More than 2,500 students from schools across the city will sing and perform with one voice Wednesday evening as Milwaukee Public Schools’ Biennial Music Festival opens to non-MPS schools for the first time in its 88-year history.
The 44th Biennial Music Festival is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday evening at the U.S. Cellular Arena in downtown Milwaukee, right next door to what is now the Milwaukee Theatre, where the first festival occurred in 1924.
The festival borrows its name from the finale piece: Lowell Mason’s “O Music.” Every single student – from school choirs, bands and orchestras – will come together to perform it. Parts for all voices and instruments were orchestrated by Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School teacher Adam Murphy.
Performances also include the largest-ever single choir performance in the festival’s history taking on an original composition co-written by veteran MPS teacher Constance Aehl and composer-arranger-studio musician John Tanner of Tanner-Monagle, Inc.
“We’re just so honored,” Tanner said. “I think the biggest thrill of all is that dozens of students have come up to (Ms. Aehl) telling her how much they love it. It’s one thing to force kids to sing something. To have them enjoy and find some meaning in it – I’m absolutely blown away.”
MPS Music Curriculum Specialist Douglas Kuepper said students remember the festival for decades.
“I’ve had grandparents come up to me and say, ‘I remember when I sang in the choir or played in the band or orchestra,’ “ Kuepper said. “The festival is an excellent showcase of the wide variety of music education opportunities students experience in classrooms and through our Saturday Music Centers.”
Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton is set to serve as a guest conductor at the event.
Tickets, $5 each, are available by calling (414) 475-8050.