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Lost & Found: Fritz Kreisler's University of Wisconsin Football Songs

  
  
  
Pipe

Today we have a marvelous story from SHAR Apprentice James Engman. James shares with us his discovery, in the musty, dank corners of the University of Wisconsin's School of Music Library, two Fritz Kreisler pieces composed for the UW football team. Not only does James's story remind us to keep our eyes and ears open for what's wondrous and overlooked, it shows us how James's eclectism -- a love of old pipes, arrowheads, football, classical music -- has as much to do with his discovery as his determination to find the perfect performance piece to end his undergraduate career.

Several hours after taking my dog for a long walk last weekend, I was on my way to the local Ypsilanti Historical Museum with a 175 year-old ceramic tobacco pipe. It had apparently been dropped into the Huron River by An early 19th Century fur trader, where it remained caked in mud through the Civil War, the entire 20th Century, the birth and death of 15 US Presidents, and the blossoming and conclusion of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez’s relationship. Finally, I came upon it sticking out of the silty river bank in the spring of 2013. My propensity to pick up interesting looking garbage is finally paying off, yet this is not the first time that I found something that hasn’t been gazed upon for many years. I once found a flawless arrowhead on my uncle’s property in Northern Wisconsin, and came upon some nickels from 1905 while replacing drywall in my childhood home. While reflecting on the excitement of finding the old pipe this weekend, I remembered another discovery from about a year ago. So far, it ranks as probably the most meaningful and exciting of my discoveries, and it was actually a piece of music.



While preparing for my senior recital last spring, I decided that there was room for a short “dessert” piece at the end of the program. I was intent on playing a piece by each of my favorite violinist-composers, Pablo de Sarasate and Fritz Kreisler. Since I had already chosen Sarasate’s “Jota Narvarra” to conclude the first half of the recital, I was in the market for a charming piece by Kreisler. Clicking through countless YouTube videos, exhausting myself through countless Naxos albums, and finally letting my Fritz Kreisler Pandora station do the work as I folded laundry, I was full of ideas. Still, nothing was speaking to me on a deep personal level – the way I wanted to conclude my undergraduate performance career. I decided to do some reading about Fritz Kreisler to learn more about his music, and I began with a short biography by Eric Wen at the beginning of The Fritz Kreisler Collection, the first book in a fantastic series of Kreisler sheet music compilations from the publisher Carl Fischer.(Note: If you have a chance to read about Kreisler’s early composing career, you will certainly find the circumstances of his success inspirational.) There was one sentence in that short biography that caught my eye. I suddenly knew exactly what I was going to play at the end of my recital, though I didn’t know the title or what the piece even sounded like.

The sentence that caught my eye was the conclusion of a paragraph about Kreisler’sversatility. Wen wrote, “At the request of a friend, [Fritz Kreisler] even composed two football songs for the University of Wisconsin.” My recital was the conclusion of my undergraduate studies at that very University. At first I simply sat and stared inquisitively at that line, reading and rereading it until it made sense. It was as if God himself inserted that coincidental nugget into the universe for the sole purpose of me finding it. Old posters in the Union Theater told me that Kreisler had performed for UW, but I had never heard of a piece written by him for Wisconsin. I immediately scoured the internet for information. Google didn’t bring up a single hit for anything about a UW football song by Kreisler. I even asked my professor, Tyrone Greive, who knows everything else you could possibly know about the violin and our University, and he had never heard of Kreisler writing a piece for the UW. Without the help of the internet or music scholars who had been at the University for years, there was only one option remaining: to search the depths of the musty catacombs that is the School of Music’s sheet music library.

After hours of paging through old songbooks from Kreisler’s time, I finally came upon a section of thin paperback books inside hard green folders entitled “Songs to Thee, Wisconsin.” They were printed in 1948, the year my grandfather returned from the War and enrolled in the University of Wisconsin as a freshman. In them were two songs with Fritz Kreisler’s name at the top: Pioneers of Wisonsin and Valiants of Wisconsin. The words were written below the melody, and below that was a piano accompaniment also written by Kreisler (who was an accomplished pianist). According to the songbook, Kreisler was a good friend of UW’s President Clarence A. Dykstra, who had written the words to Pioneers of Wisconsin and wished for Kreisler to write a melody and accompaniment for them. The piece was first performed at the 1943 homecoming game with a marching band arrangement by conductor Raymond Dvorak.

