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Unmasking the Arts Episode 2: Patricia Kopatchinskaja

Our partners at Princeton University Concerts have created a new six-part series, Unmasking the Arts, with host Helga Davis and special guests in conversation about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patricia Kopatchinskaja is a trailblazing violinist, dedicating her unparalleled artistry to harnessing the fierce urgency of the present moment and championing the integral relationship between music and our humanity. She joins Helga Davis in the second episode of Unmasking the Arts: Looking to the Future in a personal discussion about the impact of the past year that reveals why her unorthodox approach to music-making is now more important than ever.

“This is a moment to understand that we are a part of nature…a continuation of this state of spirit is killing all of us. When I hear a bird outside who is not prohibited to twitter, I feel happy for him. We musicians are also a kind of bird, but we cannot twitter…”  —Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja

Shared with kind permission of Princeton University Concerts.

Princeton University Concerts

About the Artists

Helga Davis

Helga Davis first appeared on UMS stages in our 2012 presentation of Philip Glass’s opera, Einstein on the Beach. We look forward to welcoming her back in the 2021/22 season as a featured performer in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Davis is a vocalist and performance artist with feet planted on the most prestigious international stages and with firm roots in the realities and concerns of her local community whose work draws out insights that illuminate how artistic leaps for an individual can offer connection among audiences.

Listen to the new season of her podcast series, Helga: The Armory Conversations, co-produced by WNYC Studios and Park Avenue Armory.

Patricia KopatchinskajaPatricia Kopatchinskaja

The Moldovan-born violinist brings a combination of depth, brilliance humour and theatrics to her music. Whether performing a violin concerto by Tchaikovsky, Ligeti, or Schoenberg or presenting an original staged project deconstructing Beethoven, Ustwolskaja, or Cage, her distinctive approach always conveys the core of the work. Kopatchinskaja often showcases the works of living composers such as Luca Francesconi, Michael Hersch, György Kurtág and Márton Illés.

Listen to Kopatchinskaja’s recording of  Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, which was released in April 2021 and listed as an essential album by Gramophone magazine.

From Ann Arbor Skatepark to the Tokyo Olympic Games

Twenty-nine athletes with ties to the University of Michigan are competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, plus one with a special connection to UMS!

UMS’s 2016/17 season opener highlighted the magic of improvisation in both music and sport. Falling Up and Getting Down at the Ann Arbor Skatepark featured Jason Moran & the Bandwagon alongside a crew of professional skateboarders. Then 17-year-old skateboarder Jordyn Barratt was among the group, pictured below with UMS president emeritus Ken Fischer:

Jordyn Barratt

Ken Fisher with Jordyn Barratt | Katie Alexis Photography

Fischer recalls Jordyn saying that her goal was to be on the 2020 USA Olympic Team…and she is, joining Team USA in their skateboarding debut! Join us in cheering Jordyn on Wednesday, August 4 as she competes in the women’s park event. View schedule

Jordyn Barratt at Ann Arbor Skatepark

Jordyn Barratt at Ann Arbor Skatepark | Photo by Joanne Barratt

Forward Fund Spotlight: Versell Smith, Jr.

Versell Smith, Jr. is executive director of Corner Health Center in Ypsilanti, as well as a UMS board member and alumnus of the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Discover what inspires him to support the UMS Forward Fund and how the arts have shaped his career beyond performance.

UMS Forward Fund

Make a gift to the Forward Fund and support UMS as we safely return to live events. Contributions made before the end of 2021 will help offset projected operational deficits for the next two years that are a direct result of the pandemic.

Unmasking the Arts Episode 1: Anthony McGill

Our partners at Princeton University Concerts have created a new six-part series, Unmasking the Arts, with host Helga Davis and special guests in conversation about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Episode 1 features clarinetist (and longtime friend of UMS) Anthony McGill, who spearheaded the #TakeTwoKnees movement last summer in his response to the death of George Floyd. He challenges fellow musicians and Americans to draw attention to the problem of racism in their own personal ways and to open the door for music to serve as a powerful voice within the fight for social justice. McGill shares what this past year has meant for him as a citizen, a musician, and a human being:

Shared with kind permission of Princeton University Concerts.

