Having had Interlochen Arts Academy as well as Interlochen Summer Camp practically in my backyard in Michigan; I was figuring the move to Wisconsin would leave that aspect of my life behind. Shock and awe, ’tis NOT true. The Fox River Valley has wonderful programs abounding everywhere.
Let’s first look at Lawrence University, whose campus is just east of downtown Appleton. It is a nationally acclaimed, small, liberal arts college with its own Music Conservatory. When I started looking for things to do last year, after settling in, I found free student performances in the historic Lawrences’ Memorial Chapel featuring the the various choir and instrumental ensembles. Throughout the year they offer many free performances to the community as well as reasonably priced events such as the Jazz and Artists Series. Since the Haiti Earthquake, I found out that there has been an on-going outreach effort over the last 15 yrs. in staffing a music camp there with Lawrence professors and students. Most recently the campus hosted a large benefit concert. The only drawback to the campus is the limited parking.
Prior to Christmas I was encouraged by a friend to attend the 30 year tradition of the Appleton Boys’ Choirs kicking off the Advent Season with “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols”. It is clearly a local favorite, with sell out, back to back performances. To understand what kind of talent was offered, think of the Vienna Boys’ Choir. These boys, grades two through middle school are brought up through the ranks of 5 different choirs and perform with other groups, tour nationally and internationally. Last weekend the youngest group performed during our church service, providing a nice addition to the worship.
Summertime offerings are much like my area back in Michigan, with concert series everywhere in the local parks. Concerts are free or have a free will donation and all you need is a lawn chair, perhaps a picnic supper, family members, a 4 legged companion, and friends. Jon and I will be checking those out this coming summer.
As for this weekend, Jon and I delayed our Valentine’s Date to the end of February which will combine astronomy AND music. Barlow planetarium in association with the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra will present Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”. To top the event off, HD images and animations, from Chicago’s Adler Planetarium will be simultaneously running. I love the music and can’t wait to attend this one of a kind experience!
Speaking of Barlow Planetarium in regard to musical events: in December there were evening laser light shows playing music from 70’s groups like Pink Floyd, this month they have the Holst Concert and the “Follow the Drinking Gourd” music presented with how the night sky tied into the Underground Railroad. ( This University of Wisconsin site provides local astronomers and astronomer-want-to-bes, like me, many informative night sky and astronomy programs. )
The last venue, The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center (PAC), features musical groups, individual entertainers, Broadway shows, Theater, and Dance Ensembles. This by far is the most costly of all events found in the greater Fox River Valley. One has to pick and chose carefully over the course of the year due to cost.
So yes, northwest Michiganders are lucky to have Interlochen to satisfy their cultural needs. But Wisconsin is not a wasteland of culture nor just farms, cows, cheese, and Packers Fans…rich musical experiences are alive and well here to my delight.