[Tonight’s East High School Black Music Ensemble fundraiser is being rescheduled due to serious weather rolling into Madison. ―Ed.]
With support from Madison music legend UW Professor Emeritus Richard Davis and the East High School Band director Mark Saltzman, Wilder Deitz started the East High School Black Music Ensemble in 2014 for a variety of reasons.
“The East High School Black Music Ensemble was founded to increase student diversity in extracurricular music participation and to increase the diversity in the materials that are taught in extracurricular music education at East,” Deitz tells Madison365. “It was also founded to promote the use of the oral tradition in music education as well as to further connect the UW-Madison School of Music with the East High community.”
Deitz was a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin when the group was founded and participating in Richard Davis’s UW-Madison Black Music Ensemble, of which he modeled the East High version after.
“We are just finishing up our fourth year with the group and we’ve had a little under 40 students come through the group so far,” Deitz says.
The group meets twice weekly – once during the school day and once after school – for music workshops, practice, lectures by guests and musicians. The group has a weekly jam session that’s mostly East High School Black Music Ensemble participants but open to other kids.
“The results of the group have exceeded my wildest expectations. Forty kids have come through the group and I know that all of those kids enjoy and benefited from the group in some way,” Deitz says. “Many have gone on to do bigger and better things.”
Former East High Black Music Ensemble member Ruben Arndt is the current vice president of the UW Black Music Ensemble and there have been a total of four UWBME members who were once East High BME. “Which is awesome, because the UW group is very prestigious and pretty difficult to get into,” Deitz says.
“One of the thing that has been personally gratifying to me is that many of these kids by the time they graduate from East, or even beforehand, are ready to be gigging as a professional musician,” he adds. “I’ve hired a number of them to play with my other group in various contexts.”
In order to help keep the group going and growing, the East High Black Music Ensemble needs money and resources for materials and operating costs and tonight at the North Street Cabaret, 610 North St, they will be hosting a fundraiser event which will be offering up great food and great music for a great cause.
“The East High BME will be playing and we are going to try illustrate on stage to the people what it looks like to be in the Black Music Ensemble, the stuff we do in class, and what learning black music and using the oral tradition means to us,” Deitz says. “There will also be a full set of regular performances.”
And don’t forget the food.
“The entry price for the fundraiser buys a meal from the North Street Cabaret kitchen … which is awesome,” Deitz says. “It should be a really fun night.”
The donation for the fundraiser is $20.
“It’s very important that we continue to get support from the community,” Deitz says. “There’s an interest to see this program continue full force and to even expand into other schools throughout the district. I think the model has proved to be phenomenally successful. We’re trying to get as many kids involved as possible.”