Princeton University Concerts

About the Artists

Helga Davis

Helga Davis first appeared on UMS stages in our 2012 presentation of Philip Glass’s opera, Einstein on the Beach. We look forward to welcoming her back in the 2021/22 season as a featured performer in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Davis is a vocalist and performance artist with feet planted on the most prestigious international stages and with firm roots in the realities and concerns of her local community whose work draws out insights that illuminate how artistic leaps for an individual can offer connection among audiences.

Listen to the new season of her podcast series, Helga: The Armory Conversations, co-produced by WNYC Studios and Park Avenue Armory.

Anthony McGill

Anthony McGill’s appearances with UMS date back to 1996, including a trio recital with cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnaton, a recital with the Takács Quartet, and performances with the New York Philharmonic.

View programs on UMS Rewind

Clarinetist Anthony McGill is one of classical music’s most recognizable and brilliantly multifaceted figures. He serves as the principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic — that orchestra’s first African-American principal player — and maintains a dynamic international solo and chamber music career. Hailed for his “trademark brilliance, penetrating sound and rich character” (The New York Times), as well as for his “exquisite combination of technical refinement and expressive radiance” (The Baltimore Sun), McGill also serves as an ardent advocate for helping music education reach underserved communities and for addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in classical music. He was honored to take part in the inauguration of President Barack Obama, premiering a piece written for the occasion by John Williams and performing alongside violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and pianist Gabriela Montero.

Learn more at

McGill’s most recent recording features Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Clarinet Quintet in f-sharp minor with the Catalyst Quartet, who will perform in UMS’s 2021/22 season alongside Imani Winds.

Meet the 2021/22 Season 21st Century Artist Interns

Each year, UMS and the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance pair students with an internship working for a dance, theater, or music ensemble that UMS will present in its season. This year students were also paired with artists and organizations with whom UMS has worked in the past or plans to present in the future.

The 21st Century Artist Internship is a highly competitive program developed to prepare students for new demands that working artists face in the contemporary marketplace. In addition to generating outstanding creative work, today’s artists are also tasked with reaching potential audiences in innovative ways. This unique program provides real-world work experience and professional connections to help develop these skills within the context of UMS’s programming.

The 21st Century Artist Internship program is made possible in part by Tim and Sally Petersen.

This Year’s Interns

Ruby PérezRuby Pérez

Class of 2022
Major: Theater Performance – Acting
Minors: Community Action & Social Change and Creative Writing
Internship Pairing: A.I.M by Kyle Abraham

Ruby Pérez, Bay Area native and daughter of Mexican-American immigrants, is among the first in her family to pursue a college degree. At a very young age, she fell in love with mariachi singing, ballet folklórico dancing, and the beauty and art in the culture of her family’s home country. This evolved into a desire to create positive Latinx representation in the media, television, and film.

At the heart of Ruby’s work is a passion for diverse storytelling and equitable access. She has prepared theatre workshops with incarcerated individuals through the Prison Creative Arts Project, performed in several UProd productions, and served as a co-director for Cabaréy, SMTD’s first-ever performance dedicated to empowering Latinx performance students at Michigan.

Ruby has been recognized for making her school’s programs and spaces more inclusive for BIPOC students. She recently organized and led a student strike, co-created a list of demands, and co-fostered Long-Term Accountability action plans and teams. She is a recipient of the 2021 North Campus Deans’ MLK Spirit Awards.

Ruby has been inspired by the We See You White American Theatre demands and continually refers to this work as a blueprint for creating inclusive art. She has served on the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion’s Student Advisory Board, as Basement Arts’ Diversity Officer, and will serve as Basement Arts’ Artistic Director in the fall.

