Progressions, a part of MYSO’s innovative Community Partnership Programs, is an immersive string training program, which provides private instruction and orchestral training in violin, viola, cello and bass to 3rd and 4th grade students who have limited musical experience and live in or attend a school in the City of Milwaukee.
One of the primary aims of Progressions is increased participation in MYSO by students from populations (e.g., racial, ethnic, socioeconomic) that face barriers of access and equity in music study. All (100%) of Progressions students come from low-to-moderate income families and 91% are students of color.
Progressions is heavily contribution-based, with all students receiving virtually full scholarships for instruments, private lessons, membership, and transportation as needed. Families, all of whom have limited financial resources, were asked to pay just $50 in 2017-18, though the actual cost is approximately $2,700/student.
Progressions accepts students only via nomination from school principals, teachers and music directors. Each school year, MYSO enrolls approximately 30-40 new Progressions students from schools throughout the City of Milwaukee.
Janet Jensen serves as Progressions Director, and Music Director of Prelude Orchestra and the combined String Orchestras North and Central.
She joined the MYSO staff following her 2016 retirement from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she was Professor of String Pedagogy and Associate Director of the School of Music. Her teaching responsibilities included preparation for teaching strings in multiple settings, coursework in string literature and repertoire, and conducting the non-major All-University String Orchestras. She also directed the masters degree in String Development, a degree focused on string teaching, performance and administrative skills. As Associate Director, she oversaw undergraduate admissions, advising, and scholarship and award allocation.
Prior to her UW-Madison appointment, Dr. Jensen held interim and instructor positions in string pedagogy and string education at Oberlin Conservatory, Bowling Green (OH) State University, and the University of Texas at Austin, and she taught instrumental music in Rockford, IL and Watertown and Madison for 10 years.
Herself an alumna of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO), Dr. Jensen has served as a WYSO conductor, board member, and director of the chamber music program, and has also been a staff member and advisor of UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic for more than 30 years.
She is a strong supporter of outreach programs in the arts, lifelong learning and engagement in music, and advocacy for policy decisions in support of arts education. Her research interests have included arts education policy, pedagogy curricula, iconographic representations of historical bows, and the Swedish bowed/keyed instrument nyckelharpa.
Her MYSO association began with Progressions teaching in 2005, and has included chamber coaching in many of the years since.
Her proudest achievement is the cumulative enrollment of over 2800 students in the All-University String Orchestras, and she was named the 2016 String Teacher of the Year by the Wisconsin American String Teachers Association.
Dr. Jensen holds Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.Less
Ravenna Helson is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and Yale University where she received an MM degree and the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Award for Excellence in Chamber Music.
She has performed with the Detroit Symphony, Michigan Opera Theater, New Jersey Symphony, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Chicago Baroque Ensemble, Her Majesty’s Clerks and Comic Intermezzo.
In Milwaukee she has played with the Milwaukee Symphony, Skylight Opera Orchestra, Ensemble Musical Offering, Bel Canto Chorus and Orchestra and is currently principal cello of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra. Theater work includes the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Twelfth Night and Anna Karenina.
As a faculty member of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Alverno College and Carroll University, she has taught cello and chamber music and performed concerts and educational workshops with the Carroll String Trio. As a student she was invited to participate in the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico with Alexander Schneider’s NY String Orchestra and additionally has been a fellow at the Oberlin Baroque Institute, the International Baroque Institute at Longy and the Bach Aria Festival in New York.
Studies in Baroque cello/viola da gamba have been with Anner Bylsma, Phoebe Carrai, Catharina Meints and Enid Sutherland.Less
Mr. Babbitt graduated in 1985 from the UWM with an MM degree in double bass performance. He has worked extensively throughout the Midwest as a professional bassist and educator.
As a performer he has worked with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra, Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, Festival City Symphony, Kenosha Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Philharmonic, Bel Canto Chorus and Orchestra, Skylight Opera, Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, Florentine Opera and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He is also active as a jazz performer, having worked with Chuck Hedges, David Hazeltine and Manty Ellis.
Mr. Babbitt served as Wisconsin Conservatory of Music faculty chair of the String Department from 1996 to 1999 and has also served as adjunct faculty at UWM, UW-Stevens Point, Concordia University, Cardinal Stitch University, Carroll College, Alverno College Community Arts Department, the String Academy of Wisconsin and the Oshkosh Summer String Program.
