Connect with the campus music scene: concert venues, radio station and more

October 25, 2017 By Petar Djordjevic

The group WADOMA (West African Dance of Madison) blends global art forms and rhythm as the band performs on the music stage at the Memorial Union Terrace in 2014. Photo: Jeff Miller

When one thinks of UW Madison, what comes to mind is usually academics, research, or athletics. But what is often overlooked is the robust, eclectic music scene on campus

Varying from classical orchestras to live hip-hop, the opportunities to get involved with music are quite substantial. The Mead Witter School of Music hosts professional performers, in addition to concerts put on by the student and faculty ensembles throughout the school year. For students who aren’t in the school of music, they can still become involved in concert bands and orchestras as well.

For first-year students, they may choose to live in The Studio: Creative Arts Community, a learning community located in Sellery Hall centered around visual, media, and performing arts. It’s a space with “students ranging in majors from fine arts to dance and engineering to computer science,” according to the University Housing website. These students have access to visual art and media equipment, in addition to a unique feature which is the blackbox theater where students are able to put on performances in a safe space for their peers.

You don’t have to be skilled in performance arts to still be involved in the music scene, however. Three key components to the campus music scene: The Wisconsin Union Directorate Music Committee and Performing Arts Committee; EMMIE Magazine; and the campus radio station —WSUM 91.7FM are all excellent ways to appreciate music.

WUD Music is a branch of the Wisconsin Union Directorate that plans music programming at Wisconsin Union’s Union South and Memorial Union. With shows in various venues, such as der Rathskeller, the Memorial Union Terrace and the Sett, they play an integral role in exposing the campus community to musical artists of many genres. The artists they book are often on the verge of making it big, and past acts have included Fleet Foxes, Diplo, Chance The Rapper, Janelle Monae and Vampire Weekend. The shows are also free, which is a huge plus especially if you are able to see artists before they make it big.

The WUD Performing Arts Committee, on the other hand, plans season acts for the historic Wisconsin Union Theater, which has been around for over 75 years. The programming offers a variety of acts to cater to the musical tastes of campus and the Madison community. The different series — including the Jazz and World Music Festivals and the Classical Concert Series— add diversity to the college music scene that one would assume is filled with only indie bands or DJs.

Sabrina Ross, left, and Kat Turner of the Madison band The Dowry perform in The Sett at Union South in 2016. Photo: Jeff Miller

“The student committee excels at booking important musical talent. The numerous shows at both of the unions keep the scene in Madison alive,” says Kristian Iliev, a 2017 UW graduate and member of alternative rock band The Racing Pulses.

In addition to WUD Music, WUD Publications offers another outlet for discovering music, with EMMIE, a music magazine. The Publications Committee is completely student-run and publishes a free biannual issue of EMMIE that can be picked up on campus and the downtown area. The polished, rather robust publication features album and concert reviews, music industry insights, as well as creative pieces and interviews. In the spring 2017 issue, it offered an exclusive interview with Killer Mike of the hip-hop/rap duo Run the Jewels.

Finally, what is a college campus without a radio station? Although some sort of radio station has been present on campus since the early 1950’s, WSUM began officially broadcasting in February of 2002 in Vilas Hall. The new studio, located in the Student Activity Center at 333 East Campus Mall, offers students a chance to gain experience in broadcasting while providing a creative outlet outside of class.

The quality of the station and programming, which includes music, sports, and talk shows, has earned the station a plethora of awards from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and the College Broadcasters Inc.

“I think a common misconception is that we’re not professional and that we’re just “college radio,” when in reality we train our DJs to be the best they can be on air,” states station manager Alessa Kuznetsov, “all of our DJs take their shows seriously and want to put the best quality work out there, while having fun and educating listeners.”

Members of the band WTF are interviewed by Izzy Fradin, host of Live@WSUM, right. Emily Hamer

Offering a variety of programming in both talk and radio, the station works to play an active role in the college experience, specifically student life on campus. From their Live@WSUM series and Snake on the Lake music festival to providing hands-on training for all DJ’s, WSUM is a unique outlet for any fan of music whether it’s discovering new music or wanting to host a show.

Since anyone can get involved, it adds to the diversity of musical tastes and topics of conversation in all of the shows. “We are educating the campus community about alternative music, talk, and sports content,” states Kuznetsov. “Our DJs aren’t playing what every other station is playing, and students can find new music and interesting topics when they tune in.”