Jenna Segal

Class of 2022
Majors: Dance and International Studies
Internship Pairing: Tania El Khoury

Jenna Segal, hailing from Millersville, Maryland, is a fourth-year student at the University of Michigan pursuing a BFA in Dance and a BA in International Studies. This past year, Jenna served as a producer for “Range of Reaction”, the 2020 iteration of Arts in Color’s annual showcase centering arts activism, social justice, and personal identity. Jenna has also spent time as an intern with Parsons Dance, working in the development, research, and touring sectors of an internationally renowned touring company. After two years of involvement with the Dance Student Assembly, she will begin the fall as the organization’s Vice President.

Throughout her time at U-M, Jenna has performed in original works choreographed by Joel Valentín-Martínez, Charli Brissey, and several Department of Dance Alumni. Jenna has also choreographed many of her own works, her most recent being a screen-dance created for and performed by the Department of Dance’s First-Year Touring Company.

Passionate about the intersections of art, diplomacy, and activism, Jenna is interested in interdisciplinary movement and scholarship. She is currently conducting her own research exploring the potential of art to substantially serve communities in ways similar to non-governmental humanitarian organizations. Jenna is elated to begin her work with Tania El Khoury and UMS as a whole this summer and is excited to discover new possibilities of all that art can be.

Annabella Vidrio

Class of 2023
Majors: Dance and Women’s & Gender Studies
Minors: Spanish
Internship Pairing: Milka Djordjevich

Originally from Norwalk, California, Annabella Vidrio is a rising junior at the University of Michigan. She is a Dual Degree student studying Dance and Women & Gender Studies, with an additional Spanish Minor. Annabella has been dancing since the age of four and has been professionally trained in both Western styles and Mexican/Spanish Folklore dancing.

As a Mexican-American woman, Annabella is an active member of the Latinx community on the U of M Ann Arbor campus and has involved herself in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives. This past year she served as the SMTD Dean’s Liaison for the Office of DEI and will continue to work in the office this upcoming academic year. Throughout her time at U of M, she has worked with her peers to facilitate crucial conversations and create more inclusive environments.

Within the dance community, Annabella is a part of the Dance Student Association and has been a part of BFA and MFA choreographic processes. During the pandemic, she was fortunate to participate virtually in Charli Brissey’s 2021 Power Center piece. Annabella has ambitions of incorporating her three degrees to pursue a career in arts administration. She is passionate about bringing awareness to her multiple communities and intends to continue her endeavors post-graduation.

Planning for a Safe Return (July Update)

Audience Entering Hill Auditorium

UMS is joining two dozen arts organizations across Southeast Michigan in surveying audiences every other month for updated insights into what they expect when returning to venues for live performances. The research is administered by leading arts researcher WolfBrown and sponsored by CultureSource.

Here is what we’ve learned from participating UMS audience members so far (data as of June 11, 2021):

The Vast Majority of our Audience is Fully Vaccinated

As of June 11, 95% of UMS audience members surveyed are fully vaccinated (and another 1% is partially vaccinated). These rates are consistent with arts attendees across the country who overall have an extremely high rate of vaccination. This continues the trend of growth in vaccination rates among arts attendees. It also aligns with the survey data that was collected and reported in April.

Chart: Vaccination rates of surveyed audience members

Rates of vaccination continue to be high across all age ranges of surveyed UMS audience members.

Audiences are Eager to Return to UMS Performances

91% of our surveyed audience members indicated that they were eager to return to UMS. Additionally, 42% said they are ready to attend now, and 78% of our audience members expect to resume attending live performing arts programs by our first scheduled performance by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in November 2021.


Chart: If given the opportunity, would you attend an indoor event this week?

Chart: How do you feel about going out to cultural events?


Masking and Safety Protocols Remains Important

Nearly half of our audience noted that at this time, required mask-wearing would be a prerequisite for attending an indoor performance.

