled so that at any given time there will not be more than 125 students, conductors and staff in the building.

Start and end times have been staggered. The large beautiful spaces at McFarland will easily hold the socially distanced and mask-wearing players. And the orchestras will again be scheduled into Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons. Even the WYSO Chamber Music Program (below) has been scheduled into the intricate puzzle.

The rest of this exciting fall story has to do with adding incredibly talented professional musicians to lead some of the cohorts and the amazing repertoire available for groups of 15 musicians, whether they play winds, brass, strings or percussion.

From Mozart’s “Gran Partita” to Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 2 and 6; from Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella Suite” to Bartok’s Divertimento, and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings — there is almost an “embarrassment of riches” of exciting, seldom-played repertoire, to quote WYSO Music Director Kyle Knox (below). And this fall, that repertoire will be right in WYSO’s wheelhouse.

WYSO will video-capture this year’s Fall Concerts of students playing in the beautiful McFarland Performing Arts Center to 800 empty seats and let you know the exact Fall Concert dates as we get closer. Click here for additional information.

While WYSO is incredibly excited about our in-person plan for rehearsals and playing music together, we have also drawn up two alternate plans, and know that not everyone will be able to participate in-person.

WYSO Registration is underway, and we are asking those who cannot participate in the McFarland experience to let us know their needs through the registration process, so that we can create the best virtual experience possible for those involved. Tuition payment is not due at registration.

To register, go to: https://www.wysomusic.org/members/wyso-registration-form/

 


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Classical music: Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras perform the Evelyn Steenbock fall concerts TODAY and next Friday night. The Edgewood Chamber Orchestra performs this Sunday afternoon

November 10, 2018
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IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR SHARE IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

ALERT: This Sunday afternoon, Nov. 11, at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will give its fall concert. Conducted by Blake Walter, the chamber orchestra will play Franz Joseph Haydn’s “The Word on the Moon” Overture, Arthur Honegger’s Pastorale D’été (Summer Pastoral) and Symphony No. 1 in C minor by Felix Mendelssohn. Tickets are $5 for general admission, free with Edgewood College ID.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO, below) will present their first concert series of the 2018-19 season, the Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts TODAY, Saturday, Nov. 10, and next Friday, Nov. 16.

WYSO orchestras will perform works by Igor Stravinsky, Aram Khachaturian, Soon Hee Newbold and more. The Youth Orchestra concert will include a performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo” Variations with special guest cellist Joseph Johnson.

“Joseph Johnson is an extraordinary artist and person and it will be a treat for us all to hear and collaborate with someone of his stature,” says Youth Orchestra Conductor Kyle Knox (below).

Johnson has been heard throughout the world as a soloist, chamber musician and educator. Principal cellist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since the 2009-10 season, he previously held the same position with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. (You can hear an interview with Joseph Johnson in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

He also serves as principal cellist of the Santa Fe Opera, and during the 2008-2009 season was acting principal cellist of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. Prior to his Milwaukee appointment, Johnson was a member of the Minnesota Orchestra cello section for 11 years.

“The Youth Orchestra couldn’t be more excited to present a program of all-Russian music for our first concert of the season,” Knox says. “We will begin with a rarely performed gem by 20th-century composer Igor Stravinsky, followed by one of the great solo works in the cello repertoire, the “Rococo” Variations by Tchaikovsky. Finally, we will finish the evening with the mighty Symphony No. 4 by Tchaikovsky, one of the most famous orchestral works in history, which features all sections of the orchestra.”

TODAY’S concerts begin at 11:30 a.m. in Mills Hall at the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music, 455 North Park Street, Madison.

The Nov. 16 Youth Orchestra concert with guest soloist Joseph Johnson begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Middleton Performing Arts Center, 2100 Bristol Street, next to Middleton High School, with a reception to follow.

WYSO students travel from communities throughout southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois each weekend throughout the concert season to rehearse on the UW-Madison campus.

Each orchestra performs three concerts per season, with additional performance opportunities available to students, including ensembles and chamber groups.

Concert admission is $10 for adults, and $5 for youth 18 and under, with tickets available at the door.

