by Casey Mysliwy
The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music is renowned throughout the state and the country for its exceptional curriculum and dedication to students. Consistently placed within the top five percent of music schools, it shines in the eyes of its proud students, faculty, alumni and other supporters.
However, the benefits of such a prominent program go beyond just the experiences of students and teachers. The School of Music offers the greatest number of classical performances in Madison. Nearly 300 student, faculty and guest concerts will have been performed by the end of the 2006-07 academic periodmore than the combined classical presentations of the Madison Opera, Wisconsin Union Theater, Madison Symphony Orchestra, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Overture Center for the Arts.
In addition, most of the School of Music's events are offered to the public free of charge, which the school does in the hopes that prospective attendees will have the fullest opportunity to enjoy the music that the program's performers are so passionate about playing. With a wide variety of concerts and recitals, the school is sure to have something that will appeal to any listener.
The school offers an impressive array of faculty concerts throughout the year. One of the university's best-known faculty groups, the Pro Arte Quartet, was the first ensemble in residence at a major American university when it was granted that status in 1940. Since then, the string quartet has garnered praise from around the world.
School of Music professor Mark Hetzler has combined his trombone performances with photography montages in two faculty concerts. His performance, "Dynamic Elements-Thoughts About Earth," challenges the boundaries between music and visual imagery.
Also renowned at UW is faculty pianist Christopher Taylor, who has won a staggering number of awards, including a bronze medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1993. He has also performed with countless orchestras around the world.
Guest artists also perform regularly at the university, giving the public a chance to hear some of the world's foremost musicians. Accomplished classical guitarist Ana Vidovic has appeared at the school, demonstrating the immense talent that has helped her win competitions all over the world. Other well-known guests include Bonnie Hampton, a cellist and Juilliard School professor, and So Percussion, a celebrated experimental group specializing in cutting-edge repertoire.
The School of Music prioritizes the educational aspect of music above all. As a result, it offers concerts of contemporary and less familiar repertoire that may not be available to audiences in more commercial settings. Says Rick Mumford, the school's director of public relations and concert manager, "We have the luxury of presenting challenging, potentially unpopular music. Audiences can hear rarely performed works and experimental music."
The Black Music Ensemble, directed by Richard Davis, focuses on black composers of jazz music. This ensemble stresses not only mastery of the musical style, but also the cultural and historical importance of the genre and the artists who revolutionized it.
The Javanese Gamelan Ensemble, directed by R. Anderson Sutton, learns to perform a type of Indonesian music with authentic instruments. The students in this company have proven to be an exciting audience favorite.
The School of Music also offers the World Percussion Ensemble, conducted by Anthony Di Sanza. The group learns percussion pieces from places such as Brazil, West Africa, India, Cuba and the Middle East. In conjunction, students learn extensively about the cultures that their performance pieces come from, giving them a more well-rounded experience.
Di Sanza also heads another group, the Western Percussion Ensemble, which concentrates on noteworthy 20th- and 21st-century works. This group often performs pieces by guest composers and was recently featured on a CD of compositions by percussionist Michael Udow.
These ensembles are but a sampling of what the School of Music brings listeners. Faculty members both teach and offer performances in everything from woodwinds to voice, and student orchestras, bands and other groups play a major part in student life at the university.
Madison residents are not the only ones who can enjoy UW's eclectic musical events. The School of Music streams a majority of its ensemble and faculty concerts online at its Web site, allowing the school to reach well beyond the Madison community. Web users can listen to past recitals for free on the site by accessing the events calendar and following the links on the calendar to various performance recordings. The School of Music devotes significant effort into providing topnotch sound quality and ease of use of the streaming application itself; this helps to vividly recreate the experience of the original performances to an impressive degree.
To learn more about the School of Music, or to access the events calendar and online streaming feature, visit www.music.wisc.edu.
Writer Casey Mysliwy is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an intern at PortalWisconsin.org.