Audiences have split opinions regarding vaccination policies, with some individuals considering the presence of policies a must-have and the absence of them as deal-breaker.

We are currently awaiting guidance from the University of Michigan about protocols for attending live performances but anticipate that we will be reopening to full capacity given the current CDC and State of Michigan guidelines. As we get closer to live events, protocols may be updated in consultation with public health officials at the University of Michigan and with additional guidance from the State of Michigan.

UMS expects audiences to do their part to create a safe environment for everyone and to follow all health and safety protocols of the venue, regardless of vaccination status.

Digital Access Remains a Priority

More than 60% of UMS audiences have enjoyed digital programming over the past year, and 80% of surveyed audiences feel that digital will play a role in their future arts consumption.

As we prepare for the 2021/22 season, we want to assure you that our commitment to accessible digital events will continue, again at no cost. We’re planning for a variety of digital experiences: some that will enhance our live events and some that will stand alone in the digital space — with a few surprises along the way.

Remember, your voice is important to us!

If you receive an invitation to participate in an upcoming return to theaters survey from UMS and other presenters, please consider doing so! These surveys are happening across two dozen arts organizations in Southeast Michigan, allowing us to help us plan for what is most important to you as we move forward.

Meet UMS’s New Board Leadership

As part of our annual meeting in June, the Board of Directors elected new officers and members whose appointments begin on July 1. For the first time, UMS’s Board will be co-led by two women: noted economist and Professor of International Relations and Economics at Michigan State University Lisa D. Cook and local attorney and philanthropist Rachel Bendit, who was re-elected to the Board after serving two years as the co-chair of UMS’s National Council. Cook and Bendit are joined by Vice Chair Brian Willen, Treasurer Rob VanRenterghem, and Secretary Christina Kim.

Lisa D. Cook and Rachel Bendit

Lisa D. Cook and Rachel Bendit

The class of new board members elected for a renewable four-year term is composed entirely of women: Karen Chapell, a managing partner at Retirement Income Solutions; Dr. Preeti N. Malani, the University of Michigan’s Chief Health Officer; visual artist Chrislan Fuller Manuel; and Alicia Torres, an executive and entrepreneur who currently serves as Chief Financial Officer for FreightVerify.

Rachel Bendit, an attorney and mediator who served on the Board from 2012-20 and has been co-chair of UMS’s National Council for the past two years, was also elected to the Board. Biographies for the new elected directors are listed at the end of this release.

Additionally, four members were re-elected for a second term: Ibrahim Jarjoura, Barbara Kaye, Timothy Lynch, and Rob VanRenterghem. Three non-voting representatives were also appointed: Norman Herbert and Prue Rosenthal, co-chairs of UMS’s Sustaining Directors, and Michael Lee, chair of the UMS Ambassadors volunteer group.

View a full roster of UMS’s Board of Directors


Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, Rachel Bendit first attended a UMS performance in the 1990s while an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. In addition to her role at UMS, she currently serves on the boards of Baltimore Homecoming and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and as a member of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission. Rachel is trained as a lawyer, mediator, and Montessori teacher and holds a JD from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, a MEd from Loyola University, Maryland, and a BA from the University of Michigan.

Lisa D. Cook is Professor of Economics and International Relations at Michigan State University. She was the first Marshall Scholar from Spelman College and received a second B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford University. She earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley with fields in macroeconomics and international economics. Prior to this appointment, she was on the faculty of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Deputy Director for Africa Research at the Center for International Development at Harvard University, and a National Fellow at Stanford University. She serves on the Advisory Boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (Academic Advisory Council), the National Science Foundation (Social and Behavioral Sciences), the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation of the Smithsonian Institution. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Dr. Cook has been a Sigma Xi (Scientific Research Society) Distinguished Lecturer and was recently named an Edison Fellow at the US Patent and Trademark Office. Dr. Cook served as the Deputy Team Lead for the Federal Reserve, Banking, and Securities Regulators Agency Review Team on the Biden-Harris Transition team.