While both of the pieces certainly had all the gaudy charm of a football fight song, I chose Pioneers of Wisconsin, being that it was in D major, had a lyrical introduction, and a refrain that led itself to be easily turned into a theme and variation. I composed two variations to showcase double stops, harmonics, arpeggios, and barriolage, and had a few days to get them under my finders and memorized. My recital was a few months after the Rose Bowl, in which the Badgers ended their fantastic season with an unfortunate loss. While only a few members of my recital audience were avid Badger Football fans, of those, only one or two had any idea of the importance of Fritz Kreisler and his repertoire. Regardless, I felt that I had brushed of some lost artifact, and while it may not have awed anyone much more than a washed-up old tobacco pipe, it bridged two eras and united two very different pastimes. I imagine my grandfather singing these pieces at his first UW homecoming celebration, and how they may have had the popularity that “Sweet Caroline” or “Jump Around” have today (songs that are both played endlessly at UW football games).

My hope is that every musician will at some point have the experience of discovering an old, obscure piece. There are many out there, whether in print or not, lost among the multitudes of favorites that grace thousands of recitals and concerts each year. You might not always find them where you think you would, but eventually they surface and present themselves to someone lucky enough to have their eyes on unlikely places.

If you have a story of discovering a little-known piece of music, please send your story to jamese@sharmusic.com.

















Choosing Music

  
  
  
Kim Wren

We have a wonderful guest blog today from Kim Wren, the upright bassist for the indie-folk band Doug Mains & the City Folk. Ms. Wren has been a member of Doug Mains & the City Folk since 2010 and is currently a senior music education major at Michigan State University. Ms. Wren talks about how "choosing the bass as a lifelong musical partner" introduced her to a rich variety of genres like classical, jazz, rock, and folk and to her current bandmates. It's a great story for our blog, where musicians like Christian Howes and Mark O'Connor have stressed the importance of playing in genres other classical.  

When I first saw the upright bass in the back of my brother’s 6th grade orchestra class, my ten-year-old self would have never imagined the places that instrument would take me over the next decade. From a performing arts high school in Georgia to traveling on the road with an indie-folk band in Michigan, choosing the bass as a lifelong musical partner has lead me down many unexpected and exciting paths.

I switched to bass in 6th grade after playing the violin for a year in 5th grade. For various reasons (mostly because of the screeching sound of the E string), I didn’t enjoy my 5th grade year of violin playing at all and I was ready to drop out of music completely by the time 6th grade came around. But my mom and the middle school orchestra teacher convinced me to stay and try the bass out for a few weeks before I made a final decision. So I started staying after school for beginning bass lessons with the orchestra teacher and two other 6th graders who were also switching to bass. It was just about instant love when I first played that beast of an instrument. The low E string, instead of screeching like my violin, rumbled the floor. I was hooked on orchestra for good. My teacher let me take a school bass home and, especially in those early stages, I remember my parents having to stop me from practicing so much because it was driving them crazy.

Since those beginning years, being a bassist has lead me to many places I very likely would have never gone had I not stuck with music as a middle-schooler. From All-State Orchestras across the states of Virginia (where I spent my middle school years) and Georgia (where I spent my high school years), to a performing arts high school where I met many friends and colleagues in the arts, to summers at Interlochen Arts Camp, to Michigan State University for my undergraduate education. Being such a versatile instrument, the bass has also lead me to expand and explore many genres of music including (but never limited to) classical, jazz, rock, singer-songwriter, and folk. Most importantly to me, through music and bass playing I’ve met a countless number of people from all different walks of life. Some of them have become lifelong friends, like my four band-mates in Doug Mains & the City Folk, Doug, Josh, Rob, and Kelly. I’m so grateful to be a part of this team of musicians. We’ve traveled many miles together throughout the country and have shared so many meaningful experiences, some high, some low, but always together as a little indie-folk music family.

I owe much to my mom and to my middle school orchestra teacher for putting a double bass in my hands all those years ago. Where would life have taken me without that defining moment? I don’t even want to consider.









Violin Pickups: What Are They And Why Would I Use One?

  
  
  
Alberta Barnes

For most of us “classically trained” violinists, the thought of installing a pickup is confusing, frightening, and weird. The good news is that it isn’t as complicated as it seems and we have a variety of options to suit your individual needs!

If you are trying to play your instrument in a venue where everyone else is amped, miked, and generally just LOUD, then you will probably want to get a pickup for your instrument. Trying to play into a microphone or a condenser mike can work for you on occasion, but if you consistently find yourself being buried beneath electric guitars or drum sets then you’ll need some help. Besides, a pickup can help produce a better and more natural sound than a microphone will.

