Tom Strini

UPAF Kickoff, New York coolness, Florentine Day, MacDowell Club

By - Apr 5th, 2012 02:00 am
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Deanna Tillisch, speaking at UPAF’s campaign kickoff Wednesday. Jennell Jenney photo for TCD.

1. The United Performing Arts Fund announced a $10 million goal for 2012 Wednesday afternoon, at an upbeat gathering of fundraisers, donors, artists, volunteers and administrators. That is modestly higher than last year’s goal of $9.65 million, which UPAF surpassed.

The Fund raises money for 15 member groups (including the “cornerstone” Milwaukee Symphony, Milwaukee Rep, Skylight Music Theatre, Milwaukee Ballet, Florentine Opera and First Stage) and allocates the proceeds among them according to a complicated formula. UPAF also awards program grants to 21 affiliate members.

Deanna Tillisch, UPAF president and CEO since October, spoke at the event, along with campaign co-chairs David Lubar and Carlene Ziegler. The Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra steel band played calypso music and young Christian Adams gave an original rap on the joys of First Stage, backed by fellow students in the company’s theater school. Rockwell vice-president Ed Seaberg told of how his musical training had served him in the business world.


Jim Farrell, of the Skylight Music Theatre, and friend at the UPAF kickoff. Jennell Jenney photo for TCD.

Seaberg chaired the workplace giving campaign at Rockwell Automation this year and announced that employees there had pledged over $140,000. Lubar said that Northwestern Mutual employees have pledged $625,000. So the campaign is off to a strong start. Both companies reported substantial increases over 2011.

UPAF held the event at The Garage at the Harley-Davidson Museum. That room has a big overhead door, which rose to allow a spanking-new Harley Sportster 72 to glide right into the meeting. Patrick Smith, Harley VP and general manager for global apparel and merchandise, announced that the company is donating the bike. Any individual contributing a new gift of $50 or more and any returning donor increasing by $50 or more over last year’s gift will automatically be entered in a drawing for the motorcycle.

Smith spoke of his life-long love for both the arts and motorcycles and his delight in putting the two together. He tied in the motorcycle-themed Othello opening this week at the Milwaukee Rep.

Painter Shelby Keefe, who has just finished her term as artist in residence at the Pfister Hotel, addressed the crowd and painted live during the event. Keefe final Pfister act was a set of 16 paintings celebrating UPAF and its members. Those paintings will eventually be auctioned off for UPAF’s benefit. (The buy-it-now price is $5,000 each, $75,000 for the set.)

2. Keefe makes a nice transition to my next story. When Tony Bennett came to town to sing at the Marcus Center on March 4, he stayed at the Pfister. Bennett, an avid painter and art connoisseur, saw Keefe at work in the glassed-in studio at the Pfister and stopped to chat. Bennett loved her art and invited her to the concert, then praised her from the stage and pointed her out in the audience.


Nan Melville photo, courtesy of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts website.

The concert was fabulous, and Bennett liked my review so much that he sent me a nice handwritten note about it. Sylvia Weiner, from Bennett’s office, emailed to ask if I would be in New York any time soon. As it happens, I’m going in May, for the May 11 MSO performance in Carnegie Hall. Weiner knew from prior correspondence that I teach a course, American Songbook 1920-1960, at UWM. She asked if I’d be interested in giving a lecture on that subject at the Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts, in Queens.

Oh yes.

It’s happening; Bennett’s office arranged it, for noon on May 11. I’ll be talking to about 50 kids on the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Fats Waller, Irving Berlin… at the FRANK SINATRA HIGH SCHOOL OF THE ARTS! (Yes, I’m capitals and exclamation point pumped about this.)

3. I have it on good authority that Mayor Barrett will proclaim April 11 Florentine Opera Day. Anyone showing up at our office wearing a helmet with horns will get a free TCD refrigerator magnet on that day.

4. The members of the MacDowell Club never flag in their love for music or their efforts to spread its joys. So I’m pleased to pass along some of their upcoming activities.

The club is staging a competition for Wisconsin composers  under the age of 25. A grant from the Argosy Fund for Contemporary Music will


Edward MacDowell, the American composer who inspired formation of Milwaukee’s MacDowell Club 102 years ago.

provide $12,00, $1,000 and $600 prizes for first, second and third place. The judges are James Crowley, composer and Associate Professor of Music at UW-Parkside; Monte Perkins, bassoonist and Director of Milwaukee’s Festival City Orchestra; Roger Ruggeri, well-known program annotator and Emeritus Principal double bassist of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; and Eun-Joo Kwak, concert pianist, Assistant Professor of Piano at Cardinal Stritch University and member of its Clarus Piano Trio. The winning entry will be premiered at one of the MacDowell Club’s free public concerts in 2012 or 2013.

The competition is open to any young composer residing, studying, or born in Wisconsin. Requirements: A 6-8 minute chamber work for three to six acoustic instruments. The application deadline is May 1. The completed composition must be submitted by U.S. mail and postmarked no later than Oct. 1, 2012. Competition guidelines and registration forms and are available at the club’s website.

More MacDowell Club:. The club presents Michael Batcho and Sheri Masiakowski in concert on the magnificent new 115 rank / 4 manual Schantz organ of Gesu Parish, 1210 W. Wisconsin Ave., on the campus of Marquette University. The program will include works by J. S. Bach; Jeanne Demessieux; S. Theophane Hytrek, OSF; Jean Langlais; Henri Mulet and more. This is the fifth in the Club’s 102nd series of concerts. It is open to the public at no charge.

And more MacDowell Club:The club will host a marathon for music students ages 14-19 Sunday afternoon, April 29, in Schwan Hall at


Tom Strini, hard at work bringing TCD readers the most insightful arts journalism.

Wisconsin Lutheran College, 8815 W. Wisconsin Ave. The marathon is open to vocalists, organists, pianists and acoustic instrumentalists studying classical music. Ten-minute performing slots will be assigned between 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. on a first come, first served basis. Thanks to a grant from the Argosy Foundation, the three top performers will take home prizes of $200, $150 and $100. The event is open to the public with a suggested donation of $5, all proceeds to benefit the MacDowell Club Scholarship Program.

Performer applications are due by April 20; early registration is recommended. Required are a recommendation from the student’s music teacher, sponsorship(s) totaling a minimum of $25, and the completed application form listing the repertoire to be played. At least one work must have been composed during or after 1992. Apply at the MacDowell Club web site. For questions about vocal repertoire contact Christine O’Meally at, and Suzanne Pajunen at regarding instrumental pieces.

And finally: During the above music marathon, the club will conduct a sale of a massive assortment of used music-related items to benefit its Scholarship Fund. Sheet music, concerti, quartets, choral works, etudes, arias, books, CDs, something for everyone! (Check or cash only.)

0 thoughts on “UPAF Kickoff, New York coolness, Florentine Day, MacDowell Club”

  1. Anonymous says:

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