Karen ChapellKaren Chapell is a Managing Partner at Retirement Income Solutions (RIS), where she and three other partners lead an advisory team in managing the firm’s $2B assets under management and helping 1,200 families prepare for and financially manage through retirement. She has long believed in the importance of supporting the arts, education, and her community’s greater welfare. Those are values she shares with RIS, who is a corporate sponsor of UMS and who invites 100+ clients to attend UMS performances each year. Karen graduated from the University of Michigan before starting her three-decades-long career in financial services at E.F. Hutton. She then moved to Beacon Investment Company before joining RIS in 2007.

Preeti MalaniPreeti N. Malani, MD, MSJ is the University of Michigan’s Chief Health Officer and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases. She is also the director of the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging. Dr. Malani is a graduate of the University of Michigan and received her MD degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine. Prior to medical school, she completed a master’s in Journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She completed her internal medicine residency and infectious diseases fellowship at the University of Michigan where she also received a master’s in Clinical Research Design and Statistical Analysis. Dr. Malani completed fellowship training in geriatric medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University. As Chief Health Officer, Dr. Malani has taken a broad approach to well-being while building community and amplifying diverse voices. She has looked to the arts and humanities as essential ways to accomplish health and well-being goals for the entire campus community.

Chrislan Fuller ManuelChrislan Fuller Manuel is a native of Massachusetts, but has lived in Ann Arbor on and off for over 25 years. She has a B.S. degree from Howard University and a MPH from the University of Michigan. She worked at the University of Michigan Health System before moving to Buffalo, NY where she worked for St. Jude Medical. Later, she and her family moved to Connecticut where she focused on her life-long love of the arts and painting full-time. A visual artist herself, she supports arts organizations and is passionate about making art accessible to all. Chrislan actively serves as a board member for the Ann Arbor Arts Center and The Chad Tough Defeat DIPG Foundation. She has also been very involved with the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the University of Michigan Athletic department throughout her career.

Alicia TorresAlicia Torres is an executive and entrepreneur with proven skills in strategy, finance, business development, and building highly effective teams, who can execute on strategy. She is currently Chief Financial Officer for FreightVerify, an Ann Arbor company which provides predictive, real-time transportation visibility at every step of the supply chain process for complex enterprises, such as the world’s top automotive manufacturers. She has also held executive level positions at Altarum Institute and Zebra Technologies. She and her late husband founded Rosebud Solutions, a healthcare software company, which had a successful exit with the company being purchased by McKesson Corporation. Alicia holds a degree in accounting from the University of Texas RGV. She was born in México and grew up in south Texas, relocating to Ann Arbor in 1998.


LGBTQ+ Icons Past & Present at UMS

UMS Digital Pride

LGBTQ+ artists — and audiences — have been an integral part of our 143-year history. As we close our 2021 Digital Pride, enjoy a look back at past and present artists whose work and talents UMS has been incredibly proud to bring to Ann Arbor.

Follow the links to more information on their programs in the UMS Rewind archives.

Kyle Abraham

Kyle Abraham

U-M dance historian Clare Croft hosts a post-performance discussion with choreographer Kyle Abraham and Members of his company, A.I.M., March 2015

Choreographer Kyle Abraham made his UMS debut in 2015 with ‘The Watershed.’ He and his company A.I.M. will return in the 2021/22 season in a new work and UMS co-commission, Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth.

View more on UMS Rewind

Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein and U-M Students

Leonard Bernstien and students at U-M President James Duderstadt’s home, October 1988

Leonard Bernstein conducted eight times in Hill Auditorium between 1963 and 1988, leading concerts by the New York Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic.

View all programs Bernstein conducted on UMS Rewind

Becca Blackwell

They, Themself and Schmerm

Becca Blackwell in UMS’s Digital Pride presentation of ‘They, Themself and Schmerm’

NYC-based trans actor, performer and writer Becca Blackwell has appeared four times in recent UMS presentations, including Untitled Feminist Show (2006), They, Themself and Schmerm (in-person in 2018 and digitally in 2021), and Is This a Room: Reality Winner Verbatim Transcription.