Mr. Babbitt has been an instructor with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music since 1994 in bass, theory and music history.Less
Originally from Pennsylvania, Cathy graduated from the Eastman School of Music. Summer studies included the Interlochen Music Camp, the National Repertory Orchestra and the North Carolina School of the Arts sponsored festival in Sienna, Italy.
She was a member of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra for 27 years and performed regularly with the symphony quartet, Clinton Quartet, Society for New Music and Skaneateles Music Festival.
In 2000, her husband became sales and marketing manager of education for the music publisher Hal Leonard Corp., which brought them to Milwaukee.
Cathy currently freelances around the state, performing with the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, Skylight Opera Theater, Woodstock Mozart Festival, Bel Canto Chorus, Fox Valley symphony, Festival City Symphony and the orchestras of Green Bay, Waukesha, Kenosha and Racine.
She also teaches at Concordia University. Cathy plays a Paolo Testore violin made in 1767.Less
Violinist and violist Chauntee Ross is the youngest of 5 children and began studying violin at the age of 4 at the String Academy of Wisconsin. At 17, Chauntee began studying with Almita Vamos at the Music Institute of Chicago. She graduated and received her Bachelor’s degree in Violin Performance at The University of Michigan (U of M) School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.
Music has always been a major component in Chauntee’s life. All of her siblings were musicians and they formed a string quartet. This ensemble was called Sisters of PraiZe and the young ladies performed in venues all over the Midwest, including opening for Grammy award winning artist Fred Hammond.
Chauntee began competing when she was 10 and won both the Junior and Senior Division Concerto competitions at the String Academy. In 2008, Chauntee won the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Stars of tomorrow competition which led to her making her solo debut with the MSO. That same year she placed in the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Concerto competition and soloed with Madison Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, Chauntee was a semi-finalist in the Sphinx competition which led to the opportunity to join on the inaugural Sphinx Tour.
Upon graduating, Chauntee began her violin studies with Aaron Berofsky at U of M and studied viola with Yizhak Schotten. In the inaugural chamber music competition at the University of Michigan, Chauntee’s quartet placed first. In 2011, she attended the New York String Seminar. It was there that she began to think about combining the various bits of her background and how she could bring all of that diversity into her music.
SistaStrings, a violin/cello duo Chauntee started with her cellist sister, was born after some time as a result of that. The ladies have opened for legends like The Roots, performed with Grammy winning artist Malik Yusef, Lupe Fiasco, Bone Thugs’N Harmony. Chauntee has also performed with Michael Buble. SistaStrings collaborates with local artists and performs in schools and churches as well and concert halls and local performance venues.
Music is part of Chauntee’s way of expressing herself and she loves to inspire and educate about the arts. Her interests are mostly arts related, but within that realm, there is no limit. She strives to make a difference in her community through performances. Being a part of the MYSO family and having the opportunity to help young people reach their potential is a dream come true.Less
Prelude and Progressions Orchestra Coach Monique Ross has been actively teaching the cello for six years. After pursuing a Bachelor of Musical Arts degree in cello performance at both Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and University of Wisconsin-Madison, she went on to become a co-founder and member of SistaStrings. SistaStrings is a string duo that advocates for diversity in the arts. The duo frequently performs and teaches at schools and youth centers. Monique’s goal is to help students better express themselves creatively, cultivating one’s own connection with music. The passion for music that Monique exudes helps motivate and inspire others. Outside of being an educator and one half of SistaStrings, she also tours, records, and travels with other bands and artists.Less
Domingo Pasillas-Velazquez serves as coach for MYSO’s beginning strings programs, Progressions and Prelude Orchestra. A 2018 graduate, he was a part of MYSO for four years, playing in Philharmonia, Metropolitan Symphony, and Chamber Orchestra. Currently, Domingo is pursuing a degree in violin performance from the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin. He has enjoyed the privilege of studying under many wonderful teachers including Bernard Zinck, Diane Duraffourg-Robinson, Yuri Anisimov, and Lyda Osinga.
Having a great passion for teaching, Domingo was an student mentor for three years in the Progressions program during his time in MYSO. He continues to teach privately, and enjoys working with the Progressions, Prelude, and String Orchestra musicians of all ages, instilling fundamentals and technical foundations, but most importantly a passion and love for making music.Less
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