Milwaukee News

Wisconsin Conservatory of Music — Celebrating 110 years of musical excellence in 2009-2010

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

Wisconsin Conservatory students, 1939

This season, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, a community music school, celebrates a milestone as one of the state’s oldest and most venerable arts institutions. 

For the past 110 years, the Conservatory has offered the finest in music instruction and performance; remaining firmly grounded in the basics of sound music education while staying abreast of changing musical tastes.

Today’s Wisconsin Conservatory of Music is descended from several Milwaukee music institutions.  In 1899, two music schools opened their doors in Milwaukee: the Wisconsin College of Music, housed in Mendelssohn Hall across the street from the Central Library, and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, housed in the Ethical Building on Jefferson Street facing Cathedral Square. These two schools would merge permanently in location and mission in 1971. 

The backbone of the Conservatory is its faculty. One of the Conservatory’s most well-known and beloved faculty members was Adelaide Banaszynski, known as “Miss B” to six generations of piano students along with the internationally accomplished pianist Ralph Votapek.  Other renowned former faculty members include Margaret Hawkins, Lee Dougherty, Pearl Brice, Benjamin Verdery, Rebecca Penneys, Tony King and Jessie Hauck.

The Conservatory’s student roster has included many musicians and artists who have gone on to distinguished careers and worldwide fame.  These students have included pianist Liberace, Mayor Carl Zeidler, pianist Wayne Taddey, actor Gene Wilder, choreographer Liz Lerman, conductor Lee Erickson, and jazz artists Brian Lynch, Lynne Arriale, Gerald Cannon and David Hazeltine.

Today the Conservatory boasts 105 degree-holding and performing faculty members who offer a wide range of music education including early childhood programs (4 months–5 years), children’s classes, Suzuki strings, private lessons and classes for teens and adults, Conservatory Connections, music theory, jazz studies, music therapy, wellness programs, music technology, master classes, chamber music and performance combos.

As a community music school, Conservatory faculty members teach a wide range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, rock, Afro-Caribbean, gospel, folk, electronic and musical theater. The Conservatory also offers scholarship and financial aid opportunities so that anyone wanting to study at the Conservatory has the opportunity to do so, hopefully for another 110 years.

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