View more on UMS Rewind

Merce Cunningham and John Cage

archival photo merce cunningham john cage

Merce Cunningham and John Cage in Hill Auditorium, 1971

Partners Merce Cunningham and John Cage performed together at UMS in 1971 in a program that included How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run. UMS presented the Merce Cunningham Dance Company again nearly 33 years later in 2004, reprising this signature work after Cage’s death in 1992.

View more on UMS Rewind

Fred Hersch

Fred Hersch

Fred Hersch

American jazz pianist, educator and HIV/AIDS activist Fred Hersch has performed twice at UMS, in 2005 and in in 2014.

View more on UMS Rewind

Bill T. Jones

Bill T Jones

Bill T. Jones presenting at the U-M Penny Stamps Speaker Series, 2011

Choreographer Bill T. Jones and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company have performed 8 times in UMS’s history since March 1995.

View more on UMS Rewind 

Taylor Mac

Taylor Mac

Taylor Mac in ‘Holiday Sauce,’ December 2019

Theater artist Taylor Mac first appeared with UMS in A 24-Decade History of Popular Music in 2016, followed by Holiday Sauce in 2019. Mac appears in UMS’s 2021 Digital Pride with Whitman in the Woods. presented by All Arts.

View more on UMS Rewind

John Cameron Mitchell

John Cameron Mitchell

John Cameron Mitchell’s ‘Origin of Love’ tour, 2019

Nearly two decades after Hedwig and the Angry Inch debuted, John Cameron Mitchell performed beloved songs from the cult classic film — and “crowdsurfed” — in Hill Auditorium!

Toshi Reagon

Toshi Reagon

Toshi Reagon in ‘Parable of the Sower’

Singer and composer Toshi Reagon first perfomed at UMS  in 2003 with ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock, founded by her mother, Bernice Johnson Reagon. UMS’s 2021/22 season will feature Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower with music and lyrics composed by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Yannick Nezet-Seguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra

Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra after playing an encore of “The Victors” in 2018

International conducting sensation Yannick Nézet-Séguin has appeared four times since his 2015 debut, leading the Rotterdam Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal.

In 2018, he accompanied mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in a recital of Schubert’s Winterreise, which was later performed and recorded in Carnegie Hall:

View more on UMS Rewind

UMS has announced a new partnership with Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra in the 2021/22 season, including two live concerts in Hill Auditorium, a digital presentation, and a series of master classes and student engagement events with the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Caroline Shaw

Caroline Shaw

Works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw have been performed in four programs over the past five seasons, by the Calidore String Quartet, vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, the Aizuri Quartet, and most recently by yMusic.

View more on UMS Rewind

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg at Michigan Stadium, 1988

Violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg has performed five times on UMS stages, including performances with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, a recital with pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, and with the New Century Chamber Orchestra.

View more on UMS Rewind

Peter Sparling

Peter Sparling

Peter Sparling performs in Martha Graham’s iconic ‘Appalachian Spring’

Now a retired University of Michigan professor of dance, Peter Sparling is a former dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company. He appeared in the company’s Power Center performances from 1978-1994, before presenting his own Peter Sparling Dance Company in 2001 alongside the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.

View more on UMS Rewind

Staff Spotlight: Maddy Wildman and slapslap


Maddy Wildman, UMS’s University Programs Manager, is also a member of the Ann Arbor-based band slapslap. Self-described as “sitting somewhere between creative improv, up-tempo dance music, post-funk, and performance art,” slapslap consists of two electric bassoon players, Maddy Wildman and Ezra Gans, and two percussionists, Tanner Tanyeri and Cameron Wilson.

On Friday, July 2 at 7 pm, slapslap will perform at the Riverside Arts Center Parking Lot in Ypsilanti as a part of A2SF (Ann Arbor Summer Festival). The event is free but registration is required.

