Dr. J. Michael Allsen
J. Michael Allsen has written program notes for the Madison Symphony Orchestra—one of America's leading regional orchestras—since 1984. He has also written commissioned notes for dozens of orchestras, ensembles and festivals, as well as CD liner notes: in total, notes on over 2000 individual works by more than 600 composers. His program and liner notes have been published by orchestras, choruses, wind bands, chamber ensembles, soloists, and festivals across the United States, and in Canada, England, Scotland, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Israel, and Zimbabwe. During the 2000-2001 season he was commissioned by the MSO to write a series of short historical articles celebrating the orchestra's 75th anniversary: extended versions of these articles and other historical documents appear on this site. He has also written feature articles on local music history for the Wisconsin State Journal. He is currently working on a book on the history of the MSO in anticipation of the orchestra's centennial season.
Allsen is Emeritus Professor of Music at the
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Previous professional
appointments include teaching positions at the University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and
an administrative job with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. While
he was a faculty member at Whitewater from 1996-2018, Allsen
taught Music History courses, World Music, classes in African
American and Latin American music, and World of the
Arts, an interdisciplinary arts course. He also
directed the UWW Trombone Choir for several years, and still
serves on the faculty of Whitewater's annual Trombone Day.
At various points in his tenure, Allsen earned College of Arts and
Communication and university-wide Excellence Awards in Teaching,
Research, Academic Advising, and Service. In 2015 Allsen's
advising work was honored with a Certificate of Merit from the
National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). He also served in
various administrative capacities: as Chair of Whitewater's Music
Department from 2006-2012, and subsequently as the department's
Advising Coordinator, as Coordinator of the interdepartmental World
of the Arts faculty, and as the College of Arts and
Communication's Graduation Examiner.
Allsen's research interests have been primarily in the field of late medieval music. Beginning with his dissertation research, he has worked intensively with the motet, among the most important polyphonic genres of the 14th and early 15th centuries. In studying the motet repertoire, he has focused in particular upon the issues of musical style, intertextuality, genre, and compositional process. Allsen has also worked on biographical problems, particularly in connection with the preeminent composer of the early 15th century, Guillaume Du Fay, and and his contemporaries Gilles Binchois, Arnold and Hugo de Lantins, and Johannes Brassart. Allsen's scholarly work has been published in the Journal of Musicology, Plainsong & Medieval Music, the Journal of the American Musicological Society, and others. He has also contributed reference articles to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, American National Biography, and others. Allsen has strong secondary interests in the fields of 17th-century instrumental music, the music of the Moravian Church, and in local (Madison, WI) music history, particularly in the history of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Allsen was on the faculty of the the Madison Early Music Festival from 2002-2019, performing on sackbut, and serving as guest historian and program annotator.
Allsen is a semiretired professional trombonist, and
performed with the Madison Symphony Orchestra for 35 years
(1983-2018), playing bass trombone from 1990 onward. He also
performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and many other
ensembles, including Sinfonia Sacra, the Madison Jazz Orchestra,
the Jazz Players Big Band, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, and the
Frank Sinatra, Jr. Orchestra. Allsen was the co-founder of the
Glenwood Moravian Trombone Choir, an amateur/community group in
Madison that that he directed for nearly a quarter century
(1983-2007) leading the group in some 500 performances. (Allsen in
still a member of the group, and beginning in 2021 is
co-director.) In July 2006, he served as Trombone Choir
Director at the Moravian Music Festival in Columbus, OH.
Allsen has written nearly 200 arrangements and
compositions, mostly for the Glenwood Moravian Trombone
Choir. Most of these of these have been archived by the
Moravian Music Foundation. Beginning in 2022, Aaron Hettinga Music will
publish about 40 of his musical works.
He resides in Madison, WI.
PhD in Musicology - University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1992
dissertation: Style and Intertextuality in the Isorhythmic Motet 1400 -1440 (advisor, Prof. Lawrence M. Earp)
minor area: Applied Music (trombone)
MM in Musicology - University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1984
BS in Music Education - University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 1982
|Madison Symphony Orchestra low brass on on
stage in Overture Hall, October 2014: Left to right:
Joyce Messer, Benjamin Skroch, Maestro John DeMain, Michael
Allsen, and Josh Biere
Bass Samuel Ramey and Madison
Symphony Orchestra low brass, backstage at the Oscar
Mayer Theatre. This was during a May 2001
concert, where we brought in additional players for
Boito's “Prologue in Heaven” from Mefistofele.
Left to right: Katie Kretschman (MSO
second trombone), Rick Seybold, Joyce Messer (MSO
principal trombone), Brian Whitty, Samuel Ramey,
Michael Allsen (MSO bass trombone), Bill Irving, Terry
Sliester, Paul Haugan (MSO tuba, with cimbasso).