Essentially, a pickup is a small device that attaches to your instrument in the bridge area which converts physical vibrations into a digital signal. You can plug the pickup into an amp, and BAM – now you’re loud. It’s pretty simple! So, if you think you need a pickup, the next step is to determine your needs. Here are some things to consider:

Violin Accessories: Must-Have Accessories for Outdoor Gigs

  
  
  
Peak Music Stand

As the weather gets nicer, many musicians find themselves playing more gigs outside. From weddings to dinner parties, do you have what you need to make sure that you don’t get blown away while you’re playing outside?

A Sturdy Music Stand
I can’t tell you how many gigs I’ve played where my main focus has been on trying to stabilize my music stand. Folding wire stands are great because they are light, convenient, and very portable, but they don’t tend to do very well outside. Often they collapse under the weight of a gig binder or they completely blow over. In order to avoid this, you’ll probably want to get a heavier, more solid music stand in order to avoid problems. Here are my suggestions:

SHAR's 50th Anniversary Recital: A Video Diary

  
  
  
SHAR 50th Anniversary


To celebrate SHAR's 50th Anniversary, we held a recital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Employees and friends of SHAR came out to watch their coworkers and community memebers perform their favorite pieces. The applause was hearty, the music was excellent, and everyone was in fine spirits. So that we can relive the night (and share it with you!), we edited videos of the performances and put them up on our YouTube channel. Enjoy!

One sad note: There was a performance of Johannes Brahms's Piano Quartet No. 2 in A-Major but the videographer – me! – got so wrapped up in the music he didn't notice the tape was running out. Apologies to the Brahms fans out there and the performers of that piece... 


PROGRAM

Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major K. 423, Rondo
W. A. Mozart




Three Latin American Miniatures, III
Vinicio Meza




Miniatures for Viola, Clarinet, and Piano
VI. Nocturne, VII. Allegro vivace ma non troppo
Max Bruch






Octet in E-flat Major
Allegro moderato ma con fuoco
Felix Mendelssohn




Blues Etude 
Jeremy Cohen




Andante-Shcherzo
Paul Pierné




Nocturne No. 20
Frederic Chopin




Valse-Scherzo in C Major Op. 34
Tchaikovsky



 

SHAR's 3rd Annual String Quartet Competition

  
  
  
SHAR Quartet Competition

SHAR Music is proud to announce the winners of its third annual Quartet Competition!

For Violinists, How Young Is Too Young to Go Pro?

  
  
  
Nerissa Nields

Thanks to Nerisssa Nields for another thoughtful blog post about the adventures of being a Suzuki Mom. In today's post, Nerissa describes how her daughter Lila busked – without realizing it was illegal!  in the Charlotte Airport. In recounting the story, Nerissa grapples with the complications that face the young, ambitious violinist. In her words, "when, if, and how" do we decide to earn a living from "the gift" of our talent?
     

The Ice Cream Pedagogue

  
  
  
Student violinists

As a SHAR Apprentice I have the great pleasure of being able to perform at local schools as part of the Apprentice Ensemble’s outreach program. This past week, two colleagues and I were privileged to perform back-to-back mini-concerts for six classes of some of Detroit’s fifth- and sixth-graders. The three of us from SHAR certainly had fun playing together, but our high string trio arrangements of the Star Wars theme or parts of Carmen were not what made this snowy day so delightful.  Rather, we found ourselves choking back laughter as these kids responded to our performances with the spontaneity and unpredictability that has ceased to color most adult interactions. And, as restless and noisy as these classes were, not a single bright eye seemed any less interested in the music for all of the chaos.

The Miranda July Generation

  
  
  
Joseph Chapman

Music and arts education programs matter because they engage the bizarre and beautiful creativity of Generation Y.

So, I've been thinking about education recently. Entries on the joys and trials of being a Suzuki Mom have flooded my inbox (send more!), and my colleague Alberta, a fine violinist and writer here at SHAR, just posted an entry last week on the sacrifices and payoffs of studying and playing the violin.

The entries on this blog, however, aren't reflective of the dominant opinion on most school boards. No surprise there. Arts education can't really compete with the sciences, and I'm not sure if they've ever been able to compete. Certainly these days most of the rhetoric from President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has centered on the sciences. When Obama and Duncan talk about our test scores dropping behind Scandanavian countries or China, it's usually in the sciences. Administrators value reading, but not reading as a way to make art: more so, they care about reading skills because the savvy use of language is necessary to get ahead.

We Need a Violin Solo for the Next Super Bowl Halftime Show

  
  
  
Super Bowl 2012

This week I finally talk about the Super Bowl and Madonna's halftime show. I'm both fascinated by and suspicious of the spectacle we witnessed, and so I ask, What's the value of the solo performance? And what sort of armor do we put on when everything in our culture is grandiose and awe-inspiring? If you'd like to contribute to our blog -- as a parent, teacher, or player -- email me at joec@sharmusic.com.
 

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