In anticipation of this performance, we asked Maddy some questions about the band and what she is most looking forward to on Friday.

UMS: Can you tell us how slapslap began?

Maddy Wildman: One day Tanner (one of our drummers) messaged me on Facebook: “Hey, wanna start a band with two electric bassoons and percussion? We could play house parties or something.” Ezra, Cameron, and I were immediately into it. Then we just kind of got together and started playing and making songs. Our first big show was Cameron’s birthday in the legendary living room at 412 N. Thayer (yes this living room).

As far as the name, we were getting lunch at a No Thai and just kicking around names. Most of them were terrible: Biomagnetic Bison, Sauce Policy, Slippery When Wet…at one point Cameron threw out the name slapslap. We were all like, “nah, what even is that…actually, wait, that’s perfect.” The name kind of became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a big reason why slapsticks are the backbone of our music. It’s also just like a vibe. It really gave us permission to lean into the memey side of what we do. Just like the name, our band is chaotic, fun, and kind of confusing. Like, I don’t even know what slapslap is half the time but when we do it it’s 200% slapslap.


Would you talk about the instrumentation of the group? From electric bassoons to slapsticks and “contraptions,” slapslap has always had a one-of-a-kind sound. How did this develop?

Yeah, the instrumentation is huge. It’s so unusual that it kind of ensures that all of our songs are pretty unique sounding. The aux percussion setup is the secret sauce in my opinion. Lots of wacky noises to play with.

The compositional process for slapslap is wild. We all bring extremely different interests and tastes to the rehearsal room and yet come out with something that distinctly slaps. We’ve drawn from a lot of different inspirations, really whatever we happen to be listening to at the time: Moon Hooch, Frank Zappa, Brad Mehldau, The Westerlies – just to name a few. I think we’re really good at allowing ourselves to try out even the weirdest ideas. There’s kind of an “anything goes” energy to the band. That’s definitely how we ended up with a song about a bad infomercial.


Your members are currently split between Ann Arbor and New York. Has slapslap been able to stay active during the pandemic? Has this distance been a challenge, or has it felt somewhat more natural during this period of distancing?

We’ve done a little virtual slapping while apart. We proudly presented “slapslap presents: A slapslap Flapjack Breakfast: A Dinner Theatre” with our good friends at Fifth Wall Performing Arts. But for the most part, we’ve been laying low. So much of what we do in rehearsal and performance relies on the buzzing energy of people together, so I think it was the right choice not to force our work into the virtual space.

Your gig with A2SF must be the first in-person slapslap performance in a long time. Is there a certain aspect of live performance you’re most looking forward to?

Yeah, the last show we played was on March 9, 2020! We squeezed like 50 people in the living room for that. In retrospect, that was not super public health informed!

We’re so so pumped to play live again. It’s absolutely essential to what we do. So much of slapslap is visual, shocking the passersby who are just like… “wtf?! I don’t know what that is, but I’m into it!” I’m definitely excited to grab the attention of random people walking around downtown Ypsi. Audience participation is also pretty important to us, so expect to get a little of that when you come! Slapslap is shamelessly fun and I am so hype to bring the audience back into that experience.


What can we expect to see on Friday? Will you be wearing hard hats?

New songs for sure! We’ve got a couple in the works, maybe more to come this week. We might do some skits with that audience but I don’t want to give anything away yet (also why decide so early?)

The outfits are being heatedly discussed among the band. Hard hats are a given (like duh, what is this, amateur hour?!) but the rest of the outfit is still TBD. Just like almost everything we do, I’m sure it will come together last minute but still be very very honest to who we are. Slapped together as they say 🙂


Listen to slapslap’s EP, slapslEP on Bandcamp, Spotify, or Apple Music

Staff Picks: Must-See Events in the 2021/22 Season

Want to know which 2021/22 season events UMS staff members are most excited about as we return to our venues? Meet some of our team and use their recommendations to help create your own Series:You package, or browse all events for more inspiration as you plan your performance season!

