Gala Benefit Concert rings in holiday cheer

UW-W Music Department raises scholarship funds through song


Katie McIlheran

The Vocal Jazz ensemble, directed by Dr. Michael Hackett, are seen here singing their piece “Caroling, Caroling” by Alfred Burt and Wihia Hutson at the Gala Benefit Concert on December 4.

Sydney Wojcik, Assistant Editor of Arts and Recreation

A monumental number of students from UW-Whitewater’s Music Department performed for delighted attendees at the annual Gala Benefit Concert Saturday, Dec. 4. The concert had not taken place in a traditional facet since the beginning of the pandemic. The gala featured works from nearly every student ensemble in the department, from the Whitewater Symphony Orchestra to the Clarinet Ensemble.

A new addition this year included a coffee and cappuccino fundraiser. All proceeds benefit the Music Department Scholarship Fund, which allows the department to recognize students for their talents and academic excellence.

“The gala is our biggest annual event and without the generous support of the donors we would not be able to support these students through scholarships like we do,” said Music Department Chair Michael Dugan. 

Performances from Jazz Ensemble I and Vocal Jazz, under the direction of assistant professor Michael Hackett, opened the night up with exciting performances of selections from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, arranged by Darmon Meander, among many others. The ensembles proved that there is much to celebrate this season despite the challenges of the ongoing pandemic, which has altered practices and performances alike. 

“I’m just proud of my kids. This has been one of the most challenging teaching moments for all of us this past year and a half since the spring of 2020. It’s been extremely gratifying to me to see these kids put in the work and produce a musical end result that is as good as any that I’ve ever been a part of,” said Hackett. “The kids have responded beautifully. These kids have been able to produce such a high quality product.” 

Later in the evening, professor Glenn Hayes directed the Symphonic Wind Ensemble through a riveting performance of the Ukrainian Bell Carol arranged by Rick Kirby. The opening electric guitar solo by University Center Assistant Director Jay Craggs left the audience stunned when he was met with the strong backing support of the entire ensemble. Brute force and power were projected from the instruments of each student, leaving the audience filled with life, the spirit of Christmas and pride for the College of Arts and Communication. 

“I am extremely proud of our faculty for their dedication to our students and CoAC is grateful to Dr. Mike Dugan for his deft leadership of the department for the past seven years,” said College of Arts and Communication Dean Eileen Hayes.