MAYCO – “Hope for Humanity”

I am off the bike this week, except for commuting, due to what may be a broken big toe. I say “may be”, because the treatment for a break or a soft tissue injury is the same. Without x-ray vision, I don’t know which it is. I haven’t found a good reason to pay for a doctor’s visit and an x-ray. If broken, pain and tenderness to palpation say it may be in two places. (The bike had nothing to do with the injury. Many have asked.)

The usual treatment is “weight bearing as tolerated”, meaning you walk on it as long as you can stand the pain, and a “post-op shoe” or other hard-soled shoe to minimize the bending of your toe when you walk (since you naturally push off on your big toe, stressing it with every step). Walking hurts more than riding a bike.

I splint broken fingers and other body parts – why not a big toe? So I devised this toe splint, which seems to be working. It fits (snugly) in a shoe, but feels better barefoot – which is true of life in general. The second toe is taped to prevent abrasion from the casting material – a semi-rigid material called “Orficast”, which looks like a roll of tape and is moldable, hardening after being soaked in warm water. While I walk a little funny since the toe won’t bend, it hurts a lot less. I gave up the cane yesterday.

Since I’m not writing about biking, I offer this post-mortem on a remarkable institution which would have marked its tenth anniversary last summer, were it not for a pandemic.

A 15 year old musician wanted to be an orchestral conductor. He looked around and found that, in the US, there were no undergraduate conducting programs. To realize his dream he would not only have to finish high school, but also get an undergraduate degree – then he could try conducting if he could get one of the coveted spots in a Master’s program in conducting. He discerned there was another way. He could start an orchestra.

With no funds, and being too young to form a not-for-profit corporation with which to fund it, ingenuity was the only recourse. He recognized that there were no opportunities for young musicians to play chamber orchestra repertoire, so he formed a chamber orchestra. He recruited musicians from WYSO (the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra) and the University of Wisconsin School of Music. He envisioned it as a mentoring program, so paired college music majors with high school students as stand partners. Over the years, he added workshops in historically-informed performance practice with local professional musicians. He enlisted faculty members (including members of the Pro Arte Quartet, the world’s oldest consistently-performing string quartet) to appear as soloists, so the student musicians could have the experience of performing with professionals. He developed a conducting apprenticeship program so other young musicians could get podium time during rehearsals and performance before an audience. He mobilized conductors to mentor him, found summer training programs, and served an apprenticeship with the Madison Opera Company – their first-ever conducting apprentice. World premieres and supporting young composers were an integral part of MAYCO, with a newly-commissioned work nearly every year. (2015 saw the US premiere of British composer Cecilia McDowall’s “Rain, Steam, and Speed”.) Eventually he partnered with an arts funding organization to provide a means by which donors could help fund the orchestra.

Joseph Mallord William Turner Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway 1844 Oil on canvas, 91 x 121.8 cm Turner Bequest, 1856 NG538 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG538
Jerry Hui, composer of “Glacies”

Partnerships were negotiated with WYSO and the university (and later, churches and an art gallery) to secure rehearsal and performance spaces, as well as use of larger instruments (e.g. percussion and piano). The orchestra performed on the Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen performance series. (Scroll down to August 5, 2018 on the Chazen Facebook page to hear a few seconds of the sound check for the performance we listened to online in a Tim Horton’s in Niagara Falls on that date.)

A series of top-drawer university violinists served as concertmaster until the conductor married the last concertmaster and they became co-artistic directors.

Little did the founder know at the time, but starting musical organizations as a teen ran in the family. His aunt’s brother, George Shangrow, founded the Seattle Chamber Singers at 18 and directed them until his death at the age of 59. That was never the plan for MAYCO, which started as a program to run until he went off to college. Then he thought about how to run it virtually while away at school, returning for the summer performance season. Since it was conceived as an organization run entirely by and for youth, it was going to end some time unless the founder became Peter Pan. It did, in fact, hold a “Finale” performance in 2016, before returning for an “Encore” in 2017. Due to an offer he could not refuse, he stayed in town for his undergraduate music performance degree and continued the orchestra until it was struck down by the pandemic.

George Shangrow, from the Orchestra Seattle website
MAYCO Co-Artistic Directors Thalia Coombs and Mikko Rankin Utevsky

The late John Barker, classical music critic and Professor of Medieval Studies, gets the last word: “Hope for humanity is not always easy to conjure up these days. But last Friday night at Music Hall, on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, brought me a genuine dollop of it, thanks to the concert by the Madison Area Youth Chamber OrchestraThe MAYCO players brought it [Shostakovitch’s Ninth Symphony] off with real flair, under Utevsky’s amazingly expert direction. (And, by the way, he is a splendid writer as well, as his notes for the program booklet demonstrated.)That our area alone could produce such talent is what has stirred my hope for humanity.” (Excerpted from The Well-Tempered Ear)

Poster for the concert reviewed by Barker above. Poster design, photo, and feet by Mikko Rankin Utevsky

Author: halffastcyclingclub

We are a group of friends who ride bikes. Some of us are fast, some of us are slow, all of us are half-fast. In 2018, one of us is riding coast to coast across the US. If we meet Sal Paradise, we'll let you know.

4 thoughts on “MAYCO – “Hope for Humanity””

    1. Thanks. Probably a good thing I didn’t sign up for the Death Ride; though I guess I could have volunteered rather than just drowning my sorrows at Sorenson’s (or whatever it’s called now).

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  1. Wonderful history write-up, Steve. I love the mention of George, having often wondered what might have been had you lived in the PNW. But the kid didn’t need the help, did he? Impressive!

    Liked by 1 person

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