Christina Bellows

Director, Patron Services
Joined UMS in 2012

Must-See Event: Parable of the Sower

Starting in the not-so-distant-future of 2024, Octavia Butler’s novels Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents, written in the 1990s, envision a time where climate change and social disparities have come to a head — and it’s not so far off from where we have found ourselves in reality. Toshi Reagon & Bernice Johnson Reagon gave Butler’s works a soundtrack that is moving, engaging, and brings the story to life!

Parable of the Sower

Ryan DavisRyan Davis

Vice President and Chief Development Officer
Joined UMS in 2018

Must-See Event: Sphinx Symphony Orchestra with EXIGENCE

The Sphinx Organization has a long history of collaboration with UMS, and I’m proud that we will kick off Sphinx Symphony Orchestra’s first national tour as part of its 25th Anniversary celebration. This will be my first time seeing an all-Black Orchestra.

Sphinx Symphony Orchestra with EXIGENCE


Anne Grove

Artist Services Manager
Joined UMS in 2010

Must-See Event: Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández

I had been looking forward to Ballet Folklórico de México’s performance originally scheduled for our 2020-21 season, which was cancelled due to COVID. UMS was able to present a digital School Day Performance by Ballet Folklórico de México this past season and it was spectacular: wonderful music, beautiful costumes, and uplifting, engaging dancing. I’m really looking forward to presenting them live in Ann Arbor during our 2021-22 season.

Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández

Cayenne HarrisCayenne Harris

Vice President, Education and Community Engagement
Joined UMS in 2020

Must-See Event: Philadelphia Orchestra

I’m excited to hear this magnficent orchestra in Hill Auditorium over two nights with two really exciting conductors. I’m especially excited to hear Wynton Marsalis’s new tuba concerto and a work by one of my favorite composers, Missy Mazzoli.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Nathalie Stutzmann


Mark Jacobson

Senior Programming Manager
Joined UMS in 1998

Must-See Event: A MoodSwing Reunion

UMS audiences have had the opportunity to follow the all-star careers of the individual artists that comprise A MoodSwing Reunion as ensemble members and bandleaders over the course of the last 25 years through concert presentations offered on the UMS Jazz Series. Sparks are bound to fly when these heavyweight improvisers and close collaborators share the Hill Auditorium stage together in April!

Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, and Brian Blade

Michael Kondziolka

Vice President, Programming and Production
Joined UMS in 1988

Must-See Event: Geoff Sobelle’s HOME

Pure theatrical magic and wonder. The audience gets to feel like a kid again and also ruminate on the meaning of our own homes post-pandemic, when our relationship to “home” changed quite profoundly. Don’t miss it!


Lisa Murray

Associate Director of Development, Foundation & Government Relations
Joined UMS in 1997

Must-See Event: Ali Chahrour’s Layl (Night)

The simple act of experiencing art with other people will be a treat in and of itself! Experiencing live theater, though, will be an even greater treat, and witnessing inventive, moving, thoughtful theater like Layl will be the greatest treat of all.

Ali Chahrour Night

Terri Park

Associate Director of Education & Community Engagement
Joined UMS in 2014

Must-See Event: Swing Out

Caleb Teicher is extraordinary. Their ability to move with fluidity and precision will leave you speechless. The company’s performances are always rich in innovation, playfulness, and pure joy.

Caleb Teicher Swing Company

Eric WoodhamsEric Woodhams

Director of Digital Media
Joined UMS in 2018

Must-See Event: Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason

Sheku and Isata performed to a sold-out audience in Rackham in 2019 and recorded a brilliant UMS Digital Presentation from their UK home last year. I cannot wait to welcome them back to Ann Arbor in the new season. Both are phenomenal talents, and I’ve enjoyed their new albums countless times since I first heard them live.

Isata and Sheku Kanneh-Mason

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