Full concert repertoire is available at https://www.wysomusic.org/evelyn-steenbock-fall-concerts-repertoire/

To learn more about Joseph Johnson, go to: www.joecello.com.

Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts

Saturday, Nov. 10, Mills Concert Hall
11:30 a.m. Opus One and Sinfonietta
1:30 p.m. Harp Ensemble & Concert Orchestra
4 p.m. Percussion Ensemble (below) and Philharmonia Orchestra

Friday, Nov. 16, Middleton Performing Arts Center
7:30 p.m. Youth Orchestra, reception to follow
With guest artist Joseph Johnson, cello


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Classical music education: The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) is expanding its chamber music program to non-WYSO string and wind players. The program also seeks non-WYSO pianists.

September 4, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is the news I have heard from cellist Karl Lavine, who heads the expanding chamber music program (below) for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras. It is good news for many reasons, but especially to pianists who often remain stuck as soloists and never experience the joy of collaborative work in chamber music. (Below is a piano quartet from a WYSO chamber music concert last spring in Morphy Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.)

WYSO DSC_8972

Karl Lavine (below top) is as congenial and cooperative as he is accomplished, and that is saying something. He is the principal cellist with both the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and he also plays in the MSO’s Rhapsodie String Quartet (below bottom).

Karl Lavine, principal cello of WCO

Rhapsodie Quartet MSO Greg Anderson

Writes Karl:

“We are interested in having pianists for the WYSO Chamber Music Program. We have not had any formal auditions to date as most of the pianists have previously come from WYSO or they have been students of Karen Boe (below), who is the WYSO Chamber Music Program piano ensemble coach.

Karen Boe

“We also have only had two or three pianists — all advanced musicians capable of learning and performing chamber works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven or Johannes Brahms  — per semester working with our groups. (At bottom is a YouTube video of violinist Kyung-Wha Chung playing one of The Ear’s favorite chamber works, the piano part of which he wishes he himself could play with a violinist: Mozart’s dramatic and tuneful Violin Sonata No. 21 in E minor, K. 304.)

“The history so far has been one that involved our more advanced players, mostly string players, with these pianists. However, we have had wind players join us as well. Doing both their main instrument and the piano can stretch them pretty thin.

WYSO DSC_8944

“We have not opened collaboration with pianists up to our younger string and wind players primarily because the level of technique and experience necessary make it very difficult to assign repertoire.

“I am not opposed to considering younger WYSO instrumentalists to collaborate with pianists, but it creates a whole new set of parameters for coaching and rehearsing.

“Frankly, it is tough enough to get the more experienced pianists up to speed on the standard chamber repertoire — even though they might be very accomplished as soloists — given we only have 10 coaching sessions per semester. Many of the pianists that have participated in the program have never worked in this type of collaboration before.

“We are open to the idea of having an audition of prospective pianists. In addition, a letter of reference from their private teachers would be required. We would also limit applicants to pianists who have advanced to the Wisconsin School Music Association State Level with the “A” list repertoire, or participated in Wisconsin Music Teachers Association or Federation competition in piano.

Farley's House of PIanos MMM 20141

Here is another tidbit for the blog: We are opening up participation in the WYSO Chamber Program to string and wind players who are NOT a part of WYSO. We have a separate brochure/application for these folks. This is a pilot project this year and we will see what our numbers turn out to be.

So, It would be most helpful if you could write about WYSO’s Chamber Music Program offering openings for those instrumentalists who are not current members, orchestral musicians (string and wind Players) AND pianists:

“1. Membership is open to those between the ages of 10 and 18 and currently in Middle School or High School.

“2. For pianists, a letter from your current private teacher recommending you for the program.

“3. A WYSO Chamber Music Program Brochure can be obtained from the WYSO office. You can find information about the coaching sessions and performance possibilities offered as well as expectations.

“4. For more information, contact the WSYO office: (608) 263-3320, OR send an email to wyso@wyso.music.wisc.edu   OR by contacting Program Director, Karl Lavine at (608) 239-4131; email is karllavine@gmail.com

The WYSO Chamber Music Program offers 10 coaching sessions a semester and public recitals in December and May.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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